How to Save Money on Car Rentals [Points, Upgrades, Cash Savings, and More]

Car Rental

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When you’re traveling, the 2 biggest pieces of your travel budget are usually transit and accommodation. Normally, people think of transit as airplane tickets, both international and domestic. However, many of us know that car rentals can make up a large portion of your travel spending.

Since it constitutes a significant piece of the pie, it’s in your best interest to optimize that as much as reasonably possible. Car rentals can run you anywhere between $20-$200 per day, and that doesn’t include gas!

In this guide, we’ll walk you through how you can save money on car rentals. There are a number of ways, including using points for the car rental outright, utilizing elite status, as well as some more straightforward ways to find better prices. We’ll also talk about the benefits of using the right credit card for your car rental.

Use Points and Miles

The easiest way to save money when booking car rentals is to use points. However, you might not have enough points, or you might be saving your points for a first class flight, for example. Nonetheless, you may still rather save money on car rentals, especially if you’ve got extra points lying around.

When we’re talking about the different banks and points you can book car rentals with using points, you’ll notice one notable bank absent: American Express. You can’t currently use Amex Membership Rewards points to redeem for car rentals.

Let’s get into some of the cost-effective ways to use points for car rentals.

Chase Ultimate Rewards

Chase
Chase Ultimate Rewards offers up to 1.5 cents per point in car rentals! Image Credit: Tooykrub via Shutterstock

Chase Ultimate Rewards is incredibly useful both for redeeming for some amazing flights and for general travel via the Chase Travel Portal.

Depending on which cards you have, you’ll earn 1-1.5 cents per point in value when booking travel through the Chase Travel Portal:

Chase Ultimate Rewards CardChase Travel Portal Points Value
Chase Sapphire Reserve® card1.5 cents per point
Chase Sapphire Preferred® card1.25 cents per point
Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card 1.25 cents per point
Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card 1 cent per point
Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card 1 cent per point
Chase Freedom Unlimited® card1 cent per point
Chase Freedom® card1 cent per point

Keep in mind that you can freely move points between your Chase credit cards.

For example, if you hold the Chase Sapphire Reserve but put most of your spending on the Ink Business Preferred card, you can move points from your Ink Business Preferred card to your Chase Sapphire Reserve card to get the better redemption value for car rentals via the Chase Travel Portal.

When you do this, you’ll redeem fewer points to get better value. For example, a $100 car rental will cost 6,667 Ultimate Rewards points when you move your points to the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, as opposed to the inferior 8,000 points from the Ink Business Preferred card. This represents a ~17% savings!

Bottom Line: The Chase Travel Portal empowers cardholders to redeem Ultimate Rewards points at a maximum rate of 1.5 cents per point, which is one of the best, if not the best way to book car rentals using points.

Recommended Chase Cards (Personal)

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card - This is our favorite beginners travel rewards card which has a 60,000 point bonus (highest ever) after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

This sign up bonus is worth $750 in travel purchases (flights, hotels, car rentals etc) when you redeem your points through Chase's travel portal, which works like Expedia. The bonus alone could get you multiple round-trip flights or hotel stays.
Chase Sapphire Reserve® - Consider this premium card if you want to get into a lot of airport lounges. The current sign up bonus is 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. You'll also get a $300 travel credit per year which wipes away a big chunk of the $550 annual fee.
Chase Freedom Unlimited® - A simple, no annual fee card that earns you a $150 bonus after you spend $500 in your first 3 months. Earn 1.5% cash-back on all purchases, but you won't get any travel benefits or the ability to earn bonus points with this card.

Recommended Chase Cards (Business)

Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card - This is our #1 recommended business card and comes with a large 80,000 sign up bonus after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening. This bonus is worth $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards for travel purchases (flights, hotels etc). Pay your cell phone bill with this card to receive up to $600 in cell phone insurance coverage per year.
Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card - earn $500 bonus cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening. This no annual fee business card earns up to 5% cash back on a range of business expenses such as office supply stores, internet, cable, and phone services.

Hot Tip: Did you know that some Chase cards come with car rental benefits? Explore the Chase Sapphire Reserve card and Chase Sapphire Preferred card’s car rental benefits.

Citi ThankYou Rewards

Citi ThankYou Logo
Citi ThankYou Points are a solid way to save money on travel, including car rentals. Image Credit: Citi

Citi’s rewards program is called ThankYou Rewards, and its travel portal is called the Citi Travel Center. You’ll redeem your ThankYou points at a flat rate of 1 cent per point on car rentals, along with cruises and all other non-flight and hotel bookings.

