Hitting the road this summer? Here’s everything you need to know about rental car elite status

Jun 19, 2020

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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with current car rental elite status benefits. It was originally published on Oct. 15, 2015.

We talk a lot about elite status here at The Points Guy, from identifying which airline is best for low-tier status to valuing hotel elite status for a variety of chains. However, we haven’t devoted much time to car rental elite status. There are plenty of options, and you may be a little confused as to which program should earn your loyalty.

In this post, I’ll compare the various tiers offered at major rental car companies and give you some tips to earn these different statuses, with the goal of helping you find the perfect car rental. Also, read our post with ways to save on rental cars — especially tips for using AutoSlash. It will help road warriors and intermittent renters alike.

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In This Post

Coronavirus updates

Before diving into the individual programs, it’s worth pointing out that many car rental companies have announced status extensions for their loyal members in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Given that travel has been significantly impacted by the outbreak, many road warriors are temporarily grounded. Rest assured that if you earned elite status with most of the providers below based on your 2019 rentals, it will be good into 2021.

Avis Preferred has three tiers of elite status, but only one has published qualification criteria.

Avis

The baseline membership with Avis is called Avis Preferred. Anyone can join and it’s completely free. Membership allows you to go straight to your car, which has saved me countless hours of waiting. You can also earn Avis Preferred Points for rentals (1 dollar equals 1 point), though you’ll forgo earning airline miles or hotel points if you select this option.

In addition, if you regularly rent with Avis, there are three tiers of elite status in the program:

  • Avis Preferred Plus
  • Avis President’s Club
  • Avis Chairman’s Club

The first is a published tier that you can read about on the Avis website. It’s earned after completing 12 rentals or spending $5,000 in a calendar year. You’ll enjoy the same fast-track check-out offered to regular members, but will also receive complimentary upgrades (based on availability), a special reservation number and exclusive email offers. You’ll also enjoy bonus Avis Preferred points, which climb higher after completing 25 rentals or spending $7,000:

These amounts represent a 25% to 50% bonus more than the standard earning rates. FoundersCard members receive free Avis Preferred Plus status.

Avis President’s Club, on the other hand, doesn’t have a published qualification threshold. Instead, it’s provided to members on an invitation-only basis (or by virtue of holding the American Express Centurion card, which also requires an invitation to open). If you do hold President’s Club status, you’ll have access to two-class complimentary upgrades (when available), along with guaranteed availability even when you don’t have a reservation.

The final status level with Avis is Chairman’s Club, and it, too, is invitation only. Benefits include an automatic upgrade to the best available car when you rent an intermediate or higher-level car and delivery service within 25 miles of an Avis location.

Note that both President’s Club and Chairman’s Club have been a part of past Daily Getaways deals — though the 2020 iteration has been postponed.

Related: TPG’s guide to car rental promotions that will save you money

Enterprise

The Enterprise Plus program works similarly to Avis Preferred. Anyone can join the base level of the program and begin earning points for all qualifying rentals (1 dollar equals 1 point). You can then redeem these points for free rental days. However, the program also has three elite status levels that include a few additional benefits. Here are the details:

As you can see, there isn’t anything earth-shattering here. However, if you regularly rent from Enterprise, this can be a good way to earn points toward free rentals.

Related: The best credit cards for car rental coverage

Hertz

The Hertz loyalty program is called Hertz Gold Plus Rewards, and like Enterprise and Avis, it’s free to join. You’ll enjoy designated parking stalls and can earn Gold Plus Rewards points on all qualifying rentals and optional charges like satellite radio or car seats (1 dollar equals 1 point). You can then redeem your points for free rentals, and members can also transfer points to their spouses or domestic partners.

There are also two tiers of elite status within the program. Here’s a detailed breakdown of how to qualify and the benefits you’ll receive:

One of the really nice things about Hertz is that it partners with a couple of popular airlines to offer automatic status to elite travelers and certain credit cardholders:

  • United: Hertz and United Airlines partner to provides higher earning rates for elite status members — you can even earn United Airlines miles with Hertz — a great example of how to earn United miles without flying. In addition, anyone with United MileagePlus Premier Platinum status or higher, along with primary cardholders of a United Club℠ Infinite Card and United℠ Presidential Plus℠ Card (not available to new applicants), can sign up for automatic President’s Circle status. MileagePlus Premier Silver and Premier Gold members can sign up for Five Star status.
  • Delta: Delta Diamond and Platinum Medallion members can enjoy complimentary President’s Circle status, while Gold Medallion members receive complimentary Five Star status.

Related: 10 best ways to redeem your points and miles for a car rental

National

In addition to partnering with Enterprise through the Drive Alliance program, National has its own loyalty program: Emerald Club. As with the other programs, the base level is free to join and allows you to skip the counter. It also allows you to choose any car from the Emerald Aisle when you rent a midsize or above, so you can get on your way faster. You can choose to earn either free rental days (seven qualified rentals equals one free day) or points/miles in your favorite frequent traveler program.

The program also has two different tiers of elite status. Here’s what you’ll get with Emerald Club Executive status:

And here’s what you’ll get with Emerald Club Executive Elite status:

As you can see, these represent a pretty solid jump from the base level.

Related: Your points, miles and loyalty guide to National Car Rental

Sixt

This upstart company from Europe has made significant inroads in the U.S. since it entered the market in 2011. The agency’s Sixt Cards program offers many of the same benefits listed above, including the ability to skip the lines and collect points or miles for your rental. There are also three elite status tiers in Sixt’s program (one by invitation only). Here are the details of each:

Related: Ultimate guide to choosing National Emerald Executive Aisle or Hertz Ultimate Choice President’s Circle

Earning elite status with credit cards

In addition to the partnerships and methods for earning elite status listed above, it’s possible to score rental car elite status just by holding a credit card:

Remember that there are many credit cards that offer primary car rental coverage, including the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and the United Explorer Card. There are also many credit cards that offer bonus points for car rental purchases  — and you can also use online shopping portals like Rakuten to earn even more points on your rentals with many of the above companies.

Related: The ultimate guide to the best cards for each bonus category

Using a status match

Another way to snag car rental elite status is by matching your status from another program. Previous status match posts have focused mainly on airline and hotel status matches, but many car rental companies will allow you to jump past the qualification requirements if you hold status with a competitor. Hertz also has a status-match page.

Bottom line

Renting a car isn’t nearly as glamorous as flying around the world or staying in a luxury hotel, but it can nevertheless be rewarding by holding elite status. I was an Avis First (now Preferred Plus) member for years when I was a traveling consultant by virtue of my 25+ car rentals, but despite my currently limited travel, I’ll be able to keep this status because of the credit cards I have in my wallet.

With the comparisons above, you’ve hopefully narrowed down your options. But if you subscribe to our newsletter, you’ll stay abreast as we continue to dig into these topics, with head-to-head posts like National Executive Status vs Hertz President’s Circle.

If your credit card (or airline loyalty program) includes automatic elite status with one or more car rental agencies, go ahead and sign up! It may save you the next time you need to rent a car and don’t want to rot in line at the counter.

Joseph Hostetler contributed to this post.

Featured photo by Dave G Kelly/The Points Guy

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