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

Thankfully, it’s much easier to obtain elite status with a rental car agency than it is with an airline or hotel program. In fact, you may already be holding a credit card that offers you elite status with a rental car company. In this post I’ll discuss credit cards that give you elite status at rental car agencies, how to claim that status, and the benefits it provides.

World Elite Mastercard Car Rental Program 

This program offers elite status with Avis, National and Sixt. You also get discounts with Enterprise, Alamo and Budget. Popular World Elite Mastercards that offer travel rewards include:

Avis Preferred Plus Perks

  • Avis Preferred Service, which allows you to skip lines and go directly to your vehicle.
  • Receive up to 50% more points on car rentals
  • Complimentary upgrades when available

Normally you need to have 12 or more qualifying rentals, or spend $5,000 in a calendar year, to earn Avis Preferred Plus status.

National Emerald Club Executive Perks

  • Faster rentals — Bypass the counter.
  • Choose your car — Choice of full-size or better cars from the Executive area at the reserved mid-size rate
  • E-receipts, so you don’t have to wait for an agent to give you a receipt. Use the Drop & Go service to drop off your car.
  • Reward choices, including free rental days, frequent flyer miles or hotel rewards. One free rental day with 7 rental credits.
  • No second driver fees
  • Guaranteed upgrades, allowing you to pay for one car class less than the car you reserved.

Otherwise, you would need to complete 12 paid rentals or 40 paid rental days in a calendar year to earn this status.

Sixt Platinum Perks

  • Up to a 15% discount on Sixt car and truck rentals
  • Free upgrade to the next car group
  • Sixt MobileKey, which allows customers to pick up their keys from their key safe and head directly to your car
  • Free additional drivers

Customers typically have to rent from Sixt at least 10 times per year to earn this status. World Elite MasterCard cardholders are supposed to call MasterCard at 855-802-1387 to get their complimentary Platinum status, but you may have to call Sixt instead at 888-749-8227.

Amex Platinum Rental Car Benefits

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

Avis Preferred Membership Perks

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

  • Skip the the line — This allows you to have your paperwork and method of payment 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, and get a one level upgrade when using code UUNA007.
  • Receive a free weekend rental certificate when you use code AWD# A756900 and rent twice within a 6-month period.

While 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
  • 4-hour grace period before an extra day is charged.
  • 10% bonus on Hertz Gold Plus Rewards.
  • A one-car-class upgrade

Like with Avis Preferred membership, anyone can enroll in Hertz Gold Plus Rewards, but the lower rates and 4-hour grace period are exclusive to Platinum cardholders. Just use CDP#211762 when making your reservation.

National Emerald Club Executive Status Perks

This status offers all the same benefits listed above including:

  • 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 7 rental credits.
  • No second-driver fee
  • 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 free 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, while Avis merely offers the Preferred membership available to anyone, along with a 30% discount on 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 MileagePlus Club Card Rental Car Benefits

(Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)
Get top-of-the-line Hertz status with the United MileagePlus Club Card. (Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)

The United MileagePlus Club Card (and the United MileagePlus Presidential Plus Cards which are 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 4 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 US, 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.

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 program to have elite status in, as I love choosing my own car from the Emerald Aisle Executive selection. This works out ideally when renting a car for family travel since the Emerald Aisle is where they tend to keep their mini-vans. This status is easy to get if you have an Amex Platinum or any World Elite Mastercard.

The next best is Hertz Gold Plus Rewards (included with the Amex Platinum), due to 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 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. Of course, it’s worth enrolling in all of these programs, even if only to avoid lines should you ever rent from one of these companies.

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.

Finally, just note that you must have a qualifying card to enroll in these elite status programs, but once you do, you can use any card you want to pay for the rental car itself. Therefore, you should make sure to choose the right card to maximize points and miles earning and obtain primary rental car insurance.

Status-Matching

Another way to earn some 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.

Featured image by @esspeshal via Twenty20.

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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.

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