We all love our RVs, but it is certainly expensive to move them. Whether we pull them or drive them, it takes a lot of fuel. My first trip across country was between Denver and Michigan. I filled up a 6 times at truck stops consuming about 132.6 gallons of diesel. The fuel cost alone was close to $500. After the trip I started researching Fuel Savings Programs. This article will walk you though what I discovered and explore PROs and CONs of each program.
Good Sam Fuel Discount Program
Good Sam Members qualify for Discount fuel at Pilot Flying J Truck Stops. The benefit is called the Good Sam Fuel Discount Program. Good Sam has 1.7 million members. Their Fuel Discount is the most widely used by RVers.
Good Sam offers fixed fuel discounts based on membership levels. Standard annual members receive 5 cents off per gallon for Gasoline and 8 cents off per gallon for diesel. Life members receive 6 cents off per gallon for Gas and 8 cents for diesel. Elite Members received the largest discount of 7 cents per gallon off for gas and 9 cents per gallon for diesel.
The Good Sam Fuel Discount Program also offers savings for Dump Stations, Propane, Campgrounds, and Camping World.
How to use Good Sam at Pilot Flying J
The Good Sam Discount Program works like a loyalty card. With Loyalty programs, the first thing to do is insert the Loyalty card, not your credit card. On the pump, there is usually a button to select that says Loyalty. Select Loyalty and then insert the Good Sam card.
The pump will then ask to insert a credit card. At that time you would insert a normal credit card. Sometimes the pumps want to know if it is Credit or Debit. Select what is appropriate. The pumps may also ask about adding car washes or other products. Those options can be skipped by selecting NO. After the last question is asked, the pump will change the display to show the discounted price and it will ask you to select the grade of fuel.
It is very important to watch the price display to confirm that the discount is applied. I have had issues where my Good Sam card was not read by the pump properly and the discount was not applied. I have also accidentally inserted my credit card first. If either happens to you, cancel the transaction and start over.
Good Sam Fuel Program PROs & CONs
- The Discount Program is Free with a Good Sam Membership
- Standard Credit and Debit cards can be used at the pump
- The card does not link to a bank account or require personal information to use
- The Program Only works at Pilot Flying J Fuel stops
- The fuel savings discount is a fixed amount regardless of how many gallons consumed
- Some truck lanes will not accept standard credit card payments
Good Sam RV PLUS Card
It can be confusing, but Good Sam actually offers two different Pilot Flying J discount programs. The first one discussed above is a discount program that is tied to a Good Sam Membership. The Good Sam RV PLUS Card, functions like a debit card. When using the Good Sam RV PLUS card, the card applies the discount and processed the payment. Other credit cards are not required to pay at the pump.
The RV PLUS Card and the Fuel Program Loyalty card appear to function the same. They both provide a fixed discount per gallon of fuel. What's interesting about the RV PLUS Card is they do not offer higher discounts to Lifetime or Elite members. The RV Plus program states that it discounts at least $.05 off every gallon of gas and $.08 off every gallon of diesel in the United States, which is the same as a standard Good Sam Membership.
What makes the Good Sam RV PLUS Card Different?
The difference between the RV PLUS and the Fuel Discount Program differs on how the payment is processed. The Fuel Discount Program requires a credit card to be used to pay for the transaction.
The RV PLUS Card is actually a Credit Card that is tied to a checking account. It functions like a debit card — when a transaction is processed with the RV PLUS, Good Sam withdraws the payment from a personal or business bank account. Pilot Flying J treats these transactions like a cash payment and they remove the credit card surcharge that add to the price per gallon for everyone.
The advantage of the RV PLUS Card is it qualifies as a cash payment and the savings is applied immediately at the pump. Good Sam then further discounts the price at 5 cents a gallon for gas and 8 cents per gallon for diesel. The following table is from the RV PLUS website that shows how the fuel savings works.
In the example above, a RV PLUS cardholder would save 14 cents per gallon for Diesel. A Gasoline fill up would have saved 11 cents per gallon.
