BA sale

Holiday Tips 1 – Earning Avios and other airline miles from car rentals, and saving on insurance

Links on Head for Points may pay us an affiliate commission. A list of partners is here.

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.

(Want to earn more miles and points from credit cards?  Click here to visit our dedicated airline and hotel travel credit cards page or use the ‘Credit Cards Update’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

Holiday Tips 2 – earning Avios or other miles when ordering foreign currency
Virgin Atlantic's new A350 Upper Class Suite is now bookable!
Click here to join the 14,000 people on our email list and receive the latest Avios, miles and points news by 6am.

Hilton India and SEA sale
Amazon ad
BA sale
About Head for Points

We help business and leisure travellers maximise their Avios, frequent flyer miles and hotel loyalty points. Visit every day for three new articles or sign up for our FREE emails via this page or the box to your right.

Comments

  1. “be prepared to be asked for a substantial credit card authorisation to be taken when you collect the car”

    just make sure that it really does go through as an *authorisation*

    i hired a car from a fairly big company in the Canaries a few years ago with a 600 euro excess, and they took it as a payment rather than an authorisation !

    luckily the exchange rate didn’t move too much by the time it was refunded (and i was using Halifax Clarity – so no fx fee). but it could have been painful.

  2. Volker says:

    “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….a few thousand pounds”
    Does this refer to the previous paragraph – hire through a US website with minimal coverage – or is that your general experience, Rob? A regular user of third party insurance products, I always check the hire company’s T&Cs before booking, and I have never had a pre-authorisation for more than what had been stated there (e.g. £350 + anticipated rental costs) – if they bothered at all.

    • guesswho2000 says:

      I wonder this, I rented several cars in Canada last year, and rent in NZ a couple of times a year, always refuse the insurance, and never get any substantial pre-auth on the card.

    • Charlieface says:

      Only if the hire excludes CDW, which is what Rob was talking about

    • In the UK there is a legal cap on your liability anyway so they don’t need a big pre-auth.

      The US is uncapped (some states or nationally I don’t know) so you are liable up to the full value of the car and the rental company needs to know you’re good for that much if you decline insurance.

      • James67 says:

        What is the legal cap in the UK? I once got told my excess would be the full value of the car (£25k) at Hertz in London as I had accidentally declined CDW in my preferences online, I then had to pay a high rate at the desk for it. Was that illegal?

    • When I hired a car in Rio de Janeiro last year, Movida blocked BRL 12000 (GBP 2500) on my Amex Platinum card. But who cares? It’s not my money that’s blocked.

  3. guesswho2000 says:

    “Remember that crediting a rental to a hotel scheme may help delay the expiry of your hotel points.”

    Under IHG, only Avis is listed, but Hertz (as of about two weeks ago) also resets the clock with IHG, the points are elite qualifying too, which I wasn’t expecting.
    Goldpoints transfer, not a direct earn oppo – 600 Hertz=1,000 IHG. Not the best value in the world, but if they’re going to expire, you might as well.

    • AndyGWP says:

      I have tried and tried to figure out how to transfer hertz points to hotel partners but can’t find the option (or guidance) online. Can you recall how you did it?

      • AndyGWP says:

        Ugh. Not to worry. Just read comments on page 1

        • guesswho2000 says:

          If you can’t get it to work:

          Go to Hertz.com, login first (this is important) then manually change your region to EN/US, click your name, use my points, and Exchange appears.

          • Stu N says:

            Thanks – the good news is that I can now see the option to transfer points. The bad news is that the points I was going to transfer have expired since I last logged in.

            Oh well, it would only have been 1,000 Bonvoy points….

          • Brilliant! I’ve been able to cash out to Bonvoy. Now if I need to earn another 150 to transfer the rest. I would be a shame to waste 450 points. 🙂

          • AndyGWP says:

            Ooh. Cheers! Will have a dabble tomorrow. Thank you

  4. Slightly OT – for anyone who is unaware, if you book 2 vehicles via the BA website on one booking (e.g. next Easter we have a car for 3 days in MIA then another for 10 days in GCM), it’s treated as a package booking and you get the usual Ts and Cs that go with that.

  5. stevenhp1987 says:

    250 bonus points for paying Avis booking with BA card. Do they post separately to main Avis points?

    Had a rental back in April/May paid in my BAPP with no bonus points itemised…

    • I’d like to know this too. No sign of my 250 points from a rental in May/June.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

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

  8. 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.

Please click here to read our data protection policy before submitting your comment.