Generally, this isn’t a recommended practice, as there are so many other ways to redeem Citi ThankYou Points for maximum value.

For example, you can book Singapore Airlines First Class Suites for 86,000 ThankYou Points transferred to Singapore Airlines. That ticket in cash would be $7,000+.

Still, if you’ve got more Citi points than you know what to do with, perhaps from the 5x points from the Citi Prestige® Card or the 3x points on general travel from the Citi Premier℠ Card, then you have the option of redeeming your points at a 1 cent per point value for car rentals.

Capital One Venture Rewards

Capital One Bank exterior
Image Credit: Heather Shimmin via Shutterstock

Capital One is one of the newer players in the credit card rewards scene. Still, it has fantastic cards to put your spending on, especially if you want a simple rewards structure that earns transferable points.

Hot Tip: There are tons of ways to redeem Capital One miles. Check out the comprehensive guide on the best ways to redeem Capital One miles now!

Once you’ve earned lots of Capital One miles, you’ll find that redeeming miles is pretty easy. When you use Capital One Travel, you’ll redeem Capital One miles at a flat rate of 1 cent per point, which includes hotels and flights as well.

Capital One’s proprietary online travel agency will award you 5 miles per dollar for hotel and car rental purchases made through Capital One Travel.

For example, if you used Capital One miles to cover a $500 car rental, you’d have to spend 50,000 miles. If you paid for a $500 car rental with your Capital One card, you’d earn 2,500 Capital One miles.

Recommended Capital One Cards (Personal)

Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card - This no annual fee card comes with a 20,000 mile welcome bonus (worth $200) once you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening. When you use your card for travel purchases (e.g. baggage fees), use your miles to pay off all, or part of, your statement! This is why we like this card.
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card - The "big brother" card to the VentureOne® with a larger 50,000 welcome bonus (worth $500) once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.

Bank of America Rewards

Bank of America exterior
Image Credit: Tero Vesalainen via Shutterstock

The Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Card is another great way to earn rewards redeemable for travel, including car rentals. When you pair it with Bank of America Preferred Rewards, you stand to earn up to 3.5 points per $1 spent on travel.

Bank of America also has “Travel Rewards” which aren’t as valuable. On one hand, Bank of America Travel Rewards points are redeemable for around 0.6 cents per point. On the other hand, Bank of America Premium Rewards are redeemable for 1 cent per point, and this includes cash-back!

If you happen to have points, you can redeem a minimum of 2,500 points in the Bank of America travel portal for a value of 1 cent per point.

Wells Fargo Rewards

Wells Fargo Bank exterior
Image Credit: Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo’s reward system is known as “Go Far Rewards,” and these points are earned on the following cards:

  1. Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card
  2. Wells Fargo Platinum Card
  3. Wells Fargo Propel American Express®
  4. Wells Fargo Visa Signature
  5. Wells Fargo Rewards® Card

Although the value of points spent on airfare is up to 1.75 cents per point, the value drops to a flat 1 cent per point for car rentals booked on the Wells Fargo portal.

You can also redeem points for cash-back at a flat 1 cent per point with a minimum of 2,000 points per transaction. You can also elect to get statement credits applied to your account instead.

U.S. Bank Altitude Points

U.S. Bank exterior
Image Credit: 4kclips via Shutterstock

Believe it or not, U.S. Bank, the fifth-largest bank in the U.S., has a bunch of rewards-bearing credit cards. These include the Korean Air and Radisson Rewards credit cards. However, it also has an ultra-premium credit card.

This credit card, known as the U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® Card, is one of the most useful cards out there. It comes fully loaded with these perks:

  • 3 points per $1 on travel and mobile wallet spending
  • 1 point per $1 on all other purchases
  • $325 annual statement credit for travel purchases
  • Priority Pass membership
  • 12 complimentary Gogo Inflight Wi-Fi passes per year
  • The ability to redeem points for 1.5 cents per point towards travel

The last bullet point is the most important: you can redeem U.S. Bank Altitude points for 1.5 cents per point on car rentals! This effectively matches the Chase Sapphire Reserve card’s redemption value, which is awesome.

Bottom Line: When you put all of this information together, you’ll see that using either the Chase Travel Portal coupled with the Chase Sapphire Reserve card or the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve enables you to redeem points at top-notch value: 1.5 cents per point. 

