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Rental cars are often a necessary travel expense, but they’re not always as easy to maximize as flights and hotel stays. Below, TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Jason Steele examines the Avis Preferred program to show you how to earn and redeem points, which credit cards to use on rentals and more.
Like a family heirloom, the Avis brand has been handed off to more than a dozen corporate entities since its founding in 1948. It now exists as part of the Avis Budget Group and is one of the largest car rental companies in the world. Today, I’ll take a look at the Avis Preferred loyalty program to help you get the most out of it.
About Avis Preferred
The Avis Preferred program offers complimentary enrollment, and its primary feature is the ability to skip the line. Other benefits include access to the Avis Preferred Select & Go program, which is available at some large airport locations in North America. This program allows Preferred members to pick a different kind of car instead of the one they’ve been pre-assigned.
Avis also has a revenue-based rewards program in which base members earn 1 point per dollar spent on the base rental price, and 2x points for all add-ons. Taxes and fees, as well as any surcharges that Avis imposes, are not eligible to accrue points. You have to opt in to earn points, and as a new enrollee you’ll receive 250 bonus points when you rent once within three months.
Avis Preferred Plus
The first level of elite status is called Avis Preferred Plus. You receive this status when you rent at least 12 times within a calendar year or when you spend $5,000 within a calendar year. Once you reach that level, you’ll receive 1.25 points per dollar spent on the rental cost, and 2.5 points per dollar spent on optional products.
Preferred Plus members who reach 25 rentals or $7,000 of spending within a calendar year receive 1.5 points per dollar on base rental-car spending and 3 points per dollar spent on accessories. To see how this elite status program compares to other rental car programs, read TPG Senior Points & Miles Correspondent Nick Ewen’s post, Comparing Car Rental Elite Status.
Avis President’s Club and Chairman’s Club
The next two levels, President’s Club and Chairman’s Club, are invitation-only. Although the details of these programs aren’t public, reports indicate that President’s Club members receive guaranteed availability and an upgrade of two car classes, while Chairman’s Club members receive the best car in the lot when reserving a mid-size or better, and even free valet returns at some locations.
Redeeming Avis Preferred Points
While earning Avis Preferred points is very straightforward — and the company provides a few details on what you can redeem them for — there’s very little information when it comes to how many points are required for awards.
Possible awards include free rental days (exclusive of insurance products, taxes, fees and Avis surcharges); car-class upgrades; optional products such as car seats, booster seats, infant seats, GPS devices, extended roadside assistance; satellite radio and ski racks; and even fees for toll-collection devices. Avis charges a $3.95 daily fee if you use its toll-by-plate service (see my post, How to Avoid Excess Toll Road Charges for Rental Cars for ways around this).
How much are points worth? How many points will you need to redeem for awards? Avis doesn’t provide much clarification; when I reached out to the company, I was given the following explanation:
The redemption of Points is dynamic, much like car rental pricing, and the quantity of points required for benefits varies based upon such elements as duration of the rental, date, car class, time of year and location. For example, a one-week rental at a major airport location during a peak travel period will require more points than a weekend rental taking place during off-peak season at a local market Avis location in a smaller city.
So you can think of Avis Preferred as the Delta SkyMiles of the rental car world, as the company offers no award chart, and the cost of redemptions will vary based on when and where you wish to use your points.
Earning Avis Preferred Status Through Credit Cards
You’ll receive Avis Preferred Plus status if you hold any World Elite MasterCard. To be upgraded to this status, call a MasterCard travel advisor at 1-855-802-1387. For more on this perk, read my post, Benefits and Value of the World Elite vs. World MasterCard programs.
Popular travel rewards card that are part of the MasterCardWorld Elite program include:
- Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard — $89 annual fee, waived the first year
- The Hawaiian Airlines World Elite MasterCard — $89 annual fee
- Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard — $450 annual fee
- Citi Prestige Card — $450 annual fee
- Virgin Atlantic World Elite MasterCard — $90 annual fee
- Virgin Atlantic World Elite MasterCard (White Card) — $49 annual fee
You can also receive President’s Club status if you hold the Amex Centurion card (invitation only) or the United Presidential Plus Card from Chase (no longer offered to new applicants). For more information about credit cards that offer elite rental car status, check out this post by TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Nick Ewen.
Earning Other Rewards When Renting from Avis
As when renting a car from any company, the key to earning the most rewards is choosing the right credit card.
The following cards offer 2x points for all car rentals purchased directly:
- The Hyatt Credit Card
- Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card
- Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card
- CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select World MasterCard
You can also earn double Ultimate Rewards points for all travel purchases — including car rentals — with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. In fact, this card also offers the advantage of primary rental car insurance. For more information on how important primary coverage is and which cards offer it, read TPG’s post, Credit Cards That Offer Primary Car Rental Coverage. In addition, you can earn 3x ThankYou points for travel from the Citi ThankYou Premier Card.
Finally, the MasterCard Easy Savings program offers a 5% discount on all Avis purchases. This program is open to holders of all MasterCard business cards including:
- CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select World MasterCard
- U.S. Bank Business Edge Cash Rewards Card
- Bank of America Cash Rewards for Business MasterCard
Tips for Maximizing Avis Preferred
1. Use your American Airlines credit cards and status — Avis recently announced a partnership with American Airlines where AAdvantage members earn 500 miles per rental rather than just 50 miles per day. Those who hold an AAdvantage or Aviator card from Citi receive 750 miles per rental, while Platinum and Gold AAdvantage members get 1,000 miles and Executive Platinums get 1,250.
2. Read the contract closely — Nearly all rental car companies have been caught cramming customers’ contracts with additional, unrequested options, or implying that an upgrade is complimentary while quietly jacking up the price. Nevertheless, I feel like I see far more travelers complaining about Avis branches doing this than other companies. One theory is that many Avis locations are independently owned, so there’s little oversight of unscrupulous practices and lots of finger pointing when there’s a dispute. To protect yourself, always review your contract before signing and compare the rate with with the one on your reservation.
3. Take pictures of your car — Avis isn’t the only company to send out questionable bills for damages, but it always helps to be aware of this possibility. Particularly troubling are reports of renters first learning about a problem when they receive a collection notice from a third-party containing few details, months after returning undamaged cars. Ultimately many of these claims are dropped, but not before renters spend hours attempting to resolve it or resort to contacting upper management. To protect myself, I like to take pictures of my car both before and after the rental so I have proof that I returned the car undamaged.
4. Consider earning hotel points or airline miles instead of Avis Preferred points — You don’t have to earn points with Avis Preferred when you rent a car; you can choose to earn frequent flyer miles or hotel points instead. And unlike with Avis Preferred points, you have some idea of the value of airline miles and hotel points are worth thanks to TPG’s monthly valuations.
Avis also charges a daily service fee, which almost always cancels out the value of the 50 frequent flyer miles per day it generally offers. That leaves hotel points, of which Starwood Preferred Guest is the most valuable option (at 2.5 cents per point), followed by Hyatt points.
What are your favorite tips for maximizing Avis rental car spending?