National Emerald Club

National's Emerald Club membership is held in high esteem by members of the AutoSlash team. Other frequent travelers agree as National is consistently ranked by the readers of Travel + Leisure magazine as the best car rental company in the world. National's Emerald Club is clearly doing something right with their free loyalty program, with an unmatched grouping of benefits available for a member from the very first rental.

Among other benefits, the base level of Emerald Club allows a customer to earn free days with National or Enterprise bookings (some Enterprise locations are ineligible), select their own vehicle from the Emerald Aisle at many airports simply by booking a midsize, bypass the rental car counter, and add a second driver for free. Want the option to pick a car and go? National's Emerald Club deserves your attention.  

These benefits are available to base Emerald Club members.

Additional Drivers

Emerald Club membership immediately provides customers the ability to register additional drivers for free! That's one of the most common questions we receive at AutoSlash and renters who don't plan in advance sometimes find options such as additional drivers can even exceed the cost of the rental car itself. And National doesn't limit the additional drivers to just one! For instance, I receive the option of adding up to 9 additional family members as drivers on my rental contracts. The only provision is that all drivers must be present with IDs and credit cards when the rental commences.

            Ten drivers for a Hyundai Elantra (or similar) might be a little over the top.

            Ten passengers for a Hyundai Elantra (or similar) is definitely over the top.

Benefits Beyond the Base Emerald Club Level

Beyond the Emerald Club level, National has two additional tiers - Executive and Executive Elite. These customers with more than 12 rental credits or 40 rental days per year (the stated requirement for Executive) receive an expanded selection of guaranteed upgrades from which to choose. Executive Elites have a trump (in the non-political sense) card, as a vehicle is guaranteed with 24-hour notice.

There's even a shortcut to Executive status. Many of the most exclusive credit cards, such as American Express Platinum and World Elite MasterCards include provisions to receive National's Executive status upon request as one of the listed travel benefits. From day one, a new car renter can be benefiting from an expanded vehicle selection and quicker access to free rental days.

What about Those Free Rental Days?

All Emerald Club members earn free rental days. Executive and Executive Elite members earn free rental days more quickly than the base Emerald Club member and can guarantee/reserve additional vehicle types that aren't going to be available in the aisles for self-selection.

Executive Elites can use free days on Fancy SUVs and convertibles.

Wondering how free rental days work in real life? I'm fortunate to hold Executive Elite status and on a recent holiday trip to Las Vegas, I was presented with the following pricing. A luxury SUV could be booked with cash for a base rate of $264.00 ($314.99 after taxes and fees were added). Alternatively, I could redeem a free rental day and drive the same vehicle for a total of $5.76.

            The concept of a $314.99 daily rate makes the entire AutoSlash team weep.

      The AutoSlash team is much happier redeeming the free day to pay $5.76 instead.

When in a bind while traveling, finding value with National Emerald Club free rental days is a snap. Why? Well, National Emerald Club free days make exceptionally expensive rentals cheap such as the luxury SUV above. What's more, National Emerald Club award days can be used on expensive one-way rentals. Canceled flight or need to get somewhere fast/overnight? A free rental day might fix that travel problem for minimal funds.

Emerald Club in the Real World

Unlike the Emerald City in The Wizard of Oz, National's Emerald Club is truly meaningful! We often remind users of AutoSlash that all of our team are frequent travelers. We all have strong loyalty to frequent renter programs, especially those of National and Hertz. National is my primary rental car company.

As a top-tier elite in the program, I walk to the Executive area and simply find a vehicle I want to drive. If I don't want to drive a vehicle in that area (usually due to size), I can revert to the standard Emerald Aisle. There's one vehicle model I refuse to drive because it lacks a 12-volt outlet - we need to charge a lot of devices - and I simply choose alternatives (almost always a V6 Chevrolet Impala). I'm not stuck with any specific car picked by the rental agent. And when the Aisle is bare, customers might even snag a luxury vehicle for the cost of a midsize. Getting vehicles such as a BMW X3 while paying a minimal rate for a mid-size car is always a welcomed surprise.

Most of my rentals are short, so I frequently earn a free rental day in as little as four paid rental days throughout the year. If I wanted to add one or additional drivers, I could add everyone in the vehicle for free when most programs have fees of $13 per day (plus taxes and fee) per extra driver.

When there are exceptional situations such as major weather events, the customer support agents of National's Emerald Club are empowered to fix problems. With the 24-hour guarantee, I get cars at sold-out airports even when redeeming a free rental day. Once while trapped in a blizzard, I had to extend a rental for a day at a painful rate. An agent retroactively applied one of my free days to my rental to cover that unexpected outlay. While basic problems might require multiple phone calls to resolve, National is surprisingly effective in quickly resolving major issues for members of their loyalty program.

Finally, the most important part of the Emerald Club program for me has always been the ability to redeem free days for expensive one-way rentals. Those one-way rentals allow me to get around extortionate airfares for any trip where I'm within a reasonable driving distance. Many of my most meaningful life experiences and meet-ups with close friends in disparate cities over the past few years have been made possible due to National free rental days. I simply focus on getting to my destination; National is always able to get me home if cheap flights aren't available without breaking the budget. 

Can the Program be Even More Rewarding?

Need more convincing to join Emerald Club before your next National rental? Well, National also runs a One-Two-Free promotion in the Fall and Winter that can help customers earn additional free rental days for every two qualifying rentals of two days or more. Credit toward free days can also be earned through activities such as renting for specific lengths of time (such as a week) or adding SiriusXM satellite radio to a one-day rental. Those One-Two-Free award days are in addition to the award days ordinarily provided by Emerald Club.

Our Take

At AutoSlash, we frequently remind our fellow travelers that membership in loyalty programs is beneficial. The basic memberships are almost always cost-free and provide time savings at the counter, frequent vehicle upgrades, and often provide points/credits toward future free car rentals. National provides all those benefits and more.

Drivers who rent regularly from National (or a combination of National and Enterprise) should enroll in Emerald Club! When making a reservation through AutoSlash, renters can simply enter the Emerald Club number in the Frequent Renter Number field on the same screen where all other contact information (name, e-mail address, and phone number) is entered.

Saving time and money is what we are all about. There are few things better in rental cars than knowing AutoSlash is automatically looking for the best possible rate on your behalf. When the cheap car rentals booked through AutoSlash are combined with the car rental companies' loyalty programs to earn free rental days for the future, the traveler definitely wins!

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