National Car Rental Free Rental Day and Elite Status Match Promotion

by on August 19, 2011 · 27 comments

in Avis, Hertz, National

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National Car Rental is running a pretty lucrative promotion: Earn one Free Rental Day with every two rentals of two or more days between August 22, 2011, and January 31, 2012. All in addition to your standard Emerald Club rewards. Registration link. My understanding of the T&C is that there is no limit to the number of free days earned – just that you can only use 3 free days per rental when it comes time to redeem. “No more than three Free Rental Days may be redeemed toward one rental of three or more days.”

One, Two, Free – kind of like Hyatt’s Faster Free Nights promotion

They are also matching Hertz and Avis elite status, so I just applied for a match from my Hertz Gold to National Emerald. To match your status, sign-up here (my referral link).

I like Hertz because every $500 I spend I get a free weekend rental day (which in NYC, can be up to $200 in value), however I find their 5 Star elite program to be pretty worthless. I generally don’t get upgraded unless I pay extra, but that’s always annoying because I have to go back into the station and then haggle over price. Frankly, I’ve gotten tiny Corollas one too many times, which for a 6’7″ man is not an enjoyable driving experience.

I don’t have a National Emerald club account, so I took this as an opportunity to sign-up. National gives the option to earn airline miles or free rental days and I chose the latter. I have plenty of airline miles, so I’d rather get free rental days. Their program is pretty generous (though not as generous as Hertz for my situation)- every 6 rentals you get a free day (it’s one every 7 for non-elite Emerald Club members).

The National Emerald club benefit of picking any car sounds interesting and I’ve been meaning to try it out, so this is the perfect opportunity. Per National:

  • Simply reserve a Midsize car at participating locations in the U.S. or Canada.
  • When you arrive at the location, go directly to the Aisle or Executive areas.
  • Choose any car – any size, color, make or model – and only pay the reserved Midsize rate. The keys are in the cars.

Any National Emerald club (or Emerald Executive) members want to comment on the experience? Are there actually good cars to choose from?

National is also offering a referral bonus for getting coworkers/friends/family to join the program. For each referral who actually rents a car, you get a free rental day (10 free day max). Feel free to use my link for your status match.

The entire process; enrollment, bonus sign-up, and even status match application is electronic and took me about 5 minutes in total.

Overall, this is a pretty compelling deal, especially since rental cars can be so expensive in some cities (ahem, NYC). Stay tuned for my thoughts on National!

Hat tip View From the Wing!

One Free Rental Day will be awarded for every two qualifying rentals made after the date on which the member has registered and which occur between August 22, 2011, and January 31, 2012. Credit will not be given for rentals made prior to a member’s registration date. A qualifying rental is the paid rental, via The Emerald Club®, of a Midsize or larger vehicle at participating National Car Rental locations in the 50 United States, including the District of Columbia, for a period of two or more consecutive days during the promotion.

Earned Free Rental Day fulfillment will begin after September 2, 2011, (solely by email to the email address provided at the time of registration) and thereafter will occur within 1–2 weeks after the second qualifying rental. Free Rental Days are non–transferable. To redeem a Free Rental Day, visit to view your free day certificates, click redeem and then rent a Compact through Fullsize car starting after September 2, 2011, and before June 25, 2012. To take advantage of this offer, make a reservation at least 24 hours in advance. No more than three Free Rental Days may be redeemed toward one rental of three or more days. Unfortunately, we cannot combine this offer with any other discount and cannot apply the offer to a previous or existing reservation. All standard rental qualifications apply. Be aware that taxes, surcharges, recovery and recoupment fees and other charges may apply, and that optional products and services (such as damage waiver and additional driver fees) are extra charges. Please check your auto insurance policy and/or credit card agreement for rental vehicle coverage. The availability of this offer is limited to participating U.S. locations and is subject to change without notice. Blackout dates may also apply. We cannot accept the coupon if it has been purchased, bartered or sold for cash.

Referrers of friends and colleagues through our email form and social media links will earn a maximum of ten Free Rental Days, regardless of how many friends and colleagues enroll. In order to receive credit, referred friends and colleagues must use the email address provided by the referring party at time of enrollment and conduct a rental by January 31, 2012.

To be eligible for the complimentary credit toward a Free Rental Day, you must electively opt in to receive emails from National. Offer expires January 31, 2012, and is valid for new opt–ins only.

Disclaimer: 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.

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  • Anonymous

    An important caveat to their “pick any car” feature is that it’s only for National Rental Centers with an Emerald Aisle, which are at most larger airports (though not at medium or small ones like Louisville or Lexington KY). If you’re at an airport without an Emerald Aisle, they will assign a car to you.

    Here’s the list of airports with an Emerald Aisle:

  • JP

    TPG, your Hertz comparison also isn’t taking into account their current promotion where you get 100 bonus points for every rental. I rent a car from NYC for 1 day at a time every other week or so, I’m getting 200 points per rental ($100 rental and 100 point bonus). That means that I’m getting a free car day every 2.5 rentals/days right now. Pretty sweet deal if you ask me. I think that gives HTZ the edge for now.

