[Disclosure: Emily and I get a referral for the links to the cards in this post, except for the Citi Thank You Premier where our link for 25,000 points isn't as good as the public offer for 30,000 points. Thanks for using our links!]
I haven’t seen this blogged or written about in much detail elsewhere. And it may very well be SINGLE most useful tip which I share this year! I’m somewhat embarrassed that it took me this long to find out one of the most useful benefits of Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi Thank You points.
The secret weapon to slashing hundreds of dollars in car rentals is to book car rentals with cash (or you can redeem points) through the Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi Thank You or Capital One travel portals.
These rates were MUCH lower than any of the other rates which I found. In this post, I will explain how to use the Chase Ultimate Rewards and the Citi Thank You portal since they appear to be run by the same company and have identical terms & conditions and appearance.
You can redeem Citi Thank You points for 1 cent per point or Chase Ultimate Rewards points for 1 cent per point or 1.25 cents per point depending on which Chase Ultimate Rewards card you have. Or you can pay cash.
The only difference is in the rental car cancellation policy. Chase Ultimate Rewards has NO cancellation fee for rentals cancelled before 2 days of pick-up, but Citi Thank You portal charges $15 for changes before 2 days of pick-up. Both sites have a fee of 1-day’s rental charges if you cancel within 2 days, and no refund for no-shows.
~6 Days Rental in Tampa
~1 Day Rental in New York (La Guardia)
~7 Days Rental in Maui
|Hotwire||$286||$131||-$362 Economy Sedan|
|VERY Restrictive. No refunds, cancellations or modifications after booking.|
|Costco Travel||$330||$117||- $401 Sedan|
- $386 SUV
|Can cancel, change, or no-show with no penalty|
|Chase Ultimate Rewards Portal||$156||$46||$207||Can cancel/change for free within 2 days of pick-up. 1 day car rental penalty for cancellations within 2 days. No refund for no-shows.|
|Citi Thank You Portal||$156||$46||$207||Can cancel/change for $15 within 2 days of pick-up. 1 day car rental penalty for cancellations within 2 days. No refund for no-shows.|
|Winner||Chase Ultimate Rewards & Citi Thank You Points||Chase Ultimate Rewards & Citi Thank You Points||Chase Ultimate Rewards & Citi Thank You Points|
Rentals from BOTH the Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi Thank You portal were the same cash price in my tests!
Cheap Car Rentals Series:
- Finding The MOST You Should Pay With Hotwire & Costco Travel
- Save Hundreds of Dollars by Using the Chase Ultimate Rewards or Citi Thank You Portal!
- Southwest Airlines’ Car Rentals
- How to Use Capital One Miles/Points For Cheap Rentals
- Using Airline Miles for Car Rentals
- Priceline’s “Name Your Own Price”
- National Car Rental’s “Last Minute Specials”
- Let Autoslash Do The Work
- Using Hertz Coupons & Discounts
- Using Airline Discount Codes & Earning Miles for Rentals
Chase Ultimate Rewards
In short, you get access to the Ultimate Rewards portal and their terrific rental car deals with any Chase Ultimate Rewards point card.
You can access the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal, can transfer Ultimate Rewards points to select airlines or hotels, and can redeem Chase Ultimate rewards points for 1.25 cents towards travel with the:
You get access to the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal, can redeem Chase Ultimate rewards points for 1 cent (as opposed to 1.25 cents) towards travel, but can’t transfer Ultimate Rewards points to select airlines or hotels with the:
These cards also have NO annual fee, so they could be worth keeping just for access to the cheap rental deals!
I verified that the cash price for the car rental was the same whether you used a Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Freedom, Chase Ink Bold or a Chase Ink Plus.
Note that Chase Ultimate Rewards does NOT charge a change fee for cancelling a rental car outside of 2 days from pick-up, and you pay 1 day’s rental if you cancel within 2 days. However, no-shows get no refund. I also preferred calling Chase Ultimate Rewards to cancel the rental than calling the Citi Thank You folks.
How to access The Ultimate Rewards Portal:
Step 1. Log in to the Ultimate Rewards portal
Step 2. Click on “Travel” in the top menu bar, and then click on “Flights, Hotels, & Car Rentals”
Step 3. Search for your car rental.
CITI THANK YOU POINTS
In short, you get access to the Ultimate Rewards portal and their terrific rental car deals with any credit card, bank account, or other Citi product which earns Thank You points.
However, Emily and I both have only Citi Thank You Premier cards, so I was unable to see if other Citi Thank You accounts had access to the same great rental car rates. I suspect all Citi Thank You accounts have access to the discounted rental car rates.
Here’s a list of current Citi credit cards which earn Thank You points:
Here are more ways to earn Citi Thank You points. Citi Thank You points can be transferred from 1 Thank You point account to another, but they are quirky, so read this post to learn more about losing Citi Thank You points after cancelling a Citi Thank You point credit card.
