Tech Savvy: App offers rebates on gas purchases
Upside allows users to earn cash back after buying gas.
BRAINERD — Gas prices.
A topic on many minds right now, as driving down the street for coffee becomes a major expense and a trip to the gas station threatens to break the bank.
While AAA reported a slight decrease in the national average price of gas over the past week, drivers are still feeling the strain, as the national average price per gallon as of Thursday, June 23, was $4.94. It dropped from $5 the week before.
Compare these prices with a year ago, when the average was $3.07 per gallon, and the cost seems even more astonishing.
Minnesota’s current average sits a little below the national price, at $4.72 per gallon as of Thursday.
According to AAA and recent data from the Energy Information Administration, both oil costs and domestic gasoline stocks have fallen over the past week. Those drops, paired with a slight decrease in demand, have helped to limit pump prices for the time being, but as crude oil prices remain “volatile,” according to AAA, the price per gallon will likely remain elevated.
So what can drivers do — short of just staying home or walking everywhere — to relieve some of the sticker shock after filling up? Well, there’s an app for that.
I recently learned about Upside, a smartphone app allowing users to earn cash back on gas purchases.
After downloading the app and creating an account, you’ll be able to see available offers at nearby gas stations. Offers can range from a couple pennies off per gallon, up to as much as 15 or 20 cents per gallon of gas. After “claiming an offer,” you’ll have four hours to gas up at your chosen station.
You can either link the credit or debit card you’re using with the Upside app to automatically get cash back in your account when you pay, or you can scan a receipt after purchasing. To be eligible, purchases must be made with a credit or debit card though.
After paying with your linked card or uploading your receipt, any cash back you earned will usually be in your account in a day or two. Then there are options to link your bank account or PayPal account or redeem your funds in the form of a digital gift card. Available retailers include Amazon, Apple, Target, Walmart, Starbucks and Google Play, among a few others.
Cashing out to a bank account or PayPal incurs a $1 service fee if the amount is less than $10 for the bank or $15 for PayPal.
After letting my account build up for a little while, I ultimately redeemed my earnings through a $15 Amazon gift card, as I already have some purchases planned.
Not that I ever want to complain about getting essentially free money, but I would say my biggest gripe that I’ve noticed with Upside in the few months I’ve been using it is how it works with other discounts. I, for example, got a wonderful little advantage card from the dealership where I bought my car a couple years ago, and it saves me 10 cents per gallon at Holiday any and every time I buy gas.
If the Upside offer is more than my 10 cents, then the cash back through the app will be adjusted to account for the additional promotion. If the Upside offer is lower than 10 cents, however, my advantage card will cancel out the cash back. But since I’m still receiving a discount either way, this is just a minor frustration.
Along with gas rewards, Upside offers cash back at restaurants and grocery stores in certain areas. Burger King, Blaze Pizza and Pizza Hut are the only restaurants I’ve encountered in the Brainerd area so far, and there are not currently any grocery stores around here offering cash back right now, but I’ve got my fingers crossed for some additions in the future.
While Upside is by no means going to make you rich, it’s an easy way to help lessen the burden of buying gas at least a little, and it’s certainly better than nothing.
THERESA BOURKE may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa.