Know the Rules

The AutoSlash team is fond of shortcuts in relationship to the rental car companies but only responsible shortcuts. We're strong advocates of taking advantage of the benefits offered by most rental car companies (including free days and expedited service) and we even post about the approved methods of getting advanced standing via airline status, premium credit cards, or even matching status from one program to another (as with Sixt). Yet there's an open black market for rental car status and "free days"; we recommend avoiding that black market.

The Open Black Market

eBay is a great forum to connect buyers and sellers. However, eBay sellers frequently list items that can't be sold, such as Avis and Hertz "Free Days" for costs ranging between $30 and $40 per day. And when something's technically "free" but offered for a decidedly-not-free price, it's clear that there's something going on, ethically and/or legally. Yet one can easily find weeks worth of "free days" with a quick online search:


One can purchase what can't be sold.

In the case of Hertz, those free day certificates are intended for businesses enrolled in the Hertz Business Rewards program. The rules of the certificates are clear and the sellers on eBay even list the full terms specifying that these certificates can't be sold and used by others! We highlight some of the terms in bold below.

Use of this certificate is limited to participants in Hertz Business Rewards. Certificates have no cash value, are non-transferable, are non-refundable, and will not be replaced if expired, lost, stolen or destroyed. Intended recipient of certificates must go to the Hertz counter to show identification at the time of rental. Account's CDP# must be disclosed by the intended recipient at the time of reservation and rental. Certificates must be presented and surrendered at the time of rental. Misuse of an account CDP#, in the judgment of Hertz, will disqualify that account from further participation in this program. Certificates mailed by Hertz to the contact at the address we have on record and not returned to Hertz by the U.S. Postal Service will not be reissued.

In addition, those free days can only be used in the United States / Canada, have blackout dates, are restricted to cars (no minivans or SUVs), don't earn points, cannot be used on one-way rentals, and don't include taxes. So it's already clear that there are a lot of catches for those who get those free days. But again, those free days are not eligible to be sold. So why are certificates like these on eBay? Only because Hertz doesn't require them to be removed, at least not yet. The sellers get cash from these certificates while knowing that they are violating the Terms and Conditions of the certificates -- whether the listing is for Avis or Hertz certificates, all of the sellers block out the business name on the certificates because, as the Terms state, the certificates can't be sold and Hertz can ban the business from using the rewards program for violating the rules. And remember, when a user buys a certificate issued to ACME, that purchaser might end up being Wile E. Coyote.


Don't risk being squashed.

And those auction listings for "Free Status" (such as National's Executive Club)? That can't be purchased, either but it's the easiest to get via credit cards (such as simply possessing a MasterCard World Elite card). It's simply not worth skirting rules to pay for something that often comes for free!  

Reasons to Just Say No

A summary really isn't needed but it's clear purchasing "free" items is a low-reward, high-risk effort.

  • The certificates and status on eBay cannot be sold per the rental car companies!
  • A purchaser has to be worried about fraud and paying for "free" items that expire -- if plans change, the "free days" become really costly!
  • Renters on free days don't earn credit toward future free days and can only select from cars, not minivans, trucks, or SUVs.
  • Those blackout dates? That certificate's not going to work on truly expensive days (like Manhattan around a holiday or Alaska in the summer).
  • As the terms state the products cannot be transferred or sold, the rental car companies could decide to crack down and receive information about buyers and sellers from eBay at any time, as some airlines consistently do (see Delta Air Lines).
  • The rental car companies can revoke status, cancel certificates, discontinue participation in the loyalty program, and even break out the Do Not Rent list for violating their published terms.

What's more, many AutoSlash users can find legitimate base rates at the same cost or lower than the sales prices of the "free" days and earn credit toward legitimate free days, without risk of sanction. At the time I wrote this post, I was on a $58.94 three-day rental (including taxes and fees), selected my own vehicle as a member of the loyalty program, and was earning credits toward award days while following the rules of the rental car company! It pays to stay within the lines!

 

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