Maximizing Car Rental Status and National’s Free Rental Days

Rental car companies don’t have nearly the fully developed loyalty programs that airlines and hotels do.

I keep expecting Avis to re-launch their program, but that keeps not happening.

Both Avis and Hertz have really good top status tiers, but you cannot earn those just based on rentals. Hertz sells theirs. Avis actually does too each year as part of the US Travel Associatoin/American Express Daily Getaways.

Hertz will status match. The top tier they offer based on rentals is Presidents Club and that only gets you a guaranteed one car class upgrade.

National status matches too, usually though only in conjunection with their annual “1-2-Free” promotion. But their top tier — Executive Elite — only lets you earn a free rental day marginally faster, and lets you pick most cars rather than just up to full size when redeeming free rental days.

For most business travelers I think that the sweet spot is National’s Executive status. You get that free with American Express Platinum, and it’s been a part of the Premium membership package the last two years.

National’s program has for years let you pick any car from their Emerald Aisle as a basic member, and Executive members get to pick from the “Executive Aisle” which means incrementally better cars. I usually wind up with a Nissan, which I do prefer over say a Ford Taurus.

But I have Executive Elite status. My last two rentals have been free.

  • A 3-day rental using 1-2-Free rental days before they expired at the end of June. That was capped at full size.
  • A 3-day rental using free rental days. That was in Hawaii, and I picked a convertible.

I don’t think Executive Elite status is worth stretching for. But if you’re going to rent, then National makes sense for many. And if you’re going to wind up renting enough for that status, it’s nice to grab a convertible on Maui instead of just another sedan.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Did you have to negotiate for the convertible, or did the rep at National just give it to you as a complimentary upgrade?

  2. Just to clarify, if you have National’s top elite status, can you pick any car on the lot? I know there is an Emerald area and an Emerald Executive area. Is there an Emerald Executive Elite area? I get confused by National’s program because the elite statuses have similar names (it’s not like Silver, Gold, Platinum for airlines).

  3. One of the better things with ‘normal’ free day at National is that they are good for one way rentals. With hertz there is a points premium involved.

  4. @Gary Leff I thought Avis first and National Emerald Executive were their top statuses. Sorry for the misinformation!

  5. @johnf – no worries, a great reminder about world elite mastercard — i will feature your advice on that tomorrow. thank you!

  6. @Gary Leff
    I’m glad my wrongness was of help…ha. Maybe you could post some info on the free flight upgrades that are offered through the program. I assume that one has to buy higher fare tickets, but is it worth it, or are there any sweet spots? I called the travel company the other day, to see if there were specific fare buckets that qualified for free upgrades, but the agent said it was different for every airline.

  7. This isn’t hanging together. AFAIK, being a National elite doesn’t entitle you to anything more than a full size on free day rentals. Sounds like you got a little extra (blogger?) love.

  8. In addition to going through a portal and using a good CC, are there any more ways to maximize a National rental?

  9. If you’re willing to hunt through the many car rental discount codes/coupons, I think National provides the best value for customers in the entire travel industry. Good rates, excellent service, good cars and a decent rewards program (especially if you have occasional need for one-way rentals, which they include as their free days). In other words, pretty much 100% customer satisfaction. I can’t say that about anybody else in the travel industry.

  10. Gary, if you’d rather answer my question (see the first comment) by e-mail, that’s fine. I am genuinely curious to know the answer. Thanks.

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