    - JP

  • Krish

    I am sure you already know this but Platinum card members get ‘Executive’ Status in their program which is the next level to Emerald Club. With executive status one would would receive a free rental day with six rental credits and have access to the Executive selection area. The executive selection area always has a choice of a full size car or higher and the executive member would only pay for a car class less than full size.
    The enrollment link for Executive status for National Car can be found in their Premium Car rental program under Card benefits.

  • Jeff

    Do you think they will do a status match from Sixt Platimum? Its not on the link but would it work if I called?

  • Mipo777

    For places that do have the Emerald Isle, it is pretty awesome. I’ve had some good luck getting Sport Utes & Crossovers like the Ford Flex which I enjoy. Plus, I only grab cars with Sirius radio.

  • Moon

    I have recently become an Emerld Club member, and have used the Emerald Aisle twice. I used to dread renting cars in the past… standing on line, waiting for paperwork to be completed etc… I have been so happy about how easy it has been to walk out right up to a car, pick it and just spend 2 minutes at the gate as you are leaving the lot. I noticed the selection of vehicles depend on the specific location, but a choice is better then no choice!

  • Baqa

    Definitely enjoy Executive status (gained via the Amex Platinum card). Visited Phoenix recently and drove out with a shiny new black Camaro only to discover (quite incredibly) that there was a Camaro convention going on at my hotel. I had a blast backing that lowest-level stock Camaro up next to the long line of tricked out Camaros and laughing my way into the hotel.

  • John C

    Once you try National Emerald/ Emerald Exec you won’t go back to Hertz. It’s amazing to just bypass everything and just walk to any car on the lot you want and get in and drive away. I used to be a staunch Hertz supporter but the size and quality of cars I was getting was on a steady decline to the point where I could get nothing more than a Nissan Versa. Hertz was to the point where the ease of the #1 club gold was gone because I would have to go back in every time and plea for a bigger car. Upon switching to National, I pay the same rate (corp rate) and get cars much bigger, nicer and with more features.

    Big Con for NYC residents: You CANNOT redeem any free days in local Manhattan/ NYC rental locations. The only way you can redeem these free days (or any of their free days for that matter) is at LGA, JFK or EWR which adds a huge amount of PITA to the offer, although still worth it.

    Plus: Even when redeeming free rental days, they give you rental credits toward more free rentals (might change once they realize what their computers are doing)

  • Steve

    I don’t want to sound mean but it seems like you’re a noob when it comes to car rentals, TPG. National ALL THE WAY. >>>>> better than Hertz. Get in your car and go.

  • Anonymous

    Right, but National wont let me redeem for NYC rentals..kind of pointless, if thats what I want- right?

    I agree that I’m not a rental car expert (and thats why there are few rental car posts), but it seems like Hertz is the most lucrative- at least for a NYC resident.
    That being said, I’m still going to try National to see what the rage is about!

  • Ted

    TPG, don’t you have AMEX Plat? You can get complimentary Emerald Exec status with AMEX Plat…

  • Carl

    Emerald Aisle is awesome! Luxury cars, sports cars, nice SUVs. And the midsize rate is usually only a couple of dollars more, at least at LAX where I mostly rent.

  • Tiffany

    I agree. National did this promotion in I think, Spring of 2010? We accrued enough free rental days that since September of 2010 we have not paid for a rental car in the US. I just checked the dates and that is over 40 free rentals in a year, plus the days keep accruing!

    The other nice perk (we’re Exec Elite, I don’t know if that makes a difference) is that when you’re using your free days you can use them on any car class. We’ve redeemed a lot of those free nights for Suburbans and convertibles, which generally rent for 2-3x the “fullsize” rate. Just call ahead and ask for the specific car you want (depending on location they’ll even accommodate make and model if they can – we’ve even had some branches transfer cars in). By the same token, if you don’t see a car you like in your aisle most locations will give you something else if you ask, and there is almost always an attendant walking around the aisles so you don’t have to go to the counter if you have a problem.

    One caveat is that we did go through a long stint of paid rentals where it seemed like the only cars in the lot were red Pontiac G-6s, but I haven’t seen one of those for a while…the current stock seems to be a lot of Camrys, Impalas, etc.

  • Andrew726

    I’m emerald executive (2 away from executive elite) and at Charlotte the other day I had my choice of a suburban, explorer, and xterra all for the price of a mid-size. I love national and gave up hertz because of the poor car choice. Driving around manufacturer clients in a Nissan versa is not acceptable. The worst car I’ve ever ended up in is a chevy impala.

