Holiday Tips 1 – earning Avios and other airline miles from car rentals

The sun is out, so  I thought it was a good time to update our ‘Holiday Tips’ series in preparation for the Summer season.   Future articles will look at earning miles from credit cards abroad, from foreign currency and 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 British Airways Executive Club, 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 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, at a rate of 100 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, Enterprise, National 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.  Enterprise and National are new for 2017.

Miles & More also has a large list of partners (see here) – Alamo, 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.  This is especially useful for Accor as there are few other ways to avoid the ‘one stay per year’ rule.

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

World of Hyatt – Avis

Marriott Rewards – Hertz, Sixt

Hilton Honors – Alamo, Avis, Budget, Enterprise, Europcar, National, Sixt

Starwood – Avis, Budget, Sixt

IHG Rewards Club – Hertz

Le Club AccorHotels – Europcar, Hertz (excluding USA)

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.

(Want to earn more Avios?  Click here to visit our home page for the latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios from current offers and promotions.)

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Comments

  1. I’ve used insurance4carhire and similar outfits, and they only cover the excess, not the full insurance costs. I’ve never found a way of getting round paying the extremely steep cost of full cover in America or the Caribbean, while American travellers seem to get it as standard on their ordinary credit cards!

    • But you cannot, by law, get rid of the rest in most places. In the UK you cannot rent a car to someone without there being a cap / excess in place. insurance4carhire must cover you for everything above the legal minimum or they wouldn’t have a product, surely?

      • As per their website, this is their top cover (I used their cheaper Europe cover last year – fortunately didn’t need to claim)

        Worldwide Plus America Car Hire Insurance Cover

        Supplemental liability insurance (SLI) up to $1 million

        Collision damage waiver (CDW insurance) up to $170,000

        CDW and SLI cover is specifically applicable to Canada, the USA, South America, Central America and the Caribbean
        Worldwide excess on damage and theft up to £6,500
        Covers damage to the windows, undercarriage, roof, tyres and headlights not otherwise covered by damage waivers from car hire companies
        Multilingual international emergency assistance – just text “HELP”.
        Damage caused by using the wrong type of fuel: up to £500 per claim and £2,000 per year

        Towing costs associated with mechanical breakdown
        Car rental key cover up to £500 per claim and up to £2,000 per year
        An unlimited number of rentals for a full year for up to 60 days at a time
        You (as the policyholder), plus up to seven additional drivers named on your rental agreement
        Drivers aged 21 to 85 years old (inclusive)
        Buy now, start your policy up to 12 months later
        Flat battery cover up to £1,000 per year
        Late pick up charges due to an unscheduled flight delay

        • Thanks for this, I must have gone straight to the excess cover page previously. I am now going to cancel my hire car insurance for August which would have been $287 and Pay £109.99 instead. Another example of how helpful this blog is!

  2. I purchased a policy from carhireexcess.com which covers everything in Canada / US – the additional premium wasn’t cheap, but I’m sure it was less than the rental company.

  3. Someone asked this the other day but the answer wasn’t very clear. Does th Amex Plat insurance cover you if the named person who booked the car hire is the supplementary card holder and not the main card holder. My hubby took out the Plat card just before our first trip this year and got the automatic upgrade and was covered for the excess car insurance. We now want to cancel this card and do a referral so I can I have the card for our 2nd trip but he will be the supp card holder and the main person on the car booking. Don’t want to cancel the first card then find out we are not covered.

    • Genghis says:

      What do the T&Cs say?

      • Just got hubby to read them again. PAge 10 under the “definitions T&Cs” says the suppl card holder is covered by the insurance benefits so think we are ok.

        • Yep, you’ve got supp Plat card so should be fine – wouldn’t be quite so confident if on supp gold

          • (assuming they’re just hiring in their own name that is and not a hire that you’re also named on)

        • Liz, l am in that exact same position currently on a rental in dub. I am the supp cardholder this time, and am fully covered as per the t and c. So you will be ok. I thought l was clear the other day, as l was discussing it before l left for Dublin. Didn’t realise as per comment below that named drivers are covered too. That’s interesting as my oh needed cover for one day, and it was real hassle adding him on. Will look at this again. As Amex says, as long as you have a plat name in your name, you are fine.

