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.
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.
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).
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.”
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.
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.