Silvercar launches a loyalty program: Earn and use points on rentals
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When it works as designed, Silvercar is an almost perfect solution for travelers who want a smooth car-rental process, but also aren't necessarily shopping for the cheapest rate.
You know you're getting a gray, silver or black Audi; you might get picked up or dropped off at the airport terminal; high-quality Peg Perego Primo Viaggio Convertible and Viaggio Flex 120 car seats are included; there's complimentary Wi-Fi; and you can add a ski rack or other amenities for free. You also know you're not going to get stuck in a long pick-up line or driving away in an ancient hooptie with 47,000 miles and just an AM radio.
But for all Silvercar's pluses, there's been a big minus: no loyalty program. Silvercar has new customer discounts, but it historically hasn't had any way for existing customers to earn points toward free Silvercar rentals. Things have changed, however, and now Silvercar has launched what it calls "Premium Rewards."
Related: Best Credit Cards for Car Rentals
Some elements of the program are simple and transparent, but other parts aren't quite as straightforward. The simple part is that you earn one point per dollar on your Silvercar rentals (excluding taxes and fees). This means an $80 base rate rental earns you 80 points. There are no elite status levels and enrollment in the program is automatic, so you may already have points for recent Silvercar rentals (the program appears to have quietly launched in early August) and not even know it. Points also don't expire as long as you have activity at least once every five years.
And that's about it for the simple parts.
What's a Silvercar Point Worth?
The less clear part is what Silvercar's points are worth. That is not spelled out in detail on its website, so we did a little digging into this revenue-based rewards program.
Turns out, Silvercar points do not have a published value, but seem to be worth between 9 and 10 cents each toward the base rate of a rental, based on our current tests.
For example, without any discounts, a one-day Audi A4 rental in Austin on Sept. 4 costs a $69 base rate plus $27 in taxes and fees. If you want to pay with points, it'll cost you 726 points, plus $27 in taxes and fees (or 9.5 cents per point). At the same location on the same date, a larger Audi Q7 costs a $102 base rate and $36 in taxes and fees. If you had a stash of Silvercar points, you could also spend 1,074 points, plus $36 in taxes and fees. That's closer to 9.8 cents per point.
To switch things up, we looked in Denver during peak ski season. Here, an Audi A5 is going for $140, plus $36 in taxes and fees — or 1,474 points plus $36 in taxes and fees. And for a same-day booking at Newark Liberty International (EWR), an Audi A4 is $70 or 737 points, plus $23 in taxes and fees. Either way, we're living in the neighborhood of between 9.5 and 10 cents per point.
But in some markets — including New York City's Manhattan and Brooklyn neighborhoods — the option to view rental rates in points causes the site to go blank. Though Silvercar doesn't explicitly state points can't be redeemed in all markets anywhere we can find, and it may just be a glitch, we were unable to view daily rates paid with points in select areas.
With Silvercar's Premium Rewards, if you don't have enough points to cover the full base rental rate, you can use points to cover at least 50% of the base rate. Taxes and fees will still have to be paid with good old-fashioned cash.
Assuming all your Silvercar rentals cost about the same amount, it would take roughly 10 to 11 rental days to earn one free rental day -- other than taxes and fees, of course. That's not jaw-dropping, but getting about a 10% return on rentals also isn't bad. If Silvercar throws in some double points promos or similar along the way, things could get more interesting.
Do note that built-in car rental coverage that comes from some credit cards likely does not apply if you are redeeming points and only charging taxes and fees to the card, though you should check individual policies carefully.
Save Money on Silvercar Rentals
If you have a Visa Infinite credit card, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the code VISAINF20 will save you 20% on Silvercar rentals. Also stay on the lookout for Amex Offers that sometimes can help you save on rentals. If you are a new Silvercar customer, you save 20% with the code FIRST20 and also stack a referral code to earn a $25 virtual Visa gift card with your first Silvercar rental. My personal Silvercar referral code is SHULL, and here are some instructions on how to enter the code prior to your first rental.
It's great news that you can now earn Silvercar points to use on future rentals. I wish they'd gone with a less revenue-based program, but overall this is still a positive development.