Is the Hertz Free-To-Go Pass worth $99 per year?
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Hertz has long been my favorite rental car company. It has a handful of locations here in New York City, including outposts at all of the area airports and many neighborhood locations in Manhattan, Brooklyn and beyond. This convenience paired with the top-tier Presidents Circle elite status included with my now-discontinued United Club Card makes it my go-to for most rentals.
When the rental company announced its Free-To-Go Pass last summer, I was intrigued. This $99 annual subscription service includes a handful of interesting benefits, like home delivery for rentals, bonus points and a discount on all rentals. But given I already get some of these benefits with my AAA membership, I wasn’t sure if the subscription was worth it or not.
Further, Hertz is in the middle of Chapter 11 bankruptcy, so it can still operate while restructuring. Regardless, the company could cease operations at any minute, and you wouldn’t be due a refund for your membership fee.
That said, the Free-To-Go pass is still intriguing and something that I am considering subscribing to. In this article, I’ll walk you through what the pass has to offer and discuss when it might make sense to buy one.
Let’s dive in!
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What is the Hertz Free-To-Go Pass?
The Hertz Free-To-Go subscription pass offers up a handful of benefits to Hertz members for $99 per year. You will be eligible for all benefits after 24 hours of subscribing to the service.
Hertz Free-To-Go Pass benefits
On paper, these benefits are actually pretty great. However, you may be able to find equivalent perks for less elsewhere. Here’s a quick look at the included benefits:
10% discount on all Hertz rentals
All Free-To-Go members receive a 10% discount on Hertz rentals. According to the Hertz website, the discount applies to all rentals regardless of car class, rental date or whether you pay online or at the Hertz location you pick up from.
This is an excellent deal on paper, especially if you rent cars frequently. However, it isn’t always the best savings out there. AAA members can save up to 20% on all rentals when using the AAA discount code. This discount drops to 10% for AAA members booking prepaid rentals.
Unfortunately, the AAA discount is more limited than the Free-To-Go discount. The actual discount depends on the length, date and location of the rental and only applies to “pay later” rentals paid for at a Hertz location — not online.
If you do opt to sign up for Free-To-Go, always compare which code will give you the biggest discount on your rentals.
That said, I don’t think Free-To-Go is worth it solely for the 10% discount. You may be able to score better savings with other corporate discounts or a AAA membership.
Double Hertz Gold Rewards points on rentals
Another great perk of the Hertz Free-To-Go pass is earning double Hertz Gold Rewards points on all rentals. Without status, you’ll earn $1 point per 1 spent. With a Free-To-Go membership, you’d earn 2 points per $1 spent. This is actually more than what top-tier Hertz President’s Circle members earn on rentals.
The nice thing about this benefit is that it stacks with your elite status bonus. According to Hertz’s website, you’ll earn double base points (for the cost of the rental) in addition to your status. As a refresher, Hertz Five State and President’s Circle members earn 1.25 and 1.5 miles per dollar, respectively.
We take this to mean that a rental with a base cost of $200 would earn 400 points. If you also had President’s Circle status, you’d earn a cool 600 miles when factoring in your 1.5-mile-per-dollar earning rate.
I’ve personally redeemed Hertz Gold Rewards points at over three cents per point, so this benefit alone could be worthwhile. If you have elite status to combine with the Free-To-Go bonus, you could be looking at a ton of bonus points when renting from Hertz.
On the other hand, Hertz often runs bonus points promotions. For instance, last summer you could earn 2x points on all rentals when you use a specific code listed on Hertz’s website. It’s not clear how long this promotion will run, but it may be worth taking advantage of if the rate works out.
Fixed $2 per gallon refueling when you return
You’re guaranteed a set rate of $2 per gallon if you return your rental car without a full tank of gas. This is usually far cheaper than the standard refill rate and could be cheaper than refilling near the airport. For example, Hertz at New York (LGA) recently quoted me $9.99 per gallon. I opted to fill up at the nearby Shell for $2.70 per gallon.
However, gas isn’t this expensive everywhere you’ll rent. In smaller cities, you may be able to fill up for lower than $2 per gallon at gas stations, making this benefit a skip. But if you’re renting in expensive cities like New York and Los Angeles, being able to fill up at this rate could be a nice benefit.
The convenience of this benefit is second-to-none too. No more stopping at the gas station on the way to wherever you’re dropping off your car — instead, all you have to do is drop your car off and pay the predictable rate.
It’s worth noting that AAA members get 10% off their gas purchase, but this is likely to be more than $2 per gallon in most cities.
Related: Best credit cards for gas purchases
Free rental car delivery
All Hertz Free-To-Go members are eligible for free rental car delivery from neighborhood locations. According to the terms, Hertz will deliver your car to anywhere within 15 miles of the location you rent from. Unfortunately, airport locations are not eligible for this benefit.
