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(Reuters) - Walmart is cutting gasoline prices by up to 15 cents per gallon for drivers in 20 U.S. states who pay with its cards in a bid to appeal to loyal shoppers hit by big price increases at the pump.
Meanwhile, Kroger Co, the country's largest traditional grocer, is extending its summer gasoline discount promotion through the end of the year in 25 states after customers said they wanted the program to last longer.
Walmart patrons paying with a Walmart MoneyCard or credit card will save 15 cents per gallon from August 31 through December 24, while others who use a Walmart gift card will get 10 cents off, Wal-Mart Stores Inc said on Wednesday.
The promotion comes as Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, tries to attract shoppers heading into the holiday season. Last week, Walmart said it would bring back layaway a month early, giving U.S. shoppers under economic pressure more time to pay for holiday gifts.
"Our customer remains pressured from the economy," said Walmart U.S. Chief Merchandising and Marketing Officer Duncan Mac Naughton, echoing comments Wal-Mart made earlier this month that shoppers' top concerns are jobs, gas prices and higher food costs.
The latest "gas rollback," at more than 1,000 gas stations, follows a similar 2011 program that ran for a longer period of time and offered savings of 10 cents per gallon. Last year's promotion ran from June 29 through Christmas Eve.
When gas prices rise dramatically, shoppers often make fewer trips to stores and buy more on each visit.
Gasoline prices are not at record highs but jumped this week as Hurricane Isaac threatened to batter the U.S. oil refining belt. Any significant damage to refineries or extended outages could push gas prices higher. Despite flooding in some areas on the U.S. Gulf Coast there was no discernible damage to refineries or offshore oil and gas platforms on Wednesday.
After Hurricane Katrina, a Category 3 storm, battered the Gulf coast in 2005, U.S. gas prices jumped more than 45 cents in a single week.
The average price for regular gasoline was $3.80 on Wednesday morning, up from nearly $3.49 a month ago and $3.61 a year earlier, according to AAA data. In July 2008, the average price hit an all-time high of $4.11.
Throughout the year, Walmart offers smaller gas discounts to card holders at stations near its stores in 22 states run by Walmart or Murphy USA. In most of those states, Walmart credit card holders get 5 cents off per gallon year-round, while those paying with a Walmart MoneyCard or gift card get 3 cents off.
Walmart, Kroger and other chains often try to woo shoppers with lower-priced gasoline.
Under a promotion that started on May 27, Kroger is doubling the number of points card holders can earn, allowing for discounts of up to $2 off per gallon.
Kroger's promotion, which initially had a summer theme, was set to end on September 30 but will now run through December 31, a spokesman said on Wednesday.
Warehouse clubs Costco Wholesale Corp, Wal-Mart's Sam's Club and BJ's Wholesale Club monitor prices at nearby stations and try to match or undercut them to lure drivers.
Reporting by Jessica Wohl in Chicago, additional reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe, M.D. Golan and Bernard Orr