RV PLUS Sign Up Process
The RV PLUS Card requires that one complete an online application.
The first page of the application verifies that the Good Sam Membership is valid and that the phone number entered is the primary one linked to the membership. The subsequent pages ask for banking info and some personal information.
Good Sam does not run a credit check. They just validate that bank details provided are active and that the person applying is a Good Sam member. After submitting the application, it can take several weeks to receive the card. I would not recommend using a campground as the shipping address. It is a credit card that is linked to your checking account…
RV PLUS Card PROs and CONs
- Can be used at Pilot Flying J — Other RV Programs cannot
- Qualifies for the cash discount that can pay at the pump
- Works in all Pilot Flying J diesel Truck Lanes
- Could overdraft a bank account
- Will not work at other fuel stations
- Discounts do not increase with usage or membership levels
- Good Sam Membership is required
TSD Logistics Fuel Card
TSD Logistics is a bulk transport company based in Texarkana, Texas. Truck operators like TSD negotiate volume discounts for fuel with Truck Stops such as Loves, TA to reduce their fuel expenses. As a small transport company, they cannot negotiate aggressive discounts like larger trucking firms on their own. A few years ago, the brilliant TSD management created the TSD Logistic Fuel Card program and opened it up to RVers or anyone that can fuel up a diesel vehicle at a truck stop.
The TSD Logistic Fuel program is unlike anything else out there. TSD is not trying to make money off of fuel sales, they are trying to drive down fuel cost for their fleet of big rigs. When they expand their fleet to Motorhomes, Buses, trucks pulling travel trailers, etc., they exponentially increase the pumped gallons through their books. The more fuel they consume, the lower their cost is per gallon.
The savings per gallon is calculated instantly and passed directly to the cardholder. TSD outsources the cards being issued through a company called Electronic Funds Source (EFS).
EFS helps fleet operators negotiate rates and reduce operating costs. The EFC program utilized by TSD is called the EFS Fleet Program. TSD Logistics pays EFS to manage their discount program and issue credit cards to their RV customers. TSD Charges a service fee that helps them cover their overhead to process the transactions and the fees they incur from EFS.
TSD Service Fee Explained
The service fee is a bit confusing when first looking at it. They charge 10% of the savings for non-commercial use (eg. RV drivers). 10% sounds expensive up front, but the key words are of “the Savings.” Their fee is based off of the discounts they negotiated, not the retail price per gallon. The fee is calculated against how much they saved. This is a fair pricing model. The more they save us, the more they make. There is no correlation to the discount received and the retail price per gallon.
Here's an example of the savings I received at TA on August 16, 2020.
|Diesel Cash Price||$2.459|
|TSD Fee (10% of Savings)||$0.049|
|Actual Cost per Gallon||$2.018|
|Savings per Gallon||$0.44|
The cost per gallon of diesel including taxes and fees on my last fill-up was $2.02. If I had used the Good Sam RV Plus card, my cost would have been $2.37/gallon ($2.459-$0.08). The TSD program is a hands-down winner for Diesel fuel savings.
TSD Logistic Pricing
TSD Logistics maintains a series of spreadsheets in their members only section of the website. The sheets are updated daily and show the exact fuel price by location in their program. The above example the bottom section of the listing of TA Locations. TA alone as 200+ locations. There are 31,592 truck stops that accept the EFS Card!
The key point to note in the price sheet above is that discounts are different by location. Having these sheets in hand when planning a trip can save big money by planning stops at stations with the highest discounts. This information is also available in the EFS Mobile App, but it isn't as flexible as spreadsheets when planning a long trip.
TSD Logistic Tips
There are a few things to keep in mind about the TSD program.
- The EFS card only works at truck stops in the back where the truckers fuel up. It will not work at the consumer pumps even if purchasing diesel.
- TSD only works for Diesel purchases ONLY when pumped from a commercial pump. I have seen a few truck stops that had gas pumps in the back, but they are not eligible for the program.
