Many of you might have already heard about or taken advantage of the ongoing Hertz Triple Points and National’s One Two Free car rental promotions. I’d like to point out that those offers may not be as lucrative as they sound, at least for leisure weekend travelers.
Let me share two of our Hertz car rental receipts from the past two weekends. The one on the left was for a two-day rental in Denver, CO, and the one on the right was for a two-day rental in San Jose, CA. For each rental, I received 600 Southwest points, valued at $10 (but in our case $20, thanks to the Southwest Companion Pass, practically making the rentals free).
As shown above, because of a generous $10-off-per-weekend-day coupon, the base rates for two days were only $8.50 and $4.48. The majority of charges were taxes, facility charges, and frequent flyer surcharges.
Now, let’s take a look at the Hertz and National promotions separately to see why they might not be the best for leisure weekend travelers.
Hertz Triple Points Promotion
Hertz has its own Gold Plus Rewards program, and you can earn 1 point for every base rate dollar paid for car rentals, fuel options, insurance, and equipment rentals. When you choose to earn Hertz Gold Plus Rewards points, you forgo the opportunity to earn frequent flyer or hotel points.
Once you accumulate 500 Hertz points, you can get one free weekend-day rental. You would have to spend $500 (excluding taxes and fees) without the promotion or $167 with the promotion to earn that free weekend day. Even if you value that free weekend day at $100, the rebate is only 20% or 60% (in reality, we know that a restricted free weekend rental day would not be worth that much).
You might argue that my recent rentals had unusually low prices, so let’s assume a normal weekend daily rate of $15. With the triple points promotion, we are looking at 1 free weekend day for every 11 paid weekend rental days ($167/15=~11). This again translates into a ~9% rebate with the promotion.
National One Two Free Promotion
This is the second time National is offering this promotion. It sounds great, but if you take a look at the fine print at the bottom of the offer page you will quickly realize that a qualifying rental has to be at least 2 days long with a mid-size or larger car. Therefore, the simplest rebate calculation in this case is “buy 4 get 1 free,” a 25% rebate.
Most National weekend dollar-off or free-day coupons require a 3-day rental, so it is harder to score a spectacular deal like the Hertz ones. For example, when I booked the San Jose rental with Hertz, I checked National’s rate for a mid-size car for the exact same rental period. For those of you familiar with National, this $9 daily rate was probably as good as it could get, but the total cost was still twice as much as that of Hertz’s.
With the National One Two Free promotion, two separate 2-day rentals with National would give you a free rental day. You can combine up to 3 free-day rental certificates in a single rental. Those free-day certificates work like a coupon so you won’t be able to apply any other promotional discounts and are still responsible for all the fees and taxes.
If you have earned those free-day certificates cheaply on weekends and are able to use them on weekdays when rates are typically high, then this promotion might still make sense. Otherwise, if you are planning to use them for weekend rentals, chances are you will be better off getting a cheaper rental with Hertz and credit your rentals to Southwest or another program of your choice.
Conclusion – Going back to Hertz
To recap, as a leisure weekend traveler with no reimbursable travel expenses, I’d stick with utilizing AAA rates combinable with good coupons. Most of the coupons can be found on Hertz’s very own website, as I outlined in my very first rental car post. For a list of AAA coupons, check out this page. If you already have your AAA membership but have never rented with Hertz, you can receive a FREE Hertz Gold membership ($60 per year) plus 600 Hertz points (enough for a free rental day).
Hertz now allows you to pick your own car with a mid-size rental reservation (one of the key selling points of National). I personally always prefer smaller fuel-efficient cars to larger ones, and intentionally reserve small cars even if larger cars cost the same. Three weekends in a row now, we were given a Nissan Versa, which got us 35 mpg on average. With all the driving to and from National Parks, a serious amount of gas money was saved! Having rented cars from most major rental car companies, I am confident to say that Hertz has the most fuel-efficient fleet.
What do you think? Do you have similar or different car rental experiences?