A Review of the Ralphs Fuel Reward Program

How much money can you really save with Ralph’s Fuel Reward?

Ralphs, a subsidiary of the Kroger family of companies, is a fairly common supermarket scattered across the Greater Los Angeles County. You may be wondering if it’s worth your trouble to collect the Ralphs fuel points to save a couple dollar on gas. I’m here to do a review of the Ralphs Fuel Reward Program.

$2.199/ gal on regular gas in California

Whether you are racking up fuel points or not, you should still sign up for the loyalty program. You will be given an unique 12 digit Rewards Card Number that you can link to your phone number (AKA Alt ID) on the website. Whenever you shop at Ralphs, you can tell them your phone number because certain discounts are linked to the rewards program.

The short answer is no, the practical use of the Fuel Points with all the limits and expiration rules may be too much hassle for most people I know.

How to earn:

You earn 1 fuel point for every dollar spend. Since each point is equivalent to 1/10th of a cent, 100 fuel points will give you 10 cents off per gallon. Spending $1000 to earn 1000 fuel points to get $1 off per gallon of fuel is not practical for most single shoppers or even many families I know. Most households split their grocery spending between supermarket and wholesale clubs like Costco, Walmart, and Target, so earning fuel points through only regular spending is quite unrealistic.


If you fill out one of those Kroger Feedback survey at the bottom of your receipt, you can earn 50 points. However, you’re limited to filling one every 7 days or at a max of 200-250 points per month. It may only be meaningful only if you’re short 50 points to the next 100 point increment.

Point Multipliers:

I don’t know too many people regularly browse supermarket websites for extra fuel points…

For the point enthusiasts, you might go on the Ralph’s website and look 2x or 3x point items on their promotion. This is quite a labor intensive task since there’s no easy way to search or filter through the items. I think they really want you to browse through the site like you would in at a grocery aisle. But seriously? First you have to browse through the website AND THEN you have to do the same thing again when you get to the store and find all those items again… and for a $3.99 bag of orange? What’s that? 8 points? Ridiculous….

Online Gift Card:

Another way to earn extra points is through the Kroger Gift Card. (Remember Ralph’s is part of the Kroger family). All gift cards purchased on the website can earn you 2x points if you put in your Ralph’s Reward number before you check out. And sometime there are discounts to common retailers like Lowe’s and Carter’s under the Promotion tab. Unfortunately, we’re still looking at spending up to $500 to get 1000 fuel points.

4x Gift Card Instore Promotion

This is where things get interesting. Even better than the online gift card, Ralph’s will frequently run gift card promotions where you earn 4x the points for a particular gift card in store. Each promotion is different. Sometimes the promotion is limited to certain categories like airfare or dining. Other times, it can be any gift card but only during the weekend (Friday, Saturday or Sunday).

FOR example:

a $250 Amazon gift card will earn you 1000 fuel points with a 4x instore promotions. If you can combine that with a credit card that earns you 3x back like the American Express Every Day Preferred or 4x back like the American Express Gold Card, you can earn almost double what you can earn with Chase’s 5% back Amazon credit card.  

4x of $250 (American Express Gold card) = 1000 Members Rewards (MR) points or $10 cash back if you value MR at 1 cent per point.

1000 Ralph’s fuel points = up to $35 off

$10+$35 = $45 off of $250 or 18% off.

Caveat: Ralphs and Kroger Family of Stores Gift cards are excluded from the point multiplier… obviously… or else you will buy $100 Ralph’s gift card to earn 200 points and then use it to buy your grocery…

How much is the point worth?

For every 1,000 points, you can save $1 per gallon up to 35 gallons. For example, My ‘05 Toyota Camry holds 18.5 gallons but realistically I’m looking at about 15 gallons per fill if I wait until the fuel gauge is 30 miles past the light.

Even though technically you can save a maximum of $35 per 1000 points, practically you’re only looking at $15-20 depending on how much you’re filling. Hopefully you’re not just tipping off the tank with 1-2 gallons for a $1-2 savings.

I do read that people will bring 2 or even 3 cars and line them up next to each other to maximize the discount. If you’re really that hardcore, you can also get one of these fuel containers so you can maximize the 35 gallons and save the excess for the next fill up at home.

If you’re consistently getting 2000 points per month and saving $15 per fill, we’re looking at a $360 annual savings. But a deep dive into the redemption and expiration rules will demonstrate how difficult this can actually be…

How to redeem:

You can only redeem the points at a Ralph’s fuel station or a “participating” Shell gas station.

