Holiday Tips 4 – earning Avios and other airline miles from car rentals

This is the final part of our ‘Holiday Tips’ series which I have updated and re-run this week in preparation for the Summer season.

For many of us, the only time in the whole year when we may find ourselves looking to hire a car is on holiday.

If you are spending your own money on car hire, you shouldn’t be blinded by the miles opportunities. There are plenty of low-cost consolidators like easyCar or Holiday Autos who are used by the big car hire groups to shift their spare capacity without having to publicly lower their prices.

However, if location is important (eg you want a supplier who is definitely in your airport rather than a long shuttle bus away) then you need to book direct. Direct booking also lets you book flexible rates, makes it easier to guarantees extras like baby seats and may even be cheaper, especially when factoring in the value of the miles.

How to earn Avios from car rentals

Avis is the official partner of BAEC, and even has its own website at avisba.com. The rate is 3 Avios per £1 spent, with a minimum of 500.  If you rent for three days, the minimum goes up to 700 Avios.

BAEC members also get a free second driver, which can be a valuable benefit, and there are a further 250 Avios to be had if you pay with the British Airways American Express credit card. If you do four rentals in a year, you also get a further 750 Avios. Avis is the only official BA and avios.com car earning partner.

Until the end of 2014, you had substantially more partner opportunities with Iberia Plus.  That is now over.  They have dropped their partnerhips with Europcar, Hertz and Sixt.  The only remaining earning options via Iberia Plus are with Avis and their sister company Budget.  This is your only option to earn Avios from Budget.

The earning rate at Avis has been brought into line with the BA offer.  Iberia was previously more generous for longer rentals as you got 300 Avios per day.

Other airmiles car rental options

Outside of Avios, pretty much every major airline has some sort of car rental tie-up. It is worth doing a quick scout around before each rental to see if there are any generous promotions available.

Virgin partners with Avis, Alamo, Hertz and Sixt (see here) – the Hertz deal is particularly attractive at 1,000 miles per rental, with Avis and Alamo offering 500 miles for short rentals.

Miles & More also has a large list of partners (see here) – Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz and Sixt.

Etihad Guest has a number of partners including a double miles promotion with Hertz, worth at least 1,000 miles per rental, until the end of August.

In all cases, be aware that you can usually separate out:

The discount code you are entitled to use as a member of that frequent flyer scheme, and

The miles you can earn as a member of that frequent flyer scheme

In theory, nothing stops you booking a car using (for eg) the Virgin Atlantic discount code for Avis and then crediting the stay to a BAEC account, should that prove to be the most attractive option.

Don’t forget hotel chain promotions

It is not only the airlines that offer bonus points for booking a car via their partners. The hotel loyalty programmes have also got in on the act. In general the points earned aren’t worth as much as the equivalent airline miles, but do check.

Remember that crediting a rental to a hotel scheme may help delay the expiry of your hotel points.

Club Carlson – Avis, Alamo, National, Budget, Enterprise, Sixt

(Club Carlson is running a very aggressive promotion with Avis for 3+ day rentals until the end of 2015 – see here.  This offer may be more attractive than taking Avios depending on the length and cost of your rental.)

Hyatt Gold Passport – Avis

Marriott Rewards – Hertz

Hilton HHonors – Alamo, Avis, Budget, Europcar, National, Sixt, Thrifty

Starwood – Avis, Sixt

IHG Rewards Club – Avis, Budget, Hertz

And don’t forget Hertz Gold Plus Rewards

Hertz also has its own reward programme, Hertz Gold Plus Rewards, which I reviewed here. The key thing to note now, though, is that you can usually earn points in Hertz Gold Plus Rewards even if the corporate rate or discount code you are using is not eligible for airline miles.

As well as the usual free rental days, Hertz points can also be redeemed for IHG Rewards Club and Marriott Rewards points, as well as miles with some North American airlines.

Finally …. a word on car hire insurance

Car hire insurance is generally more expensive than the basic cost of the rental itself.  Separating the insurance from the rental can often lead to significant savings.

American Express Platinum comes with full car hire insurance coverage and, for a regular renter, is an attractive deal.  You do not need to pay for your car hire on your Amex card and there is no small print.  You can decline all insurance options safe in the knowledge that American Express will pay if necessary.

There are also various independent companies selling car hire insurance, of which insurance4carhire is probably the best known.  This is likely to be substantially cheaper.

One issue you have, when you have arranged separate insurance, is getting your rental to price without any coverage.  The rental company websites often add coverage by default.  One possible way around this is to book from the US website of a major rental group – the US ‘norm’ is to show base prices with minimal coverage, which is exactly what you need in this scenario.

One word of warning.  If you do use Amex Platinum or a third party such as insurance4carhire.com, be prepared to be asked for a substantial credit card authorisation to be taken when you collect the car.  It is impossible for the rental company to verify your insurance cover, whatever paperwork you show them, so you may be asked for an authorisation (NOT a charge, just an authorisation) of a few thousand pounds on your card.

