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Motorists in Germany and several other European countries can use coupons sold through the Army and Air Force Exchange Service to buy gas on the economy at a discount.

Motorists in Germany and several other European countries can use coupons sold through the Army and Air Force Exchange Service to buy gas on the economy at a discount. (Mark St.Clair / S&S)

Summertime is here, and road trips await. For budget-conscious drivers, that means using discount coupons to fill the fuel tank.

Using coupons may seem as confusing as some European roadways. But since gasoline purchased at European service stations is much more expensive without the coupons, the savings are significant enough to make it worth the effort. Remembering a few simple rules will help travelers keep their costs down.

The Army and Air Force Exchange Service, which sells fuel coupons to Department of Defense ID card holders in Europe aside from Italy, changes its prices every Friday at midnight. Watching for the price change and then buying coupons in advance or holding back for the next week depending on which way the price goes can be a great way to save.

In Germany, AAFES fuel coupons are good at Esso stations throughout the country and at Aral stations on autobahns. Many Esso stations sell maps showing where their stations are throughout the country, and some AAFES gas stations might still have copies of Esso’s useful “Tiger on Tour” map books showing the same.

AAFES also sells special coupons for gasoline in the Netherlands. Germany is the only country in which AAFES sells regular unleaded gas, so prices will be higher for gas in the Netherlands since drivers must pay for more- expensive mid-grade fuel.

If you buy coupons in Germany for use in the Netherlands, make sure they say they are good for the Netherlands. Not all Esso stations accept the coupons, but AAFES has a list of stations that do on its Web site, www.aafes. com.

On the home page, click on “Your PX/BX” at the bottom of the column at left, then click the link to the Netherlands under Europe customers. According to AAFES, the list was updated in April.

To avoid problems, AAFES recommends checking with the attendant before filling up. And don’t arrive with a nearly empty tank, in case coupons are rejected.

Coupons purchased in the Netherlands are good in Germany, too, but it’s still wise for travelers to double-check when buying the coupons to make sure they’ll really “go where you go.”

It’s also possible for those traveling on leave with a rental car in Germany to get fuel coupons. Drivers must have their ID card, a copy of the rental contract and a copy of their leave form or temporary duty orders if necessary. Coupons can be purchased at most AAFES gas stations or the post exchange.

Gas coupons purchased in Italy are good only there. Travelers to Italy can buy coupons there as long as they have a leave form and their vehicle registration with them.

There are no AAFES gas stations on bases in Italy. Every three years, the Defense Energy Support Center awards a tax-free petroleum contract to an Italian company. Right now Agip and Esso have the contract, and with thousands of stations throughout the country, drivers should be able to locate one.

Also, Esso stations in Italy are individually owned, so drivers should make sure that the station takes coupons before filling up with outrageously priced gas.

Another good thing to watch for in Italy are full-service stations. Travelers who don’t pay attention might get more gas than they bargained for, so telling the attendant exactly how many liters are needed can be wise.

In the United Kingdom, coupons can only be used at specific stations, but they could be BP, Esso, Shell, Total or ELS, so be sure to ask. Maps of nearby Esso stations are printed for the UK, too, and available at bases.

The use of fuel coupons is authorized through the NATO Status of Forces Agreement, and as such is strictly regulated, but as long as drivers understand the program, it can be one of the most consumer-friendly programs in Europe.

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