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

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Stephen Au
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Stephen Au

Senior Content Contributor

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Stephen is an established voice in the credit card space, with over 70 to his name. His work has been in publications like The Washington Post, and his Au Points and Awards Consulting Services is used...
Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
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With years of experience in corporate marketing and as the Executive Director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Qatar, Keri is now Editor-in-Chief at UP, overseeing daily content operations and r...
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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:

SCROLL FOR MORE
Chase Ultimate Rewards CardChase Travel Portal Points Value
Chase Sapphire Reserve®1.5 cents per point
Chase Sapphire Preferred® card1.25 cents per point
Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card1.25 cents per point
Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card 1 cent per point
Ink Business Cash® Credit Card 1 cent per point
Chase Freedom Unlimited®1 cent per point
Chase Freedom Flex℠1 cent per point

Keep in mind that you can freely move points between your Chase credit cards, which you can then transfer to the Chase transfer partners.

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)

POPULAR FIRST CARD
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

U.P. Rating
The rating for this card has been determined by our own industry experts who know the in's and out's of credit card products. Bonuses, rewards as well as rates and fees are all taken into account. Compensation from the issuer does not affect our rating. We only recommend products we either use ourselves or endorse.

A fantastic travel card with a huge welcome offer, good benefits, and perks for a moderate annual fee.

Learn More(at Chase's secure site)

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

A fantastic travel card with a huge welcome offer, good benefits, and perks for a moderate annual fee.
Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
60,000 points
$1,200
$95
Upgraded Points credit ranges are a variation of FICO®Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit cardapplication.
Good to Excellent (670-850)

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® card is one of the best travel rewards cards on the market. Its bonus categories include travel, dining, online grocery purchases, and streaming services, which gives you the opportunity to earn lots of bonus points on these purchases.

Additionally, it offers flexible point redemption options, no foreign transaction fees, and excellent travel insurance coverage including primary car rental insurance. With benefits like these, it’s easy to see why this card is an excellent choice for any traveler.

Pros

  • 5x points on all travel booked via the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal
  • 5x points on select Peloton purchases over $150 (through March 31, 2025)
  • 5x points on Lyft purchases (through March 31, 2025)
  • 3x points on dining purchases, online grocery purchases, and select streaming services
  • 2x points on all other travel worldwide
  • $50 annual credit on hotel stays booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal
  • 6 months of complimentary Instacart+ (activate by July 31, 2024), plus up to $15 in statement credits each quarter through July 2024
  • Excellent travel and car rental insurance
  • 10% annual bonus points
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs like United MileagePlus and World of Hyatt

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • No elite benefits like airport lounge access or hotel elite status
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Enjoy benefits such as 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases, and $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, plus more.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get complimentary access to DashPass which unlocks $0 delivery fees and lower service fees for a minimum of one year when you activate by December 31, 2024.
  • Member FDIC

Financial Snapshot

  • Foreign Transaction Fees: None

Card Categories

Rewards Center

Chase Ultimate Rewards

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

U.P. Rating
The rating for this card has been determined by our own industry experts who know the in's and out's of credit card products. Bonuses, rewards as well as rates and fees are all taken into account. Compensation from the issuer does not affect our rating. We only recommend products we either use ourselves or endorse.

A top player in the high-end premium travel credit card space that earns 3x points on travel and dining while offering top luxury perks.

Learn More(at Chase's secure site)

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

A top player in the high-end premium travel credit card space that earns 3x points on travel and dining while offering top luxury perks.
Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
60,000 points
$1,200
$550
Upgraded Points credit ranges are a variation of FICO®Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit cardapplication.
Excellent (740-850)

If you’re looking for an all-around excellent travel rewards card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® is one of the best options out there.

The card combines elite travel benefits and perks like airport lounge access, with excellent point earning and redemption options.  Plus it offers top-notch travel insurance protections to keep you covered whether you’re at home or on the road.

Don’t forget the $300 annual travel credit which really helps to reduce the annual fee!

Pros

  • 10x points on car rentals, hotels, and dining booked via the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal
  • 10x points on Lyft purchases March 31, 2025
  • 10x points on Peloton equipment and accessory purchases over $250 through March 31, 2025
  • 5x points on airfare booked via the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal
  • 3x points on all other travel and dining purchases; 1x point on all other purchases
  • $300 annual travel credit
  • Priority Pass airport lounge access
  • TSA PreCheck, Global Entry, or NEXUS credit
  • Access to Chase Luxury Hotel and Resort Collection
  • Rental car elite status with National and Avis

Cons

  • $550 annual fee
  • Does not offer any sort of hotel elite status
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $900 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more
  • Member FDIC

Financial Snapshot

  • Foreign Transaction Fees: None

Card Categories

Rewards Center

Chase Ultimate Rewards

Business owner? See our list of the best Chase business credit cards.

