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Like a family heirloom, the Avis brand has been handed off to more than a dozen corporate entities since its founding in 1948. Since 2006, it’s been part of the Avis Budget Group (which unsurprisingly also owns Budget) and is one of the largest car rental companies in the world. If you’re renting a car from Avis for your summer vacation, there are many things you can do to make it easier and more rewarding.

Today we’ll take a look at the Avis Preferred loyalty program and tips to get the most out of it.

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Basics of Avis Preferred

The Avis Preferred program offers complimentary enrollment, and its primary benefit is the ability to skip the line at the rental counter at most worldwide locations. You simply walk to the Avis Preferred display screens, find your name with your assigned space, load into the car and get on your way.

If you aren’t happy with the preassigned vehicle, members also have access to the Avis Preferred Select & Go program, which is available at some large airport locations in North America. This allows Preferred members to pick a different car — either for the same price or for an additional charge.

Avis also has a revenue-based rewards program in which basic members earn 1 point per dollar spent on the base rental price and 2 points per dollar spent for all add-ons like. Taxes and fees — as well as any surcharges that Avis imposes — are not eligible to accrue points, so don’t be surprised when your points total is far less than the total amount you spent. You have to opt in to earn Preferred points instead of airline miles.

You also earn a minimum of 100 points per rental, so this works out well if you find a good deal on a one-day rental.

Avis Preferred Plus

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The first tier of elite status in this program is called Avis Preferred Plus, which now has two levels. You reach the first level of this status when you rent at least 12 times within a calendar year or when you spend $5,000 within a calendar year. Once you reach that level, you’ll receive 1.25 points per dollar spent on the rental cost and 2.5 points per dollar spent on optional products.

The second level of Preferred Plus is for members who reach 25 rentals or $7,000 of spending within a calendar year. They receive 1.5 points per dollar on base rental-car spending and 3 points per dollar spent on accessories.

Avis President’s Club and Chairman’s Club

The next two levels — President’s Club and Chairman’s Club — are invitation-only. Although the details of these programs aren’t public, reports indicate that President’s Club members receive guaranteed availability and an upgrade of two car classes, while Chairman’s Club members receive the best car in the lot when reserving a mid-size or better and can even utilize free valet returns at some locations.

Redeeming Avis Preferred Points

Earning Avis Preferred points is very straightforward, and redeeming is also fairly simple. There are four reward levels, and the amount of points required varies based on the rental’s standard daily rate.

  • Rentals up to $50 per day are 700 points per day.
  • Rentals between $50 and $85 per day are 1,400 points per day.
  • Rentals between $85 and $125 per day are 2,100 points per day.
  • Rentals between $125 and $225 per day are 1,400 points per day.

As you can see, the value of the points decreases as you rent more expensive vehicles, and the sweet spot is for a rental that costs just under $50 per day. Keep in mind that your rewards only apply to the standard daily rate, not including the voluminous fees that Avis (and most other car rental companies) are notorious for imposing. They also won’t cover any government-imposed taxes and fees.

Based on the this chart, Avis Preferred points appear to be worth a maximum of about 7 cents each towards rentals that approach but don’t exceed a $50 daily rate. However, this is based on Avis’s standard daily rate, not including any discounts or coupon codes. Since these codes are ubiquitous, the actual value of your Avis Preferred points is considerably less. Therefore I’d value Avis points in the 4-5 cent range.

Points can also be redeemed for accessories including satellite radio, GPS, child safety seats and roadside assistance at a rate of 250 points per day. With these optional accessories typically costing $10 to $15 per day, this would provide a value of roughly 4-6 cents per point, so roughly in the same ballpark as rentals.

Earning Avis Preferred Status Through Credit Cards

You’ll receive Avis Preferred Plus status if you hold any World Elite Mastercard. To be upgraded to this status, call a Mastercard travel advisor at 1-855-802-1387. For more on this perk, read my post comparing the benefits between World Elite and World Mastercard programs.

Popular travel rewards card that are part of the Mastercard World Elite program include:

  • Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard — Sign-up bonus of 50,000 miles after making $2,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening; $99 annual fee, waived the first year; earns 2x miles on American Airlines purchases, at gas stations and at restaurants; first bag checked free
  • Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard — Sign-up bonus of 50,000 miles after spending $5,000 within the first 3 months of account opening; $450 annual fee; includes Admirals Club membership; earns 2x miles on American Airlines purchases; first bag checked free
  • Citi Prestige — Sign-up bonus of 50,000 points after spending $4,000 within three months of account opening; $495 annual fee; earns 5x points on air travel and at restaurants plus 3x points on hotels and cruise lines, up to $250 in travel credits each year; a fourth night free on hotel stays (subject to a twice-yearly maximum starting September 1, 2019)
  • Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard — Sign-up bonus of 60,000 miles after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first 90 days; $99 annual fee (waived for the first year); earns 3x miles on all Hawaiian Airlines purchases and 2x miles on gas, dining and grocery store purchases

Note that the three Citi cards above are losing a wealth of ancillary perks as of September 22, 2019, including car rental coverage, trip cancellation and interruption protection, and trip delay insurance.

