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Though it may not be as exciting as earning free airline lounge access or status with a hotel, getting perks at a rental car company can improve your trip and help you get on the road faster. Below, TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Nick Ewen takes a look at credit cards that offer status with the top rental car agencies.

Recently, I wrote an overview of the various levels of elite status with major car rental agencies. Although these programs aren’t nearly as valuable as those offered by airlines or hotel chains, they can still make an often aggravating aspect of the travel experience much easier. Fortunately, you don’t have to hit the usual rental requirements to earn elite status with these providers, as many credit cards include this as an automatic benefit. Jason Steele wrote about cards that offer elite rental card status last year, and today I’ll provide an updated list.

You
Avis Preferred Plus status can make your car rental experience a breeze.

AVIS

I’ve been a member of Avis First (now Avis Preferred Plus) for several years and find it very easy to rent cars with this company. This will be the first year that I don’t requalify for this status through rental activity, but there are several credit cards that include this status automatically:

Any WorldElite Mastercard
If you hold a WorldElite Mastercard, you can sign up for complimentary Avis Preferred Plus membership. To activate the status, simply call a MasterCard travel advisor at 1-855-802-1387. Here are a few World Elite MasterCards that would give you this benefit, along with details on the current sign-up bonus for each:

  • Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard: 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 90 days.
  • Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard: 50,000 AAdvantage bonus miles after making $5,000 in purchases within the first three months of card opening.
  • Citi Prestige Card: 40,000 bonus ThankYou points after $4,000 in purchases made with your card in the first three months.
  • Citi Premier Card: 50,000 bonus ThankYou points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within three months of account opening.
  • The Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard: 50,000 bonus HawaiianMiles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days.
United and Hertz allow certain credit card holders to enjoy complimentary status
United and Hertz allow certain credit card holders to enjoy complimentary status.

HERTZ

Hertz has been on a partnership spree during the past year, inking agreements that allow both Delta Medallion members and United Premier flyers to enjoy elite status in the Gold Plus Rewards program. However, the partnership with United also extends to one of its co-branded credit cards:

United MileagePlus Club Card
The announcement of the new partnership between United and Hertz also offers benefits for primary cardholders of the United Club Card from Chase, as you’ll enjoy complimentary Hertz President’s Circle Status. To enroll, simply visit the Hertz and MileagePlus status page and log in using your United account information. This status is also available to holders of the MileagePlus Presidential Plus Card (a holdover from the United-Continental merger that isn’t available to new applicants).

The United Club Card is currently offering a 50,000 bonus after you spend $3,000 in the first three months and provides an array of benefits like membership to the United Club, two free checked bags and no close-in award ticketing fees.

American Express Centurion Card
Another card that offers automatic Hertz status is the Amex Centurion Card (also known simply as “The Black Card”). This invitation-only card carries a whopping $2,500 annual fee and a one-time $5,000 initiation fee, but it does come with Hertz Platinum Status. To enroll, simply log in to your Centurion card account and navigate to the Hertz section of the travel benefits page.

All Emerald Club members can pick from a variety of cars, though elite members have a couple additional benefits.
National Emerald Club Executive members get added flexibility when selecting their rental car.

NATIONAL

National is another company that makes it easy to enjoy complimentary elite status. Here are the cards that include this benefit:

Any WorldElite Mastercard
If you hold a WorldElite Mastercard, you can sign up for complimentary Emerald Club Executive status. To activate the status, simply call a Mastercard travel advisor at 1-855-802-1387 (just like you would for Avis). Here are a few World Elite Mastercards that would give you this benefit:

Any American Express Platinum Card
You’ll also get complimentary Emerald Club Executive status with any Amex Platinum product. To enroll, simply follow this link to log in to your Platinum Card account and then select National. Alternatively, you can visit National’s sign-up page for Platinum cardholders. You also have the option of calling customer service at 1-800-525-3355 for an enrollment kit.

Applicable cards (and their current sign-up bonuses) include:

  • The Platinum Card from American Express: 60,000 points after you spent $5,000 on purchases on your new card in your first three months.
  • The Business Platinum Card from American Express: 40,000 points after you spend $5,000 in purchases on the card within your first three months of card membership.
  • Platinum Card from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz: 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you charge $5,000 in purchases on the card within the first three months of card membership.

SIXT

The upstart car rental company from Europe has started making inroads into several US markets, and there are some simple ways to enjoy elite status with Sixt:

Any WorldElite Mastercard
If you hold a WorldElite Mastercard, you can sign up for complimentary Platinum status in Sixt’s loyalty program. To activate the status, simply call a Mastercard travel advisor at 1-855-802-1387 (just like you would for Avis and National). Here are a few World Elite Mastercards that would give you this benefit:

leadcar
There are many ways to enjoy added perks when renting cars, but which is the best credit card to enjoy these perks?

What’s the best option?

With a generous selection of credit cards granting you automatic car rental elite status, does one stand out over another? My personal vote is for the Citi Prestige Card. Even though the card comes with a $450 annual fee, it’s loaded with benefits like a 4th night free on hotel stays, an annual $250 annual airfare credit and airport lounge access. The fact that you’ll also enjoy elite status with Avis, National and Sixt is just icing on the cake.

If a hefty annual fee isn’t worth it to you, I’d recommend the Citi Premier Card. I’m still holding out hope that Citi will add American as a transfer partner, but even if that doesn’t happen, the ThankYou program still has some solid redemption options, and with the $95 annual fee waived for the first year, this is an easy and inexpensive way to enjoy added perks when you rent a car.

Bottom Line

There’s no denying that car rental elite status isn’t nearly as glamorous as those statuses offered by airlines and hotels. Nevertheless, I’ve always found renting a car to be a pain when I don’t have status with a particular agency. The complimentary status on the above cards isn’t a reason to apply for each one by itself, but I’m all for any benefit that makes traveling easier.

What are your experiences with complimentary car rental status through credit cards?

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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.