Use Points From Car Rental Rewards Programs

Now that we’ve covered using points from major banks to cover your car rental charges, let’s talk about points from the major car rental rewards programs. The only practical way for most of us to earn these points is through previous rentals with a particular company.

For example, if you travel frequently for work and rent using Avis (either through corporate contracts or your own preference), you’ll earn Avis points. Let’s discuss the points structure of each major car rental company.

Enterprise/Alamo/National

National Car Rental logo
Image Credit: JHVEPhoto via Shutterstock

National Car Rental, Alamo, and Enterprise Rent-A-Car all fall under the Enterprise Holdings, Inc. umbrella. However, you’ll find that the loyalty programs are actually different in many ways.

For example, National Car Rental’s Emerald Club will provide you with 1 rental credit for every qualified car rental. You’ll get a free rental day (up to a midsize) after earning 7 credits. What this essentially means is that after as little as 7 rental days (1 day per rental), you can get a free rental day.

Enterprise Plus, on the other hand, rewards you depending on how much you spend with them. You earn 1 point per $1 spent on the base rental rate. Free rentals start at 400 points with no blackout dates. This means you’ll need to spend a minimum of $400 on base rental rates in order to get a free rental day.

Alamo doesn’t have a rewards structure where you earn and redeem points for free rentals. Instead, it offers periodic deals for discounts off of car rentals (Alamo Insiders save 5% off of retail rates) or occasional promotions to earn a free rental day after 2 rentals, for example.

Hertz/Dollar/Thrifty

Hertz Car Rental
Image Credit: Ken Wolter via Shutterstock

Similar to Enterprise Holdings, Inc., the Hertz Corporation owns several brands. The largest ones are Hertz, Thrifty, and Dollar. Hertz offers an award chart for daily rentals as well as weekly rentals. These are further broken down by the car class. Here’s the daily rental award chart:

Hertz Daily Rentals Award Chart
Standard U.S. Reward Chart

Point Values Are per Day (Up to 4 Days)

Standard Rewards

Blackout Dates Apply

AnyDay Rewards

No Blackout Dates Apply

1 Free Rental Day750 Points1,500 Points
2 Free Rental Days1,500 Points3,000 Points
3 Free Rental Days2,250 Points4,500 Points
4 Free Rental Days3,000 Points6,000 Points
Specialty Vehicles

1 Free Rental Day

1,500 Points3,000 Points
Specialty Vehicles

2 Free Rental Days

3,000 Points6,000 Points
Specialty Vehicles

3 Free Rental Days

4,500 Points9,000 Points
Specialty Vehicles

4 Free Rental Days

6,000 Points12,000 Points
Hertz Adrenaline Collection

1 Free Standard Day

2,200 Points4,400 Points
Hertz Adrenaline Collection

2 Free Standard Days

4,400 Points8,800 Points
Hertz Adrenaline Collection

3 Free Standard Days

6,600 Points13,200 Points
Hertz Adrenaline Collection

4 Free Standard Days

8,800 Points17,600 Points
Hertz Prestige Collection

1 Free Standard Day

2,500 Points5,000 Points
Hertz Prestige Collection

2 Free Standard Days

5,000 Points10,000 Points
Hertz Prestige Collection

3 Free Standard Days

7,500 Points15,000 Points
Hertz Prestige Collection

4 Free Standard Days

10,000 Points20,000 Points

As you can see, the daily rate is applied for rental periods between 1-4 days, while the weekly rentals are applied if longer.

Here’s the weekly rentals award chart:

Hertz Weekly Rentals Award Chart
Standard U.S. Reward Chart

Point Values Are per Week (Up to 2 Weeks)

Standard Rewards

Blackout Dates Apply

AnyDay Rewards

No Blackout Dates Apply

1 Free Weekly Rental3,750 Points7,500 Points
2 Free Weeks of 8-14 days7,500 Points15,000 Points
Specialty Vehicles

Free Weekly Rental

7,500 Points15,000 Points
Specialty Vehicles

2 Free Weeks of 8-14 Days

15,000 Points30,000 Points
Hertz Prestige Collection

1 Free Weekly Rental

12,500 Points25,000 Points
Hertz Prestige Collection

2 Free Weekly Rentals of 8-14 days

25,000 Points50,000 Points
Hertz Adrenaline Collection

1 Free Weekly Rental

11,000 Points22,000 Points
Hertz Adrenaline Collection

2 Free Weekly Rentals of 8-14 days

22,000 Points44,000 Points

Lastly, you might find that you need to return your car to a place that is different from your original pick-up location. This is known as a one-way rental, and Hertz prices these as follows:

