Gas rewards programs come with deep discounts and caveats

How much are you really saving when you gas up at Safeway?

If you thought you saw gas at $3.05 per gallon for the last time, think again. Of course, though, you've got to have the right goods to find the lower prices.

That's where gas rewards programs come in to help you cut the price at the pump. Fair warning, though - as 7 On Your Side discovered, most of these programs have some big limitations.

In looking at three popular gas rewards programs from some of the biggest retailers in the area - Safeway, Giant and Sunoco, the fine print shows some pretty severe limits to what you can get and how realistic your expectations should be.

For example, the Sunoco A+ rewards card earns you discounts for buying certain special items listed on widely-distributed circulars. If you save up enough, you could technically get up to 20 gallons of gas for less than two cents per gallon. However, not only is that level of savings not entirely typical, your discounts expire just one month after they're earned.

The Safeway card can save you up to a dollar off the price of gas by earning one point for every dollar you spend at the grocery chain. However, beyond the list of exempted products, the gas can only be redeemed at Safeway stations.

Like Sunoco, your points expire at the end of the month. Rewards at Safeway include 10 cents off per gallon for the first 100 points you earn, but to get the $1/gallon off, you have to accrue 1,000 points during the course of a month.

Giant's rewards program, which is linked with Shell gas stations, gives you a bit more freedom and offers a bigger potential discount. Their discount, though, maxes out at $2.20, nearly double the Safeway promotion.

Much like every other program like this, you should choose a program that works for you.

"Every little bit helps," AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman Lon Anderson said. "People are really feeling the pain at the pump right and they are looking for ways to lessen that pain."