Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

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

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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.

(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.)

Comments (84)

  • Alex says:

    Interesting regarding the Amex Plat insurance, I always figured that it was mandatory to use that card to pay. So I’ll be using the BAPP from now one.

    It does raise a question from me though, because I qualify for the Avis President’s club most years, will bookings via the carhire-ba.com website count towards re-qualifying with Avis? It’s too useful to allow myself to drop a level, and I get some Avios when I book direct with Avis anyway.

    • NFH says:

      Why would you want to use the BAPP if the charge is not in GBP? You’ll be paying a 3% surcharge. It’s far better to use Amex Platinum as for the guarantee and then pay the charge for the hire itself with Revolut or Curve, funded by a points-earning Visa or MasterCard.

      • Alex says:

        I pre-pay in pounds on the AVIS UK website, there’s no FX fees for that.

    • Thomas Howard says:

      I get credits towards Avis Preferred when booking via Qantas.com so I’d assume you would via BA.com

      • AJA says:

        +1
        My Avis Preferred account shows number of rentals taken towards next level status. Currently 0 as I only joined Avis Preferred earlier this year and my upcoming rental in Sept will be my first.

    • Doug M says:

      My Avis BA bookings appear in my Avis account and show as rentals with Avis, so I’m pretty sure it’s fine. Rates can vary between Avis direct and Avis BA, but I find the BA route is usually the cheaper. Try various discount codes, but overall the BA route is the best and for me most straight forward. Always have the preferred quick exit with BA bookings, so I think it’s just like Avis direct.

    • Charlieface says:

      Normally yes, make sure you enter your Avis number at booking. If your really worried, get the relevant AWD code and use it on avis.co.uk (or avis.ie which is often cheaper)

  • Martin Seebach says:

    Once when I declined all car rental insurance and was treated to the stories of armageddon that would await me if I had an accident, the clerk (I think Goldcar somewhere in Spain) asked if I had American Express insurance, because they would not cover. I don’t have the platinum and am getting insurance through one of the cheap online places, so just said no and shrugged it off. But I did wonder what she might have meant — I find that usually, they’re not flat out lying, they’re just confused about some detail and extrapolating from there. Any ideas?

    • Aston100 says:

      Goldcar in Spain (well, Malaga at least) have a seriously bad reputation.
      Just look at all the negative feedback on TripAdvisor for example.

      • S says:

        Goldcar in Malaga literally lied through their teeth. I asked what the charge they would putting on my card was for, and if it was refundable. They said its for petrol, to be refunded on return of full tank. In reality, it was for every single add-on available (speedy return, super cover, diesel surcharge etc etc) and never saw the £150 again.

    • NFH says:

      About Goldcar, see page 13 of July 2019’s Which magazine. They say “And then there’s Goldcar. If you take one thing from this page, I implore you – do not hire with Goldcar. Yes, you can book five days’ hire in Malaga for under €5 – but it won’t really cost €5. For years, the company has been finding ever more ingenious ways to rid you of your holiday spending money. Sometimes it doesn’t even bother to tell you why you’re several hundred points poorer. It doesn’t have to – it’s got your credit card details“.

  • NFH says:

    Always compare the Avis UK price (which BAEC seems to use) with the Avis.lu price, particularly when hiring within the Eurozone, e.g. in Spain. Avis.es can be a lot higher than Avis.co.uk, whereas Avis.lu is a lot lower than Avis.co.uk.

    Remember that Regulation (EU) 2018/302 has made it unlawful since 3rd December 2018 for a business in the EEA to charge different prices based on the consumer’s EEA country of residence.

    • Reeferman says:

      Always good advice to check as you suggest.
      Nevertheless, I wonder how enforceable this EU reg really is. What happens if, for example, the Company is having a “sale” in one Country – surely it cannot apply to all countries in the EEA at the same time. Also what if the parent company is in a non-EEA jurisdiction such as Cayman Islands or USA – does this still apply or this a potential “loop hole”?

      • Doug M says:

        Of course the EU can’t regulate the Cayman Islands or USA. Perhaps your name goes some way to explaining. If they trade in the EU they abide by the EU rules.

      • Doug M says:

        If you book the cheaper ex-EU itineraries on One World, you often on more complex routings have to use AA rather than BA, as they have a better multi-city option. That often then involves booking through AA in Germany, they can’t, and wouldn’t, want to exclude you because you don’t have a German address.
        As a footnote to this, Mr Shoestring could rig his Amex Gold equation even more in his favour by getting 3 MR points on a Euro Airline booking.

        • Reeferman says:

          Despite the insult, I’ll try and clarify for you.
          If you book on an EU website BUT the parent Company is incorporated outside of the UK, does this rule still apply? On the one hand, they are obviously trading in the EU but the EU cannot regulate a company outside of the EU of course.
          As I also said, what if the company said it was having a sale in one or more countries of the EU. That wouldn’t apply to ever single EU country at the same time, so a potential loop hole I would have thought.
          I’m no lawyer and maybe all of these potential exceptions are covered in the lengthy reg.
          Bottom line is to obviously to always check around as the OP said.

          • NFH says:

            It makes no difference where the business or parent company is incorporated. That’s irrelevant. Any activity carried out in the EEA is covered by the EU regulation. And of course the EU can regulate activities carried out in the EEA by a non-EEA entity.

      • NFH says:

        What do you mean by “a sale in one country“? Do you mean for residents of one country or for services supplied in one country? If it’s the former, then it would be unlawful to exclude residents of another country from the sale. If it’s the latter, then it’s fine, because it’s not based on residence.

    • Charlieface says:

      It’s the currency, no regulation on dynamic conversion (which is a shame) hence Hertz and Avis charging entirely different (as in completely unrelated) prices on UK, EU, US and Australia sites for the same actual rental location and dates

      • NFH says:

        No, it’s not about currency. Otherwise the Avis.lu price would be the same as the Avis.es price. Whereas in reality, Avis.lu is a bargain and Avis.es is a rip-off.

  • ADS says:

    “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.

  • 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

    • Rob says:

      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?

    • NFH says:

      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.

  • 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….

          • meta says:

            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

  • Anna says:

    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.

  • 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…

    • Kim says:

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