Gas prices are a big deal among consumers—the cost of fuel was the leading concern of 64 percent of shoppers, according to a January 2016 survey by the National Association of Convenience Stores (80 percent of the gasoline sold in the U.S. is bought at convenience stores).

They're probably still concerned about gas prices now. Summer price hikes on gasoline could bust a vacation budget.

But these key saving strategies will come in handy on your next stop at the gas station and could save you money.

1. Gas up where value is highest. Don't count on the major oil company brands to offer good gas prices. For value, buy the generic fuel sold by Costco, according to an analysis of 657 million prices coast-to-coast last year by GasBuddy.com. The average price at individual Costco warehouses was almost 20 cents a gallon cheaper than the average charged by competitors in the same ZIP code. See the other top-value sellers in the table below.

2. Pay with a cash-back credit card. These cards offer cash-back discounts when you use them to pay for qualifying purchases. The discount is often higher when you pay for fuel with the card at the gas station. Two of the best for gas are PenFed Platinum Cash Rewards Plus Visa and USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express, both of which pay 5 percent cash back on fuel purchases, according to our exclusive analysis using the Credit Card Adviser Comparison Tool, which covers 55 cash-back cards. 

3. Cross state lines. Gasoline taxes can vary significantly from state to state. If you happen to live in a border area, you might score significant savings by filling up at a gas station in the lower-tax state. For example, when you cross from Illinois to Missouri, state gas taxes plummet from 31 cents per gallon to 17 cents, according to the American Petroleum Institute.

Where the Lowest Gas Prices Were in 2015

Retailer

Average Savings Per Gallon vs. Competitors Within ZIP Code

Costco

19.75 cents

Quik Stop

17.79

ARCO

17.56

Fred Meyer

12.88

USA Gasoline

11.52

BJ's

10.88

Sam's Club

10.78

GasBuddy.com

4. Pay with cash. One in five consumers saves at the gas station by paying with cash instead of a debit or credit card, according to the National Association of Convenience Stores. The cash price is typically 10 cents per gallon lower, but it can run from 5 to 20 cents a gallon, says Patrick DeHann, a senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy.

5. Don't overpay for premium grade fuel. Premium gasoline cost 50 cents per gallon more than regular at the end of June 2016, according to national averages calculated by AAA. But our testing found that it's okay to use regular and save, even if your car's manufacturer recommends using premium. Check your vehicle owner’s manual, because some automakers say premium is required.

6. Use the free GasBuddy app. The company behind this leading price comparison tool gathers and analyzes 2 million gas prices per day, which are reported by the app's 15 million users and direct price data feeds from retailers. Another sweet money saver: If you're planning a trip and enter your vehicle information and destination, GasBuddy's trip cost calculator will map out the stations where you should optimally gas up along your route to get the best prices and lowest total fuel cost for your entire trip.  

Regular Gas vs. Premium Gas

Think expensive gas means increased power and better fuel economy? On the 'Consumer 101' TV show, Consumer Reports expert Mike Monticello reveals to host Jack Rico what to know before filling up at the pump.