One-Way Rental Award Chart (Compact Through Premium Only)
Standard U.S. Reward ChartStandard Rewards

Blackout Dates Apply

AnyDay Rewards

No Blackout Dates Apply

1 Free Rental Day1,500 Points3,000 Points
2 Free Rental Days3,000 Points6,000 Points
3 Free Rental Days4,500 Points9,000 Points
4 Free Rental Days6,000 Points12,000 Points
1 Week7,500 Points15,000 Points

As far as earning goes, Hertz has adopted a spending-based rewards system where you earn 1 point per dollar on the base rate, in addition to things like insurance options, car seat charges, SiriusXM, gas, and more.

When you rent with Dollar, you’ll earn 1 point per $1 spent, and the free rentals start at 500 points for a weekend or 625 points for a weekday. Additionally, points can only be redeemed on compact, mid-size, standard, full-size, or SUV vehicles. Blackout dates also apply. Additionally, you can only redeem points within the U.S. and Canada.

Thrifty’s rewards program, known as Blue Chip Rewards, enables you to earn 1 point per qualifying $1 spent on rentals and redeem as little as 500 points for a free weekend rental day and 625 points for a free weekday rental day.

Here’s the full award chart for weekend, weekday, and weekly rentals on Thrifty:

Thrifty Blue Chip Free Rentals Award Chart 

(redeemable for compact, mid-size, standard, or full-size vehicles only)

Weekend RentalsRequired Points
1 Free Weekend Rental Day500 points
2 Free Weekend Rental Days1,000 points
3 Free Weekend Rental Days1,500 points
4 Free Weekend Rental Days2,000 points
Weekday RentalsRequired Points
1 Free Weekday Rental Day625
2 Free Weekday Rental Days1,250
3 Free Weekday Rental Days1,875
4 Free Weekday Rental Days2,500
Weekly RentalsRequired Points
1 Free Week Rental2,550
2 Free Weeks Rental5,000

Bottom Line: Redemptions are typically more expensive at Hertz, but that’s simply because the cars tend to be nicer compared to Dollar or Thrifty. 

Avis/Budget

Avis Car Rental
Image Credit: ricochet64 via Shutterstock

Avis’s loyalty program is called Avis Preferred. As a refresher, we’ll be describing how you can earn and redeem points.

There are 2 tiers of Avis:

  • Avis Preferred (base tier and no minimum requirements)
    • Earn 1 point per $1 on every qualifying rental and 2 points per $1 on accessories
  • Avis Preferred Plus (highest level)
    • Earn 1.25 points per $1 on qualifying car rentals and 2.5 points per $1 on accessories if you’ve had 12 rentals or spent $5,000 in the last calendar year
    • Earn 1.5 points per $1 on qualifying car rentals and 3 points per $1 on accessories if you’ve had 25 rentals or spent $7,000 in the last calendar year

Avis is unique in that it categorizes rewards into levels, which correspond directly with the standard daily rate. Reward dates start at 700 points per day, and you’ll pay this price for rentals that are priced up to $50 per day. Here’s the full award chart:

Reward LevelPoints per Day CostStandard Daily Rate RangeMaximum Value per Point
Level 1700$0 – $507.14 cents per point
Level 21,400$50.01 – $856.07 cents per point
Level 32,100$85.01 – $1255.95 cents per point
Level 43,500$125.01 – $2256.43 cents per point

The sweet spot lies in the Level 1 tier, as you can get as high as 7.14 cents per point in value. Also, the lower tier is going to be the redemption of choice for most people (looking for the cheapest available car).

How to Save Money Using Cash

If you’ve already decided on saving your points and paying with cash instead, you’ll still want to save as much money as possible, right? You’re probably saving your points for some incredible first class or business class redemptions — there’s definitely nothing wrong with that!

Here are some great ways to save on your rental car expenditures when you’re paying with cash.

Get Elite Status With Credit Cards

Paying with the Amex Platinum
Image Credit: American Express

Airline and hotel elite status, especially top-tier status, is ordinarily worth thousands of dollars — this doesn’t mean that we should be ignoring rental car elite status, however.

