Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

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

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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 at carhire-ba.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.

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 pointsWe 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.

Comments (84)

  • NFH says:

    Another tip – if you book Avis through Amex Platinum travel, you get a flexible booking with payment on collection at the lower prepaid price. But make sure that they add your British Airways number to the booking. Avis.lu is often cheaper though.

  • Ben says:

    Are you not confusing two different types of insurance policies in the post, Rob?

    You wrote that Amex gives a full insurance and so are third parties. However the third party you quoted only offers an excess policy and not a full insurance.

    “Car hire excess insurance is not a replacement for car hire insurance. It is designed to reimburse you for the excess that you will be required to pay your car rental company in the event of a claim.”

    The excess insurance simply helps in reducing the liability to pay excess if the full policy has to be used.

    The driver still needs to have a full policy to cover against third party claims, theft and other risks.

    It is true that US consumers are quoted for the rent alone without the insurance and that in other countries the price is all inclusive.

    • Anna says:

      They often claim to be all-inclusive but bury in the small print that the excess can be as much as £1000.

  • Martin Lewis says:

    I have had a real and ultimately fruitless experience in attempting to book an Alamo Car rental in the USA through the Virgin’s Flying Club. Car rental was passed over to Virgin Holidays by VA a few years ago. So when booking a rental on the Flying Club website you’re ‘clicked through’ to the VH website. I travel to California each year for an extended stay of 35-40 days. Unfortunately the VA website has what appears to be a self imposed limit on its rental booking page of 28 days. After repeated calls with the excellent staff at the Flying Club HQ in Swansea and with staff at the Virgin Holiday help desk, who denied all knowledge of the Flying Club offer, I gave up and booked an Alamo rental with my usual provider Auto-Europe. Talking to the good people in Swansea it seems that communication between the Virgin Holidays and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club is not always as seamless as you would want or expect. The outcome is that I have ‘lost’ several thousand Flying Miles. I surely can’t be the only person who takes long ‘road trips’ in the USA.