You can also receive President’s Club status if you hold the Amex Centurion card (invitation only) or the United Presidential Plus Card from Chase (no longer offered to new applicants). For more information, read my post on Credit Cards That Offer Elite Status for Car Rentals.

Earning Other Rewards With Avis

When renting a car from any company, the key to earning the most rewards is choosing the right credit card.

The following cards offer bonus points for all car rentals purchased directly:

In addition, the Mastercard Easy Savings program offers a 5% discount on all Avis purchases. This program is open to holders of all Mastercard business cards including:

Finally, you may want to consider earning hotel points or airline miles instead of Avis Preferred points. You can make this change by logging into your Avis account, navigating to your profile, and selecting the Rewards section to edit your earning preference. However, make sure that the loyalty program you select offers a return that’s equal to (or better than) what you’d get by earning Avis points.

You hopefully have a clear idea of the value of airline miles and hotel points thanks to TPG’s monthly valuations, but note that Avis charges a daily service fee for choosing this rewards option with select programs “to offset a portion of Avis’ annual cost of participation in frequent flyer programs” per Avis.com. This can cancel out the value of the frequent flyer miles or hotel points offered, but you can come out ahead in certain circumstances. One of the best options may be Southwest, as Avis offers 600 Rapid Rewards points per day — worth about $9 — while only imposing a $1 daily fee.

Visit this page on Avis’s website to see which airline miles and hotel points are offered and whether your preferred currencies are subject to a daily fee.

Tips for Maximizing Avis Preferred

Some cards, like the Sapphire Preferred, offer bonus points and primary car rental coverage.

1. Maximize your points by focusing on cars under $50. This is where Avis points are worth the most, so don’t bother using it for very inexpensive rentals that are well under $50. Likewise, it might not be worth spending twice as many points to rent a car with a $51 base rate.

2. Read the contract closely — Nearly all rental car companies have been caught cramming customers’ contracts with additional, unrequested options or implying that an upgrade is complimentary while quietly jacking up the price. Nevertheless, I feel like I see far more travelers complaining about Avis branches doing this than other companies. One theory is that many Avis locations are independently owned, so there’s little oversight of unscrupulous practices and lots of finger pointing when there’s a dispute. To protect yourself, always review your contract before signing and compare the rate with with the one on your original reservation.

3. Take pictures of your car — Avis isn’t the only company to send out questionable bills for damages, so it always helps to be aware of this possibility. Particularly troubling are reports of renters first learning about a problem when they receive a collection notice from a third party containing few details, months after returning undamaged cars. Ultimately many of these claims are dropped, but not before renters spend hours attempting to resolve it or resort to contacting upper management. To protect myself, I like to take pictures of my car both before and after the rental so I have proof that I returned the car undamaged.

This is also a great reason to consider using a card that offers primary car rental coverage — like the Chase Sapphire Reserve. If your car is lost, damaged or stolen, this will cover you without needed to submit a claim to your personal insurance company. Just be sure to decline Avis’ Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) when it’s offered to you at pick-up.

4. Consider using AutoSlash — Even though you must book directly with Avis to utilize the agency’s loyalty program, there are still tools at your disposal to drop the price of your rental car. One of our favorites here at TPG is AutoSlash. Once you’ve booked your (refundable) car rental with Avis, submit your reservation details to AutoSlash, and the site will track the rental for price drops.

5. Use other discount or coupon codes — Avis partners with many outside organizations — including AARP — to offer discounts on car rentals. These groups will generally offer an Avis Worldwide Discount (AWD) number that you’ll need to input at the time of your reservation. Note that you can also save up to four of these to the Preferences section of your Avis Preferred account, giving you easy access to lower prices on your rentals.

You’ll also frequently come across coupon codes that can offer additional discounts, and while these are different than AWD numbers, you can stack them. Check out this page on Avis’ website for additional details and some coupon codes and AWD numbers open to all travelers.

Bottom Line

Many travelers are planning to hit the road this summer, and while it’s critical to think about maximizing your flights and hotels, it’s also important to factor in your car rental plans. If you plan on renting through Avis, signing up for Avis Preferred is a no-brainer, since it’s complimentary and can make the actually process of getting your car less stressful. Then be sure to check your wallet to see if you have a card that can get you automatic elite status. In no time at all, you’ll be well on your way to maximizing your Avis rentals on your next trip.

Featured photo by Roman Tiraspolsky / Getty Images

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