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The origin of Hertz dates back over 100 years, and it’s now the largest rental car company in the world. Unfortunately, many travelers are likely questioning their loyalty these days after Hertz recently devalued its program with no prior notice. Devaluations are bad, but not giving members any prior notice is inexcusable. In fact, it took Hertz over a week to even bother communicating its program changes to its customers.
Despite this, there are still ways to get solid value from the program and on your Hertz rentals in general, so in today’s post, we’ll examine the program so you can make the most of your car rentals this summer.
Overview of Hertz Gold Plus Rewards
The Hertz Gold Plus Rewards program is free to join, and after enrollment, you’ll have entry-level Gold status. You’ll earn 1 point for every dollar you spend on your rentals and accessories — excluding taxes, fees and surcharges. Joining the program also allows you to skip the counter both for picking up your car and dropping off your car. In addition, you’ll gain access to the company’s Ultimate Choice program, available at nearly 60 airports across the US. Upon arrival, you simply proceed to the Gold area and select the car you’d like rather than being forced into a preassigned vehicle that doesn’t fit your needs.
Note that any points you earn in the program will expire if you go 18 months without qualifying activity — either earning or redeeming points for a rental. However, you are able to pool your points with a spouse or domestic partner who’s a Gold member and resides at the same address.
In addition, you can unlock additional perks by frequently renting with Hertz and attaining elite status.
Hertz Five Star
The first level of elite status is Five Star, which requires 12 car rentals or spending $2,400 in a calendar year. This provides a variety of perks to these frequent customers, including:
- One-car-class upgrade (subject to availability)
- 1.25 points per dollar spent (a 25% bonus)
- A wider selection at Ultimate Choice locations
- No additional driver fees for spouse/domestic partner in the US
- The option of transferring points to travel partners
Hertz’s top-tier elite status is President’s Circle, which requires 20 car rentals or spending $4,000 or more in a calendar year. It offers largely the same benefits as Five Star status with a few enhancements:
- Confirmed one-car-class upgrades
- 1.5 points per dollar spent (50% bonus)
- Valet service at participating locations (up to four times per year)
That being said, don’t expect the red-carpet treatment; I’ve read about members complaining that they receive little recognition for being a top-tier elite.
Elite Status Without Renting
Fortunately, there are a number of ways to earn one of these elite status levels without reaching those qualification thresholds. For starters, Hertz has partnerships with both Delta Medallion members and United Premier flyers. These travelers will enjoy elite status in the Gold Plus Rewards program based on the following levels:
- Five Star: Delta Gold Medallion, United Premier Silver and Premier Gold
- President’s Circle: Delta Platinum and Diamond Medallion, United Premier Platinum and 1K
Hertz’s partnership with United also extends to one of its co-branded credit cards. Primary cardholders of the United Club Card (and those who still have the old MileagePlus Presidential Plus Card) can receive complimentary Hertz President’s Circle Status.
Finally, President’s Circle status is also offered to members of American Express’ invitation-only Centurion card.
When it comes to redeeming points, you’ll find that the Gold Plus Rewards program resembles a frequent flyer program more than it does a typical rental car program. For example, it offers Standard Rewards — which have the lowest price but have blackout dates — and AnyDay rewards that carry a higher price tag but are always available.
Award types include daily, weekly and one-way rentals. Previously, there were discounted rentals on weekends, but that was a casualty of Hertz’s no-notice devaluation. In addition, you can choose from several different categories of vehicles including Standard and Specialty as well as from the Prestige and Adrenaline collections. Award rates start at 750 points for a standard (capacity-controlled) one-day rental and climb from there.
If you have Five Star or President’s Circle status, you can also transfer your points to participating airline and hotel loyalty programs:
- Alaska Airlines
- American Airlines
- Delta Air Lines
- Frontier Airlines
- IHG Rewards Club
- Marriott Bonvoy
- Southwest Airlines
- Spirit Airlines
- United Airlines
All transfers must be in increments of 600 Hertz points, and in return you’d get 500 airline miles, 1,200 Southwest points, 1,000 IHG Rewards Club points or 1,000 Marriott points. To initiate this transfer, log in to your Hertz account and click on Use My Points. Find the Exchange My Points section and enter your details. Note that it can take up to 8 weeks for the points or miles to arrive in your account.
While this sounds nice in theory, I’d only recommend using this option if your points are about to expire and you have no other use for them. Earning 600 Hertz points requires at least $400 in rental car spending for elite members, and you’d likely be able to earn significantly more by crediting those rentals directly to the loyalty program in question.
Speaking of which …
Earning Other Rewards With Hertz Rentals
When renting a car from any company, the key to earning the most rewards is choosing the right credit card, and the following cards offer bonus points for all car rentals purchased directly with Hertz:
Bear in mind too that the Sapphire Reserve and Sapphire Preferred cards also offer primary car rental coverage, which covers you for the loss, theft or damage of your rental without needing to file a claim with your personal insurance company. This can be a great ancillary perk to cover you in the event of an unexpected issue while renting with Hertz.
Finally, you may want to consider earning hotel points or airline miles instead of Hertz points, as you’ll frequently find bonus offers that could get you an even greater return than you’d get by earning Hertz points. You can make this change by logging into your Hertz account, navigating to your profile, and finding the Membership Details section to adjust your earning preference. You can even save your preferred loyalty account numbers there, though they’ll only be automatically added for rentals made at Hertz.com.