    • Nate1309 says:

      Similar question, I have the AMEX Plat, So if I hire a car I know my insurance is covered. But want happens if the additional driver does not have AMEX Plat? Is it the car that is insured because it is in my name, or is it me personally that is insured and should the additional driver crash they are not covered? (Normally not a problem as my wife has Plat, but sometimes away with family and my dad doesn’t).

      • Genghis says:

        I encourage everyone who has such a card to read the T&Cs. I heard a story recently of people having to have a whip round to raise £20k to repatriate a body to the UK as the guy had no travel insurance. Obviously car insurance is a bit different but still… Need to know the ins and outs of your policy.

        https://www.americanexpress.com/uk/content/pdf/card-products/platinum-charge-card/UK_Platinum_Charge_Insurance_Documentation_v1_0.pdf

        To answer your specific question, it would appear your Dad would be covered, “These benefits apply to drivers named on the rental agreement which You are named on, subject to a maximum of 5 drivers”

        • Nate1309 says:

          Thanks Genghis

        • Absolutely. Many many people travel without insurance. Same with lack of home insurance etc.

        • Totally support this – the T&Cs are fairly clearly written, well worth reading through thoroughly if you’re going to rely on the benefits. I also keep a copy of them in my Dropbox (marked as an offline file) so always accessible for me when away. Of course I also keep a Dropbox sub-folder for all the booking confirmations whenever I’m going on a trip but I’m known for being a bit overly organised in that way 😉

          • We keep a copy also, very useful to pull up and check. Plus a copy of trip reps claim system for delays or offloads!

  4. Alex W says:

    I have been impressed with autoslash.com. They get very cheap prices from the main car rental companies and somehow seem to bypass any extra one-way fees.

    I have started using Hertz since I got the free upgrade to Presidents Circle from Accor Platinum match. In 3 rentals we have never had a single upgrade and not even once had the car ready to jump straight in on arrival. The latter is supposed to be a “key” benefit. Not sure if it’s because they were 3 new countries requiring a licence check. But I prefer to go on holiday to a new country each time so that is very annoying. Despite this I’ll stick with them to earn Marriott points!

    • I also got President’s circle through Accor Platinum (from Amex Plat). Hertz do make it clear – if not always obviously so – that “Gold Service” is only available at certain rental locations. I’ve rented 4 times from Heathrow since being upgraded and received notification of which bay number the car was ready and waiting before I arrived. Simply got in and drove straight to the exit where they check drivers licence and get a signature.
      Most recently in Prague it still took about 15 minutes for them to do paperwork, do credit card authorisation, fetch car from basement, etc.
      Even there, I’ve had 100% success with upgrades with President’s Circle without ever needing to ask for it (booking category B & C and receiving better than that).

      • Simon Schus says:

        Hi all,

        Any idea how long the President’s circle CDP lasts from Accor Platinum?

        1 year? Until the Le Club Accor status moves below the Platinum level?

        :)

    • Nick M says:

      I use the Amex CDP (from Gold Charge Card I think?) – I’m fairly sure that I have received an upgrade every time and the free additional driver… (I can only remember having to argue the point on one occasion). I still ensure that the car I select will be suitable for us, but I’ve been v happy with my experiences

    • Interesting- I had 5* from Amex then PC from Accor. Never an issue getting Gold Canopy Service at eligible locations (used lots in Oz and US) – can be a massive timesaver at some locations – 20-person queue last time I landed at SFO (could go straight to car and drive off) and 10-person queue in Melbourne CBD after Christmas (could go downstairs and get processed immediately) – has kept me going back to them! Sadly availability for using Hertz GPR points seems to have reduced, had some really good deals with them before too.

