Remember when there were no frequent renter rewards programs? Those were dark days in the rental car industry -- even the members of the AutoSlash team will pay a little more for a rental in our preferred programs to earn future free rentals!
Frequent renter programs had been created previously but those programs weren't awarding free rental days until the mid-1990s. The first program allowing the earning of free rental days was introduced in March 1996, by the same company that introduced the first rental car company website.
Alamo Rent A Car -- the first rental car company with a website (www.freeways.com, then www.GoAlamo.com, and now www.alamo.com) -- introduced the first rental car rewards program 15 years after the first airline frequent flyer program.
What was the name of Alamo's awards program? True Blue. Did that infringe upon the trademark of JetBlue's loyalty program? No -- JetBlue didn't exist yet!
Earning free days in True Blue was a chore. On short rentals of one or two days, renters only earned one point per dollar and would have to spend $1,000 before even getting their membership card! Longer rentals earned points twice as fast and -- like many other programs -- there were promotions from time-to-time. However, renters were required to accrue at least 1,500 points to get a single rental day.
The free rewards program was a major benefit to future renters but not necessarily with Alamo. The current iteration of Alamo's award program (Alamo Insiders) does not offer the opportunity to earn free award days (at all), while Alamo's sister companies do offer award days through the Enterprise Plus and National Emerald Club programs.