  • Sandeep

    Seriously…as someone above said….once you go National, you wont go back!
    I love their EA service, I am a Exec member due to AMEX PLAT and the cars I get for the price are just incredible. A few places in the US like PR and Alaska do not offer the Emerald Aisle service so dont expect much there, but at pretty much any other airport you can pick what you want and pay the mid size rate.
    Ive gotten the new Hyundai Genesis (which is a pretty nice car), Escalades etc for the mid size rate. More often than not though I will just pick a nice regular car if I dont need the space (fuel is expensive after all).
    Pricing (if you play with their system) is also very very good….Roughly $60 for a 3 day weekend rental in LA with all taxes etc, recently did a $400 rental for 2 weeks in Alaska after taxes, where let me tell you…car rental prices are through the roof. The second lowest rate I got was about $950 from Hertz.

    Internationally though, I dont think National matches up to their competitors in those regions on pricing.

  • Jason

    I have Exec status from Amex Platinum but have never used it. I like renting midsize SUV’s and have always found Alamo to be much cheaper than any of the other companies. However, are you saying that I can just rent a mid-sized car (which is much cheaper, even than my Alamo rental) and just pick from the midsized SUV’s at the airport? I’m flying into Hartford, CT, which from the link below does have an EA… Thanks in advance for the insight!

  • Fjr44

    The free nights promo is only available in the US. Not available anywhere else.

  • Bk3day

    As a fellow NYC resident, I agree that not being able to use free day awards to pick up cars in Manhattan seriously sucks.

    OTOH, National does allow for 1 way rentals using free day awards, whereas Hertz requires an obscene amount of points for that option.

    Also, National usually has good “Last Minute Deals” & comes in handy when you’d like the chance to get a car other than the standard issue. I’ve gotten convertibles as well as an Infinti G35 for less than Hertz would charge for a compact.

    Bottom. line each has its own pros & con and having options are always a good thing!

  • Chimpeenuts

    Agree with most of the comments below. Another strategy I’ve done in the past is renting economy or cars below mid-size and then at the desk asking if you can upgrade to a mid-size for a nominal rate and thereby get access to the “choose your own adventure” aisle. It’s worked a few places in the past, like DEN, where I pciked up a full-size SUV loaded for only a slight upcharge on an economy size. I’ve gotten a few Escalades for a mid-size price back when I was traveling for work (so company picked up gas tab).

    But i have found that depending on location, when you arrive, etc. sometimes you can score some pretty nice cars in the emerald/executive aisles. And as a poster mentioned, if you don’t like what they have, you can always ask for something else and see what they offer.

    I prefer the Emer/Exec aisle because sometimes I don’t feel like haggling for a better car than what a car rental company has put me in and often times I don’t have to do that with National.

  • Matt

    National’s great. Rentals since turning executive earlier this year.
    VW CC
    Malibu (non-aisle location, so selection not good)
    VW CC
    Terrain (TERRIBLE vehicle)
    Grand Cherokee (non aisle)
    Cadillac STS
    Avenger (non aisle – I think this was as a base member)
    Dakota 4×4 (In Denver, in ski season. Definitely base member at this point)

    I can’t even imagine getting something like a Versa or a Corolla. Something like a Malibu is a deep disappointment.

  • Annie Nonymus

    This is my first year as an Emerald Club member and I am a leisure traveller. What I’m finding is that as work my way toward Executive status; the first year is probably the worst. If one just needs a set of wheels, I recommend Emerald Reserve an econo car, or use the Emerald Club loyalty feature at Enterprise. 1,2,Free is ok if one needs to rent 2 days or more any way; especially if one can tag up to 3 free days on a paid weekend rental.

  • Guest

    Any luck with the status match? How long did it take for it to be reflected in your online account?

  • Sdrodriguez27

    I am switching to National as well. As a loyal Hertz renter from the past 7 years. Hertz did not show its loyalty to me. So Good Bye Hertz! Hello National!

  • mike

    I am going to Vail, CO via Denver for a week in August, and want to rent an SUV as we will be taking 3 sets of golf clubs. In the past, I have found success in renting a full size SUV during ski season for about $600 for a week on (direct from the car rental companies was $1,000+). I am told that SUVs are in even higher demand in the summer months, which would explain why I can’t find any deals anywhere (not even I am an Emerald Club member of National and was wondering if anyone has had success getting an SUV (even a smaller one) from the Emerald Club aisle in the summer months at DEN (I know one post below mentions an SUV in the winter) . I called the location directly and they said the likelihood was low, but I feel like they were trying to sell me on a bigger car. Any words of wisdom are greatly appreciated.

  • Jon

    Excellent point – I’ve used my free National rental days for one-ways on several occasions. Most of the time, the one-way rental rate is well over $100. I usually try to save my rental days specifically for one-way rental opportunities.

  • Staddiken

    I suppose seasoned travelers can tell Hertz what kind of car they like to drive, and get it. But I’m entry-level Emerald.

    I am used to driving Dodges/Chryslers and Toyotas, I can always find a car I know how to drive. All the controls, no problem. With other companies, I often can’t find the emergency blinker, or the gas cap release, or whatever.

    So I get off plane, jog to Emerald Aisle, and drive away. Less than one minute at the gate!

  • Pingback: National One Two Free Rental Promotion is Back – Earn Free Rental Days Three Times Faster | The Points Guy()

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