Thinking of signing up for Hertz's Gold Plus Rewards loyalty program? New changes to the redemption structure are making us a little less enamored with this program.
This free program was always known for delivering nice perks, such as skipping the counter and earning points toward free award days. Earlier in the year, Hertz made some changes that made the program better—including more flexible redemptions, faster service and a lower minimum enrollment age—so now there's no excuse for frequent renters not to sign up.
The minimum award for a free day in a compact card jumped from 550 points to 750 points—a 36 percent hike. For some vehicle categories, the number of points required to redeem an award was hiked by more than 50 percent.
The Three Tiers of Hertz Gold Plus Rewards
There are three tiers of Hertz Gold Plus Rewards.
- Gold: Everyone starts at the Gold level and starts earning points with his or her first rental. In order for a rental to count toward status and points for free rental days, a reservation must be a "Pay Later" rate where the Hertz Gold Plus number is entered at the time of booking. After eight rentals, Gold-level members can experience one day of next-tier perks with Five Star for a Day.
- Five Star: Achieving Five Star status has become more difficult, now requiring at least 12 rentals or spending $2,400 on Hertz reservations per year. The renter is entitled a one-car-class upgrade (up to a premium car, when available) and a 25-percent point bonus on each reservation. After 16 rentals, Five Star-level members can experience one day of next-tier perks with President's Circle for a Day.
- President's Circle: To hit President's Circle status, you need at least 20 rentals or you must spend at least $4,000 on Hertz reservations per year. The renter is entitled to a guaranteed one-car-class upgrade (up to a premium car), a 50-percent point bonus on each reservation, designated parking spaces at major airports and even a vehicle guarantee as long as a renter books at least 24 hours in advance. It's great to have a guaranteed car when everyone else is told "no cars available". President's Circle members can also upgrade to any available car on the lot after their 30th and 40th rentals. They can also take advantage of Hertz Valet, an airport terminal drive-back service, after their 15th, 20th and 40th rentals at select airport locations.
How to Earn Hertz Gold Plus Rewards Points
All qualifying "Pay Later" reservations are eligible to earn Gold Plus points or airline miles. We recommend electing the Gold Plus points because the rates required for airline mile bonuses tend to be more expensive than other available rates and there are also federal excise taxes on miles that may exceed the value of the miles awarded.
If you are actively seeking the lowest rates on rental car reservations, opt for the points toward free days. Unless there's a bonus or promotional opportunity, the base earning rate is one Gold Plus point per $1 spent on the vehicle's base rate (before taxes and fees). Five Star and President's Circle members earn percentage-based bonuses but the points-earning chart is easy to remember.
Note that Gold Plus Rewards points now expire after 18 months of inactivity instead of 24 months.
Rental Car Pickups for Hertz Gold Plus Rewards Members
Once you've acquired a Gold Plus Rewards number from Hertz, use it on every "Pay Later" reservation. A renter isn't eligible for benefits unless the number is entered at the time of booking.
Benefits vary among major airports and smaller airports/neighborhood sites. At major airports, you simply walk up, search for your name on the board, and go directly to a pre-assigned vehicle or aisle, then drive straight to the exit gate, There are no lines. You just present your driver's license at the time of departure (unless you choose to upgrade—more on that in a minute). At smaller locations or neighborhood sites, there may be a separate line for Gold Plus members and you will likely have a vehicle assigned but you still have to go to the counter, just like at any other company.
Upgrades and Downgrades for Hertz Gold Plus Rewards Members
Hertz Fast Lane powered by CLEAR is a free biometric-powered service that promises to get you through the exit gate in 30 seconds or less. The service launched in Fall 2018 at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL) in Atlanta and will roll out another 40 airport locations in 2019.
At selected airport locations, Hertz offers the Ultimate Choice Upgrade program. Rather than going to the reserved selection (either car class, Five Star, or President's Circle areas), you can pick a vehicle off the Premium Upgrade zone. The cost of the premium upgrades is an additional $35 per day (plus tax) for Gold and Five Star members and an additional $25 per day (plus tax) for President's Circle members.
