We talk about the loyalty programs of rental car companies often and our admiration for National's Emerald Club, which offers the simplest award scheme imaginable for renters. Even without elite status, a renter with 7 one-day rentals at National (or participating Enterprise stations) would have a free rental day available with no blackout dates that could even be used for one-way rentals. Longer term renters (or those with elite status) can earn rentals much more quickly; as a National Executive Elite, it's not unheard of for customers with many short rentals to earn a free day for every four paid rental days (the award day counts as the fifth rental). The Emerald Club program is one of the traveler's 103 Good Things and the free days can be redeemed for any eligible vehicle (elite members can book fancier cars).
And as the old maxim suggests, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If only there were another program that set as a basic premise that participants could accrue a free rental day with as few as 7 one-day rentals, where longer term renters (or those with elite status) can earn rentals much more quickly ... The recent updates to the Avis Preferred Program promise the basic outline of the National Emerald Club program but fail to properly imitate the most differentiating components of the program.
Revisions to the Avis Preferred Program
Avis recently revamped the Avis Preferred program to offer a free rental day starting at 700 Avis Preferred points. While the Avis Preferred program awards one point per dollar spent, there's a minimum credit of 100 points per rental for customers who collect Avis Preferred points instead of frequent flyer or hotel points. So the program theoretically offers renters a similar premise as National.
Note the free days "Start (but don't end) at" 700 points.
A renter with 7 one-day rentals at Avis would have an inexpensive free rental day available with no blackout dates, even without elite status. A renter with elite status (Avis Preferred Plus) would earn points more quickly. The underlying problem for a user? The free days that "start at 700 points" are the cheapest rentals on the lot. Avis's program manages to take the best and worst of different worlds:
- Rewarding renters points for the number of rentals, even if the rentals are short or inexpensive (another Good Thing).
- Making the points required for redemption based upon the cash price of the desired rental (a decidedly Bad Thing).
It's a Good Thing Avis retired the "We Try Harder" advertising slogan, as the company did not try hard enough on this revision.
Bad News First
Every thing done by the rental car companies has an extensive list of Terms, Conditions, and Exclusions. Here's the condensed version:
- A 700-point rental will help on a daily rate below $50 per day.
- Redeemed points get rid of the base rate but don't get rid of taxes (like with any other programs).
- The $264 rental we outlined as a possible award day in the National Emerald Club program? One award with National but thousands of Avis Preferred points in this revised program.
- Many locations are non-participating for award redemptions, including the Alaska Avis franchisee that doesn't participate in any Avis offer/promotion we can discern.
Any Good News?
For the renter, the Avis Preferred program is most rewarding for drivers with short, cheap paid rentals who are looking for moderately-priced award days. Loyalty programs are one of the reasons our team members had booked away from Avis; the recent revision of the program does make their offering more competitive for comparatively inexpensive weekend rentals!
And in a program feature AutoSlash broke last month, Avis now actively promotes using points for additional/optional services such as child safety seats, GPS devices, and satellite radio (250 points per day). We would prefer that Avis -- in some way -- could figure out how to allow fee waivers for child safety seats like Hertz, Dollar, and Thrifty permit in limited circumstances. Yet we see the potential of spending 250 points for a car seat (rather than $13.99 plus tax) by a renter with an otherwise low Avis Preferred balance. Cutting down on overall rental cost using points that might otherwise remain dormant is always a Good Thing!
Ready to book your next cheap rental car? You'll have the opportunity to enter your frequent rental number at the time of reservation but the first step is to request a quote. We'll then send you discounted offers among the available rental car providers within minutes!