The Platinum Card® by American Express and The Business Platinum® Card from American Express both offer a range of car rental perks and discounts.

Here are the Amex Platinum benefits for car rentals:

  • National Emerald Club Executive Status
    • Executive Area Access — choose any car (full-size and above) and only pay the mid-size rate
    • Guaranteed Upgrades — you’re guaranteed upgrades on mid-sized vehicle rentals in the U.S. and Canada
    • No Second Driver Fees
    • Upgrades in Europe — free 1-class upgrades at participating National locations in the U.K., Ireland, France, Spain, and Germany
    • Special Pricing on Premier Selection Cars — special pricing on upgrades to the Premier Selection cars at the rental lot
    • Faster Free Rentals — earn a free rental credit after 6 car rentals instead of 7 car rentals
  • Avis Preferred Benefits
    • 25% off base rates with the Avis Worldwide Discount (AWD) code #756900
    • Complimentary 1-car class upgrade with the coupon code #UUNA007, subject to availability
  • Hertz Gold Plus Benefits
    • 20% off standard rates when using code 633306
    • 25% off premier rentals when a Saturday night is included (available for U.S., Canada, and European Hertz Premier rentals)
    • 4-hour grace no-charge period when you return a rental up to 4 hours late in most countries, and 2 hours in select countries like China and UAE
    • 1-car class upgrade, subject to availability (Premier rentals excluded)

The Chase Sapphire Reserve card offers these benefits for car rentals:

  • National Emerald Club Executive Status (same benefits as above)
    • 25% off all National bookings with code 5030849
  • Avis Preferred Benefits
    • 30% off all Avis rentals when using code S107100
  • Silvercar Benefits
    • 20% off all rentals when using code VISAINF20

The Chase Sapphire Reserve card comes with some of the best rental car insurance and benefits in the business.

The United Club card provides Hertz elite status as follows:

  • Hertz President’s Circle Status
    • 50% Earning Bonus — earn 1.5 points per $1 spent on Hertz car rentals
    • Guaranteed Upgrades — get a 1-class upgrade on car rentals at all participating locations
    • Choose Your Car in the Hertz President’s Circle Lot
    • 4 months CLEAR Airport trial — try CLEAR expedited airport security for free for 4 months (new CLEAR members only)
    • Hertz Valet — get picked up from or driven to the airport terminal free of charge (limited to 4 times per year)
    • Free Second Driver

The last credit card we’ll mention is the Citi Prestige card, which has benefits at Avis, National, and Sixt.

  • National Emerald Club Executive Status (same benefits as above)
  • Sixt Platinum Status:
    • Savings of up to 15% on Sixt rentals — save 15% on all rentals made through the MasterCard portal
    • Complimentary Upgrades to the Next Highest Car Group — subject to availability, receive upgrades to the next highest class of vehicle
    • Preferred Reservation Priority — receive priority on last-minute rentals booked under 24 hours from the time you’d like to pick up the car
    • Access to Sixt Platinum Counters/Parking Lots — skip the line and use Platinum lines when you pick up and drop off your rental car at select locations
  • Avis Preferred Plus:
    • Complimentary Upgrades — receive a car class upgrade subject to availability
    • Earn 25% more points on rentals — earn 1.25 points per $1 on rentals and 2.5 points per $1 on accessories
    • Priority Customer Support — get access to a Special Avis Preferred Plus phone number for reservations and support
    • Exclusive Monthly Email offers — exclusive discounts and offers sent to your inbox every month

Bottom Line: There are tons of different credit cards that offer car rental elite status. Be sure to examine your exact situation, pick a car rental company that fits your needs, and then find a card that offers the most utility for that particular rental company. 

Reserve the Lowest Tier Car

Compact Car
Image Credit: Fahroni via Shutterstock

This might seem obvious, but this strategy is somewhat nuanced. You’ll definitely save money by paying for the cheapest rate, however, you’ll often get upgraded for free because the car rental company has limited cars in each class available.

Similar to booking a basic economy ticket, not being able to make a seat assignment, and often finding yourself assigned to an economy plus seat, these upgrade procedures are subject to available inventory.

There are some situations in which you’ll pay for the lowest rate but end up upgraded, even without car rental elite status.

Leverage Autoslash

AutoSlash logo
Image Credit: AutoSlash

AutoSlash has been around for a long time. In fact, it made our list of best websites for finding cheap car rentals, which is a testament to its merit.