There are not any Ralph’s fuel station in LA proper. Most of them are out in the San Fernando Valley or toward Orange County. It may work for you but not everyone will be willing to make a detour to save a few bucks.

I haven’t been to a non-participating Shell gas station but I can only imagine how irritating it would be to go out of the way to look for Shell and only to find that I can’t use my fuel points and it’s probably more expensive than the Mobile down the street.

The actual redeeming process is simple.

  • Select Ralph’s Reward (not to be confused with Fuel Rewards Program, which is Shell’s own membership program)
  • Select Alternative ID
  • Enter the 12 digit membership number from Ralph’s (I save it on my Apple Wallet or you can use your Ralph’s app)
  • The screen will automatically flash your discount and you will see the new reflected price on above the fuel type. You get a flat discount regardless which fuel category you choose.

Here is the example Ralph’s give on its website:

100 fuel points= 10¢ off per gallon of fuel for 1 fill-up at Ralphs or participating Shell gas stations.
200 Fuel Points= 20¢ off per gallon of fuel for 1 fill-up at Ralphs or participating Shell gas stations.

The points do not round off

Here’s the example you should know but Ralph’s doesn’t give you
If you earn 500 points, you will get 50 cents off per gallon.
If you earn 599 points, you still get 50 cents per gallon.

In reality, unless you live near a Ralph’s gas station, most Shell station is at least 10-20 cents more expensive than its neighboring Chevron or Mobil. Not to mention Costco gas station is even cheaper if you live near one. (I use Gasbuddy to check for the cheapest gas). Therefore, I believe you only start saving at a significant discount if you can accumulate 500 points (50 cents off) or more.

When do the Points Expires?

The program states: “Each month is a separate accumulation period and points do not combine.

Expiration chart from the Ralph’s website. Points earned is only good for the month you earned them plus the following month.

What this mean is that the points I accumulate in January is good for use in January and to the end of February. However, the points I accumulate in February will not commingle with the January points.

For example, I accumulated 8279 points in December, which will give me $1 per gallon up to 35 gallons 8 separate times. However, since we’re now in January, I cannot add more to the December pool. So the 279 points leftover are essentially useless to me (279 points = 20 cents off, which is no better than if I just go to Costco). The points I accumulate in January starts a new bank of points that do not combine with the December pool.

Another quirk I noticed is that if you have some remaining points from last month, the station sometimes will use up the leftover points first instead of taking the full 1000 points that you’ve earned this month.
So even if I have 1000 points in January, some Shell gas station will attempt to use the 279 points from December first before allowing me to use the next 1000. I could not find a way around it. I just have to wait for the 279 points to expire first.

It’s almost as if Ralph’s is making the rules as convoluted as possible so as few people as possible will actually redeem the points.

How to track points?

You can look up and track your point here: Ralph’s Point Summary or look it up on the app.

Who is the Ralph’s Fuel Points good for?

Enough bashing of this poorly designed rewards program. Some people might still find it worth their while.

  • If you’re frequently buying gift cards for friends/family or for your company holiday party.
  • If you shop a lot! You may be shopping for your nonprofit club, church, or company potluck.
  • If you’re a truck driver or drive frequently, you may find the $35 savings worth your while to change your shopping habits.
  • If you’re a Disney fan, you should consider buying your Disney gift cards at Ralph’s during the 4x promotion. As far as I know, there are not a lot of ways to earn discounts at Disneyland/Disneyworld but the parks do take Disney gift cards for almost all purchases (e.g., restaurants, snack bars, souvenir shops, and hotel stay within Disney property). This may be the most discount you can earn aside from buying the regularly discounted Disney gift cards (4% – 10%) at BJ’s Wholesale Club, which you now need to pay for a $10 online membership.

In Summary:

It is hard to accumulate 1000 points within a single month. It is even harder to make good use of them at the right condition (you want to be at a Shell Station that’s not comparatively too overpriced when your fuel tank is near empty).  Nevertheless, once you understand how the program works, it is nice to get gas for under $3 in California every now and then.

Why You should get the Charles Schwab no fee ATM Debit card

Charles Schwab Debit Card (No ATM fee anywhere in the world)

“Hey! Any tips for traveling abroad?”

Oh yea, get the Charles Schwab debit card!  No fee anywhere in the world you go! It totally changed the way I carry cash when our family travels. It works like a debit card from any major bank (Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo,etc) except you can use any out of network ATM and any fees that the machine charges you will be reimbursed by Charles Schwab at the end of the billing cycle. Best of all, it doesn’t cost you anything (except a hard credit report inquiry).

