I’m pretty busy with TravelCon this week, so I asked our summer intern, Andrew, to pitch in with an article of his own on a topic of his choosing (ideally something that I don’t often talk about!).
Here’s his take on status matching among car rental loyalty programs to get the best rates and perks when renting a car.
We haven’t talked about car rentals too much on the blog, but with the summer travel season coming up, I figured it would be useful to look at how you can maximize your car rental experience through status matches and money-saving tips.
Car Rental Status Matches
For the occasional traveller, reaching car rental top-tier status might not be realistic, with most programs requiring 10+ rentals each year. Despite that, let’s see if we can achieve some kind of car rental status in time for the perfect summer road trip.
Let’s begin with a basic rundown of the car rental market. There are three major companies in the space, each with many sub-brands. In terms of car rental loyalty programs, the brands to focus on are probably Hertz, Avis, Enterprise, and National. Each has their own loyalty program, with status levels that unlock upgrades, bonus points, and priority service. The biggest advantage here is definitely upgrades, especially as most agencies now offer the ability to choose your own car.
Another factor to consider is that status is independent of any corporate codes, coupon codes, or third-party booking channels that you might have access to. Many corporate codes are available for leisure use; however, they don’t include any upgrades or extra perks. With status, you’ll be able to leverage the best possible pricing while also receiving the best handling at the agency.
Let’s begin with the American Express Platinum credit cards, which is the easiest path towards car rental status. Both the American Express Platinum Card and the American Express Business Platinum Card offer benefits with Avis and Hertz, which covers two of the three major brands. However, the Avis offering is only a coupon code, which doesn’t allow us to stack the benefits with any other discounts we might have access too.
The Hertz benefit on the Platinum cards is similar to the hotel status perks with Hilton Honors or Marriott Bonvoy: the cards offer mid-tier Five Star status with Hertz, which unlocks a one-class upgrade (subject to availability) and accelerated point earnings. While this is nothing spectacular, it’s a great benefit to use whenever you’re renting with Hertz.
Of course, Hertz is only one of the many car rental brands, so now let’s see if we can take further advantage of our status through status matches.
National offers a very generous status match program, which will match status with many different travel rewards programs, including airline frequent flyer programs, hotel loyalty programs, and other car rental programs.
The opportunity is published in their FAQ, and they even have a designated webpage for it. While they don’t publish a list of what statuses they match, and to what tier you get matched, it’s a good idea to use the best status you have among all your programs, be it something like Best Western Diamond Select, Hilton Gold status from the Platinum Card, Marriott Platinum Elite if you’ve completed your 50 nights, or another program.
With the status match opportunity, National’s mid-tier Executive status, if not top-tier Executive Elite status, should be accessible for everyone.
From National, you can then request a status match to Avis. Avis makes frequent mention of their status match opportunities on Twitter with the simple process of emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Typically, a match is only done to the introductory tier, Avis Preferred Plus, which offers accelerated point earnings and complimentary upgrades. While nothing exceptional, it’s certainly worth a quick email if you have upcoming rentals with Avis.
Finally, Enterprise has a similar (albeit less generous) status match scheme to National matching Avis or Hertz status to their equivalent membership level. Avis Preferred Plus and Hertz Gold Five Star both match to Enterprise Plus Gold, which comes with bonus points and two confirmed upgrades each year.
While their benefits differ a bit from other agencies, the benefit of a confirmed upgrade is very useful for the occasional renter. The upgrade is provided through an e-voucher that’s redeemed online.
Finally, for those without one of the American Express Platinum cards, Hertz also offers a status match from other car rental companies. They have a dedicated website that outlines the procedure for requesting a match. After earning National status through one of your airline or hotel programs, you can then match to Hertz Gold Five Star or President’s Circle status.
The status match is processed through an email address where you must send relevant details (and proof): email@example.com. While the website makes reference to a company name being required, many data points exist for a successful match even without mentioning a company name.
As mentioned at the beginning, Hertz status includes upgrades, points, and a larger selection of cars when choosing your car through their Ultimate Choice lot, which are all excellent benefits.
Saving Money on Car Rentals
As we’ve seen, through leveraging status matching, mid- or top-tier status can be achieved from many major rental companies. All of the agencies offer similar benefits, which makes it relatively easy to choose between them when renting your car.
Now let’s talk about a few tips for securing the best price for your rental car. If you’re eligible, corporate codes are typically the best way to go, with many companies securing contract pricing regardless of demand. These codes also often include a fee waiver for underage drivers or additional drivers, which can add up to even more savings. Some codes even include Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) coverage, which can contribute to your peace of mind and will help you skip the insurance upsell at the counter.
For those without a corporate code, Costco Travel is a popular option among car renters, with many members praising their low prices. Their rates also include an additional driver and allow you to easily compare pricing between different agencies. Combining Costco Travel rates with a status match allows you to leverage competitive pricing, an additional driver, and an upgrade to deliver outsized value on a car rental.
One more trick is to use the CDP code affiliated with the American Express Platinum cards when renting for just over a day. American Express has negotiated a four-hour grace period with Hertz, so a 28-hour rental is billed at one day, rather than two. While this might not necessarily be better than using a corporate pricing, the American Express code can end up saving half the cost of the rental if you only need a few extra hours.
The procedure for searching is to include the CDP code when booking for the full length of time needed. Hertz will automatically recognize the code and will apply a four-hour grace period when calculating the rental period.
Rental cars are the best way to get from place to place in many cities around the world, as well as explore other destinations farther away from the major cities. Status matching opportunities among the major car rental loyalty programs can help you make the most of your rental, and you can also achieve major savings through leveraging corporate codes, credit card benefits, and some comparison shopping.