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 Miles

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.

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.

Recommended Capital One Cards (Personal)

TOP PICK
Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit CardTerms Apply / Rates & Fees

Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

U.P. Rating
The rating for this card has been determined by our own industry experts who know the in's and out's of credit card products. Bonuses, rewards as well as rates and fees are all taken into account. Compensation from the issuer does not affect our rating. We only recommend products we either use ourselves or endorse.

The Capital One Venture X card is an excellent option for travelers looking for an all-in-one premium credit card.

Learn More(at Capital One's secure site)

Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

The Capital One Venture X card is an excellent option for travelers looking for an all-in-one premium credit card.
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel.
75,000 miles
$1,350
$395
19.99% - 29.99% (Variable)
Upgraded Points credit ranges are a variation of FICO®Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit cardapplication.
Excellent (740-840)

The Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card is the premium Capital One travel rewards card on the block.

Points and miles fans will be surprised to see that the Capital One Venture X card packs quite the punch when it comes to bookings made through Capital One, all while offering the lowest annual fee among premium credit cards.

Depending on your travel goals and preferences, the Capital One Venture X card could very well end up being your go-to card in your wallet.

 

Pros

  • 10x miles per $1 on hotels and rental cars purchased through Capital One Travel
  • 5x miles per $1 on flights purchased through Capital One Travel
  • 2x miles per $1 on all other purchases
  • $300 annual travel credit on bookings made through Capital One Travel
  • Unlimited complimentary access for cardholder and 2 guests to 1,300+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and the Partner Lounge Network
  • 10,000 bonus miles awarded on your account anniversary each year
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit
  • Add authorized users for no additional annual fee (rates & fees)
  • No foreign transaction fees (rates & fees)

 

Cons

  • $395 annual fee (rates & fees)
  • Does not offer bonus categories for flights or hotel purchases made directly with the airline or hotel group, the preferred booking method for those looking to earn elite status

 

  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive a $300 annual credit for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,300+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and the Partner Lounge Network
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Elevate every hotel stay from the Premier or Lifestyle Collections with a suite of cardholder benefits, like an experience credit, room upgrades, and more
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®

Financial Snapshot

  • APR: 19.99% - 29.99% (Variable)
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: None

Card Categories

Rewards Center

Capital One Miles

 

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit CardTerms Apply / Rates & Fees

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

U.P. Rating
The rating for this card has been determined by our own industry experts who know the in's and out's of credit card products. Bonuses, rewards as well as rates and fees are all taken into account. Compensation from the issuer does not affect our rating. We only recommend products we either use ourselves or endorse.

Get 2x miles plus some of the most flexible redemptions offered by a travel credit card!

Learn More(at Capital One's secure site)

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Get 2x miles plus some of the most flexible redemptions offered by a travel credit card!
Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel.
75,000 miles
$1,350
$95
19.99% - 29.99% (Variable)
Upgraded Points credit ranges are a variation of FICO®Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit cardapplication.
Good to Excellent Credit (670-850)

The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is one of the most popular rewards cards on the market. It’s perfect for anyone in search of a great welcome offer, high rewards rates, and flexible redemption options.

Frequent travelers with excellent credit may benefit from this credit card that offers a lot of bells and whistles. And it offers easy-to-understand rewards earning and redemption.

Pros

  • 5x miles per $1 on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
  • 2x miles per $1 on all other purchases
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit
  • No foreign transaction fees (rates & fees)
  • Access to Capital One transfer partners

Cons

  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your miles to get reimbursed for any travel purchase—or redeem by booking a trip through Capital One Travel
  • Enrich every hotel stay from the Lifestyle Collection with a suite of cardholder benefits, like a $50 experience credit, room upgrades, and more
  • Transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs

Financial Snapshot

  • APR: 19.99% - 29.99% (Variable)
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: None

Card Categories

Rewards Center

Capital One Miles

Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit CardTerms Apply / Rates & Fees

Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card

U.P. Rating
The rating for this card has been determined by our own industry experts who know the in's and out's of credit card products. Bonuses, rewards as well as rates and fees are all taken into account. Compensation from the issuer does not affect our rating. We only recommend products we either use ourselves or endorse.

The card offers unlimited miles at 1.25x per $1 and no annual fee. When you consider the flexible rewards, frequent travelers come out on top.

Learn More(at Capital One's secure site)

Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card

The card offers unlimited miles at 1.25x per $1 and no annual fee. When you consider the flexible rewards, frequent travelers come out on top.
Earn a bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $200 in travel.
20,000 miles
$360
$0
19.99% - 29.99% (Variable),0% intro on purchases for 15 months
Upgraded Points credit ranges are a variation of FICO®Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit cardapplication.
Good to Excellent (670-850)

Interested in a travel rewards credit card without one of those pesky annual fees? Then say hello to the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card.

