How to score a rental car using a rewards credit card
Tony Mecia is a business journalist who writes for a number of trade and general-interest publications. He writes "Cashing In," a weekly column about credit card rewards programs, for CreditCards.com
Ask a question.
'Cashing In' archive
Dear Cashing In,
planning a family vacation this summer to the national parks out West. I have
airfare and lodging lined up, and the only other major expense is a rental car.
Are there any cards that can help with rental cars? -- Natasha
sounds like a wonderful trip -- the great outdoors, national parks and plenty of
family togetherness. A rewards credit card may be able to help you get there in
a rental car for less cash, but you need to know a few things first.
airlines and hotels, rental car companies do not offer co-branded credit cards.
If you were looking for free flights or hotel nights, co-branded cards often
have sign-up bonuses that can really help. But with rental cars, you're out of
luck on those kinds of cards.
looks to me as though a minivan rental for a week from, say, Salt Lake City, would
run you somewhere around $600, including
taxes and fees.
the right sign-up bonus on the right card, you might be able to knock down a
big chunk of that.
might look at cards offered by banks that offer generic travel rewards. For
instance, take the Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard ($89 annual
fee, waived first year). If you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days, you'll earn
40,000 miles on that card, which you can redeem for $400 worth of travel
expenditures, such as those with airlines, tour operators, hotels, cruise lines
-- and rental car companies. The way it works is you pay for it as an expense,
then request reimbursement in the form of a statement credit, which, according
to the card's terms and conditions, is supposed to post in five to seven
appears to be one of the more generous bonuses on cards in that category. Cards
that work in a similar way include the Capital One Venture Rewards card ($59
annual fee, waived first year), which offers 20,000 miles (a $200 value) if you
spend $2,000 in the first three months; and the
BankAmericard Travel Rewards card (no annual fee), which offers 10,000 points
(a $100 value) if you spend $500 in the first 90 days.
you have any available miles or points in credit card programs, you might check
the online malls associated with those cards. For instance, you can redeem
American Express Membership Rewards for gift cards at Avis, Hertz and
Enterprise (at a rate of $50 off per 5,000 points).
none of these options suits your fancy, just keep on the lookout for rental car
coupons. Once you start keeping an eye out for them, you'll see them all over
the place: at warehouse clubs, inside some credit card bills, in coupon books.
You can even just search the web for "rental car coupons" and come up with some
small price breaks that beat simply going to the car companies' sites right off
while we're on the topic, be mindful of the insurance coverage you have when
you use a credit card to rent a car.
See related: How do generic miles stack up against airline rewards?,
Renting a car? Beware of phantom toll fee charges, Frequent car rentals with debit card shouldn't clobber credit
Meet CreditCards.com's reader Q&A experts
Vexed by a personal finance problem?
CreditCards.com's Q&A experts answer questions from readers every weekday. Ask a question, or click on any expert to see their previous answers.
Published: January 28, 2014
Three most recent Cashing In stories:
- Best way to track all those reward points? – How do you make sure you really earned triple points on gas purchases on Card A and the miles you were supposed to when using Card B's online shopping portal? There are no easy answers ...
- Even with high credit score, some card applicants rejected – How can someone with an 800+ FICO score be denied a new credit card? It may have to do with rewards card churning but the first thing to do is ask the issuer that is denying your application ...
- Using rewards to buy a new car – Some credit cards earn you rewards that can be used as an auto down payment, but consider alternatives such as cash-back cards, too ...