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Are shopper dockets and ‘old-school’ fuel discounts a popular method for dealing with high petrol prices?

7 min read
21 Mar 2019

In a bid to make its petrol stations more competitive, Coles has signed a deal in early February with Viva Energy.

As a part of the new deal, Viva Energy will set the petrol price and take profits from fuel sales, while Coles will take care of the convenience store side of things and receive a commission on petrol sales.[1]

It is hoped this new arrangement will cut petrol prices at Coles Express petrol stations, which will then in turn put pressure on the other petrol station brands to change their prices to stay competitive.[2]

This new deal could be a win for drivers, especially considering petrol prices hit a four-year high in 2018.[3] It does bring up the question: what options do drivers have to ease the squeeze on their wallets? How far do you have to go to get a good deal on petrol?

Shopper dockets are still a thing

In 2016, a Roy Morgan survey found that 22% of Australians at least 14 years old actually use the discounts on supermarket shopping receipts, though this includes other offers besides fuel discounts.[4]

While their popularity may have slumped in the last decade, discounts on fuel from supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths still exist.

When spending $30 or more at Woolworths, you’ll receive a four cents per litre discount on fuel which can be redeemed at a participating Caltex Woolworths petrol station. These vouchers typically last 28 days. Woolworths customers with a fuel voucher can get an extra four cents per litre off by spending $5 or more at the Caltex Woolies petrol station, for a total fuel discount of eight cents per litre.[5]

Other Caltex petrol stations like Star Mart and Foodary also accept the initial four cents per litre voucher from Woolworths, but do not have the additional discount for spending $5 or more in the petrol station. You should also note that some exclusions apply to what counts for the $30 or more necessary from Woolworths to receive the fuel voucher.[6]

Another option is to use a Woolworths Rewards card when shopping at Woolworths and then buying fuel at a participating petrol station. The Woolworths Rewards card keeps track of previous spending and accumulated reward points, in which case you don’t need to hold onto a receipt. A 28-day time limit applies when using the Woolworths Reward card for your fuel discount.[7]

Coles has a similar rewards system for their Coles Express petrol stations.

a family grocery shopping in a supermarket

Similarly to Woolies, Coles customers who spend $30 or more will get a receipt with a fuel voucher attached.[8] The discount is four cents per litre, just like Woolworths. The difference between these two supermarket giants is that if you spend an additional $20 at the Coles Express servo, you’ll get an extra 10 cents per litre off the price of a fill-up, for a total discount of 14 cents per litre.[9]

Coles Express petrol stations also have a gift card, with a minimum amount of $5 and a max of $500. This gift card can be used by the gift card recipient on petrol, a Coles Express car wash, or just on other petrol station purchases like snacks and magazines.[10]

Do people still use shopper dockets?

Back in 2014, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) made a deal with Coles and Woolworths, limiting their fuel discount to four cents per litre. Andrew McLenan from Commonwealth Bank expected the supermarkets would focus on putting discounts on groceries instead.[11]

This focus on providing better deals at the checkout than at the bowser was fuelled by competition heating up when Aldi entered the Australian market. Shoppers found that it was easier and more convenient to focus on nabbing savings at the supermarket instead and use the money saved on their grocery bill to cover the cost of fuel instead of using a discount voucher.[12]

After all, for the full eight cents per litre discount on fuel at a Woolworths Caltex, you need to spend a minimum $35, both at the supermarket and the petrol station. With Coles, the total discount of 14 cents per litre requires a minimum spend of $50 combined between a Coles supermarket and a Coles Express servo.

So, using a hypothetical bowser price for unleaded petrol of 138.9 cents per litre (used by calculating the average for the nation based on capital city averages at time of writing) and a 60 litre fuel tank as an example, how much would you save on a total cost to fill-up of $83.34?

Supermarket and petrol station chainTotal fuel discount per litreTotal savings on bowser priceTotal cost to fuel 60 litres at 138.9 cents per litre
Woolworths and Woolworths Caltex8 cents$4.80$78.54
Coles and Coles Express14 cents$8.40$74. 94

Another factor attributed to the slow demise of supermarket petrol vouchers is the rise of petrol price apps, which allow users to search for petrol stations in their area which sell the cheapest fuel.[13] Beyond keeping grocery vouchers on hand and hunting for a good bowser price near you, how else can you save money on fuel?

Petrol saving tips and refuelling hacks

Every car uses petrol differently, but there are a number of external factors which can affect fuel consumption in your car. The Australian Department of the Environment has a few tips on how to save petrol when out and about, such as:

  • Avoid making multiple short trips, as this is less fuel efficient than one long drive.
  • Make sure to use the correct gear when using a manual vehicle.
  • Avoid unnecessary braking and accelerating as this uses more petrol. Instead, try to keep the drive smooth.
  • Take off roof racks and bicycle racks when not in use, and don’t have the windows or sunroof open as this increases aerodynamic drag and uses more fuel.
  • Keep the air pressure in the tyres maintained and wheels aligned. This increases fuel efficiency and also improves the car’s handling.
  • Get your vehicle serviced regularly as specified in the manufacturer’s owner’s manual or handbook.[14]

a man in a dark blue jacket refuels his car

When it comes to picking the right time to fuel up, there are a few differing theories. Should you fuel up when the empty light comes on, or earlier such as at half a tank? James Painter from Bloodhound SSC, who are working on creating a land vehicle capable of doing over 1600 kilometres per hour, suggests that having more fuel than you need for your journey actually reduces fuel efficiency by having additional weight, though this is more of an issue in bad traffic and stop-start driving.[15]

Where you drive also has an impact. Long, straight, flat roads make your car use less fuel than winding roads on hilly terrain.[16]

British Petroleum also recommends saving fuel by switching the car off when safely stopped for a prolonged period instead of idling the car.[17] Another aspect that affects fuel prices, is the petrol cycle, which refers to the way petrol prices rise and fall based on a variety of economic and fuel market factors.[18]

If you need to fuel up and want to look for a good price on petrol, you can compare fuel prices in your area with us for free. We regularly update petrol prices to make it easier for you to find a good deal near you when it’s time to fill-up.

Sources
[1] Coles and Viva Energy enter new fuel deal. Greta Stonehouse, News.com.au. 2019.
[2] Coles signs new fuel deal with Viva, says convenience earnings will fall 62pc. Sue Mitchell, Angera Macdonald-Smith, Australian Financial Review. 2019.
[3] Petrol prices climb to four-year high, ACCC urges motorists to use comparison apps. David Chau, ABC. 2018.
[4] Does anyone even notice shopping trolley ads and supermarket-docket specials anymore? Roy Morgan. 2016.
[5] FAQ. Woolworths Group Limited. 2019.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Woolworths Rewards. Caltex. 2019.
[8] Frequently Asked Questions. Coles. 2015.
[9] Spend $20 in store and Save 10 cents per litre on fuel. Coles Express. 2019.
[10] Gift Card. Coles Express. 2019.
[11] Supermarkets shift discount war from fuel to groceries. Michael Janda, ABC News, ABC. 2014.
[12] Shopper docket fuel discounts are so 2007. Dana McCauley, News.com.au. 2017.
[13] Petrol Price Apps Making Shopping Docket Fuel Savings Redundant. ACAPMA. 2017.
[14] 10 Top Tips for Fuel Efficient Driving. Department of the Environment, Australian Government. 2008.
[15] How much petrol should I put in my car? James Painter, The Naked Scientists. 2011.
[16] 10 tips to save fuel. Casales.com limited. 2017.
[17] Efficient Driving. British Petroleum. 2019.
[18] Petrol price cycles. Australian Competition & Consumer Commission. 2019.

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