Sometimes it makes sense to downgrade. A renter with higher status in the program can pick vehicles from "downgraded" vehicle selections if desired. You might find yourself in the President's Circle aisle at an airport and see a more desirable vehicle in the Five Star or Full-Size car sections. The confirmation emails you'll receive from Hertz before pickup remind users of the ability to pick among the choice of selections. There's little consistency; one President's Circle reservation might be a Cadillac ATS and the next could be a Toyota Corolla.
Tips When Signing Up for Hertz Gold Plus Rewards
One of the biggest changes to the program is the lowering of the enrollment age from 21 to 18, effective mid-January 2019. It used to be that the only way for drivers under age 21 could sign up was through the USAA; now they can do it directly on Hertz's website.
And given that AAA members age 20-25 get the underage fee waived, it makes even more sense for 20 year olds to rent through Hertz since they can both avoid the underage fee and also skip the counter. This solidifies Hertz as a great pick for younger drivers.
When you enroll in the program, you will need your driver's license handy. You'll provide an email address and create a password. You can choose between getting email alerts, text alerts, or both.
When you sign up, you can opt for eReturn, which lets you drop off your car quickly with no lines or waiting. When you return the car, just fill in the Express Return slip on your Rental Agreement, leave it with the keys and get on your way. Hertz will send you a PDF copy of your eReceipt within 30 minutes of closing your Rental Agreement.
You will also need a credit card. Hertz does not allow you to sign up for this program with a debit card. If you have a credit card that provides rental car coverage, strongly consider using that credit card. You may enter additional credit cards to your account, if you like.
Next, you can affirm that you would like to earn points—the main reason for joining the program—and enter any other loyalty programs you belong to.
While you have the option to buy into Hertz's fuel prepay program, we highly recommend that you do NOT check this box.
You can choose your car category preference, from compact car all the way up to SUV.
You will also have an opportunity to note your preferences for insurance coverage in the U.S. and abroad. You can accept or decline the loss damage waiver (LDW), Liability Insurance Supplement (LIS) and Personal Accident Insurance (PAI) options. If you're confused about which box to check, consult our Quick Primer on Rental Car Insurance and Ultimate Glossary of Car Rental Terms.
Unsprisingly, there's also some upsell here. You can purchase optional add-ons such as satellite radio and GPS navigation.
For Gold members, one of the benefits buried in the ultra-fine print is that an eligible spouse or domestic partner is entitled to drive for free on U.S. "Pay Later" rentals.
There is no opportunity during the enrollment process to decline the Currency Conversion Charge on international rentals, but you should definitely do so at the rental counter.
What We Like (and Don't) About Hertz Gold Plus Rewards
Earlier this year, Hertz made a series of changes that make it more difficult to get to Five Tier status. On the other hand, redeeming points is now much easier. Now you can use a combination of points and currency—instead of one or the other—to pay for rentals and vehicle upgrades. There are also new ways for you to earn and use points beyond rentals—including unique experiences and Hertz Rewards—via Hertz's auction platform. And now you can use your points to redeem for luxury vehicles in Hertz Dream Cars Collection.
While competitor National Car Rental is known for its easy-to-accrue, great benefits, Hertz's awards are spending based.At National, a free day is a free day, whether one-way or round-trip. At Hertz, awards are broken down into Standard (off-peak) and AnyDay (peak) Awards. The AnyDay awards cost twice as many points as a Standard award and Hertz has an excruciatingly detailed calendar of blackout dates when standard awards are not available at each site.
The award chart itself is also needlessly complicated. Awards are broken down by day on weekdays, by day on weekends, weekly, one-way, vehicle collection, and by country. The cheapest award is now 750 points for a Standard weekend day award in the U.S., which is nominally $750 in pre-tax spend (unless one has status or there's a bonus).
There is one aspect of the Gold Plus program that is frequently missed. A member can buy points if just a little shy of a major award redemption. The purchase price of points is a poor value but if you are just a few points away from a large redemption award, you might be tempted.
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