In addition to no annual fee, the Capital One VentureOne card offers no foreign transaction fees.

But is this card worth its salt, or is it merely a shell of the more popular Capital One Venture card?

Pros

  • No annual fee (rates & fees)
  • No foreign transaction fees (rates & fees)
  • Ability to use transfer partners
  • Fraud coverage
  • Travel assistance services
  • Auto rental insurance

Cons

  • Weak earn rate at 1.25x miles per $1 spent on all purchases
  • No luxury travel or elite benefits
  • $0 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
  • Earn a bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $200 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 1.25X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options
  • Use your miles to get reimbursed for any travel purchase—or redeem by booking a trip through Capital One Travel
  • Transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Enjoy 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months; 19.99% - 29.99% variable APR after that; balance transfer fee applies

Financial Snapshot

  • APR: 19.99% - 29.99% (Variable),0% intro on purchases for 15 months
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: None

Card Categories

Rewards Center

Capital One Miles

Bank of America Rewards

Bank of America exterior
Image Credit: Tero Vesalainen via Shutterstock

The Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Credit Card is another great way to earn rewards, including on car rentals.

Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card

Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card

U.P. Rating
The rating for this card has been determined by our own industry experts who know the in's and out's of credit card products. Bonuses, rewards as well as rates and fees are all taken into account. Compensation from the issuer does not affect our rating. We only recommend products we either use ourselves or endorse.

The Bank of America Premium Rewards card is a great travel rewards card for those looking for a simple approach to earning and redeeming rewards.

Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card

The Bank of America Premium Rewards card is a great travel rewards card for those looking for a simple approach to earning and redeeming rewards.
Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend at least $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.
50,000 points
$500
$95
18.24% - 25.24% Variable
Upgraded Points credit ranges are a variation of FICO®Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit cardapplication.
Good to Excellent (670-850)

The Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card is a great option for anyone looking for a travel rewards card with a simple approach to how you earn and redeem your rewards.

From travel and purchase protections to airline incidental and Global Entry credits, there is plenty to love about the Bank of America Premium Rewards card.

Plus, those that hold status in the Bank of America Preferred Rewards program can get even more value from the card by boosting their rewards by 25% to 75%!

Pros

  • 2x points per $1 on travel and dining purchases
  • 1.5x points per $1 on all other purchases
  • Up to $100 annual airline incidental statement credit
  • Global Entry/TSA PreCheck statement credit
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Travel protections
  • Purchase protections
  • Boost your rewards rate with the Bank of America Preferred Rewards program

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Points are worth a fixed 1 cent per point, so it isn’t possible to get outsized redemptions via airline and hotel transfer partners
  • Receive 50,000 online bonus points – a $500 value – after you make at least $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.
  • Earn unlimited 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases and unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • If you’re a Bank of America Preferred Rewards member, you can earn 25%-75% more points on every purchase. That means you could earn 2.5-3.5 points on travel and dining purchases and 1.87-2.62 points on all other purchases, for every $1 you spend.
  • No limit to the points you can earn and your points don’t expire.
  • Redeem for cash back as a statement credit, deposit into eligible Bank of America® accounts, credit to eligible Merrill® accounts, or gift cards or purchases at the Bank of America Travel Center.
  • Get up to $100 in Airline Incidental Statement Credits annually and TSA PreCheck®/Global Entry Statement Credits of up to $100, every four years.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • Low $95 annual fee.
  • This online only offer may not be available if you leave this page or if you visit a Bank of America financial center. You can take advantage of this offer when you apply now.

Financial Snapshot

  • APR: 18.24% - 25.24% Variable
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: None

Card Categories

With the Bank of America Premium Rewards card, you’ll earn 2x points on travel and dining purchases, noting that car rentals are considered “travel” as thusly earn 2x points. With all this earning, you can redeem for cash back as a statement credit, gift cards or purchases at the Bank of America Travel Center, and more.

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 Visa Signature
  4. 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 Americas 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
  • 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:

SCROLL FOR MORE
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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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 card’s 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
  • Audi on demand Benefits
    • Up to 30% off all rentals when using code VINFINITE25

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

The United Club℠ Infinite Card provides Avis elite status as follows:

  • Avis President’s Club Status
    • 2 car class upgrades
    • Guaranteed availability
    • Expedited service

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 SIXT 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

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

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

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

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

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

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 regarding the Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card, Wells Fargo Platinum Card, Wells Fargo Visa Signature, and Wells Fargo Rewards® Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer. 

The information regarding the Chase Freedom Flex℠ was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
The information for the Citi Prestige® Card has been collected independently by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
The information regarding the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
The information regarding the United Club℠ Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.

For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.
For rates and fees of The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.

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's image

About Stephen Au

Stephen is an established voice in the credit card space, with over 70 to his name. His work has been in publications like The Washington Post, and his Au Points and Awards Consulting Services is used by hundreds of clients.

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