Is an ARCO credit card (which is actually a debit card) really a good deal or just questionable marketing? As a resident of Southern California, there are quite a few ARCO gas stations around here. Their motto is “straight up gas” and they claim to be an average of 5 to 10 cents cheaper per gallon than other stations. But my review which follows shows why it’s not always the best deal. Despite what some people claim, this debit card is NOT a scam (Arco is not doing anything illegal). That being said, it’s not a good way to save money, here’s why…
The debit card from ARCO has been permanently discontinued. Right now your best alternative is to get a good rewards credit card and use that for your fuel purchases from now on.
Paper, Not Plastic
Now this is a huge inconvenience for many. They do not accept Visa, MasterCard, Discover, or American Express credit cards for payment. Besides cash, you can pay with a debit card. But the kicker is that they charge a “convenience fee” of 45 cents to do so.
So let’s do the math. Let’s say they truly are 5-10 cents less for every gallon (they’re not always but I’ll discuss that in a moment). If you bought 10 gallons and saved 5 cents per gallon, that would equal 50 cents total. Now if you paid with your debit, that would mean hypothetically you only saved 5 cents. If you have an ARCO gas card though, they do waive this fee.
Is It The Same Formula Of Gas? (The Rumors)
There are many people out there that seem to believe ARCO gas is a lower quality or a different formula. Personally, I have yet to see any evidence which substantiates these rumors whatsoever. Yet people still seem to allege things like…
- A car dealer informed me not to use their gas in my car, which is a German sports car. He alleged that if I’m going to use it, I should put an octane booster in right before filling up the tank. No evidence was provided to support this claim.
- I read a post about how ethanol is commonly added to gas – the blogger suspected the gas ARCO uses might have above-average ethanol concentrations – still meeting the legal requirements, but more than the average amount added at other gas stations. He provided no proof to back up this allegation.
Conclusion: There are plenty of rumors out there about ARCO gas being inferior, but I highly doubt these rumors are true. There’s no evidence to validate these rumors. Do NOT rely on them when choosing where to buy gas. The gas at ARCO is the same quality you would get at any other station.
So how much more do the “other” stations cost? Well I’ve kept an eye on the discrepancies constantly over the years. There are “name brand” stations around me such as Shell, 76, and Chevron and I would say on average they only run 5 to 7 cents more. Being that there are cards that save 3 to 5% (notice that’s percent, not cents) per gallon, that would mean if it were $3 gal., I would be saving 9 to 15 cents. That’s much more than what I would be saving at ARCO even if I paid with cash there.
Last but not least, something else to consider is that ARCO is BP company… are they a company we really want to support right now? I don’t think so.
So is an ARCO debit card going to save you money? It doesn’t look like it. For a better option check out our sponsored listing of the best gas credit cards – save up to 5% at gas stations plus get a great signup bonus!
2012 update: ARCO has terminated it’s debit card program entirely.
Written or updated August 12, 2013