Renting a car can be a pain. It’s a pain on your sanity with all the strange rules and policies of the rental companies. And it’s also a pain on your wallet, with rentals costing way more than you want to pay.
I’ve rented my share of cars over the years, and in the process, I’ve figured out how to pay as little as possible. Below, I share my best tips for getting cheap car rentals every time. (more…)
You guys all remember Wayne, right?
He’s the guy who wrote the epic “How to Circumnavigate the Globe for Less Than $500” here on EPoP that just got published in the brand new Travel Beyond Excuses Magazine.
Exclusive bonus just for EPoP Readers: Because both Wayne and I were featured in the latest issue, you can get a free 3 month subscription to the magazine.
Well, now he’s back, and he’s here to teach you how to use orphaned Chase points to save money on car rentals.
Have at it, Wayne!
I consider myself The Practical Traveler. I do what I can to save money while also maximizing convenience and fun.
I have had a few extra expenses as of late which led me to try and save money on a recent trip.
That is when I realized how AMAZING and flexible the Chase Ultimate Rewards system is for travel whether you’re booking Flights, Hotels, Cars, Activities, or Cruises.
A few weeks ago I went on a trip to Kansas City for the lovely wedding of a couple friends.
I didn’t know anybody there, so I’d have to get a rental car.
Using Points for Getting a Rental Car
Since I was trying to save money, I decided to try to use my points to snag a rental car.
I’m sitting on a stash of Amex and Chase points, so I decided to do a little digging and see which offered the best value.
I bet you can guess which one won out!
Using Amex Points- A Major Hassle
With AMEX MR the booking process is a bit odd as you get an electronic certificate to redeem.
5,000 points will land you a $50 certificate, 7,500 for a $75 certificate and so on.
All point levels are a 1 cent per point value.
You are instructed to search for the vehicle you want (Avis, Enterprise, and National are the only three options) and you have to search on the actual rental car site.
Once you find what you are looking for, return to the MR site to buy the proper e-certificate with points, then go back to the rental car site and make your purchase entering in the proper number from the certificate on checkout for your credit.
Sound like a hassle?
That’s because it is.
Using Chase UR Points- A Treat
I decided to check out the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal to see what they had to offer and boy, am I glad I did.
First, with Chase UR everything is done through one website.
No searching rental car sites, no certificates.
Second, no rigid point tiers.
You only use the amount of points required for the booking or less if you choose!
The process is simple.
- Log into the Chase UR website.
- Mouse-over the Travel menu.
- Select Flights, Hotels, and Car Rentals from the drop down.
- Perform your search for a car.
On the Chase UR site you get the ultimate selection. You can choose from Thirfty, Dollar, Hertz, Alamo, Enterprise, Budget, National, and Avis.
As you can see, the information is posted in a nice grid letting you know how many points or how much cash it will cost you for each vehicle tier under each company.
This is where the magic of Chase UR really shines.
When you find the vehicle you would like to rent and select Payment Options you see a new section open.
This section contain your option for car redemption.
You’re given 3 options:
- using all points,
- all cash
- or points + cash!
Start adjusting the amount of points in the left box and the cash in the box on the right automatically adjusts.
The great thing about this is you can use any amount of points between zero and the full amount needed for your purchase!
Any person who has ever joined the points/miles game knows that orphan point totals are common.
“How am I ever going to use 2,374 points?”
If they are Ultimate Rewards points, Chase handles that issue masterfully.
Since you can use any amounts of points you want, you’re never left with stray points!
The points are also worth a fixed value of 1.25 cents per point, which 25% more valuable that AMEX MR in this situation.
Once you decide on the points you want to use, simply select Add to Cart and checkout when you’re ready.
Just like that, I was able to achieve my two goals:
- Use my orphan Chase points.
- Save $58 on my car rental.
Bonus: Quick Tip for Getting a Hotel
I also needed to find a hotel in Kansas City, so I checked out a few options for booking hotels with reward points.
In the end I thought they weren’t worth the cost in points, so I opted to use Priceline to book the hotel.
If you go the Priceline route, you should definitely use a really helpful site called Bidding Traveler, which will show you the lowest prices that get accepted for cities around the world.
Accepted bids on Priceline can be over 50% off the regular rate, saving you a huge chunk of money.
Using your Chase Ultimate Rewards points for a car rental is the ultimate way to save a few bucks, use orphan points and book with the complete ease.
The $58 I saved on a car rental?
I was able to use that money for dining and drinks over the weekend with my friends, which took a lot of strain off my weekend budget.
It was a wedding trip, after all, and weddings are about celebration.
Who wants to spend that kind of trip thinking about expenses?
Have you ever used your Chase UR points for something other than a transfer to a partner? If so, what did you find to be the best use?
PS- Don’t forget to get your free 3 month subscription to Travel Beyond Excuses!
Renting a car can often be confusing, frustrating, and worst of all, expensive. But it doesn’t have to be.
Because of the
dynamic price-gouging nature of car rentals, the tips below could end up saving you over 50% off the “regular” price.
And with all these savings, you may actually find renting a car enjoyable…as long as you keep an eye on the speedometer!
