Locking In Gas Prices When They're Low

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There you are, steamed at paying $3 for a gallon of gasoline. So how does it feel to learn that some people are paying $2 dollars, or even a buck a gallon?

That's because they bought it from a small chain of gas stations in central Minnesota that allows customers to pre-pay for gasoline, and stockpile it for when prices jump.

First Fuel Banks has six gas stations in the St. Cloud, Minn., area, where customers can buy as much gasoline as they like, whenever the price seems right. First Fuel then stores the gasoline in its oversized tanks, or buys futures contracts for really long-term purchases.

Pre-paying for gasoline requires that customers tie up their money for a while. But otherwise, there's no charge for the program, aside from a one-dollar membership fee. And it can yield huge savings.

Thousands of First Fuel customers are able to fill their tanks for less than $2 a gallon. CEO Jim Feneis says that a few hundred of his customers actually locked their prices in at less than $1 a gallon.

The advance-purchase option was once only available in Minnesota. But soon it will get a tryout in 11 northeastern states. Gulf Oil CEO Joe Petrowski plans to introduce the advance-purchase option later this year at about 1800 Gulf stations from Delaware to Maine.

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