One of the best options for this involves the Hertz and United partnership. Even though this was tightened last year, you can still earn up to 2,750 miles on rentals through October 31, 2019 — sadly this will likely prevent you from racking up 1.2 million United miles like one Las Vegas-based points enthusiast was able to do. Here are the rates for Hertz rentals booked via United’s site:
- Nonstatus members: 500 miles
- Holders of a United card (like the United Explorer Card): 750 miles
- Premier Silver and Gold members: 1,000 miles
- Premier Platinum, 1K and Global Services members: 1,250 miles
In addition, renting an intermediate (or higher) car for at least two days will — through October 31, 2019 — earn you an additional 1,500 bonus miles. This extra haul is worth $21 based on TPG’s most recent valuations, so this can be a great way to take home valuable rewards, especially on inexpensive rentals.
Note that Delta offers a similar opportunity to earn SkyMiles for your Hertz rentals. General members earn 500 miles per rental, Silver and Gold Medallions earn 1,000 miles per rental, and Platinum and Diamond members earn 1,250 miles per rental. Book through this link, which will automatically input the required codes — just be sure to match your status (if applicable) before booking.
Tips for Maximizing Hertz Gold Plus Rewards
1. Avoid AnyDay awards. Just like with higher priced airline awards, you’ll usually be better off using your Hertz points only for Standard awards rather than paying double for an AnyDay reward. That said, I’ve found situations where an AnyDay award makes sense during a peak period where local rental prices have gone through the roof. For example, I once redeemed an AnyDay award for a free weekend rental car day rather than paying over $100 a day for a car in Tampa, Florida — on the same weekend as a college football playoff game.
Unfortunately, since the recent devaluation removed discounted weekend awards, this scenario becomes less likely.
2. Maximize the standard car class. Keep in mind that the Standard free rental car day covers reservations in any vehicle between the compact and premium car classes. Therefore, you might as well book a Premium car, which typically results in a pretty nice, mid-sized foreign car like a Nissan Maxima, Chrysler 300 or even a Volvo S60. I typically save my points for occasions when I need a larger vehicle and use cash to rent a smaller car when I’m traveling by myself. The Standard car class also now includes Green cars, which used to be its own higher class.
3. Avoid awards in the Specialty Prestige and Adrenaline collections. Specialty class awards used to be 50% more than Standard but are now double. Prestige and Adrenaline collections are over triple the price. I guess this makes sense if you’re trying to burn your points and splurge, but it’s hardly a compelling value.
4. Use points for one-way rentals. If you need to cover some ground, it can definitely be worth paying 1,500 per day to avoid a costly one-way surcharge while enjoying a Premium class car. Once you get there, you can return the car and start a new reservation that’s not a one-way for just 750 points per day. Just note that one-way rental awards are only available for the Standard category of vehicles, which can kill plans for a free minivan rental on a road trip.
5. Always call to book awards — While you should be able to book award reservations through the website, I’ve found it to be so buggy and inaccurate that I’ve given up on it and now just call to book awards. Thankfully, the representatives I’ve reached never had a problem with award booking, and there’s never been much of a wait. Plus, there are none of the telephone booking fees that plague airline programs.
6. Think about the cost of taxes and fees — Award reservations only cover the base rate, but rental car companies are masters at adding all sorts of mandatory and bizarre junk charges — such as a “concession recovery surcharge fee” — that you’ll have to pay extra for when redeeming your points. To minimize these fees, try renting from off-airport locations and consider renting a lower car class, as the fees are sometimes proportional to the base rate, even if you’re using an award.
7. Consider insurance costs — Although credit cards are great for offering rental car insurance, these policies usually require that the rental is paid for using the card, which can exclude free rental car awards. The exception is American Express, which specifically states that:
“A Cardmember is covered if they receive a ‘free rental’ as a result of a promotion, where they have had to make previous vehicle rentals if each such previous rental was entirely paid for with the Cardmember’s Card and the applicable taxes for the ‘free rental’ have been charged to the Cardmember’s Card.”
When renting domestically, I rely on American Express’ policy as well as my personal car insurance to cover me. But when renting outside of the United States, I’ve found the cost of taxes, insurance and fees to be nearly equal to the going rate, so I avoid using points in those situations.
8. Use the discount from your Amex Platinum card to receive four free hours — The Platinum Card® from American Express offers a slight discount on your rentals, but it also features an additional four hours of free rental car use. This can be the equivalent of a 50% savings when renting a car for 25-28 hours, and it frequently allows me to save a day’s rental car cost when I’m returning a car a few hours later in the day than the time I rented it. This discount is stored in your Hertz Gold Plus profile, and its benefits apply even when redeeming Gold Plus points for your rental.
9. Consider using AutoSlash — Even though you must book directly with Hertz 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 Hertz, submit your reservation details to AutoSlash, and the site will track the rental for price drops.
Renting a car can be a complicated process, with exorbitant fees and surcharges, confusing car classes (exactly how are compact and economy cars different from one another?) and various different booking methods. Even though Hertz recently devalued its well-regarding Gold Plus Rewards program with no notice, there are still some easy ways to make the most of your Hertz rental this summer.
Featured photo by George Rose/Getty Images.
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