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

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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 guarantee extras like baby seats and may even be cheaper, especially when factoring in the value of the miles or the cost of getting to an off-airport depot.

How to earn Avios from car rentals

Avis is the official partner of British Airways Executive Club, and even has its own website at abg-britishairways.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.

For the last few months, you have also been able to earn Avios with Avis’s sister company, Budget.

You earn 100 Avios points per rental day.  This is valid for rentals of up to 30 days so you could do OK if you needed a car for an extended period.  All Budget locations worldwide are included.  Note that you do NOT get a free additional driver when renting with Budget as a BAEC member.  This benefit is only available with Avis rentals.

Iberia has historically had earning options via Iberia Plus.  After a number of years of changes, they are now mainly aligned.  Iberia does still let you earn miles with Italian rental group Maggiore.

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.

Miles & More also has a large list of partners (see here) – Alamo, Avis, Budget, Enterprise, Europcar, Hertz, National, Sixt and Thrifty.  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.  The rules are often different for promotions when the discount code and airline party may need to match.

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.

Hilton Honors – Alamo, Enterprise, National

IHG Rewards Club – Avis, Budget, Hertz

Le Club AccorHotels – Europcar, Hertz (excluding USA)

Marriott Rewards – Hertz, Sixt

Radisson Rewards – Alamo, Avis, Budget, Enterprise, National, Sixt

Starwood – Hertz, Sixt

World of Hyatt – Avis

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 can 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.)

New IHG promotion: 10% off points & cash redemptions in the UK and Ireland
Bits: see you at the party tonight; new Iberia '9000 Avios promo' developments
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Comments

  1. Stu R says:

    I booked an Avis rental via BA back in Feb, for rental in early May. Avios never posted (700 + 250 for BA Amex payment) and took several phone calls, emails etc to get sorted. BA even tried blaming Amex for not posting the bonus points!

    • Clare Gibb says:

      I booked Avis for a recent trip to get the 500 + 5,500 Virgin miles. Only the 500 miles have posted. Not pleased, and so far no response to my emails.

      • palcsaky says:

        My 5500 bonus miles eventually posted just over a month after the rental. 500 arrived within a week of rental. I did however fill in the online missing miles form about 2 weeks after the rental which may have helped get the bonus miles.

        • Same for me in that 3 rentals didn’t post the 5500 points but after a month they appeared without filling in a form.

  2. Seems an appropriate time to share my own car hire travel hack with VS/Alamo for multi city holidays in Florida, California, Nevada & Arizona.

    My Florida example….

    2 weeks in Orlando area = normal car hire

    Flying home via MIA…

    Return normal car, hire a one way VS/Alamo for a single day with Gold package for £7 extra / day to include free tank of fuel.

    I’ve enjoyed a Mustang/Camaro convertible for £60 for a day all inclusive of 200+ miles worth of fuel, nice way to finish off the hols.

    Obviously, it does involve the hassle of visiting a car hire depot again, when in Orlando, rather than returning to MCO there is a Disney depot which makes it much more accessible if visiting Disney Marketplace on an evening.

    Also this same trick can be done in between multi city breaks and with more average vehicles.

    Another added bonus us that you can earn more miles if there’s a fixed bonus / hire on offer. Means you don’t have to stick with VS/Alamo for the entire holiday.

    • Doug M says:

      I’ve done similar things previously to try a couple of different cars. But now prefer the no/low hassle option of a single rental. As regards one way rentals I find this hugely increases the randomness of the car you get. The depot will want to give you a car not their ‘own’. In fairness this can result in some great upgrades. Got a Ford Expedition with high spec once in Florida, had Nebraska plate I think. Another one way was again a high spec Traverse when I’d rented the most basic mid size.
      I think the key to car rental is to relax and not let it ruin the trip if you don’t get what you’d like. All the companies play the ‘or similar’ game, and you have to be as firm as you can, but ultimately if they offer you a car from the right group there’s not much you can do on a prepaid rental.
      I use the forums on FT to check the wiki for what’s in which class, and have a general idea of what I’ll accept with a smile. Only been properly disappointed once, Hertz and a Journey when I wanted a Durango, sad obcessive that I am 🙂

    • Chris says:

      Not sure i understand this properly, what’s the hack? that Alamo/VS have a one day one way deal?

      Had a quick google but i’m not sure what i’m looking for

      • Instead of dropping your car at the airport, drop it at another branch and take another car for the last spurt to the airport. Racks up another bonus.

        • Chris says:

          oh okay, doesn’t the one way charge massively offset any potential bonus for taking a second booking?!

        • Lady London says:

          @Chris in many US States there is no extra charge for dropping at a different location in the same State. Useful for Open Jaws too. I mean, who wants to go up Crocodile Alley in Florida again when you’ve been down it?

      • Lady London says:

        In the USA this might work as the authorisation they take on your credit card for potential damage etc., when you pick up the car is relatively low in most States.

        Try this in, say, France and you might find you’ve got 2*1100 Euros held on your card till it’s released. Excesses are still very high indeed in some European countries. (In others, they’ve come down over the years but there are stlll a few standouts like France with some of the hire companies.)

        Bearing in mind also, some car hire companies don’t keep the authorisation code under which the authorised amount was put on your card when you picked up the car. So they process the final amount on the return as a separate transaction thus not releasing the original authorisation taken until it naturally expires unused. Typically one week on a lot of cards. So even though you’ve not had the authorised amount taken, just the final amount of the rental, the full authorised amount can remain blocked on your card for longer than you might think. Hiring 2 or 3 cars in rapid succession could mount up then,

  3. Martin Seebach says:

    Regarding ensuring the location of the car rental location: AutoEurope shows you who you’re actually booking with. Also note that especially in smaller airports, the local agency whitelabels for the international brands. If that is the case, make sure that you check the local agency directly, booking through the brand is more expensive and doesn’t give any benefits (except possibly miles, and sometimes status benefits, although these are practically always “participating locations only”).