Here’s what the site does:

  • Find quotes for car rentals
  • Track and find cheaper car rentals within your parameters
  • Provide car rental coupons

Here’s how to get a car rental quote from AutoSlash. You’ll first want to visit AutoSlash’s homepage. Choose whether you’d like to pick up your car at the airport or not, along with the airport city/code. Click Continue.

AutoSlash homepage
AutoSlash’s homepage looks very simple. Image Credit: AutoSlash

Then, you need to decide whether or not you’re going to have the same pick-up and drop-off location:

AutoSlash Drop Off Location
Choose whether or not you’re going to drop off your car at the same location you picked it up. Image Credit: AutoSlash

Then, enter your pick-up and drop-off dates and times:

AutoSlash Pick up and drop off times
Choose your pick-up and drop-off dates/times. Image Credit: AutoSlash

After that, decide what class of car you’d like to rent:

AutoSlash Select a Class
You can select from a number of car classes. Image Credit: AutoSlash

You’ll then need to inform them of the various memberships or credit cards you have. AutoSlash asks for memberships and credit card holdings in order to search for the best car rental quotes, which will vary depending on which exact groups or organizations you’re a part of.

AutoSlash Quote Form
The AutoSlash Quote Form will ask you for your credit card holdings, memberships, and more. Image Credit: AutoSlash

Finally, enter your name and email. In a few minutes, AutoSlash will send you an email with the best discounts.

AutoSlash Personal Information
To receive a quote, you’ll need to provide them with some contact information. Image Credit: AutoSlash

The main difference between AutoSlash and other car rental portals is that AutoSlash is not instant. Quotes take around 2-10 minutes to show up in your inbox.

Bottom Line: AutoSlash is a fantastic way to find the cheapest car rental rates. It helps especially if you’ve got memberships such as AAA, USAA, AARP, and more

Consider Renting Away From the Airport

Person Looking At A Map At An Airport
Image Credit: qoppi via Shutterstock

Because airport car rentals are scarce and typically more convenient, they command a higher premium over off-airport car rentals. If you’re budget-conscious and don’t mind heading to an alternate location to pick up your car, you’ll often discover significant savings.

This isn’t necessarily because the rental company is hiking prices; rather, it’s often due to the ancillary government-mandated taxes and fees that the rental company gets hit with. These taxes and fees are then passed onto the consumer (you).

You might find massive savings anywhere from 40-60% off compared to airport pick-ups! This even makes taking an Uber or Lyft to the rental location an economically advantageous decision.

Decline the Optional Stuff

GPS
Image Credit: Andrey_Popov via Shutterstock

When you rent a car, you’ll be pitched a number of optional accessories, such as GPS, child safety seats, ski racks, snow tires, and even gas. Car rental companies make a ton of money on these add-ons, and none of them are required.

So, bring your own child safety seats and GPS and refill on gas before returning the car.

Don’t Get Scammed

Car Rental Inspection
Image Credit: View Apart via Shutterstock

Dealing with rental car disputes is one of the worst headaches you can ever imagine. In order to prevent getting hit with charges for damages that you didn’t cause, you need to document everything from beginning to end of your rental.

As a rule of thumb, you’ll want to follow this checklist:

  • Print out a paper copy of your reservation, the rental confirmation, and any other documents received
  • Take a walk-around of the car and take pictures of any and all existing car damage
  • Mark any and all existing car damage on the rental agreement car schematic
  • Photograph the car right before you return it as well

In general, following these steps will minimize your probability of getting scammed or getting hit with fictitious damage claims.

Shop Around for Low Prices, Discounts, and Coupons

Discount button save now
Image Credit: Olivier Le Moal via Shutterstock

As you shop around for rental cars, you might find a number of discounts, coupons, promotions, and more from various websites. Sometimes, these are stackable, which means that instead of saving 20%, you might be able to save 40%.

Google is your best friend here because different websites might have different coupons available for redemption. Starting your online booking at Rakuten can also earn cash-back on your reservation!

Hot Tip: Not sure where to find the best car rental prices? Check out these websites to find the cheapest price on your next rental car quickly and easily! 

Which Cards Should I Use to Pay for Car Rentals?

The cards you use for car rentals will invariably depend on the end goal you’re looking to achieve. Car rental insurance is a big deal (as it should be) for many people. Often, the incremental points you get from paying for your car rental with a rewards-earning credit card are outweighed by the rental car coverage.

