Frequent Flyer Miles

Many of us will end up with a frequent flyer mile balance on a number of airlines, especially if our booking patterns involve cost and convenience (instead of a single carrier). Travel enough on certain airlines and you might get to the point where you don't really want to fly on that airline anymore! And then there are those notifications from various services that miles will expire if no activity occurs within the next few months ... We've written previously about redeeming frequent flyer miles directly for a rental car reservation, a process that's allowable with American and United miles without being tied into a larger travel package. Those redemptions have some severe downfalls -- the reservations are non-refundable, non-changeable, and generally provide a poor value (when compared to airfare) for redemptions. Yet three other airlines allow redeeming frequent flyer miles directly for rental certificates or vouchers with slightly more flexibility (but still substantial pitfalls).

I'm based in Nashville, which has limited service by Frontier Airlines. When Frontier has fare sales, flying that airline is often less than half the price of other major carriers (even after adding the carryon fee). I only fly Frontier when flights are ridiculously cheap (because I have to add the carryon fee). And their miles expire every six months without activity, which bit me last year during a period of limited travel ... Then I noticed one redemption option available for less than the cost of an award ticket, in one of my preferred rental car programs.


Save more miles for a Frontier flight, risk expiration, or actually enjoy my travel ...

I was temporarily excited about Frontier Airlines! Until the company quickly closed that loophole (more on that in a bit). Yet that one little discovery led us to search the remaining major U.S. airlines (and by major, we searched all the way down to Sun Country) for other airlines that allow redeeming frequent flyer miles (or points) toward rental car certificates. We found three airlines -- Frontier, Hawaiian and Southwest -- allowing redemptions for set dollar vouchers or free rental days.

Frontier Airlines

Frontier apparently abhors positive publicity; I was about to write about the comparatively nice two-day rental for 12,000 miles before Frontier decided to enhance their rental car offerings. And just like other activities undertaken by airlines, program "enhancements" are usually devaluations. The two-day National redemption is now 22,000 Frontier miles, more than a single round-trip.


A once compelling offer -- at 60% of the miles needed for a flight award -- now requires more miles than a flight award.

And Hertz came aboard as a new partner, with a three-day weekend award that's almost as many miles as a flight award.


The Hertz offer is for a three-day weekend at 90% of the miles of a round-trip award.

Alamo is a pending future partner offering a one-day award for 9,500 Frontier miles or a two-day weekend for 12,500 Frontier miles. However, losing cheap awards with National -- where Emerald Club members can select their own cars at major airports -- meant the thrill was gone.

Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian's redemption option requires burning 2 Hawaiian Miles for every penny of value on certificates at Avis and Budget.

It's not a good redemption value at all, as the 10,000 miles for a $50 rental car voucher could alternatively be redeemed for a JetBlue flight that costs up to $100. And the fine print included on Hawaiian's website reminds renters of why these set-dollar vouchers offered by the rental car companies are often poor deals. These certificates require booking under certain rates that usually are not the cheapest and -- like all rental car promotional offers -- are valid only at "participating locations" (New York City is almost always an exception). Extracting value from these certificates is a challenge, and we would never redeem 10,000 miles Hawaiian miles for one of these $50 rental certificates knowing we could get any JetBlue flight under $100 with the same number of points!

Rental Car Certificate Terms from Hawaiian

Avis -- Avis Reward Day Terms and Conditions: 24-hour advance reservation is required and must be booked at www.Avis.com/HAMiles. Offer and vehicles are subject to availability at participating Avis locations in the United States. Any rental charges exceeding the value on the certificate email are the responsibility of the renter. An acceptable means of payment for such excess must be presented at the time of rental. Members may apply up to Five (5) car rental certificates (maximum value of $500) per rental. Certificates may not be used in conjunction with any other AWD#, prepay rates, promotion or offer. Other restrictions may apply. Car rental certificates are non-refundable and non-transferable.

Budget -- Budget Reward Day Terms and Conditions: 24-hour advance reservation is required and must be booked at www.Budget.com/HAMiles. Offer and vehicles are subject to availability at participating Budget locations in the United States. Any rental charges exceeding the value on the certificate email are the responsibility of the renter. An acceptable means of payment for such excess must be presented at the time of rental. Members may apply up to Five (5) car rental certificates (maximum value of $500) per rental. Certificates may not be used in conjunction with any other BCD#, prepay rates, promotion or offer. Other restrictions may apply. Car rental certificates are non-refundable and non-transferable.

Southwest Airlines

Southwest offers a redemption option similar to Hawaiian's under their "Redeem for More Awards" option. In Southwest's redemption model, each Rapid Rewards point is worth a penny toward rental certificates with the same four rental car companies (Alamo, Avis, Budget, National) as with Hawaiian, so Southwest at least provides twice the value as the Hawaiian redemption. However, Rapid Rewards points are worth more than a penny each if redeeming "Wanna Get Away" flight fares, and the certificates issued by Southwest for the rental car companies would come with the same laundry list of restrictions, so we would maintain our Southwest balances and wait for the next flight redemption opportunity!  


The redemptions at Southwest are better than Hawaiian's very low threshold.

Our Take

We're not entirely surprised that a few airlines offer flyers the opportunity to redeem frequent flyer miles towards rental car options. We're not surprised (at all) that the offers are so disadvantageous for consumers. And while Frontier Airlines -- an Ultra-Low-Cost Carrier (ULCC) -- once had a compelling 12,000 points for two-day rental at National, that offer appeared to have been viewed as too compelling and no longer exists. So we'll focus on using frequent flyer points for actual flights, even if we would prefer to fly on other airlines!

Ready to book your next rental car? If you're using a certificate from the rental car companies, we can't help -- like award days, they have to be booked according to program terms and conditions. But if you're looking for the lowest possible cash rates available, we can help! Click below to request quotes and we'll send the best available offers within minutes!

Quote me Track a reservation! Learn how you can save 30% or more on car rentals