Lufthansa cuts return flights to Germany to just 7,000 miles for the Summer
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About Head for Points

We help business and leisure travellers maximise their Avios, frequent flyer miles and hotel loyalty points. Visit every day for three new articles or sign up for our emails via this page or the box to your right.

Comments

  1. Hertz is offering 6X AA miles until Sept. 30 on rentals of 5 days or more. CDP# 217692 and PC# 179255. However I’m not sure its still true you can always separate out the discount code from the miles. I couldn’t get the Hertz system to accept that PC code (which is what generates the 6X miles) unless I also used the discount code for AA Advantage (which generates a higher rate than using the Amex Plat discount code).

  2. Greenpen says:

    Authorisation may not be a charge but it will block whatever the amount is on your card. So you think you have plenty of credit but it’s disappeared because of the authorisation. If you are relying on your card credit to pay for other holiday things and think you have plenty of credit, beware!

    • Always why I use a Amex charge card when checking in at hotels and car hire desks, even if settling to another card later!

    • Lady London says:

      In the US this amount seems to be limited to $200 or so in the States I’ve hired in.
      In France, on the other hand, it’s complete rip-off and wildly out of proportion to the rental cost. New Zealand was the worst one I’ve had in terms of outrageous size of pre-authorised amount compared to the actual cost of the rental but France runs it close.

  3. Douglas says:

    Is there any other card which gives insurance? I heard from budget clerk that amex gold would cover any damage, but I couldn’t find anything in their site, maybe only the US version of the card.

  4. Roger Wilco says:

    I think that the earnings are so meagre (aside from the occasional good promo) that miles earning should not be considered at all (especially if you’re spending your own dime) – just rent the car that you need with the company best suited and only after that look what mileage there is to earn. Would I have been ready to pay Avis £400 more than to Sixt just to receive 1000 Avios instead of 250 SPG? No way!

    • The Virgin deal is good on £20 one day London Hertz rentals :-)

      • aristeides says:

        You can generally get a group R car for not much more than £20 (or less with Amex Plat) any day in London and elsewhere in the UK by using Hertz’s Australian website. If you are a member of Gold Rewards, you can get gold service (inc second driver benefits etc) by using oodles.com.au and booking with your membership number and CPD code. Until about March this year, it was £12 per day with gold service for a group C car, usually with a decent upgrade – made it not worth owning a car. The rates are pay on arrival too, so you don’t have to turn up if your plans change.

        • Very useful. Thanks.

          I can only get those rates by leaving the dropdown as ‘Australian resident’. Does that cause any problems?

          • aristeides says:

            Yes – you can correct to UK resident later on in the booking process. You aren’t in breach of any tandc’s. You can then go back into Hertz and modify your reservation but generally the only good value is with group R or Nissan Leaf

            • aristeides says:

              Sorry – I should say NO – it does not cause any problems. I have done this about 30 times in the past year and the only thing the people at Hertz ask on collection is how do you get such good rates. They have clearly tightened this loophole up though as you could get absurd deals on premium cars etc until March. You can get good rates in Europe via hertz.com.,au, not oodles who don’t allow Euro bookings, but you can’t connect your account to the booking, hence no gold service/upgrades (although always add you membership number as a note on the booking).
              If you have Amex Plat, you should really us autoslash.com on any international booking. They can also be ridiculously cheap but you are booking on US terms, ie no insurance at all and uniquely, only Amex Plat covers for this. It’s also good for UK bookings in bigger cars. Basically, it is like camelcamelcamel for car bookings.

  5. lammy52 says:

    BAEC have failed to apply Avios for the last three lots of car hire without my being able to produce documentation from Avis, despite obviously having been booked and prepaid through them. Good deal with second driver etc and competitive prices but be aware of this possible requirement.

  6. Waribai says:

    I have sixt platinum and hertz gold plus but for a 9 day hire earlier this month in Alicante BAEC beat the competition by a country mile. The only downside was that Avis were very short staffed so and there was no acknowledgement of Avis Preferred status so it took about an hour from arriving at the rental desk to actually exiting the airport. Haven’t seen any avoid post yet either so thanks for the reminder!

  7. Prices change according to who has referred you to a website.

    Going through a cashback site will quote considerably higher prices than going direct. Something to consider too!

    Possibly same situation if referred by an airline/hotel.

    • Lady London says:

      apparently Kayak is a very good site to select a car hire site through – the car hire site immediately knows you are a cheapo :-)

  8. I am looking to do a 3 day car rental and it looks like the best option is actually Budget via Club Carlson, they offer 9000 bonus points, and unlike the Avis version of the promo, I can collect the car at a non airport location.

