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For those who hit the road to travel this summer, there is good news: Gas prices are substantially lower than they were last year.
“What a difference a year makes,” said Andrew Gross, a spokesperson for AAA, the motoring and leisure travel membership organization.
As of Friday, the national average for a gallon of gas is $3.58, down from $5 one year ago, according to AAA.
Last year’s high prices made headlines, and even prompted politicians on the state and federal level to call for gas tax holidays.
This year, those concerns have abated. Barring any surprises during hurricane season, the outlook for gas prices is mostly stable, Gross said.
“Right now, we don’t see anything that’s going to push prices either up or down,” Gross said.
The national average will probably stay in the range of $3.50 per gallon, he said.
That’s good news for travelers, as prices for other categories such as airfares and hotels are up this year, according to Ted Rossman, senior industry analyst at Bankrate and CreditCards.com.
A recent Bankrate survey found 63% of adults plan to take a summer vacation this year, up from 61% last year.
“People want to go somewhere, they want to do something,” Rossman said. “There’s still a lot of pent-up demand that backed up during the pandemic.”
Yet, higher costs are also prompting people to look for ways to save, he said.
Bankrate’s survey found 80% of travelers are planning to adjust their plans due to inflation.
Opting to drive instead of fly was one of the more common changes, Rossman said. Other ways people are looking to cut costs is by choosing cheaper accommodations or destinations, or by traveling for fewer days.
Even while gas prices are not as high this summer, there are still several ways to consider ramping up your savings if you or your family plan to take a road trip.
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Some credit cards may give you up to 5% cash back on gas, according to Rossman. That includes brands such as Chase Freedom Flex and Discover it Cash Back, he said, which are offering that rate between July and September.
Sam’s Club also offers certain cards that will allow consumers to earn money back on gas.
It is also worthwhile to check the perks your existing credit cards may offer, Rossman said.
“You may have a good gas rewards credit card and not even realize it,” Rossman said.
Of note, it is generally best to avoid gas-branded cards, which may come with high 30% annual interest rates and limited discounts on gas purchases, he said.
In addition to using a credit card with good gas rewards, drivers may save by using apps to help them find better gas prices, such as Upside or GasBuddy.
Drivers should also look to stack offers where they can. A credit card may offer 5% cash back on gas, and a gas station app may provide a 10% offer per gallon, Rossman said.
“That’s two ways to save instead of one,” he said.
Rental cars are also comparatively cheaper this year, Rossman said.
If you’re thinking of renting a car, be sure to double-check whether your credit card may already offer insurance coverage.
“A lot of times, credit cards have various travel perks built in that people may not even realize they have,” Rossman said, which may also include provisions for trip delays or cancellations as well as lost or delayed luggage.