The old advice to shop around for low gas prices has new meaning these days. Here are some ways for consumers to cope as prices head toward $4 a gallon:
Apps and text messages. AAA now offers text-message alerts about low gas prices. The service texts your cell phone once a week with the lowest price in your ZIP code. The agency also offers a cell phone application for phones with GPS that searches for the lowest price at nearby gas stations. Both AAA programs can be found at www.aaa.com/gas.
GasBuddy.com offers an application that helps drivers find the lowest nearby gas price.
Discount gas stations. This year, the Fresno/Clovis area is home to more mass retailers and supermarkets that have their own discount gas stations. FoodsCo, for example, opened a new fuel station in January that touts gas prices a few cents below "most competitors." Other stores like Costco have similar discount gas stations.
Promotions. Experts say drivers can expect more promotions like the one offered at the Vons gas station near Herndon and Fowler avenues. Two weeks ago the store began offering its cardholders discounts of 10 cents per gallon when they spend at least $50 on groceries. That's up from the typical 3-cent discount cardholders normally get.
Cash and debit-card discounts. More stations are offering discounts for customers who pay with cash, said Jeff Lenard, a spokesman for the National Association of Convenience Stores.
The practice of offering a 5- or 10-cent discount has been around for years, but financial reform passed by Congress in December has made it easier for gas stations to offer it, he said.
Credit card companies had tried to dissuade retailers from offering such discounts, and were essentially told to "back off," Lenard said.
Retailers prefer cash because there are no fees for transactions, he said.
And expect to see more gas stations offering discounts if customers buy gas with debit cards, said Sunny Campbell, executive director of the California Service Station and Automotive Repair Association.
It's rare to see those discounts now, but debit card transactions are cheaper than credit card transactions for retailers, he said.