Credit cards that offer elite status for car rentals

Mar 29, 2022

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Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information.


Long lines at the rental car counter can be agonizingly slow, especially at busy tourist destinations or at night when fewer staff is present at the rental counter.

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The ongoing rental car shortage shows that companies are unable to meet the travel demand coming back in full swing — and as a result, your experience at the counter may be less than pleasant.

Related: Can’t find a car rental? Here are some secrets that may help

While 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. Fortunately, you may already hold 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 which credit cards give you elite status with the rental car agencies, how to claim that status and the benefits they provide.

In This Post

Amex Platinum rental car benefits

(Photo courtesy of American Express)

All versions of The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum Card® from American Express offer complimentary car rental elite status with Avis, Hertz and National. Each elite status isn’t created equal — let’s explore each of the benefits. Enrollment required for select benefits.

Avis Preferred Plus membership perks

(Photo by Roman Tiraspolsky/Getty Images)

Amex Platinum cardholders can enjoy complimentary Avis Preferred Plus status, which typically requires 12 rentals completed or spending $5,000 in a calendar year for eligibility. Avis Preferred Plus members are eligible to receive the following benefits:

  • Skip the counter and go straight to your car.
  • Complimentary one-class upgrade (when available).
  • Code to receive a discount on rental rates.
  • Bonus Avis Preferred points with every rental.

You’ll need to enroll in the Avis Preferred program first to take advantage of these perks. To do so, visit this page and click the Enroll Now link. And if you already have an Avis Wizard number and want your status to be upgraded, you can follow link on that page to send an email.

Hertz Gold Plus Rewards membership perks

Hertz in NYC
(Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images)

Hertz Gold Plus Rewards is free for anyone to join and offers benefits such as skipping the counter, adding your spouse or domestic partner as an extra driver for no charge and points-earning toward a free rental. However, you’ll receive additional benefits when you enter the Amex Platinum Corporate Discount Code (CDP) when booking.

Special Amex Platinum benefits include:

  • Complimentary one-class upgrade (when available).
  • Four-hour grace period on returns in the U.S. before an extra day is charged.
  • 10% bonus points with every rental.
  • Special cardholder rates at select locations.

Plus, if you join Hertz Gold Plus Rewards as a new member through June 30, 2022, you’ll be immediately upgraded to Five Star status, which offers 25% bonus points for rentals and grants you access to a wider selection of cars at Hertz Ultimate Choice locations.

National Emerald Club Executive status perks

national-emerald-club-counter-airport-2019
(Photo by Scott Mayerowitz/The Points Guy)

Amex Platinum cardholders will get automatically upgraded to Executive status upon signing up for National’s free loyalty program, Emerald Club. Executive status normally requires 12 paid rentals or 40 paid rental days. As an Executive member, you’ll have access to these perks:

  • Guaranteed choice of full-size or better cars from the Executive area at the reserved mid-size rate.
  • Bypass the counter and head straight to the Emerald Aisle for your pick of cars.
  • No additional fee for a second driver.
  • Reward choices and one free rental day with six rental credits.
  • Exclusive rental discounts.

To enroll, click on this link and follow the prompts to enroll with Emerald Club.

Booking through National gets you some of the best perks (compared to Avis or Hertz), so we recommend checking these rental options first.

Related: The Platinum Card from American Express review.

Chase Sapphire Reserve rental car benefits

(Photo by The Points Guy)

The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers special privileges with National, Avis and Silvercar. You’ll enjoy complimentary National Emerald Club Executive membership as the Chase Sapphire Reserve is a Visa Infinite card, which gets you the perks listed above. Enjoy complimentary upgrades, the ability to skip the counter and more when booking with National.

Activating all of these benefits is one of the first things you should do when you get your card. You’ll need to log into your Ultimate Rewards account and select Card Benefits under “Use Points” to register for these benefits. From there, you’ll be able to see the offers that are available to you in real-time.

Related: Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card review.

Capital One Venture X rental car benefits

Capital One Venture X_2_2021_CCSL
(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

A great benefit of the Capital One Venture X is that it offers top-tier Hertz President’s Circle status. Cardholders must enroll through their account’s benefits tab on the Capital One website or mobile app. Cardholders can also enroll their authorized users using this same process.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

You get all of the member benefits of the Hertz Gold Plus Rewards program, plus the following perks with President’s Circle status:

  • Guaranteed upgrades to the next car class.
  • Access to the widest selection of vehicles.
  • Earn 50% bonus points on all Hertz rentals.
  • Dedicated customer service texting line to reach an agent for rental-related questions.

Related: Capital One Venture X credit card review

United Club Infinite Card rental car benefits

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

In December 2021, the United Club Infinite Card began offering complimentary Avis President’s Club membership, which typically requires an invitation to join. To join, cardmembers (and those with United Premier Platinum status or higher) can use this link. This is a change from United’s previous partnership with Hertz, where cardmembers received President’s Circle status.

Avis President’s Club status includes:

  • Complimentary upgrades of two car classes when available
  • Guaranteed car availability when you book at least 24 hours in advance
  • Expedited rental service
  • 50% more points for every dollar you spend if you opt in to Avis Preferred points
  • Dedicated phone line for reservations and customer support

Related: United Club Infinite Card review

Recommendations

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

National Emerald Club stands out as a favorite car rental program because of the ability to choose your own car from the Emerald Aisle Executive selection. This is ideal when renting a car for families, 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.

The next best is Hertz Gold Plus Rewards paired with the Amex Platinum. While this isn’t technically elite status, booking with the Platinum’s CDP will unlock a four-hour grace period. This amounts to a free day on rentals between 24 and 28 hours long, and it’s perfect whenever your departure time is more than a couple of hours beyond your arrival time.

Of course, it’s worth enrolling in all of these programs, if only to avoid lines and save money should you ever rent from one of these companies. When Silvercar is available, using the discount provided to Chase Sapphire Reserve cardmembers is a great option.

Note that you must have a qualifying card to enroll in these elite status programs. Once you do, you often 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 — and be sure to review our guide to saving money on rental cars.

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

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 provides 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.

Related: The complete guide to car rental elite status matches

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 — especially in a time when rental cars may be hard to find. By learning which credit cards offer rental car status, you can enjoy all of these perks sooner than you might have thought.


Application link: Amex Platinum with 100,000 bonus points after spending $6,000 on purchases in the first six months of account opening.
Application link: Chase Sapphire Reserve with 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
Application link: Capital One Venture X with 75,000 bonus miles after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
Application link: United Club Infinite with 100,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. 

For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum, click here.

Additional reporting by Senitra Horbrook and Stella Shon.

Featured photo by EMS FORSTER PRODUCTIONS for Getty Images.

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.

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