Rental car elite status may not be as glossy or perk-filled as airline elite status, but for many frequent travelers, it’s a necessity. Status typically translates to the luxury of getting directly into a vehicle (bypass the counter and head into the garage), complimentary upgrades (availability-based), and bonus points in the loyalty programs of rental agencies (equating to free rentals and more). What’s great is that these benefits kick in regardless of car category, price paid, discount codes, or corporate codes.
The standard path to rental car elite status entails surpassing a minimum annual spend (approximately $5,000) or an annual rental threshold (approximately10–12 rentals). Thankfully, a number of premium credit cards allow us to bypass these requirements and achieve elite status simply as a cardmember benefit.
Here, we look at the elite status programs of Avis, Sixt rent a car, and National Car Rental and how status can be achieved by simply having the right premium credit card.
Avis Preferred Plus®
The program: Attaining Avis Preferred Plus elite status requires a total of 12 rentals or spending $5,000 US dollars in a calendar year. Benefits include: skipping the counter; Avis Preferred Select & Go (pick your own car); complimentary upgrades (when available); bonus 25%–50% Avis Preferred Points for every qualifying dollar spent with Avis; and access to a special customer service support line.
Fast track: Holders of any World Elite Mastercard–branded card are entitled to a complimentary upgrade to Avis Preferred Plus by calling a Mastercard travel advisor at 1-855-802-1387. World Elite Mastercards include: Citi Prestige® Card, Mastercard® Gold Card™, Mastercard® Black Card™, and Mastercard® Titanium Card™. Note that the Avis Preferred Plus membership is valid only for US cardholders and only at rental locations in the United States.
No track: Holders of Chase Sapphire Preferred®, Chase Sapphire Reserve℠, Gold Card from American Express, Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, and U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite® Card are not eligible for this complimentary upgrade. However, cardholders of The Platinum Card® from American Express can input coupon #UUNA007 in their reservation to receive a complimentary one-car-class upgrade when available.
National Rental Car Emerald Club Executive®
The program: Attaining Emerald Club Executive status requires 12 paid rentals or 40 paid rental days in a calendar year. Benefits include: access to the Executive Selection area (from which you can pick any full-size or higher-class car even when you have reserved at a midsize car rate in the United States and Canada); guaranteed upgrades (always pay one car class less when you reserve a full-size or luxury car in the United States and Canada); an accelerated earning schedule (get one free rental day with six rental credits versus seven credits); no second driver fees; and priority service in Europe, Latin America, and the Caribbean.
Fast track: Holders of The Platinum Card from American Express are entitled to a complimentary upgrade to National Rental Car Emerald Club Executive status and can obtain this benefit by enrolling online or calling Customer Service at 1-800-525-3355. Holders of any World Elite Mastercard–branded card are entitled to a one-year complimentary upgrade by calling a Mastercard travel advisor at 1-855-802-1387. World Elite Mastercards include: Citi Prestige Card, Mastercard Gold Card, Mastercard Black Card™, and Mastercard Titanium card.
No track: Holders of Chase Sapphire Preferred, Gold Card from American Express, and Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express are not eligible for this complimentary upgrade. Note: Holders of Visa Infinite–branded credit cards such as Chase Sapphire Reserve and U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card are entitled to Emerald Club Executive benefits, but only when booking with the Visa Infinite contract code# 5030849. Pro Tip: Readers have had mixed luck with this code, as sometimes the benefits have not transferred as expected. In addition, many have reported higher rates with this code than those found with other coupon codes obtained on sites like Retail Me Not.
Sixt Rent a Car Platinum Level
The program: Platinum Level status or the Platinum Sixt Card is given to residents of Belgium, Spain, France, U.K., the Netherlands, and the United States renting more than 10 times per year. Residents of all other countries require 20 or more rentals per year to earn Platinum Level. Benefits include: up to a 15% savings on Sixt rent a car/rent a truck; up to 20% savings on Sixt limousine service in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and France (up to 10% in all other countries); complimentary 92 miles (150 kilometers) of additional mileage for Sixt luxury cars; complimentary upgrade to the next car group worldwide; complimentary double upgrade on rentals within the United States; special Platinum Sixt Card counters at select airports; and free additional driver(s) for all rentals in the United States.
Fast track: Holders of any World Elite MasterCard–branded card are entitled to a complimentary upgrade to Avis Preferred Plus by calling a Mastercard travel advisor at 1-855-802-1387. World Elite Mastercards include: Citi Prestige Card, Mastercard Gold Card, Mastercard Black Card, and Mastercard Titanium card.
No track: Holders of Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, Gold Card from American Express, The Platinum Card from American Express, Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, and U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card are not eligible for the complimentary upgrade.
Other Car Rental Agencies
Other car rental agencies such at Hertz, Alamo Rent a Car, and Dollar have their own rewards or loyalty programs, but the perks are not tiered by elite level. For example, Alamo Rent a Car offers a 5% discount and a skip the counter benefit for all members of the Alamo Insiders Club. Hertz and Dollar allow you to earn points through their programs, eventually redeemable for free car rental and rental accessories (e.g., GPS, satellite radio).