Car rental loyalty programs reward frequent renters with everything from free rental days to fast checkout times. If you combine a top loyalty program with a credit card that offers elite membership status, you can reap even more rewards and benefits.
When you think about travel loyalty programs, you might think in terms of frequent flyer miles or hotel point systems. But what about the rental car you use to get from the airport to the hotel? Most major rental car companies offer loyalty programs as well – and the best car rental rewards programs can help you save both money and time on your next rental.
A lot of frequent travelers don’t consider car rental programs when they look for ways to earn benefits while traveling, and they don’t consider the car rental benefits that come with their credit cards, either.
The right credit card can supplement your rental car insurance, help you earn travel rewards on car rentals and – in some cases – automatically grant you elite status in certain car rental loyalty programs. When you combine the best car rental programs with the best credit cards, renting a car becomes easier, less expensive and more enjoyable than ever before.
National Emerald Club: Best for upgrades
National Emerald Club rewards frequent renters with frequent upgrades.National’s Emerald Aisle Access perk allows Emerald Club members renting in the U.S. and Canada to choose any car on the Emerald Aisle (mid-size or above) while only paying mid-size rates. Once you reach Emerald Club Executive status – which you earn after 12 paid rentals or 40 paid rental days in a calendar year – you unlock Executive Area Status, which allows you to choose any car (full size or above) in the Executive Area and only pay mid-size rates.
Plus, Emerald Club members earn one free rental day after seven qualified car rentals, and Emerald Club Executive members earn one free rental day after six qualified car rentals. If you earn Emerald Club Executive Elite status – which you’ll receive after 25 paid rentals or 85 paid rental days in a calendar year – you only need five qualified car rentals to earn one free rental day.
Hertz Gold Plus: Best for speedy rentals and returns
The Hertz Gold Plus Rewards program is all about streamlining the car rental process. If the rental location offers Hertz Fast Lane powered by CLEAR, Gold Plus Rewards members can skip the counter at pickup and use CLEAR facial recognition to exit the gate in 30 seconds or less. Members can skip the counter at drop-off as well, using e-return services to save valuable time.
Hertz also gives Gold Plus members the opportunity to earn points that can be redeemed for free rental days, travel experiences, exclusive events and more.
Alamo Insiders: Best for basic discounts
If you’re looking for a basic car rental rewards program that offers a discount on most rentals, Alamo Insiders has you covered. Members receive 5% off the base rate charge (time and mileage) on rentals made in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Latin America and the Caribbean.
Instead of membership tiers, points systems or unlockable perks, the Alamo Insiders program simply rewards you with an easy way to save money on car rentals.
Avis Preferred: Best for earning and redeeming points
The Avis Preferred Points system rewards Avis Preferred members with points that can be redeemed for free rental days, rental accessories and car upgrades. At the Avis Preferred level, members earn 1 point for every dollar spent on a car rental and 2 points for every dollar spent on a rental accessory like SiriusXM Radio or roadside assistance.
When members receive Avis Preferred Plus status – which occurs after 12 rentals or $5,000 spent – point values increase to 1.25 points per dollar spent on rentals and 2.5 points per dollar spent on accessories. After 25 rentals or $7,000 spent, point values increase to 1.5 points per dollar on rentals and 3 points per dollar on accessories.
It only takes 700 points to earn a free rental day, and accessories can be added to your car rental package at 250 points per accessory per day. Avis Preferred Plus members also receive complimentary upgrades when available, a special Avis Preferred Plus phone number for reservations and customer support and exclusive monthly email offers.
Budget Business Program: Best for small-business owners
Small-business owners who want to save money on company car rentals should consider the Budget Business Program. Budget’s business car rental rewards program provides small businesses with discounts and rental coupons, including up to 30% off base rental rates and a $3 rental credit for each qualifying rental day.
Budget Business Program members also get complimentary Fastbreak membership, which allows them to skip the counter at pickup. When you’re running a business, you know that time is money – so let the Budget Business Program help you save both.
Enterprise Plus: Best for annual promotions
Enterprise Plus offers a fairly standard rewards system, but its annual Plus Your Points promotion is where the program really shines. In most cases, renters earn between 1 and 1.2 points per qualifying rental dollar spent, depending on whether they have Plus, Silver, Gold or Platinum status. During a Plus Your Points promotion, all points earned on qualifying rentals are doubled. You can also Plus Your Points by earning “badges.” Signing up for Enterprise’s email newsletter, for example, might earn you a badge and its associated bonus points.
If you’re an Enterprise fan, make sure you take advantage of every Plus Your Points promotion that comes your way. That’s the best way to maximize your Enterprise rewards, especially while you’re still working your way toward the 24 rentals (in a calendar year) required to attain Platinum status.
Fox Rewards: Best for earning points quickly
Fox Rewards members earn a whopping 4 points for every $1 spent on car rentals (before taxes, insurance and other extras). Points can either be redeemed for FoxBucks, which can be used to pay for future Fox rentals, or for SuperCertificates from GiftCertificates.com. If you pick the SuperCertificates option, you’ll be able to turn your Fox Rewards points into gift certificates for hundreds of popular stores, restaurants, airlines, hotels, spas and more.
You’ll get more value out of your Fox Rewards points if you redeem them for FoxBucks. One point is worth 1.25 cents, and it only takes 1,600 points to earn $20 in FoxBucks. If you choose to redeem your points for a SuperCertificate, one point is worth one penny – so a $25 gift certificate is worth 2,500 points, a $50 gift certificate is worth 5,000 points and so on.
Whether you prefer saving money on rentals or buying gift certificates, the ability to earn 4 points for every $1 you spend on Fox Rewards rentals will help you collect and redeem your points as quickly as possible.
Automatic car rental benefits and elite status with rewards cards
Many credit cards, including several top travel credit cards, offer automatic car rental benefits and elite status. All World Elite Mastercard holders, for example, receive an exclusive invitation to join Avis Preferred Plus.
If you have a Visa Infinite credit card, you’ll gain complimentary Avis Preferred Plus status and complimentary National Emerald Club Executive level status, plus discounts and perks with Avis, Hertz (for cardholders enrolled in Hertz Gold Plus Rewards), National and Silvercar.
Four popular luxury credit cards also offer elite status or benefits associated with one or more car rental programs:
|Card||Rewards rate||Annual fee||Car rental benefits|
|$550||Discounts, upgrades and more for Avis Preferred Club, Hertz Gold Plus Rewards and National Emerald Club Executive members|
|$595||Discounts, upgrades and more for Avis Preferred Club, Hertz Gold Plus Rewards and National Emerald Club Executive members|
|$525, waived first year||Cardholders are invited to join the Hertz Gold Plus Rewards program’s exclusive President’s Circle tier and enjoy a 50% bonus on Hertz Gold Plus Rewards Points, upgrades, exclusive offers and more|
Car rental loyalty programs reward frequent renters with everything from free rental days to fast checkout times. If you combine a top loyalty program with a credit card that offers elite membership status, you can reap even more rewards and benefits – including any cash back, miles or points you’ll earn by putting your car rental on your credit card.
Whether you rent a car once a month or once a year, the right rental program combined with the right credit card can save you money on your rentals, cover your rental car insurance and reward you with cash back, miles, points and more.