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How to Get the Best Rate on Rental Cars

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By: Travis Cormier

One of the most amazing experiences I’ve had while traveling is driving a Jeep along the road to Hana in Maui. It was an amazing day and easily the highlight of my trip.

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Having a rental car let’s you get out and explore! (image courtesy of Miryea Ayala)

Getting a rental car can quickly consume a large part of your travel budget, but it doesn’t have to. Let’s look at some of the best ways to save money on your rental car so you can have more cash to spend at your destination.

Should You Use Cash Or Points?

The first question you should be asking is whether you should use points or cash to book a rental car. I’ll be up front, I’ve never used points for a rental car and there are a few reasons why you should think otherwise before using points.

One of the biggest reasons you shouldn’t use points is because you’re getting the minimum value for your points. If you go through the Chase Portal and have a Chase Sapphire Reserve, you’re locking in 1.5 cents per point for your rental car. You can often get more value by transferring Ultimate Rewards to a partner like Hyatt or United.

Chase Sapphire Reserve (learn more)

The absolute biggest reason why you shouldn’t use points to book a rental car is because you can’t take advantage of the many discounts available. Booking through a portal doesn’t always allow you to enter a variety of discount codes that may be available to you when booking directly.

This isn’t the case all the time, sometimes the prices available through the Chase or American Express portal will be better. But before you use points, you should be sure that you’re getting the best deal.

The Best Tool for Searching Rates

The one tool to rule them all, for rental car purposes at least, is Autoslash which checks discounts that may be available to you from your credit cards and various memberships.

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Use AutoSlash to Compare Rates with Many Discount Options

You won’t get your prices immediately, but Autoslash will email you when they have found options. It usually takes less than an hour, so if you’re pressed for time you won’t have to wait too long.

If you’re trying to quickly compare rates versus a bank portal, Autoslash is one of the easiest ways to search.

Save on Upgrades with Status

I’m tall at 6’5’’, so having a larger rental car is a must for my comfort. However, I only book economy and budget cars. Sounds crazy, but thanks to some of my credit cards I have status with a variety of rental car companies. This status helps me get upgraded every time I rent a car.

The benefits vary but MasterCard and American Express offer them on certain classes of cards. Let’s look at what you will get with premium credit cards from these issuers.

MasterCard

World Elite Mastercard holders get complimentary upgrades with Enterprise and Alamo with every rental. Additionally, cardholders receive a status bump with other companies including National, Sixt and Budget.

You can get these benefits from a variety of cards. The following cards are issued as a World Elite Mastercard and come with these status and upgrade benefits:

  • Citi Prestige Card
  • Citi ThankYou Premier Card
  • Citi ThankYou Preferred Card
  • Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard
  • Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite MasterCard
  • Citi AAdvantage Business Platinum Select World Elite MasterCard
  • Barclays Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard
  • Barclays Hawaiian Airlines World Elite MasterCard
  • Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Silver World Elite MasterCard
  • Bank of America Virgin Atlantic World Elite MasterCard

American Express

The American Express Platinum Card comes with a variety of rental car statuses. Cardholders will receive status with the following rental car companies:

  • National – Emerald Club Executive status
  • Avis – Avis Preferred status
  • Hertz – Hertz Gold Plus Rewards status

National will let you choose a full-size car or higher that is available in the executive lot, while only paying the rate for a mid-size car.

Avis Preferred status does not come with a guaranteed complimentary upgrade—you have to use a special code when booking (UUNA007).

Renting with Hertz will grant you a one-class upgrade from the level you booked.

Chase Sapphire Reserve Rental Car Perks

The Chase Sapphire Reserve Card has some benefits you won’t see on other cards and these benefits have saved me a ton of money on rental cars since I opened the card. Its perks are so good, it deserves its own section.

Primary Rental Car Insurance

The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers Primary Rental Car Insurance for claims up to $75,000. This means you don’t have to purchase the insurance offered by the rental car companies when you book and pay for a rental car with your Chase Sapphire Reserve.

This easily adds a quick discount onto your rental car to help save you more money!

Chase Sapphire Reserve (learn more)

Unique Discounts and Upgrades

It also comes with similar perks as the American Express Platinum Card—Avis and National discounts and upgrades. What really sets the Chase Sapphire Reserve apart is that you get 30% off rentals of 2 days or more with SilverCar.

SilverCar is a unique rental car agency because they only have two cars in their fleet: Audi A4 Sedans and Audi Q5 SUV.

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Save on Audi Rentals through SilverCar with discounts from the Chase Sapphire Reserve (Photo Courtesy of Miryea Ayala)

Now, I know what you’re probably thinking, “Audi?! That must be an expensive option!” but SilverCar is surprisingly affordable.

Rates start at $49 per day. Once you add in the 30% discount from the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card the discounted cost is about $35 per day. This is often on par with daily rates for economy to mid-size cars in major cities.

While renting with SilverCar isn’t necessarily the cheapest deal, it is quite possibly the best value you will get. Getting a luxury car for less than $50 per day is quite the steal.

Under 25? Avoid The Fees

If you’re under 25, you know that rental cars come with hefty fees. Before you rent your next car, check out some of these options to help save more money.

USAA

USAA members who are under 25 will have the underage fee waived through Avis, Hertz, Budget, and Enterprise. You will just have to input your offer code that you can get from USAA when making a booking.

Unfortunately, not everyone qualifies for a USAA membership. You have to be a child of an armed forces member, a spouse, or be an armed forces member yourself.

If this doesn’t apply to you, you’re not completely out of luck.

AAA

AAA members under 25 can get the under-25 fee waived when booking with Hertz. You will need to provide proof of membership when you pick up your car, so be sure to have your AAA card on hand.

Although a AAA membership isn’t free, it can quickly pay for itself through the savings you will get on the underage driver fee.

Bottom Line

Renting a car doesn’t have to consume a large portion of your budget. You can save money by getting free upgrades through status provided by a credit card. Not to mention, the money you can save on rental car insurance by booking with the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Renting a car can really make a trip magical whether driving the road to Hana ord riding a motorcycle on the dirt roads along the East Coast of Aruba. Now, you can book your rental car and save some cash.

Travel In Style,

Travis

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3 Comments

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.
  • Reply ida June 26, 2018 at 8:28 am

    Question – i have a rental booked starting Friday from Alamo. Do I just show them my Citi premier and ask for an upgrade?

  • Reply Kathy June 26, 2018 at 12:35 pm

    Question – I will need to book a rental for Aug 5-9 in Las Vegas. I just log in to my Chase Sapphire Reserve account to rent a car. I didn’t see the discount with Silver Car Rental. Do you book through Silver Car Rental to get the 30% discount? Thank you.

  • Reply Bram Taylor July 3, 2018 at 7:57 am

    Thanks for the great tip on Autoslash! I just submitted my car rental reservation for a price check. This is very similar to a service I used for my hotel bookings called Pruvo. They saved me $232 at the Grandior Hotel in Prague a few weeks ago. If you haven’t heard of Pruvo, definitely check them out.

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