The quick guide to renting a car with points and miles

17 Oct 2023 · 7
Most frequent travelers are used to using airline miles to book reward travel or using hotel rewards to get free nights.
But as car rentals continue to grow in popularity among travelers, you might be wondering if you can also use points and miles to rent a car.
The quick answer is yes!
There are a variety of ways to use miles or points to book a car rental. We’ll show you how in this article.

How to rent a car using miles or points

While there are a lot of ways to book a discounted car rental using miles or points, keep in mind that not all of these methods are created equally! When renting a car using travel rewards, there’s three main options:
  1. using points from a car rental reward program
  2. using credit card points
  3. using frequent flyer points

1. Join a car rental reward program

The most efficient way to use points for car hire bookings is to
join a car rental reward program
. For travelers who rent cars frequently, this is the fastest way to earn rewards and the most efficient way to book reward car rentals.
Car rental reward programs work similarly to airline mileage programs: the more you book, the more points you earn. Many car rental programs offer additional perks as well, such as expedited pick-up or drop-off processes, discount codes for non-reward bookings, and so on. Here’s an overview of some of the most popular car rental reward programs:
Avis Preferred: With Avis Preferred, you earn 1 point for every $1 spent on rentals, plus 100 bonus points when you rent a car within your first 3 months of joining. Reward days start from 700 points, with no blackout dates.
Hertz Gold Plus Rewards: At Hertz, you also earn 1 point for every dollar spent on rentals. One free rental day starts at 950 points.
Enterprise Plus: Members earn 1 point per dollar spent on qualifying rentals, and free rental days start at just 600 points, with no blackout dates. Gold, Silver and Platinum members earn more points per dollar.
National Emerald Club: With Emerald Club, points and rewards are based on rental days and credits. One credit is earned for every qualified car rental. Free rental days can be redeemed once you have at least seven credits.
Europcar Privilege: Europcar’s Privilege membership is less linear, but easier to earn rewards—they offer 10% off all rental rates to members, as well as free weekend rental after just three paid rentals.
Sixt: With Sixt’s reward program, you earn increasingly greater discounts as opposed to free reward days. After three rentals, you'll become a Gold member, rewarding you with 10% off the base rate, and you can work your way up to the Platinum tier, earning 20% off base rates.

2. Use credit card points

If you don’t rent frequently enough to be eligible for rental car loyalty programs, credit card points are the next best option. Many personal and corporate cards offer points that you can use on travel purchases, including car rentals.
Some of the best corporate cards that offer travel rewards points are:
  • Chase’s Ink Business Preferred Credit Card
  • American Express Business Gold Card
  • Capital One Venture X Business Card
With each of these cards, not only can you earn points for travel-related purchases (among many other categories), you can also use points to redeem for rental cars and other travel. For many corporate cards, you can also transfer credit card points to participating travel loyalty programs.

3. Use airline miles from a frequent flyer program

Finally, if neither of the above options work for you, you may be able to use
airline miles from a frequent flyer program
. However, you likely won’t get as much value for your miles compared to using them for flights. Another disclaimer: some frequent flyer points only allow you to book from airport locations.
That said, the following airline loyalty programs all allow you to earn and use miles for rental car bookings in the USA, Europe, Australia and beyond.
AA Advantage: Use miles for car rentals through select companies like Avis and Budget, starting from around 6,000 miles per day. AA cardmembers and Elite members can redeem car rentals for fewer miles.
United Airlines: You can use United miles for booking rental cars with Avis car rental or Budget, starting from around 12,000 miles per day.
Southwest Airlines: Southwest Airlines has a wide variety of car rental partners. Booking rental cars with airline miles is currently only available for Southwest credit card members.
Delta Air Lines: You can use miles or miles + cash to pay for rental car bookings that are part of a Delta Vacations package. Miles needed to redeem free rental days depends on your Delta status and your vacation package.
British Airways: You can use your Avios miles for booking Avis rental cars. Mileage needed per rental varies based on the base fare and rental locations.

What to consider before booking a car rental with points

As discussed above, not all points redemption plans are created equally. Before you book a car with points, make sure you consider carefully all your options, and whether or not points are the best deal for your travel plans.

Read the fine print

Most car rentals booked with reward miles come with potential restrictions, blackout dates, taxes, surcharges, insurance fees or other costs that must be covered out of pocket either at the time of booking or at pickup. In addition, some reward travel programs have other booking caveats or restrictions that you should know before you start making plans to book car rentals with points.

Compare rates

Before you book using points, you should always do two things:
  1. compare rates from various
    car rental companies
    , when possible (i.e. if using credit card points or airline miles), and
  2. compare the value you get from using miles or points vs. paying in cash
For example, when we checked United Airlines’ car rental reservation system, the search we made cost about 12,500 frequent flyer points for a one-day rental through Budget. That same search directly on Budget was about $60, which means you are spending approximately 200 points for every dollar on your rental.
By comparison, you can book a roundtrip flight from Boston to Miami for around 19,000 United miles, or purchase the same flight for $320. In this case, you’re spending only around 60 points per dollar.
When it comes to business travel, this is especially important, as there are many corporate rates available without needing to spend hard-earned points. Companies who use a travel management platform like TravelPerk get access to
exclusive corporate rates for car rentals
and more. Plus, you can
add your loyalty programs to your TravelPerk accounts
and continue to earn miles on every eligible booking.
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Is using points a good deal for renting a car?

Using points can get you some great deals on car rentals, it just depends on your situation. If you’re a member of a car rentals reward program and book rental cars frequently, you can earn some fantastic deals that can save you hundreds on car rentals.
However, if you don’t rent cars frequently and are “borrowing” miles from another program, such as airline miles, you might not get the best value for your accrued points. An exception would be if you fly so frequently that you regularly earn miles faster than you can realistically redeem them. Although using loyalty programs to book rental cars can be tricky, when you’re booking cars for business travel, you can always save time and money with
TravelPerk
.
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