Rental cars offer an additional source of frequent flyer miles or hotel points that at times can be quite significant. It seems all the major car rental companies want to affiliate with all the major airlines. There is no exclusivity among the relationships. That is good for us as consumers because they often try to outdo one another with a larger and more lucrative promotion. Here is an example:
If Avis offers 5,000 bonus Delta miles with a one-day rental, Budget may retaliate with a 10,000 mile bonus for a two-day rental. Rental car companies never seem to carry the same terms and conditions, regardless if the same airline is involved. Possibly, their contracts may require distinctions, but they sure fight for the loyalty business within frequent flyer programs. In fact, to partake in many of the mileage promotions, you are required to use a specific coupon code and promotion offer code in order to reap the benefits. The company’s logic is that loyal Delta flyers already have a Delta-affiliated promo code in their online profiles, and would just continue from force of habit.
Wise rental car shoppers will check out the variety of affiliated rental car offers connected to their favorite airline.
Several years ago Budget had a rental car offer that was so good it made sense to rent a car even if you never drove it. If you rented an SUV, premium or luxury car for a one day minimum and entered the proper promotion and coupon codes, you would receive 9,999 Delta airlines miles. The wholesale value of the frequent flyer miles exceeded the cost of the car rental.
As consumers, my wife Katy and I would drive to the Hilton Head airport, where we could rent an intermediate-sized SUV on the weekend for $42 per day. If $42 got me 10,000 miles, my math said that 5 rentals at $42 each ($210) would get me 50,000 miles and a coach class ticket to Europe. Ten rentals, or $420, equaled a business class ticket to Europe. We rented cars every weekend day for a whole winter while this promotion went on. We’d drive to the airport, I’d return my rental car and Katy would pick up hers. Rinse and repeat the next day. With Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday available at the lower weekend rate, we were each picking up 20,000 miles per weekend for $84 each. That may seem like a ton of work for 20,000 miles, but we were only five minutes from our tiny little airport and suffered no parking hassles or inconvenience.
Another enterprising young man took a different tactic. He rented 14 intermediate SUV’s from the Seattle SeaTac airport all on the same day. He filled out the paper work on each rental and never took them off the rental lot. His haul was 14 x 9,999 miles for 14 times the one day price at SeaTac.
The keys to rental car success are watching for the significant promos as a consumer, or as a business traveler, making use of the best promo available for each of your business rentals. There are some benefits to customer loyalty in the rental car business, but some of these promos far overshadow the convenience you get from rental car elite status.
The key here is to keep your eyes open with email alerts, or watch the travel blogs for significant offers.
[Image via Getty]