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Spend enough years as travel rewards geek, and you can almost book free flights and hotel stays in your sleep. But especially in 2021, car rental can be one of the biggest expenses you’ll have to worry about on your next vacation. Indeed, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the rental car industry spent 2020 selling its cars while trying to avoid bankruptcy. And prices are skyrocketing, as car rental services have not been able to replace their cars quickly enough to meet growing demand after the pandemic.
Luckily, there are a few tips I’ve learned for redeeming my car rental credit rewards.
Use credit cards that offer travel statement credits
The easiest way to use points and miles to pay for your rental car is to use a credit card that offers statement credits for travel purchases. The main card in this area is the Capital One® Venture® Rewards credit card. The Venture Card offers double the miles on all purchases, and its miles are worth one cent each as statement credits for a variety of travel purchases, including rental cars.
The current offer for this credit card allows you to earn 100,000 bonus miles, with a minimum value of $ 1,000, when you spend $ 20,000 in the first 12 months after opening the account. You can also earn 50,000 miles if you spend $ 3,000 on purchases within three months of opening the account. Other benefits of the Venture Card include a $ 100 credit towards the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee, and the ability to transfer rewards to airline miles or hotel points. There is an annual fee of $ 95 for this card.
Another card with a similar offer is the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card, which offers 1.5 points per dollar spent on all purchases. Points are worth one cent each as statement credits for travel and restaurant purchases, including rental cars. New applicants can earn 25,000 bonus points, worth $ 250, after spending $ 1,000 on purchases within 90 days of opening the account. But unlike Venture, there is no annual fee for this credit card.
Likewise, the Discover it Miles card offers 1.5 Miles per dollar spent on all purchases and will match the miles you have accumulated in the first year of your account. Miles can be redeemed for travel statement credits, cash back rewards, or other options. There is also no annual fee for this credit card.
Consider credit cards that allow you to book rental cars directly with your rewards
Another way to pay for your rental car with credit card rewards is to use a card that lets you redeem your points directly for travel.
the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card allows you to book rental cars through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Center, which is powered by Expedia. The rates are quite low and you get 1.25 cents of value per point redeemed.
chase away Business Preferred® ink cardholders can do the same. And if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, you will then receive 1.5 cents of value per point redeemed for rental cars and other travel bookings. So if your rental car or other travel reservation costs $ 150, all you need to do is redeem 10,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points from your Sapphire Reserve account, or 12,000 points from your Sapphire Preferred or Ink Business Unlimited® credit card.
Save money on rental cars using loyalty programs
You still want to join the car rental company’s loyalty program and earn rewards that you can redeem later to help pay for a rental. Of all the rental car loyalty programs, my favorites are National and Hertz.
national is great because it offers points based on the number of times you rent a car. This is therefore ideal for those who often hire for shorter periods, rather than for those who occasionally hire vehicles for several days at a time. It also makes sense for those who are just renting a mid-size car or other inexpensive car.
Another value National has to offer is its One Two Free promotion which it has been offering every fall for many years. This promotion gives you one free rental day for any two cars you hire.
Likewise, Hertz has a decent loyalty program that rewards you based on how much you spend. So this is often a better program than National for those who rent expensive vehicles and for those who rent for longer periods.
Additionally, there are two other ways to earn Hertz Points. The first is to complete eRewards surveys, which is time consuming, but earns rewards that can be redeemed for Hertz points. You can redeem eRewards points for other things, but the Hertz option seems to be the most valuable.
Additionally, you may occasionally find Hertz Points sold as part of the US Travel Association’s Daily Getaways online promotion. And while it can be great value, these points sell out fast, and this event hasn’t even happened in 2020. However, there have been indications that the Daily Getaways promotion could return in 2021, so keep your eyes open. Also note that Hertz has significantly devalued its program over the past couple of years, but I think it’s still a program worth using.
At the end of the line
Some people have called 2021 the year of the rental car apocalypse, and for good reason. With many rentals selling for two to three times what we used to pay, now is the best time to look for ways to redeem your points and miles instead of spending your money. Looking at all of these ways to use credit card rewards and other points To pay for your car rental, you may be able to get the wheels you need without feeling like you’re being taken for a ride.
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