Rent at a major airport or train station in Europe and you're almost guaranteed to see a Europcar location. What's probably more of a surprise is that Europcar is a global company, with sites on every continent except Antarctica (there are no Antarctica rental cars). And global companies tend to have loyalty programs; in the case of Europcar, they developed tiers like other major rental car companies but then decided to copy a common practice of discounters -- limiting a key benefit to customers who book directly from the company, not customers who seek the best possible rates. And for that reason, Europcar's program -- Europcar Privilege -- is one of potential promise that's really squandered.
Europcar doesn't make Europe's "Final Countdown" of solid loyalty programs.
The loyalty program has four tiers that stack benefits on the previous level:
- Privilege Club, the base level, which gives a free weekend after three rentals each year and a 10 euro voucher after two rentals*.
- Privilege Executive, achieved at 10 rentals (or 40 days) in two years, which adds a 20 euro voucher after the fifth rental and a one-class upgrade (subject to availability).
- Privilege Elite, achieved at 25 rentals (or 85 days) in two years, which adds a 30 euro voucher after the fifth rental, two-class upgrade (subject to availability) and an additional driver.
- Privilege Elite VIP, achieved at 40 rentals in two years, adds a 30 euro voucher after the fourth rental and includes a PriorityPass membership.
And each of those tiers promises benefits with a lot of footnotes:
The program sounds great -- a free weekend (up to three days) after three rentals in each status tier and a free weekend each time a renter's status tier is upgraded. Europcar's Terms and Conditions quickly disabuse renters of those notions. Every rental credits toward the four loyalty tiers. However, only "public rates" count toward the free weekends, dollar-off vouchers, additional drivers, and that PriorityPass membership (their Footnote 1).
Here's the kicker -- Europcar has their own definition of "public". Like most of the lesser discount-focused rental car companies in the United States, Europcar restricts the major benefits only to renters who book directly through Europcar. Their definition of public is:
Public rates include:
- any non-discounted rate obtained via a booking made directly through Europcar’s website or call centre
- any rates obtained via bookings made on a partner microsite (dedicated website accessible via the Europcar website,enabling customers to book and manage their rentals).
- temporary promotions published via banners on Europcar sites
Public rate do not include:
- rates obtained via any indirect website or indirect booking source
- corporate negotiated flat rates
- promotional rates
Effectively, reservations booked through the Europcar website or phone line are eligible to accrue the primary benefits. While other rentals count toward status tiers, it's not really worthwhile to have status when the benefits of status can't be used! We see this requirement of "direct booking" with many hotels and discount rental car company programs (such as ACE Rental Genius, Advantage Awards, and EZ Money) but our team doesn't cheer for blind loyalty -- we're about finding the lowest rates that conveniently meet our needs, not accepting whatever price Europcar (or any other provider) offers in the hope we'll one day be able to take advantage of their rewards program.
What Else is Bad About the Program?
We're glad you asked! The free upgrades for those with "Executive" or higher status? Those are based on availability (like other major firms) and can't be combined with the "Free Three-Day Weekends" (for renters with enough full-priced reservations). And those free weekends themselves? Those are booked into ACRISS code class CDMR -- Compact, 4-door car, manual transmission, with air conditioning. That long family weekend might result in very tight quarters!
What's Good About the Program?
If a renter's focused on getting the lowest rates available on every reservation, the response here is "not much". There's expedited counter service (one of our team's keys for a stress-free rental experience), renters can elect to earn frequent flyer miles on rentals, and there's a 15% discount available for Accor hotels. Of course, Accor was directly offering discounts up to 35% on their own website at the time of this post! Without a requirement of booking directly, Europcar Privilege would be a serviceable award program; restricting most loyalty benefits to only bookings made directly means Europcar Privilege is as meaningless as the Alamo Insiders offering.