Credit cards that offer elite status for car rentals

Nov 30, 2019

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Long lines at the rental car counter can be agonizingly slow, especially at busy tourist destinations or at night when fewer staff are available. Regular customers have to wait their turn; those with elite status can go to the front of the line, or skip the counter altogether and go straight to their vehicles.

You may already be holding a credit card that offers you elite status with a rental car company to get you to the front of the line. In this post I’ll discuss credit cards that give you elite status with the rental car agencies, how to claim that status, and the benefits they provide.

Amex Platinum rental car benefits

All versions of the Platinum Card® from American Express, including the (discontinued) Mercedes-Benz, Morgan Stanley and Business Platinum® Card from American Express offer complimentary elite status with Avis, Hertz and National.

Avis Preferred membership perks

Amex Platinum cardholders are eligible to receive special benefits when renting with Avis:

  • Skip the line: Your paperwork and method of payment are stored in advance so you can go straight to your car
  • 15% off published car rental rates
  • Save up to 25% when using code AWDA756900; get a one-level upgrade when using code UUNA007

Although these benefits are useful, this status actually appears to be offered to anyone, so the value of this the benefit to Amex Platinum cardholders is questionable.

Hertz Gold Plus Rewards membership perks

  • Expedited service at designated locations with Gold counters
  • Four-hour grace period before an extra day is charged
  • Free additional driver

As with Avis Preferred membership, anyone can enroll in Hertz Gold Plus Rewards, but the lower rates and four-hour grace period are exclusive to Platinum cardholders. Use CDP#211762 when making your reservation.

National Emerald Club Executive status perks

This status offers the same benefits listed above, plus the following:

  • Bypass the counter
  • Choice of full-size or better cars from the Executive area at the reserved mid-size rate
  • E-receipts
  • Reward choices and one free rental day with seven rental credits
  • No fee for a second driver
  • Guaranteed upgrades

Chase Sapphire Reserve rental car benefits

The Chase Sapphire Reserve stands out by offering benefits with all-Audi rental company Silvercar.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers elite status with National and Avis, as well as a discount with Silvercar. Activating your rental car status with National is one of the first things you should do when you get your card. With National, you get Emerald Executive status and you can save up to 25% on qualifying rentals with the code 5030849.

The Sapphire Reserve merely offers the Avis Preferred membership that’s available to anyone, along with a 30% discount on a qualifying rental when you use the AWD Number S107100. Finally, Silvercar offers a 30% discount on rentals of two days or more when you use the code VINFINITE.

United Club Card rental car benefits

(Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)
Get top-of-the-line Hertz status with the United Club Card. (Photo by George Rose/Getty Images.)
The United Club Card (and the United Presidential Plus Card, which is no longer offered to new applicants) feature Hertz top-of-the-line President’s Circle status. To join, cardmembers (and those with MileagePus Premier Platinum status or higher) can use this link.

Hertz President’s Circle status includes:

  • Confirmed vehicle availability of standard equipment economy through full-size four-door vehicles in the U.S. and Canada with a minimum 48-hour advance reservation
  • Confirmed vehicle one car class upgrade available at all participating locations in the U.S., Canada and select European locations. Maximum upgrade is to a full-size-class vehicle with a minimum reserved compact vehicle
  • 25% bonus on Hertz Gold Plus Rewards points
  • 675 Rewards Points after every 15 qualifying rentals

The information for the United Club card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Recommendations

(Photo by Becker Bredel/ullstein bild via Getty Images)
(Photo by Becker Bredel/ullstein bild via Getty Images.)

I find National Emerald Club to be my favorite elite-status program, because I love choosing my own car from the Emerald Aisle Executive selection. This is ideal when renting a car for family travel because the Emerald Aisle is where they tend to park the minivans. This status is easy to get if you have an Amex Platinum or Chase Sapphire Reserve. Note that this used to be a benefit of the World and World Elite Mastercard programs, but the rental car programs appear to have been discontinued. 

The next best is Hertz Gold Plus Rewards (included with the Amex Platinum) because of the four-hour grace period. This amounts to a free day on rentals between 24 and 28 hours long, and whenever your departure time is more than a couple of hours beyond your arrival time. Hertz is also rolling out a program similar to National that allows elite members to choose their own car. The President’s Circle status available from the United Club Card is even better. Also, Hertz now offers Ultimate Choice at many locations. Of course, it’s worth enrolling in all of these programs, if only to avoid lines should you ever rent from one of these companies.

When Silvercar is available, I really enjoy using the 30% discount provided to Chase Sapphire Reserve members.

Unfortunately, I find the Avis Preferred program to be very weak, and the status offered by credit card issuers to be of little value beyond what’s available to the general public.

Note that you must have a qualifying card to enroll in these elite-status programs. Once you do, you can use any card to pay for the rental car. Choose the right card to maximize points and miles earning and obtain primary rental car insurance.

Status matching

Another way to earn value from these programs is to let them match your status. For example, Hertz offers a status match that should grant Hertz Five Star status to those with National Executive status. Similarly, National’s status match program offers Executive status to those with Avis President’s Club status. If you hold elite status with one program and are thinking of switching, it can’t hurt to ask for a status match even if it isn’t explicitly offered.

Bottom line

It’s far easier to enjoy rental car elite status solely through your credit card than it is to earn hotel or airline status. And while you might not find rental car status to be that exciting, it can definitely save you money and speed up your travel experience. By learning which credit cards offer rental car status, you can enjoy all of these perks sooner than you might have thought.

Featured Photo by @esspeshal via Twenty20

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.