This is super valuable in cities like Chicago and New York, where Hertz neighborhood locations are plentiful. Here in NYC, there are over 15 locations scattered throughout the city, and all of them fall within 15 miles of my apartment. That said, those in smaller cities may not have as much luck using the benefit if there are no neighborhood locations nearby.
It’s also worth noting that this doesn’t apply to returns. If you’d like the car picked up from you, you’ll pay a $30 fee per rental for pickup. Otherwise, you can return your rental to the rental location free of charge.
Free additional drivers on all reservations
Hertz Free-To-Go members can add a second driver to all rentals for free. While this looks great on paper, this benefit isn’t all that special. All Hertz Gold Rewards members can add a spouse or domestic partner as a driver for free, making this benefit a wash for most.
Waived young driver/under 25 fee
I’ve covered under 25 fees extensively — when I was a young renter, this $29 per day fee is my biggest annoyance when renting cars. Hertz Free-To-Go members have these fees waived on all rentals, which can quickly cover the $99 annual fee for young members.
This is an awesome benefit for young renters, but again: there’s another way to waive this fee. When renting from Hertz, a AAA membership will waive this fee for you. AAA costs under $50 annually in many regions, so a Free-To-Go membership isn’t worth it for this benefit alone.
That said, using this benefit in-tandem with others on this list can be extremely beneficial for young renters.
A $250 travel credit after subscribing
Hertz claims that you’re eligible for $250 in travel “credits” when you sign up for a Hertz Free-To-Go membership; $100 for hotels, $100 for “live events” and $50 for dining. This might look amazing on paper, but little details are given on how you can actually use these credits.
After digging around the Hertz website, I was able to find exactly where you can use these credits. On the travel side, you’re given a $100 credit to use at Hertz Plus Hotels. This is Hertz’s in-house hotel booking platform. Prices are similar to booking direct, but the selection can be a bit limited.
For example, a night at the AC Hotel by Marriott Times Square was $415 after-tax when booking through Hertz, dropping to $315 with the voucher. The Marriott direct rate was $415 after taxes. Just note that you likely won’t be able to use elite status benefits or earn points when booking through Hertz.
On the live events side, you’re given two $50 discounts to Hertz’s ticket website. This website has tickets for concerts, Broadway shows and sporting events. That said, most of these events are canceled or rescheduled due to the coronavirus outbreak, so it may be hard to use the credit before it expires at the end of the year.
Finally, the restaurant credit is powered by Restaurant.com. Selection is limited and — again — many restaurants aren’t currently offering dine-in due to the coronavirus outbreak.
All in all, these credits are a little bit misleading. While the hotel credit can be a good deal, the live events and dining credit are difficult to use. I wouldn’t factor these credits into your purchasing decision when considering whether or not to buy a Free-To-Go pass.
Who should buy a Free-To-Go pass?
With all of this in mind, it’s clear that there are only three benefits that make Hertz Free-To-Go worth purchasing: car delivery, flat rate gas and double miles. Even then, the pass is only really worthwhile if you rent from Hertz often and can frequently benefit from these perks.
On the other hand, those looking to get a discount or waiver for the young driver fee are better off with a AAA membership. A basic membership costs half of what a Free-To-Go pass, and you’ll still get other benefits like roadside assistance and hotel discounts with AAA.
Regardless, you should only sign up for a Free-To-Go pass if you’re confident that Hertz will actually make it out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy without going insolvent or massively changing how it operates. If it opts to close your neighborhood location, devalue points or completely suspend operations, you could be out of benefits or completely lose your pass altogether.
Credit cards to use on your Hertz rental
Regardless of whether you decide to sign up for the Hertz Free-To-Go pass or not, it’s important to maximize your rental car booking with the right credit card. You should use a card that offers bonus points based on spending and one that offers collision damage waiver. This way, if you’re involved in a car accident, you won’t be liable for damages.
There are some restrictions and coverage limits, but the following cards offer the most comprehensive coverage:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
- Chase Sapphire Reserve
- Ink Business Preferred Credit Card
- Ink Business Cash Credit Card
- Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card
- United Explorer Card
- United Business Card
- Capital One Spark Cash for Business
- Capital One Spark Miles for Business
The Hertz Free-To-Go pass has the potential to be an amazing deal for someone that rents from Hertz regularly. On the other hand, many of the benefits can either be found elsewhere or simply aren’t worth paying for, so assess if you value these benefits more than the $99 annual fee.
Personally, I’m going to wait on buying a Free-To-Go pass for now. There’s too much uncertainty surrounding Hertz right now, and I’m happy with the benefits provided with my AAA membership. If you have upcoming Hertz rentals, you may find enough benefit from the Free-To-Go pass in the immediate future to justify the annual fee.
Feature photo by Daniel Pier/NurPhoto via Getty Images
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