REFERRAL LINK: REFER6FCJGFD3 (full disclosure: I do not get anything for you to sign up through this link. You, on the other hand, receive $100)
These are Schwab’s own words: “We hope your enthusiasm for Schwab’s award winning customer service and our low fees makes you excited to share how we can help your friends and family on their financial journey.”

Schwab Debit card is a Gamechanger

One of our past major concerns when traveling was where do we go to get the best cash rate exchange. It’s no secret that those airport currency exchange booths hike up the exchange rates with tons of fees. Some advocate making currency exchanges before leaving the country to avoid using the airport booth. But the next question is how much should we withdraw? The cash needed for a 3 week trip is much harder to estimate than a one week trip, especially since I prefer to put most if not all of our spending on credit card. The Schwab debit card essentially eliminated any cash hassle from traveling. In 2018 we traveled to 3 different regions of the world (New Zealand in Oceania, Japan in Asia, and Spain in Europe) plus some domestic travels to San Francisco and San Jose. Never once did we have to go to a bank to get some yens or euros prior to leaving the country. We simply walk up to a local ATM outside the airport when we arrive at our destination and withdraw enough cash for the next 2 days and the repeat as necessary.

The most common fees* when exchanging money are:

  1. Exchange rate fee (0.25%-6%)
  2. Foreign transaction fee (2-3%) charged by the bank/credit card company
  3. Dynamic currency conversion (avg 8%)
  4. ATM out of network fee (usually a fixed amount like $2-3)

Schwab debit essentially eliminates all such fees from the list.

Schwab debit card is perfect for day to day cash spending.

When we were in Japan for 3 weeks, we didn’t have to estimate how much we would spend daily and withdraw a large wad of cash to carry around as we travel around the island, especially since Japan is known to be a cash-based society and not all vendors accept credit cards. Schwab debit card made it easy for us to withdraw about 100,000-200,000 yens from the ATM at a local convenient store like Lawson, Family Mart, and 7-Eleven, which are all over the cities. We then spend down the cash in the next few days until we need more again.

Japan is known to still be a cash-based society and many places do not accept credit card. With the Schwab debit card, we were able to walk into any convenient store (Lawson, Family Mart, etc) or a local bank and withdraw just enough cash until we need it again at the next destination.

Schwab debit card is perfect for emergency cash spending

Someone broke into our car in New Zealand and took our all belongings, including our passports. After sorting out all the paperwork at the embassy, we were told that we needed around $300 USD cash to purchase our replacement passport because the embassy didn’t take credit card. It was as simple as going down to the first floor and finding the closest ATM and withdraw the amount we needed.

Unlike Japan, New Zealand widely accepted credit cards and I rarely needed to withdraw any cash. But when we lost our passport, I transferred a small sum of money into the Schwab account just in case… since we did not know how much the replacement passport may cost. When we found out the embassy only took cash, we were glad that we didn’t need to resort to withdrawing cash via cash advance using our credit card, which would’ve rubbed salt into our wound.

Schwab debit card is even useful for domestic travels.

Have you ever been in an unfamiliar neighborhood and needed cash for valet, tip, or other miscellaneous cash spend (or that one brunch place in SF that doesn’t take credit card!) but there’s no [insert major bank name] within sight or requires you to take a Uber/Lyft detour? Nowadays, I just need to pull out my Schwab debit card and withdraw money from whatever ATM in sight, including those shady ones in the local convenience stores (with precaution that the machine hasn’t been tampered with, of course). Because at the end of the month, Schwab would reimburse all the fees charged by the ATM.

I withdrew $140 from a nearby Chase ATM and was charged a $3 fee, which was reimbursed. The reimbursement doesn’t necessarily show up on the same day. It just happened to be the end of the billing cycle.

At the end of the day, you Inevitably will end up at a restaurant or shop that only takes debit card. You WILL need and SHOULD have a debit card in your wallet. So rather than trying to figure out which bank (i.e., Chase, Bank of America, or Wells Fargo, etc) will give you the best ATM access, Schwab offers the most flexibility as the one debit card to rule ’em all… errr, I mean, to be accessible most universally.

Okay. What’s the catch?

You have to open a brokerage account plus the checking account to get access the no fee debit card. A brokerage account is an investing account for buying and selling stocks. But for our purposes of withdrawing cash as a debit card, you don’t need to use the brokerage account at all nor keep any cash in that account. Not only is there no catch, if you’re a new customer, you can even get $100 sign up bonus. It really doesn’t get any better than this!

But really… what incentive does Schwab has for providing this free service?