1. Deny the insurance
I get it: you’re not a risk taker and you want to be covered. No worries!
If you’re renting a car in the United States and already have car insurance, your car insurance should cover a rental car (just call to make sure).
If you are renting in the US and don’t have car insurance, book your rental car with a credit card that offers supplemental insurance as a perk. This includes all Visa signature cards, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase British Airways, or Hyatt credit card, and many World Mastercards as well.
If you’re unsure about what coverage your card offers, check out this great breakdown by NerdWallet or this infographic from Lifehacker. You can also call your credit card company directly.
If you’re renting internationally, the supplemental insurance that the credit card offers usually becomes primary insurance, and so once again, you’ll be covered.
2. Say no to the GPS
You don’t have to turn the clock back to the 20th century and use only a map and the stars, but don’t get the GPS the rental company offers. If you’re renting in the US, simply use your smartphone’s map function.
This option is also available when renting internationally as well. Instead of a $13 a day GPS, get a new SIM card for your phone (make sure your phone is unlocked first).
In most countries, $15 will get you data plan large enough to use the map for a few days and also be able to answer email and check Facebook!
3. Fill up where it’s cheapest
A no brainer. But oftentimes, especially when traveling between countries, you aren’t aware of the difference in gas prices, which can be dramatic. Do your homework ahead of time.
In Spain, the gas prices hovered around $7.50 a gallon. Insane, right?
That’s what I thought until I got to Portugal, where I was paying $8.50 a gallon!
I was cursing myself for not filling up at the border and determined to not make that mistake again. I put in just enough to roll out of Portugal on fumes and fill up at it’s much cheaper Iberian neighbor!
4. Use Rentalcars.com or Kayak as a starting point but always check the actual rental car websites.
Using Rentalcars.com or Kayak or any other search engine is a great way to find out a decent range of what you should pay for a rental car. However, always make sure to actually check the rental car companies websites as well.
On my last trip, rentalcars.com wanted 192 euros for a 10 day rental from Europcar. When I went to Europcar’s actual site, the same rental priced out at 150 euros, a whopping 25% less.
A few minutes of work can save you a nice chunk of change, especially on long rentals.
5. Avoid airport pickup
It’s not always the most convenient, but if you can avoid picking up the car at the airport location, you can save some big money.
Most rental car companies will place a charge on to your rental for picking it up at the airport, sometimes up to $30.
Instead, save those shekels and head to a secondary location to pick up the car. If you’re in a big city, there should be plenty of options and they should be located conveniently around public transport.
Hop on the metro, get away from the airport, spend the extra money on a nice lunch, and then pick up your car.
6. Always return the car full
Fill ‘er up!
This has to be one of the biggest scams out there, right up there with the Nigerians princes offering you millions for your bank account information.
The rental car companies will charge you 2x or 3x more than the gas station for a gallon of gas, so if you don’t return the car full, you’ll be paying HUGE amounts to have them fill it.
Also, never agree to pre-pay for gas. You’ll be charged upfront for a full tank of gas and unless you return it completely empty, you’re losing money.
Instead, simply opt for the “return on full” option…and then make sure it’s full!
7. Earn bonus frequent flyer miles for your rental
Before renting, always make sure to check the Frequent Flyer Bonuses website to see what type of bonuses are being offered by each car rental company.
All you’ll have to do to get the bonus(es) is give them your frequent flyer number when renting the car and it should post automatically.
Who doesn’t love free miles!
8. Grab a discount code
Rental car companies are always offering special discounts for all types of things, from business rentals to AARP members.
A simple Google search of “(Your Car Rental Company) discount code” will return a ton of hits. Look through the first few sites and see what type of codes there are. Then, use those codes to get up to 50% off your rental!
9. Use hotel status to score perks
Oftentimes, if you have status with a hotel chain or two, you can score some perks with the rental car companies as well. For example, my Gold Status with Hilton earns me a 25% discount with most major car rental companies.
Hotel status can also earn you perks like free upgrades or a free GPS rental (while I don’t recommend paying for GPS, if it’s free, take it!).
These extra perks MAY be stackable with promotions offered by discount codes, meaning you’d be able to use your status to get the perks AND use the discount code you found online. Call the company up to make sure.
If they aren’t stackable, simply choose the one that is the best offer.
10. Don’t speed
As someone who has racked up speeding tickets in multiple countries, do as I say and not as I do.
There’s nothing worse than opening an envelope from the Victoria state police four months after your vacation has ended and being hit with a couple hundred dollar speeding ticket.
Of course, if you aren’t planning on returning to that destination for awhile, and the statue of limitations might be over by then, and you have a significant other who could rent the car in their name next time, then…maybe speeding isn’t so expensive after all.
As long as you do a little bit of homework, renting a car should never cost you an arm and a leg. Just denying the insurance they push on you can save you a huge amount of money.
Couple that with using your own GPS, scoring a discount code or two, and quickly checking multiple websites for the best price and you’re staring down some big savings.
And always remember, return the car on full!
What tips do you have to save money on car rentals? Do you have a memorable car rental experience? Share them below!
(photos courtesy of carlo montoya, bricktraveler)