As you’ll see, there is significant overlap between rewards earning credit cards and the cards with the best rental car coverage. Let’s see how the rankings round out.

Which Cards to Use for the Best Rental Car Coverage

Chase Sapphire Preferred
Image Credit: Chase

We’ve put together the definitive guide on the best credit cards for car rental insurance coverage, which details the cards with the best policies for car rental insurance.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred card and United Club card will provide primary collision damage waiver (CDW) coverage, which is industry-leading. Exclusions (like vehicle type, applicable countries, and liability coverage) may apply.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve card offers an identical benefit, except there’s a maximum of $75,000 per claim. In this sense, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card is actually better than the Chase Sapphire Reserve card because it doesn’t have a maximum covered amount.

Hot Tip: Renting a car for business? Both the Ink Business Preferred card and the Ink Business Cash card offer primary CDW in addition to so many other perks! 

Which Cards to Use for the Best Rewards

finance calculator glasses laptop
Image Credit: Natee Meepian via Shutterstock

Generally, car rental expenditures will fall under the “general travel” category put forth by credit card companies. You’ll do well to put your spending on the Ink Business Preferred card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve card for 2 reasons:

  1. Up to 3 points per $1 spent on travel (limits apply for the Ink Business Preferred card)
  2. Primary CDW coverage

You’ll also get 3 points per $1 spent with the Citi Premier card, but you won’t get the comprehensive car rental insurance coverage, which is probably more important than earning a few points.

Final Thoughts

Whew! Who knew that figuring out how to rent a car was so complicated? Car rental companies are in the business of maximizing profitability, so there are so many different tricks that they try to get away with.

Now you have a pretty comprehensive picture of how to use points from major credit cards as well as the car rental companies themselves to save money on rental days. Also, you’re equipped with some solid tips you can follow to save a pretty penny on your car rental spending.

Lastly, don’t forget to put your car rental expenses on a card that will provide solid car rental insurance and rewards.


The information collected and presented above regarding the Citi Prestige and the Citi Premier ard is independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided by the issuer. 


Frequently asked questions

Do car rental prices go down?

Many times, they do. If you wanted to track a specific car rental profile to see if similar ones that are cheaper pop-up, we’d recommend using the AutoSlash website.

AutoSlash can track car rentals for price drops.

How much does it really cost to rent a car?

There’s no way to provide a definitive answer on this, as it depends on car rental demand, supply, special events in town, and more.

In general, planning far out in advance means you can get cars for around $20 per day, plus any applicable taxes and fees.

Is it cheaper to rent a car from airport?

No. Airport authorities levy numerous taxes and fees on car rental companies to provide cars to travelers. In addition, there are a scarce number of cars that can be rented at an airport.

If you combine these 2 factors, you’ll find a recipe for massive price hikes. Consider renting off-airport to save 30-60% off of your rental rate.

How do I get the best price on a rental car?

AutoSlash has always been and continues to be the leading provider of cheapest deals for rental cars. We’d recommend taking your searches to AutoSlash.

It finds the best coupons and discount codes to lower your rates. It’ll also use your memberships (AAA, AARP, etc.) to find the lowest possible rates. It can also notify you if your price drops even after you booked your car rental.

Does my credit card cover rental car insurance?

It depends. The Chase Sapphire Preferred card, Chase Sapphire Reserve card, United Club card, Ink Business Preferred card, and Ink Business Cash card all offer primary car rental insurance.

The Amex Platinum card offers secondary car rental insurance.

Which credit card has best rental car insurance?

In general, Chase credit cards have the best rental car insurance. The Chase Sapphire Preferred card, Chase Sapphire Reserve card, United Club card, Ink Business Preferred card, and Ink Business Cash card all offer primary car rental insurance. The Chase Sapphire Reserve card, however, is limited to a maximum of $75,000 per claim.

How can I get cheaper car rental?

You can book the lowest available car class, use AutoSlash, find discounts/promotions, decline optional add-ons, use elite status, and rent away from the airport to save money on car rentals.

Refer to the contents in this guide for more information.

Stephen Au

About Stephen Au

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Stephen has been privileged to enjoy many premium cabin products and 5-star hotels. A petroleum engineer by trade, Stephen caught the travel bug in college when he traveled to Asia several times. After 2 years of continual promotions, Stephen quit his safe and secure career path in favor of entrepreneurship.

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