Rental car companies have a vested interest in credit card users. After all, the companies need to get paid by consumers and the days of cash deposits are long gone. Debit cards are also viewed as undesirable by the rental car companies as a proxy for "non-creditworthy renter" (whether fair or unfair). Using debit cards frequently come with many restrictions, if the rental car company will even accept the debit card at all! Without multiple forms of identification, large security deposits, and a successful credit check (among other provisions), the car renter with a debit card will likely be taking a taxi or Uber instead.
Benefits from Basic Credit Cards
Basic credit cards begin to add protections the rental car companies truly appreciate. For instance, most major credit card companies now provide a secondary LDW (Loss Damage Waiver) that covers the rental car itself if any damage is incurred. The secondary nature means that those provisions cover the driver's ordinary insurance deductible, while the driver's insurance company would pick up any amount above the deductible. The rental car company would get compensated for any damage to their car, which is (sadly) all the rental car company cares about!
Benefits from Prestigious Credit Cards
Holders of the more prestigious credit cards frequently receive rental car benefits that are commensurate with individuals who travel a lot. These benefits can range from discounts, upgrades, and newspapers to automatic conferral of status in rental car programs. American Express provides their customers with one almost unbelievable benefit at corporate-owned locations.
MasterCard World Elite Cards
MasterCard World Elite cards provide some limited - but valuable - loyalty program benefits for customers at National and Sixt. These cardholders are currently entitled to National's Emerald Club Executive membership, which ordinarily requires 12 rentals or 40 rental days per year. Executive membership means a guaranteed upgrade and customers can select any vehicle from the Executive Aisle (a step up from the traditional National "Emerald Aisle"). National Emerald Club membership also provides free additional drivers, which further cements the program (along with Hertz Gold Plus) as a favorite of the AutoSlash team.
These same cards also allow customers to receive Sixt's Platinum status. Like National's Emerald Club status, Sixt Platinum allows an additional driver for free. Our most popular blog post is how to avoid additional driver fees, so we know the subject is important to many of our AutoSlash users.
American Express Platinum CardsAmerican Express Platinum cards -- not cards like the Delta Platinum American Express cards but the pricey American Express Platinum card - have some decent benefits for cardmembers. One of the benefits can only be described as phenomenal. Given the $450 annual fee, the card should provide a broad array of benefits for consumers.
Like the MasterCard World Elite card, the owner of an American Express Platinum card is entitled to National's Emerald Club Executive membership. With Avis, the same cardholders would receive some benefits from Avis Preferred membership and a copy of The Wall Street Journal in the vehicle. There's no direct access to the highest tier of Avis Preferred Plus membership and the main listed benefit is a free newspaper.
American Express Platinum at Hertz
At Hertz, a customer who is part of the Gold Plus program can go straight to the car, will receive a single class vehicle upgrade, and a 10% bonus on Hertz Gold Plus points. Still not particularly impressed? Neither are we.
The most impressive components of the AmEx agreement with Hertz are the discounts on Prestige Collection weekend rentals and a 4-hour Grace Period on returns at corporate-owned Hertz locations.
That's right, a customer with the AmEx Platinum card can return the vehicle up to 4 hours late at corporate-owned locations without any new time and mileage charges. While that grace period doesn't apply to additional/optional products and services added to the rental, a few AutoSlash users (and a few members of the AutoSlash team) do intentionally schedule trips that take advantage of the grace period allowed by the card's rules.
Need a car on a business trip for 27 hours (ordinarily billed as two full rental days)? With Hertz and the American Express Platinum card, the renter only needs to book a one-day reservation! That's one of the coolest travel benefits we have ever seen from a credit card!
What about the Super Expensive Cards?
You mean the AmEx Centurion? The folks dropping a $7,500 initiation fee and $2,500 annual fee probably aren't going to be using a service like AutoSlash to save on car rentals! And we're not privileged enough to carry these cards on the AutoSlash team…
Sadly, the credit card companies decide to offer their members different benefits throughout the world. Even credit card tiers are named differently throughout the world. The result is that many of the best rental car benefits are limited to cardholders in certain countries and regions.
Renters in the United States with access to improved status or additional benefits from an already-owned credit card should take advantage of all the cardmember benefits available! We don't push credit cards at AutoSlash but we do push saving time and money - it's what we know how to do!
And we're always available to help. On promotions like the Hertz 4-hour grace period (which has to be booked under a certain code), we can help ensure a Platinum American Express cardholder is booked properly to receive that benefit at Hertz corporate-owned locations!