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The Fastest Way to Earn a Free Car Rental On Your Next Trip

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The Fastest Way to Earn a Free Car Rental On Your Next Trip

Chris CampbellThe Fastest Way to Earn a Free Car Rental On Your Next TripMillion Mile Secrets Team

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INSIDER SECRET: The fastest way to a free rental car for most people will be Enterprise Plus, where free rental days start at just 400 points.

When you’re travelling, one of the most aggravating costs to deal with is renting a car. There are no shortage of horror stories online – from long lines at the rental counter to hidden fees and charges and even the rental car company running out of cars to rent. But there are also plenty of good experiences to share as well, including getting to walk right to the aisle, picking a car of your choice and driving off the lot with no wait.

Regardless of your past experiences with rental cars, getting to rent a car for free certainly adds a bright spot to your travel plans. Here are some tips on how to earn a free rental car for your next trip.

Renting a car can be a headache, but renting a car for free makes travelling a little nicer! (Image by By 4 PM production/Shutterstock)

Types of Rental Car Programs

In the US, most major rental car company rewards programs offer points based on how much money you spend. You earn a certain number of points for every dollar you spend and you can redeem those points for free car rentals. Here is a list of rental company programs with this type of point-earning structure:

  • Avis Preferred
  • Dollar Express Rewards
  • Enterprise Plus
  • Hertz Gold Plus
  • Thrifty Blue Chip Rewards

Keep in mind that you do not earn points on taxes and fees associated with your rental and you typically still have to pay taxes and fees when you redeem a free rental day.

National does thing differently. With National’s Emerald Club, you earn 1 rental credit for each qualified rental day. A free rental day starts at seven rental credits.

Best Program for High-Spenders

If you typically spend a lot of money on your rental cars, whether its a larger, more expensive car or just a longer rental, your best bet is to go with Enterprise Plus. That’s because you earn 1X point per dollar spent and a free weekend day starts at only 400 points. Many folks can easily earn this in a single rental.

Here is a list of rental car programs and the minimum number of points for a free rental day:

Rental Car CompanyPoints Per Dollar on RentalMinimum Points for Free Rental
Avis Preferred1X700
Dollar Express Rewards1X500
Enterprise Plus1X400
Hertz Gold Plus Rewards1X750
Thrifty Blue Chip Rewards1X500

It’s important to note that these numbers are based on being a basic member of each program. If you have achieved higher status with a program, then the points earning rate and redemption amounts will be different. Also, the numbers in the table above indicate the minimum amount of points needed for a free rental. Your actual rental cost may be higher depending on the date/time, type of vehicle, location and any extras that you add.

Best Program for Frequent Renters

If you frequently rent cars, perhaps for just a few hours or a day each time, you may be better off going with National’s Emerald Club. That’s because National’s rewards programs is based on the number of rentals, not the amount of money spent. If you make frequent, inexpensive car rentals, it could take quite some time to build up to the 400+ points required by other programs (many companies offer single day rentals for less than $30 per day). But with the National Emerald Club, you can earn a free rental day after completing seven rentals — and if you achieve Emerald Club Executive Elite, the highest status that National offers, you can earn a free rental day after just five rentals.

Bottom Line

Most major rental car companies have their own rewards programs that allow you to earn free rental days. The best program for you will depend on your rental habits. For most folks, this will be Enterprise, where you can earn a free rental day after spending as little as $400.

But if you make frequent, inexpensive car rentals, National may be your best bet, since you earn free rentals based on the number of rentals, not the amount of money spent. As always, do the math to determine which is best for your situation.

When renting a car, be sure to pay with a credit card that offers good car rental benefits.

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Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees

More Info

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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When I book via Costco, I specify an airline for points. How does the above work When renting from Costco travel?