It could be worth it to have a fee-free Citi Thank You card (Citi Forward and Preferred have no annual fee) just for access to the cheap rental deals!
How to access The Thank You Portal:
Step 1. Log in to the Thank You portal
Step 2. Click on “Book Travel” in the top menu bar, and then click on “Cars” under the “Travel Center”
Step 3. Search for your car rental.
Note that you will pay a $15 change fee for ANY changes/cancellation to a rental car within 2 days (unlike Chase where you pay nothing for changes). You also pay 1 day’s rental charge if you cancel within 2 days. And no-shows get no refund.
I preferred calling Chase Ultimate Rewards to cancel the rental than calling the Citi Thank You folks, because the Citi Thank You folks kept transferring my call whereas the Chase rep cheerfully cancelled my rental!
[Note that price comparisons between rental agencies were made on the same day, but posted later.]
A) ~6 Days in Tampa - The cheapest rate from the 1st post in the series was $286 for a very restricted reservation from Hotwire. But the rate from the Chase Ultimate Rewards & Citi Thank You portals is $156 or a savings of $130!
The Chase Ultimate Rewards & Citi Thank You portals save 45% off the Hotwire rate with MORE flexibility for cancellations!
B) 1 Week Day in New York - The cheapest rate for a car from the 1st post in the series was $117 through Costco Travel. But the rate from the Chase Ultimate Rewards & Citi Thank You portal is $46 or a savings of $71!
The Chase Ultimate & Citi Thank You portals save 60% off the Costco Travel rate with almost as much flexibility!
C) ~1 Week in Maui - The cheapest rate from 1st post in the series was $362 for a very restricted reservation from Hotwire. But the rate from the Chase Ultimate Rewards & Citi Thank You portal is $207 or a savings of $155!
The Chase Ultimate & Citi Thank You portal saves 43% off the Hotwire rate with MORE flexibility for cancellations!
Using Chase Ultimate Rewards & Citi Thank You Points for Car Rentals
1. Restrictions and Refunds. The Chase Ultimate Reward & Citi Thank You portal do NOT let you book 1-way car rentals.
However, you can cancel a reservation for FREE (only with Chase Ultimate Rewards Points) up to to 2 days before pick-up by calling 1-866-951-6592. However, you will pay $15 for each change if you use Citi Thank You points.
If you cancel the reservation within 2 days of the pick-up date, for both Citi Thank You Points and Chase Ultimate Rewards points, you have to pay a fine equal to one day’s rental cost (which is usually pretty reasonable.)
You don’t get ANY refund if you no-show and don’t pick up your car. So always cancel your reservation if you don’t plan on renting the car.
2. Pay With Cash, Points, or Both. One of the best features of the Chase Ultimate Rewards Portal is that you can pay for your rental with a charge to your credit card, points, or a combination of cash and points.
In some cases, you won’t get the option to pay for the rental using cash (see image below), but you can always choose to pay with 1 point and charge the balance to your credit card (which is like saving your points and paying with cash!)
3. Earning Miles/Points. I haven’t made enough reservations to see if I can add an airline or car rental frequent traveler number and earn miles/points for the reservation. I suspect that I won’t be able to earn miles/points for the reservation.
However, you can sometimes earns airline miles for short reservations, like say this offer for 1,500 US Air miles for a 2 day or longer rental (targeted to US Air Preferred members, but works for most). In some cases, particularly for short rentals, it make sense to forgo the lower cash price from the Chase Ultimate Rewards/Citi Thank You portal and earn miles for the rental. But do the math for yourself!
4. Bypassing Airport Rental Car Counters. I’m also not sure if you can add your rental car number to the reservation so that you can skip checking in at the rental car counter and go straight to the car. I tried calling Avis to add my number to a reservation, but was told I couldn’t do it because the rate would increase if they associated my Avis number with the reservation.
But I’ll gladly wait for 15 to 20 minutes at the airport to save hundreds of dollars!
5. Personal Observations. The Chase Ultimate Rewards & Citi Thank You portal has beaten other sites 80% to 90% of the time, but this is MY experience. The portals are usually the cheapest site for longer rentals (1 week+) or for rentals during the weekday, but may not always be the best for weekend rentals (where Costco Travel & other sites may have the edge).
Sometimes you will see only 1 rental car provider or the rates will be comparable to elsewhere. But the rates usually reduce and you can see more providers if you check back in a few hours.
SUVs and mini-vans also aren’t always available, but check for yourself, since your experience will be different!
The cancellation and change policy on these car rentals are also MUCH better than the rigid Hotwire policy. The Chase Ultimate Rewards portal doesn’t charge for cancellations up to 2-days from pick-up, while the Citi Thank You Portal charges $15 for each change. Both sites have a fee of 1-day’s rental charges if you cancel within 2 days, and no refund for no-shows.
Please share your story in the comments if you’ve used the Chase Ultimate Rewards or Citi Thank You portal for car rentals!
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