  4. RussellH says:

    I do not hire cars much, but did three last summer as part of one big trip
    1) Europcar £1 one way to LTN. Cost effective but a lot more hassle at LTN than I expected.
    2) A week from OAK. All car hire at a single off-airport location. Booked EasyRent – hired from Budget. Very significantly cheaper than any direct booking using an airline or hotel scheme “discount” code. A lot of pressure to “upgrade” a Ford Escort to a Cadillac – I call that a downgrade.
    3) Four days from LAS. Again, all car hire at a single off-airport location, a long way from McCarron Intl. Long queue to get served, total chaos at the car pickup point. Finally someone agreed to talk to me, they apologised for only having a “little Fiat 500”, which would have been great, except that a Nevadan Fiat 500 is a close relative of a Sherman tank. Booked through Netflights – again very much cheaper than going direct, but I always knew that it was an Alamo booking.
    I got excess insurance for all three through Avios – will this continue, I wonder? It was far cheaper than insurance4carhire, who insist on an annual policy for the USA.

    The pleasant surprise with all three was the total lack of interest in looking for scratches etc. on the bodywork that seems to be so common in some places. They just seemed desparate to get the car booked in so that it could go out again to someone else.

    The previous year I had booked direct, with Enterprise, in the small town in CA where my brother lives. This was cheap, but early May rather than July. I booked a small Kia, but they insisted that the smallest they had was a huge Nissan. And the level of service was far worse than I have seen in three bookings in the UK with Enterprise, all in completely different parts of the UK

  5. Anyone has an advise on how to get the best car hire deal in TLV airport? Every time I book a car there (using rentalcars.com as a broker) I am told by an agent at the airport desk that I need to buy insurance from them.
    Last time I argued that I have insurance through Amex Platinum, their reply was that “it is only a basic insurance, you also need other insurance (CWD?), and if you do use Amex insurance we will take $1400 deposit ” (which they tried to take from my card but failed so I had to buy insurance from them, that cost more than the car itself!!!).
    Your help would be much appreciated as I travel to TLV regularly and this insurance saga is becoming ridiculously expensive. Thank you!

    • the_real_a says:

      Its quite normal to take a deposit on the card BTW. Normally they will “open a tab” on the card but not actually take the payment. They want o ensure you have enough credit on the card ot be able to cover any excess payment in full.

  6. Since we’re sharing… My recent experience is that I should stick to one agency and get the frequent traveller rewards that way.It turns out that with an Amex Plat. it was a choice between Avis and Hertz, and Hertz kept giving me Renault’s which I hate so I stuck with Avis.

    I’ve had great upgrades (Merc C class, BMW 5 series), used their guaranteed model in California for a Mustang etc. I rent at least 10 cars a year so I’m in the President’s club, which gets you recognition in some places (Gare du Nord is hit and miss, Orly is a no-no, Germany horrible, but Denmark was great for example), and picking up from a US airport, especially SFO, means you walk past the reception desk to a board which shows your name and bay number, and onto the lot. Out on the road in less than 10 minutes once you get to the rental centre. And I get an annual free weekend voucher.

    Now all I need to find out is how you get into the Chairman’s club…

  7. DerekH says:

    Got Trailfinders to book my Avis cra from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town. Never received any Avios so filled in the form on the BAEC site to claim them. Received an acknowledgement back in March for a January 2018 trip. Since then, nothing. Am I ever going to get the avios or not? Never had to do this before but perhaps it has something to do with Trailfinders making the booking on my behalf?

  8. IslandDweller says:

    Declining ALL insurance isn’t necessarily a good idea. In Europe, it often triggers a higher base rate.
    Is usually cheapest to get the rate quote with base insurance included then decline all the extras – use Amex or other personal policy for that excess coverage.

  9. Be careful if renting in the US and crediting to a US FF programme (eg AA, UA) – many companies charge $1/day FF fee – often wipes out the points. Workaround seems to be to either credit to non-US programme or retroclaim after the rental.

    Autoslash.com is well worth a look – it will try and find the best discount codes to use. I got a very decent rate with them – click through to Priceline. Unfortunately Priceline were a bit opaque about any one-way fees, so applied same discount codes direct on Budget’s website and got 10-day one-way SUV rental for $326, which I thought was pretty good! Hertz, Avis, etc wanted about $1,000 for the same dates/locations.

    Hertz Gold Points useful but tricky to book online, often doesn’t work – call them instead and the rep can normally book. Used for time between Xmas and Hogmanay in Melbourne to drive Great Ocean Road, saved many hundreds of dollars as it’s a pricey time of year (all rental locations were fully booked out!)

  10. Polly says:

    Alan
    Hope your ears were red. We were just saying we missed your presence tonight. Our ozzie oracle! Thinking many of us would def trek up to Edinburgh for an event! How about it? Such a beautiful city. Nice mix this evening…

  11. Regarding insurance4carhire, the terms and conditions state that you have to be a UK resident (or a handful of other European countries).

    Currently outside the UK – will there be any issues (if I have to make a claim) if I use my UK address to purchase a policy?
    Or does anyone have any recommendations for UK expats?

    Thanks

  12. UK_Ship says:

    Rob – think Thrifty is no longer a M&M partner – its gone from the website and you can no longer do a retrospective claim

  13. UK_Ship says:

    I am based in Singapore (with Singapore licence) and use Worldwideinsure.com – about 60 GBP a year for wife and I to be covered – but it does only cover you for cars worth up to 50k – so if you get upgraded to something nice you are not covered… They also do not cover you in your country of residence, so if you are renting where you live it is not much use.

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