It is definitely in Charles Schwab’s interest for you to be familiar with their banking system and investment platform so that you will eventually be one of its clients. To be honest, it worked on me. I’ve interacted with the Fidelity, Vanguard, and Schwab platforms and find Schwab to be fairly intuitive and have used their platform for trading stocks as a resort of having this account.

For full disclosure, my main personal bank is NOT Schwab. As a checking account, it doesn’t offer the highest interest rate. I only use Schwab to keep a small pool of cash for ATM withdrawal but keep the majority of my cash in a separate checking/savings account for the best high yield savings interest rate.

*Here are more detailed descriptions about the fees:

Exchange rate fee (0.25%-6%)

This is the fee that is often invisible to the consumer and really out of our hand. This is the fee often marked up at the airport currency exchange booth because they know they have you trapped like a rat in a maze. A quick Google search for foreign exchange rate should give the best rate and help you figure out the mark up. This is also why you can withdraw the same amount of money from the exact same ATM but receive a different amount on a different day. I believe Schwab doesn’t actually charge a rate and so doesn’t pass this cost onto the consumer from my online research but wasn’t able to confirm it. Whenever I calculate the rate I received from the exchange, it is usually accurate up to the 100th decimal point.

Foreign transaction fee (2-3%) charged by the bank/credit card company.

Many credit cards now advertise and offer no foreign transaction fees. There is absolutely no reason in this day and age to pay this fee when so many fee free credit cards, including the Schwab debit card, waive this fee.

Dynamic currency conversion (wiki link) (8%)

Have you ever purchased something internationally and been asked by the cashier if you would like to purchase using the local currency or USD? The correct answer should always be local currency to avoid the dynamic currency conversion charge. It irks me how insidious this fee can be since most unaware travelers may opt for USD (or their home currency) because we all find it easier to understand the value of something in our own home currency. I find that in most countries, the cashier would usually ask which currency we prefer first. However, more than once in South Korea, the cashier politely, without asking, selected USD instead of WON. I’m guessing she probably thought we as Americans preferred to see the charge in USD. I have to quickly stopped her and request Won instead.

ATM fee – charged by the local bank when using an out of network card.

This is common both domestically and internationally. If you hold a Chase ATM debit card, you can’t go to Wells Fargo ATM to withdraw money without paying an out of network fee. And this is even more common seen at a local ATM at a convenient store or bar. When you use the Schwab debit card, you will still be paying the fee upfront. For example, you withdraw $40 and you get charged $43 because of the $3 out of network fee. Schwab will reimburse that $3 at the end of the month to your statement.

TL;DR: Schwab visa debit card provides easy access to cash at a local ATM wherever you go in the world without getting ripped off by fees.   


Can I deposit money with the debit card when I’m in [insert country]?

No. You can use the Schwab debit card to withdraw cash from a Chase ATM but you can’t deposit money back in because you don’t actually have a banking relationship with Chase. Schwab simply reimburses the out of network fee on your behalf when you use the an out of network ATM (like Chase, for example).

Can I withdraw more money than I have in my Schwab checking account?

No. This is not a loan or a credit line. The debit card gives you access to money you already have. So if you anticipate spending $500-$1000 oversea, you want to make sure you have at least that much money in the account. The advantage is that you don’t have to withdraw/exchange more than you might use or end up carrying hundreds of dollars in your wallet.

What are the hidden fees? E.g., How much money do I need to keep in the accounts to avoid fees?

Schwab doesn’t have a minimum balance requirement and doesn’t charge a monthly statement fee. The only con I can think of is that Charles Schwab does a hard inquiry pull on your Experian credit report.

Do I have to open a brokerage account along with the checking account / do I have to invest with Charles Schwab?

Yes, you have to open both a brokerage account and a checking account to have access to the fee free ATM debit card but there is no monthly fee or minimum balance requirement. You do not have to invest with Charles Schwab’s brokerage account or even keep any money in that account, but Schwab does have a good platform comparable to Fidelity and Vanguard.

This is too good to be true, is Schwab the only option?

Actually no. Other banks with this feature that I know of are Fidelity and Capital one. But do your research. I think some have a maximum of $30 reimbursement amount.

Do I have to use your referral link?

No, in fact, I don’t get anything from you using my link. Schwab, in its own words, states “We hope your enthusiasm for Schwab’s award winning customer service and our low fees makes you excited to share how we can help your friends and family on their financial journey.” So no, I have no financial incentive to promote Schwab debit card.

Anything else I should know?

  • You should set a travel alert with Schwab when traveling to make sure the bank knows where you are. If the bank freezes your card because it believes there are fraudulent activity, you will be stuck without any cash.
  • Keep in mind that some countries like South Korea and Japan may not have 24 hours access to an ATM.