  5. Concerto says:

    My German Miles & More credit card covers me for car rentals.

  6. Lev441 says:

    Does any one know of any rental companies that give you points when booking rentals from a corporate account. We currently use Sixt for regular van rentals of mixed sizes for the business but they only give points when booking not using corporate rates / not having vehicles delivered & collected…

    • Virgin / Hertz gives 500 miles on corporate rates – whether that means booked privately using a company rate code or booked via a company account I don’t know.

      • Lev441 says:

        Interesting, i may need to revisit Hertz as an option again… a while back when I asked hertz if they gave anything for corporate rates they told me a big fat no..

      • thehornets says:

        Rob – any tips on how to make this happen? I’m forced to book work rentals through Concur so no opportunity to add Hertz CDP or PC codes as far as I can tell. Thanks!

        • Why not just retroclaim the stays afterwards via the online Hertz portal?

          • thehornets says:

            Thanks Rob. Already follow that route but find Hertz customer service via their website slow and generally poor.

          • @thehornets the Hertz website is sadly pretty rubbish – for example I routinely received 0 points for bookings made direct via their website and prepaid! – however their Twitter team are pretty good at resolving issues satisfactorily, so I’d get in touch with them.

  7. Did anyone go for the recent 9000 avios / avis / iberia offer? I just had a car for the weekend, and am wondering when to expect the points.

    • Yes – I got mine posted the Saturday after the rental. So about 5 days!

  8. Amex don’t cover camper vans.

  9. Rob

    In your table for hotel partners you forgot to include Hertz as a partner of Accor. They offer 3 Accor points per Euro and 10% off with occasional promos with improvements to points and discounts. Points earned this way might help reset Accor point expiry (in your recent article on the subject there was a comment with evidence this was the case for Europcar)

  10. Be aware that some brands / individual franchise locations of certain brands, now always take a “charge”, not a “hold”, for the excess deposit unless you buy their own very expensive excess waiver product. Enterprise in the UK and RoI always seem to “charge” me, and Hertz seem to at some locations. Where it’s a GBP charge to a GBP card you only have the possibility of the refund occurring after the statement issue date, so you are out of pocket for 1+ month giving free working capital to the rental location. Where its a non GBP charge to a GBP card you take all risk/reward in any FX movement between charge date and refund processing date. If you’re looking at large excess amount charges and subsequent refunds the FX risk becomes more relevant.

  11. According to VA website it says:

    “*Show your Flying Club membership card at the Alamo counter when collecting your car in the USA and Canada.”

    Thats all very well but as a “Red” member I don’t have a card.

  12. Aisling says:

    Thanks for the info about BAEC members getting discount, Avios AND free additional driver with Avis! I use Avis a lot, but never knew about the free additional driver, which is a huge benefit in terms of cost! I will definitely use this benefit in future!

  13. Scallder says:

    OT (apologies) but miles and holiday related

    Just had an email through from Virgin saying they’re making transatlantic flights on Delta (for those ticketed after 1st September), the same price as Virgin reward seats.

    Therefore as opposed to 90k for a return in biz, after September it’ll be 95k off peak to Boston, JFK and Philly; 115k to Atlanta, Detroit and Minneapolis; and 135k to Portland and Salt Lake City. All those amounts are 20k higher in peak periods.

    • Great ….

      • Yes – just got that email too, however it stresses that you will earn the same on Delta as Virgin. Is that a benefit or a loss?

        I guess the reward price increases are hidden down the page somewhere.

        • It is a loss, apart from economy off-peak redemptions. For earning, in economy, even where it looks the same (eg economy is still 50% – 150% of miles flown), it is worse because far fewer ticket types now earn 100% or 150%. Business is better.

          US West Coast peak in Business jumps from 90k to 155k return ….

