This article looks at how to earn Avios and other airline miles from car rentals.
The schools are nearly 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 which 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 here. 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.
You can also earn Avios with Avis’s sister company, Budget.
At Budget, you earn 2 Avios per £1 with a minimum of 250. 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.
If you are renting in Italy, Iberia Plus lets you earn miles with Italian rental group Maggiore. See this page of iberia.com for details and navigate to the Italian version of the site.
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. There is a particularly attractive deal for bookings in July 2019 (collection can be later) which will earn you 5,000 miles for any car rental over €500 booked via Lufthansa’s portal.
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
Le Club AccorHotels – Avis, Europcar, Hertz (excluding USA)
Marriott Bonvoy – Hertz, Sixt
Radisson Rewards – Alamo, Avis, Budget, Enterprise, National, Sixt, Europcar (from August 2019)
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.
Over the Summer, Hertz is running a major competition to win a share of 1 million Gold Plus Rewards points. We wrote about this on Saturday – click here.
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.
How to get FREE car rental status and other benefits via UK credit cards (January 2023)
If you hire a car in the UK, you can get special benefits (discounts, upgrades, free additional drivers etc) if you have elite status with a car rental programme. You can get elite status for free via certain American Express cards.
The Platinum Card and American Express Business Platinum
The Platinum Card from American Express and American Express Business Platinum come with two free car hire status cards. Your supplementary Platinum cardholder can also receive status in their own right.
From Avis, you receive President’s Club status in Avis Preferred. This gets you up to 25% off standard rates, a free additional driver and a guaranteed one class upgrade. For weekend rentals you will receive a two class upgrade, subject to availability.
From Hertz, you receive ‘Five Star’ status in Hertz Gold Plus Rewards. This gets you up to 15% off standard rates, a free additional driver and a one class upgrade, subject to availability.
Hertz also offers Platinum cardholders a 4 hour grace period on rentals. Your final day is treated as 28 hours, so a 1pm pick up with a 5pm return the following day is only charged as one day, not two days. We wrote about this offer here.
The Platinum Card also comes with full car hire insurance with no obligation to pay for the rental via American Express. You can refuse any attempts to sell you additional insurance at pick up. This benefit has substantial value if you rent on a regular basis.
You can find more details on the two Platinum cards, and apply, in our full reviews:
American Express Preferred Rewards Gold
American Express Preferred Rewards Gold is an excellent card in its own right. You receive 20,000 Membership Rewards points for signing up (convert to 20,000 Avios amongst other things), four airport lounge passes and £120 of Deliveroo credit. Even better, your first year is free.
There are two car rental benefits:
- you receive Preferred Plus status in Avis Preferred
- you receive a special package with Hertz – 10% off best available rates at participating locations, a one class upgrade for rentals of 5 days or more, subject to availability, and no additional driver fees
Find out more about the benefits of American Express Preferred Rewards Gold, and apply, in our review: