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Many rental car companies offer loyalty programs and the ability to earn points, but they’re often not as straightforward as hotel and airline programs. To help you get the most out of your spending, TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Jason Steele is here with a guide to Hertz’s Gold Plus Rewards program.

The origin of Hertz dates back nearly 100 years, and it’s now the largest rental car company in the world. In today’s post, I’ll continue my series of guides to rental car companies by examining Hertz’s Gold Plus Rewards program, which happens to be one of my favorite rental car loyalty programs offered.

About Hertz Gold Plus Rewards

Earn 1 point per dollar spent with the Hertz Gold Plus Rewards program.
Earn 1 point per dollar spent with the Hertz Gold Plus Rewards program.

While most rental car companies offer some type of rewards, these programs are typically very simple ones that don’t offer nearly as many features as the loyalty programs created by airlines and hotels. However, the Hertz Gold Plus Rewards program offers points that can be redeemed for dozens of different rewards, including one-way rentals, specialty vehicles and those that are part of the Green and Prestige Collection. Rewards start at 550 points for a free weekend day.

It’s free to join Hertz Gold Plus Rewards, which allows you to skip the counter and go directly to your car. The next level up Five Star, which requires seven car rentals or spending $1,500-$3,999 in a calendar year. Five Star elites receive a one-car-class upgrade (subject to availability), 675 bonus points for every 15 qualifying rentals and a 10% points bonus on all qualifying rentals

The top-tier elite status is President’s Circle, which requires 20 car rentals or spending $4,000 or more in a calendar year. It offers largely the same benefits as Five Star status, except for a 25% points bonus on top of points earned. Don’t expect the red-carpet treatment, though; I’ve read members complaining that they receive little recognition for being a top-tier elite.

Finally, Hertz has partnerships with both Delta Medallion members and United Premier flyers to enjoy elite status in the Gold Plus Rewards program.

Hertz’s partnership with United also extends to one of its co-branded credit cards. Primary cardholders of the United MileagePlus Club Card (and those who still have the old MileagePlus Presidential Plus Card) can receive complimentary Hertz President’s Circle Status by visiting the Hertz and MileagePlus status page. This status is also offered to members of American Express’ invitation-only Centurion card. 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 Points

Earn extra Hertz points by participating in the e-Rewards program.
Earn extra Hertz points by participating in the e-Rewards program.

Travelers earn one point per dollar spent on base rental car charges as well as optional charges for fuel, navigation, satellite radio and other services. So while you won’t earn points for all the mandatory fees added in, you can earn points based on the cost of any options selected.

You can also purchase points for 20 cents each (50-point minimum), so long as you have a minimum balance of 500 points. While these points are worth nowhere near 20 cents apiece, this can be a reasonable option when you’re just short of the number of points necessary for an award.

Another way to earn points is through the e-Rewards program, which offers “reward dollars” in return for filling out surveys online. While this is a time-consuming way to earn points, those who are part of the e-Rewards program will find transfers to Hertz one of the most valuable options. 60 “reward dollars” worth of e-Rewards currency can be transferred to 500 Gold Plus Rewards points, which is a reasonable approximation of what those points can be worth.

Finally, you’re allowed to transfer points to a spouse for free, so this is an excellent way to pool points toward an award.

Redeeming Points

Sample redemption rates for different categories of Hertz cars.
Sample redemption rates for different categories of Hertz cars.

When it comes to redeeming points, you’ll find that the Gold Plus Rewards program resembles a frequent flyer program more than it does a typical rental car program.

Award types include daily, weekend, weekday, weekly and one-way rentals. In addition, you can choose from several different categories of vehicles including standard, specialty as well as from the Prestige, Adrenaline and Green Traveler collections.

Award types include Standard Rewards which have blackout dates that vary by location, and AnyDay Rewards that cost twice the number of points, but don’t have any blackout dates. You can see the award chart here, and view the 2016 blackout dates here. You’ll be better off using your points only for Standard awards, rather than paying double for an AnyDay reward. But at the same time, I’ve found situations where an AnyDay award makes sense during a peak period where local rental prices have gone through the roof. For example, I used 1,100 points for a free weekend rental car day, rather than pay over $100 in Tampa, Florida, the same weekend as a college football playoff game.