        • Interesting, no such email for me – despite saying I’m OK to receive these sorts of emails I find the VS/BA/Hilton have great difficulty sending me them. Melia seem to email me every couple of days about offers though!! :(

  14. Off-topic, but Qatar Airways has been voted Skytrax Airline of the year 2017. Richly deserved IMHO. BA? In 40th place LOL
    http://www.airlinequality.com/news/qatar-airways-is-voted-the-worlds-best-airline-in-2017/

    • Scallder says:

      Cruz wanting to run it like Norwegian – clearly got some way to go as they’re up at 28!

      • Norwegian is built from the ground up as a low cost airline, which is why you can do stuff like order meals for cash, whenever you feel like it, via the touch screen TV in your seat. Some people prefer that to a rubbish free meal served when the crew want you to eat. The whole staff and culture is also built around this which is why it works (if that is what you’re after).

        • Scallder says:

          Fair enough. Perhaps BA will take more notice of the ranking of First Class (19th, behind Saudi Arabian Airlines, China Southern and Oman Air), and (perhaps unsurprisingly), they didn’t even rank in the top 20 business class products…

  15. I usually shop around – find the car I want for a price I am prepared to pay.
    Then look up on any earning program to see if its at least the same.
    Does not alway pay to collect points.

  16. Yes we’re typically one of these once a year renters! For the past couple of years (in Scotland) we’ve used Avis with BA and found it very efficient and hassle-free. A pre-authorisation was taken on my card and removed on returning the car. Just this last time when I brought the car back they tried to tell me to leave the keys and “it would be OK” (for them). I insisted they inspect the car to confirm there was no damage, which they did. We buy top-up insurance from Direct Car Excess Insurance and for a small saloon it cost around £14 for a 4 day hire (which they count as 5 days as they work on a calendar rather than 24hr basis).

  17. Andrew says:

    OT (sorry!). Just received an email from BA saying my flights to and from Bergen for November have been cancelled. What are the chances of them:
    1) letting me rebook to a more expensive destination (Oslo maybe) and covering the extra at their end; and
    2) refunding me the non-refundable hotel booking I’d made in Bergen (directly via Club Carlson). Will teach me for booking non-refundable, I guess.

    • I have the rules. Oslo is an acceptable change but you get to Bergen at your own cost. Zero chance of a hotel refund.

      • “Passengers have an absolute right to re-routing as Article 8 of EU reg 261:2004 when your flight is cancelled.” I would interpret this as they have to get you to Bergen, even if it’s on another airline.

        I had some flights to Germany cancelled a few months ago (2 x RFS plus one cash). I accepted an alternative destination as it wasn’t an issue, however BA refused to reimburse us for what was a cheaper flight on the cash ticket. This was utterly petty and ridiculous as I got round it simply by cancelling that ticket and re-booking the cheaper flight.

        • Andrew says:

          Thanks both! Not wedded to Bergen – happy to try Oslo and will have to suck up the cost of an additional hotel. At least OSL has a decent lounge. Every cloud…

        • Anna, gld you got that BA mess sorted out. No wonder they were voted 40th in sky trax. Really, BA don’t give a hoot about inconvenience it appears. Just dump you wherever they can, and you have to sort out their mess.
          And yes these days, we always book refundable hotels, car hire etc etc even when going ex EU, as plans can change, unfortunately.

  18. I tend to stick with Hertz (President’s Club) as have had a very poor experience with Avis but the past couple of Hertz rentals I’ve booked specific cars (not just group) which then turned out not to be available. In one case I was given an acceptable alternative but in the other the booked LR Discovery was replaced with “the best we have” Vauxhall Mokka plus I was told that as the UK had now left the EU I needed to show a passport!

    • the real harry1 says:

      Europcar seem to upgrade car every time as well, this time (Summer hols) I’ve booked a Mini hoping to get a BMW 5 Series

      • Very funny! H, don’t you keep a car out there, as you are over the so much?

  19. I have an Avis car hire booking today, but have so far been unable to assign my BAEC number to he booking. Do bookings need to be made through BAEC to qualify, or am I missing something obvious?