At age 84, Michael Meyokovich can look back on 68 years of being a truck driver and coal miner in Uniontown Pennsylvania, his first rig guzzling fuel that cost twenty five-cents a gallon. A child of the Great depression, and now a retiree on a fixed income, saving money literally drives Meyokovich’s shopping habits. “It’s in your blood. you’ve got the cost of medicine, the cost of food, you’ve got to be conservative with your money.”

And the armor plating surrounding his wallet? It’s plastic, and comes in the form of four fuel rewards cards from national and regional grocers Kroger, Giant Eagle, Shop’nSave, and Martins. Meyokovich estimates rewards bolster his wallet by $17 per month. As he tells it, “It’s savings you can build on.”

“Fuel discounts deliver a triple play,” says Brian Ross, president of Precima, which creates and manages grocery loyalty programs. “They are relevant with today’s skyrocketing fuel costs, they’re easily redeemable, and shoppers can earn through the purchases of everyday necessities.” Currently, nearly 11 million members nationwide receive a reported $161 million in savings at the pump each year, according to Excentus, the creator of the Fuel Rewards Network. The question is, now that nearly every grocery offers fuel discounts, how will they rev up the value of these programs to differentiate themselves and stay competitive? On that point, no one has been idling.

Close the loop between food and fuel

Many supermarkets are expanding further into the petroleum market with their own branded convenience stores and associated chains —often building fuel stations right next door to the grocery store. Consumers earn rewards at one end of the “food chain” and then can use them at the other in the same visit.

Proximity redemption

For example, let’s take the cards from Mr. Meyokovich’s wallet: About half of all Kroger and Giant Eagle supermarkets also have on-site gas stations. About one-third of Martins and Giants offer on-site fuel.

Another way grocery/fuel programs can stand apart from the competition is by increasing what their rewards will buy. Independent fuel stations are building larger and more attractive shopping environments, and grocery/gas stations won’t be far behind: Look for gas stations to soon start offering e-coupons that can be redeemed at fuel-stop restaurants and for other retail purchases.

Offering customers more savings at the pump is not new. Actually, neither is partnering grocery rewards programs with other consumer products and services—loyalty coalition programs like this have existed for decades in Canada, the UK, India and across Europe. They link together grocery, banks, retail stores, airlines, drugstores and more. For example, a shopper can earn points by shopping at the grocery and drugstore, and then redeem them for hotel stays.

By enhancing grocery/fuel rewards, supermarkets are maximizing consumer savings, and options. The potential is as limitless as the price of gas (but in a good way).