  9. Some websites such as autoeurope allow you to see the car company you are going to use before you book, so you can check that you are at an on-airport location.

    Economy Car Hire includes a free additional driver, which is really useful.

    Insurance4carhire and similar only cover the EXCESS on a policy, not the full amount. If you book the American-style rate without CDW then you will not be covered. Amex Platinum will cover the full insurance, though. Insurance4carhire is very useful for avoiding the ridiculous excess waiver charges they try and sell you.

    • Lady London says:

      Questor also do this, also icarhireinsurance. Terms and what they cover (e.g. misfuelling) vary from provider to provider. I’ve used all 3 and been happy with them. Annual cover works out the most cost-effective.

      One thing to check carefully is whether the excess covers damage to the interior of the car, the roof, the undercarriage, window glass, sunroofs. Even the so-called extra insurance sold by the car hire companies themselves, often excludes some of these especially any issue with the interior of the car.

  10. Alastair says:

    I have recently joined Hertz and it’s proving great so far.

    If you join a bit before you need a rental they seem keen to send out 400 point bonuses, plus register for other bonuses through the opening months and I will have a free weekend rental after 3 hires.

    Also the bonuses seem to double dip with Virgin miles – on the first booking I got VS miles and the bonus points (but not the base points).

    Plus free spouse/partner just for joining (no status needed)

  11. Frenske says:

    Not having AmEx platium.

    I usually get the cheapest insurance option which means in Europe normally comprehensive but a high level of excess and get an excess insurance for around £2 per day which is substantially lower than the rental companies own excess waiver (which often still contains an excess of £100).

  12. I’ve found Hertz + Amex Plat to be a good combo. I’ve got 5* with Hertz as a result, along with free insurance cover, as you say allowing everything else to be declined. I’ve managed to get some stonkingly good rates from them – although I find you need to re-run your search as logged in, not logged in, and on Hertz websites for the country you want to rent in, along with the UK/US – the price differences can be quite marked sometimes! I’ve found miles earning (which I do on really cheap rentals, where a fixed number of miles is better than a small number of Hertz points) to be slow to credit, sometimes taking months. Hertz points often miscredit too but their Twitter team are pretty good at fixing them. I’ve built up a fairly good balance of points now and when redeeming for rentals have found they tend not to charge me the extra taxes/fees that they’re meant to, so they have been truly free :) Had a great deal at SFO – upgrade, rented Sun to Tues but charged ‘weekend points’ rate and to cap it all the queue at the airport was massive – but with Hertz Gold I just went downstairs, saw my name on the electronic noticeboard and keys were waiting in the car!

  13. If you use Avis regularly it’s worth exploring the Avis loyalty scheme – Avis Preferred.
    Tends to speed up the collection of the car and can be used on avisba.com.

    • Also, if you value you time it may be worth booking from the 2nd cheapest company rather than the cheapest. I spent 45 minutes waiting in the Europcar car hire queue in Bordeaux (everyone in the queue had come off my flight). The other companies were notably quieter and I would have happily paid an extra £20 to be signed up and out the door sooner.

  14. The holy grail!

  15. Lady London says:

    Works on Hertz.

  16. Lady London says:

    If anyone has a code that will work on a van on Hertz Avis or Enterprise please post.

  17. One word of warning with Avis & Insurance4carhire.com – I unfortunately had to make a claim after an incident renting with Avis in Italy. Insurance4carhire.com paid out for the accident repairs which they covered under the excess protection BUT Avis then whacked a 16% airport surcharge on top of the damage covered which was NOT covered by the excess protection insurance, leaving me around £100 out of pocket.

    • And after speaking with a more easy to deal with person at Avis, they’ve acknowledged that an airport surcharge should not be placed on the accident repairs and have refunded me!

  18. florida says:

    are you sure Amex Plat does not need to be used to pay for the car to have the insurance? It seems to me that was definitely required in the german version for some time now. Or is that only for the other travel insurance benefits.

    • Yes (but obviously you should check the policy rather than relying on me!!). You don’t even need to use the card to pay for flights or hotels – you are still covered for ‘big stuff’ however you pay. It is the little stuff (eg delayed luggage compensation) that you don’t get if you don’t pay on the Plat.

  19. Sarah Murray says:

    Hi, it’s worth pointing out that European car rental desks often charge more to Americans trying, because their credit card covers them, to decline any insurance. This is documented on travel forums in detail.

    The excess insurance available in the UK from insurance4carhire for travel in Europe, is purely for the excess (deductible) and is not at all equivalent to the full insurance available through Amex Plat, or American credit cards.

  20. http://www.iberia.com/web/webPartners.do?service=/web/showPartner.do&language=es&menuId=WPOTRS&idPartner=242947&idSector=644
    Hailo download Android or iPhone and register your Iberia Plus card. Therefore get 400 Avios welcome in Iberia Plus Spain