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. 

Earlier articles looked at the best credit card to use abroad, the best way to earn miles when ordering foreign currency and earning miles when booking airport car parking.

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 Avios or miles opportunities. There are plenty of low-cost consolidators like easyCar or Holiday Autos who are used by the big car rental 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 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.  Iberia Plus is your only option to earn Avios from Budget.

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 and Alamo deals are particularly attractive at 1,000 miles per rental, with Avis and Sixt offering 500 miles for short rentals.

Miles & More also has a large list of partners (see here) – Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz and Sixt.  You will find similar deals with any other airline scheme to which you belong.  British Airways is in a minority by having an exclusive car rental partner.

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

Hyatt Gold Passport – Avis

Marriott Rewards – Hertz

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

Starwood – Avis, Budget, Sixt

IHG Rewards Club – 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.

Singapore Airlines launches Manchester - Houston and Manchester - Singapore
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About Head for Points

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Comments

  1. jarvester says:

    Totally OT but did not find any live Amex Plat threads where to ask this. I hold an Amex Plat which I am now ready to cancel after having hit the sign up bonus. Questions as follows, help much appreciated and apologies if this has been asked before:
    1. My wife is a gold card holder – can I refer her for a Plat upgrade and get the referral bonus? If the answer is yes (wishful thinking0 will she still be getting the £15k points on £1k spend?
    2. If I register for one of the Amex BA cards before cancelling my Plat, will I be able to keep all my MR points on my account after I cancel? Don’t want to transfer to Avios unless totally necessary. If the answer is yes, will I be able to apply for a Gold/Plat card after six months and get the sign up bonuses credited to the same account?
    3. Can I be referred by my wife and get the enhanced sign up bonus for the Amex BA card?
    Thanks a lot for your help!

    • 1. No
      2. No, must empty your MR account
      3. No, only a BA can refer a BA

      • jarvester says:

        Thanks Rob – I thought that would be the case but worth asking

        • Genghis says:

          To explain:
          1) you can only refer for same reward currency
          2) you can only have one card with the same reward currency

          • You can have a Gold and a Platinum but you won’t get a bonus on the 2nd card.

            You can’t have both BA cards.

            Amex is odd like that :-)

  2. I’ve renting 4 times with Hertz since getting the Gold Rewards status with Amex Platinum a few months back. Have about 1000 points in Hertz Rewards. Now learn that Virgin Flying Club give you 1000 each rental. Presume you have to take Flying Club miles instead and can’t double dip? How do you do switch to Flying Club? Not found on Hertz’s site…

    • You either need to add it during booking or, if you don’t take Hertz points either, retroclaim using the form on the Hertz site. If you’ve got Hertz points you can’t change that.

  3. Hi where do you enter your virgin member number when booking? Thanks