Also keep in mind that the Standard free rental car day covers reservations in any vehicle between the compact and premium car classes. Therefore, you might as well book a premium car, which typically results in a pretty nice mid-sized foreign car like a Nissan Maxima, Volkswagen Jetta or even a Volvo S60. I typically save my points for occasions when I need a larger vehicle, and use cash to rent a subcompact when I’m traveling by myself.

The next level up in Hertz’s program is Specialty vehicles, which covers luxury, mid-size SUV, minivans and convertible car classes. These awards require about 50% more points than the standard car awards, but since a minivan will frequently cost twice the price of a compact rental car, these awards can still be an excellent value. In fact, this is similar to booking a business-class award ticket that costs 3-4 times the price of an economy-class seat for just 50%-100% more miles. Renting a minivan with Hertz Gold Plus points happens to be one of my best strategies for renting a car for family travel.

Sadly, moving up to awards for vehicles in the Prestige, Adrenaline and Green collections, your points become less valuable. For example, two weekend days in a Prestige collection vehicle (typically a Cadillac, Infiniti, or Mercedes-Benz), Adrenaline cars (Mustangs and Camaros) or Green cars (Toyota Prius as well as other hybrids and electrics) will cost 3,300 points, compared to 1,650 for a Specialty-category car and just 1,100 for a Standard one (which includes Premium class).

Finally, note that one-way rental awards are only available for the Standard category of vehicles, which can kill plans for a free mini-van rental to make a road trip.

Earning Other Rewards When Renting from Hertz

The first step to earning additional rental car rewards from any company is to choose 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 on all travel purchases — including car rentals — with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. And you’ll earn 3x ThankYou points on travel with the Citi Premier Card.

Tips for Maximizing Hertz Gold Plus Rewards

Make sure you
Make sure you’re maximizing your Hertz rental by earning the best rewards. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

1. Always call to book awards — While you can book award reservations through the website, I’ve found it to be so buggy and inaccurate that I’ve given up on it and now just call to book awards. Thankfully, the representatives I’ve reached never had a problem with award booking, and there’s never been much of a wait. Plus, there are none of the telephone-booking fees that plague airline programs.

2. Consider the cost of taxes and fees — Award reservations only cover the base rate, but rental car companies like Hertz are masters of adding all sorts of mandatory and bizarre junk charges — such as a “concession recovery surcharge fee” — that you’ll have to pay extra for when redeeming your points. To minimize these fees, try renting from off-airport locations and consider renting a lower car class, as the fees are sometimes proportional to the base rate, even if you’re using an award.

3. Consider insurance costs — Although credit cards are great for offering rental car insurance, these policies usually require that the rental is paid for using the card, which can exclude free rental car awards. The exception is American Express, which specifically states that:

“A Cardmember is covered if they receive a “free rental” as a result of a promotion, where they have had to make previous vehicle rentals if each such previous rental was entirely paid for with the Cardmember’s Card and the applicable taxes for the “free rental” have been charged to the Cardmember’s Card.”

When renting domestically, I rely on American Express’ policy as well as my personal car insurance to cover me. But when renting outside of the United States, I’ve found the cost of taxes, insurance and fees to be nearly equal to the going rate, so I avoid using points in those situations.

4. Use the discount from your Amex Platinum card to receive four free hours — The Platinum Card® from American Express offers a slight discount on your rentals, but it also features an additional four hours of free rental car use. This can be the equivalent of a 50% savings when renting a car for 25-28 hours, and it frequently allows me to save a day’s rental car cost when I’m returning a car a few hours later in the day than the time I rented it. This discount is stored in your Hertz Gold Plus profile, and its benefits apply even when redeeming Gold Plus points for your rental.

5. Consider using the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card — Not only does the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card offer double miles on your car rental purchases, but it also features primary rental car insurance. For more information on how important primary coverage is, read TPG’s post, Credit Cards That Offer Primary Car Rental Coverage.

What are your favorite tips for maximizing Hertz rentals?

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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.