- Pilot Flying J has banned TSD from their stations due to their exclusivity contract with Good Sam. The EFS card will work at Pilot, but the only discount is the cash price vs credit card price.
- TSD charges a $1.00 service fee when using their card outside of the discount network.
TSD Logistics PROs and CONs
- Works at most Truck Stops across the US and Many in Canada
- Offers the best savings for Diesel
- The more people that use the program the better the savings is for everyone
- Does not work for gasoline vehicles — Diesel Only
- Must use truck lanes for fuel
- Will not work at Pilot Flying J
- Discounts change daily
- US Bank Account required to process fuel payments
Shell Fuel Rewards Program
The Shell Fuel Rewards Program is a popular choice for consumers. The base program has two levels — Silver and Gold. Silver is the entry level card. It qualifies for 3 cents per gallon discount for either gas or diesel.
The Gold level is initially awarded to new subscribers, but it will fall back to Silver if spending levels are not maintained. Gold status earns 5 cent discount per gallon of gas or diesel.
To stay qualified for the Fuel Rewards Gold level, a subscriber must fill up a minimum of 6 times every three months. Basically every 90 day period, one needs to use the card 6 times to maintain Gold status. Gold can be earned back as soon as 6 fill ups are performed within 90-days.
Shell defines fill-ups as a minimum of 5 Gallons. Stopping and re-authorizing a pump counts as starting another fill up. If you are running close to losing status, fill up to 5 gallons, stop the pump, reauthorize and fill to 5 gallons again. Repeat until meeting the number of fill-ups needed. This can be done over a few days if you have small tanks or multiple vehicles as well. Just make sure you can fill to at least 5 gallons or the pump transaction will not count toward qualification.
What sets the Shell Fuel Reward program apart from the others we have reviewed is that fuel discounts can be earned through shopping and dining at qualified establishments. For example, an additional 10 cents per gallon can be earned by spending $50 or more at participating restaurants. The process of earning the various discounts from vendors is linked to a credit card. If the credit card is used at an in-system venue and the spending level is met, Shell will automatically add the additional discount to the card.
Shell Fuel Rewards Tips
There are some things to keep in mind when using the Shell Fuel Rewards Card.
- They do not notify you when additional points are loaded on the card. You either have to look online or find out when the card is inserted at the pump.
- Earned discounts are a one-time use benefit. It is best to plan large fill-ups when larger discounts are earned to get the maximum savings.
- Shell stops the pumps from filling at 20 gallons of fuel. Regardless of the discount earned, the max award is 20 gallons.
- Pumps will stop and need to be reauthorized if a fill up is over 20 gallons. The stopping and restarting of a pump is a hassle when trying to fill up large fuel tanks.
How to Use the Shell Fuel Rewards Card
The process of using the Fuel Reward card at a pump is similar to Good Sam's discount. They are both loyalty cards.
- The first step is to process the loyalty card. There is an option on the fuel pump display that says Rewards. This must be selected first.
- Then either swipe the Loyalty card or type in the phone number associated with the account (Alternate ID).
- After reading the card, the display will show the discount level you are at and ask if you want to apply it to this fuel up. Normally you would select yes.
- Then insert the payment method and keep an eye on the fuel pricing on the pump. The numbers should decrease by the reward amount.
It is good to have as many of the fuel savings cards as you can. The more you have the more ways to save. If you have a Diesel vehicle, the TSD Logistics program is a must have. Nothing else comes close to TSD.
Good Sam is an excellent choice for gasoline drivers that can stop at Pilot Flying J stations. The cash price at the pump makes the Good Sam RV PLUS card a solid choice.
Shell Fuel Rewards is an excellent all-around gas card. There are over 14,000 Shell stations in the US. The added value of earning fuel savings from dining and other vendors in the program automatically is nice to have.
There are, of course, many other savings programs out there as well. Costco, Sams Club, Meijer and other big box chains have loyalty programs and inexpensive fuel. It is worth looking at everyone. There is always a new kid on the block coming up with a savings program that will lure in customers.