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UPDATE: How I strategically booked a rental car for 110 days straight

June 27, 2020
6 min read
Get complimentary Avis Preferred status in time for your next car rental.
UPDATE: How I strategically booked a rental car for 110 days straight
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with current car rental elite points earning. It was originally published June 5, 2020.

I have not owned a car since moving to Manhattan 13 years ago.

That’s normally great. Subways, buses, taxis, Uber and Lyft — plus plenty of walking and biking — have all made my urban life possible.

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When we have needed to escape the city on a weekend, my family has turned to Avis, Hertz and National.

Then came COVID-19 and a completely-reshaped existence in New York City. For weeks, my wife and our daughter were locked away in our apartment, only leaving for brief walks around the neighborhood. Our whole lives were within a mile or two of our home.

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Now, as New York’s stay-at-home order is about to be lifted and the number of new coronavirus cases has dramatically declined, we wanted more mobility.

This summer will be unlike any other we have faced. No camp or day care. Museums, restaurants, theaters, zoos and other activities are closed. And while we love New York’s parks, they can quickly become too crowded for comfort in an age where we are still social distancing.

It was time to get a car.

Read more: Credit cards that offer elite status for car rentals

And here is where the dilemma came in. We didn’t want to buy or lease a car because, at some point hopefully sooner than later, life will restart and we won’t want the cost or hassle of owning one in Manhattan. There was the option of buying out somebody else’s lease for a few months but there were some hidden costs and the hassle of registering the car in our names.

I thought about renting cars just on the weekends, but summer rentals in Manhattan can be $300 or more. Each week, I would have to go to the rental location, wait on line, get a new car and then fill it with gas before returning it. Plus, in the age of coronavirus, there is an added risk with every new rental.

Finally, we plan to rent a home or two this summer instead of our normal flying vacations. Weekly car rentals were costing $1,000 — or more — and my normal trick of renting outside the city wasn’t yielding any lower rates.

Read more: Five steps to a perfect car rental

Then I realized that renting a car for nearly four months would provide a much lower rate. It was still $3,700 after taxes for the entire summer but lower than any of the other rentals and none of the long-term commitments that a $200-a-month lease would offer.

(Yes, owning a car just for two years would be almost cheaper but parking in Manhattan is a long-term challenge and garages cost more than monthly lease payments. Right now, my work-from-home lifestyle and the lack of a daily commute means that I can move the car when required for street cleaning.)

Insurance was my next big challenge.

My wife and I have already have liability insurance for those who don’t own cars as part of our larger insurance coverage. But we needed collision insurance.

Typically, I rely on my credit cards for this. However, the fine print limits that insurance typically to 31-day rentals.

Read more: Credit cards that offer car rental coverage

I set out and booked cars with Avis and Hertz for 110 days. (None of the other companies came close on price.)

Avis told me that I would have one reservation number but actually four separate rental agreements or contracts. I didn’t have to return the car between contracts but would get a call asking me for the mileage. This meant that it would be my car for the full 110 days but treated as four rentals to let me get the credit card insurance coverage.

Each month, my credit card would be billed for that rental contract.

If I had bought collision insurance through Avis, it would have come out to an extra $1,000 for the rental period.

Read more: Your points, miles and loyalty guide to Avis

Hertz wasn’t as clear.

A call to the national reservations line told me that it was up to the local rental office to decide how to issue the contract. In these situations, they would either do agreements for 30 or 61 days. So I contacted the local office — twice by phone and once in person — and couldn’t get a clear answer any of those times. Hertz was $2 cheaper a day for my 110-day rental, but without knowing exactly how the agreement would look, I decided to rent with Avis.


As a President’s Club member, I was given an upgrade to a full-size car: a brand-new Nissan Altima with just 59 miles on the odometer. It isn’t as pretty as the BMW 5 Series Hertz once upgraded me to, but it does the trick and is easy to parallel park on the street.

I’ve got the car until the middle of September and will report back on what type of loyalty points I end up with from Avis.

Update: My first month of the rental is over, my credit card was charged for those four weeks and I’ve switched over to the next contract. Avis awarded me 830 points for the monthly base rate plus a 415-point bonus for my President’s Club status. Collecting car rental points isn’t usually lucrative – many travelers in the points and miles communities will get airline mile promotions. Avis awards a minimum of 100 points for a rental, making these 800 points for the entire month seem like an even worse value. In the end, I might be able to redeem the points for one or two free days. You can learn more about redeeming here. But again, this was a “pandemic rental” and in times of crisis we sometimes do irrational things.

Related: Complete guide to Avis

Our family trips used to almost always start with a plane. Now, we are getting to explore everything our region has to offer. We have day trips planned for local hikes, beaches, farms and other socially-distant outdoor adventures. It’s not what I envisioned for this summer but I’m excited for these new discoveries.

Related: Everything you need to know about rental car elite status

Photo by Austin Neill via Unsplash

Featured image by AUSTIN NEILL VIA UNSPLASH

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  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
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Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

    Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points
    60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent, Good

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases