When we review the rewards programs of various rental car companies, we find pretty sizable variation from one to the next. The major companies oriented toward business travelers tend to have the most lucrative programs, the third-tier companies of the major firms (e.g. Alamo and Payless) tend to have no rewards programs, and the truly independent companies tend to have reward programs that aren't very rewarding. For instance, we thought EZ Rent A Car's program (EZ Money) was bad. The developers of the ACE Rental Genius program studied EZ's plan, then said "hold my beverage". Can you imagine spending $1,250 at a rental car company in a year and not be eligible for any awards? ACE makes it possible!
In fairness, ACE is different than most modern rental car companies. Like the original National Car Rental System, each ACE location is independently-owned and operated, which means that one-way rentals from ACE are rarely allowed. The company once had corporate locations as well as affiliated locations but the ACE name seen today is simply a booking system and affiliates; the corporate locations were purchased by AutoSlash "favorite" Payless. And while the model of independently-owned and operated doesn't preclude decent rewards programs (see Best Western in hotels), ACE didn't receive the memorandum.
While ACE is a model of affiliates and a comparatively "small" name in the rental car industry, there are still 350 ACE locations. However, the company elected to create a model where the awards are not rental cars, and the lowest-level award that can be sent to a renter is a $25 gift card for Google Play or Starbucks. Those $25 awards require spending more than $1,500 pre-tax in a period of fewer than two years; otherwise, the points expire. And if the 1.67% effective rebate wasn't sufficient to believe ACE's Rental Genius is designed for non-geniuses, there's more!
The Downfalls of Rental Genius
- The ACE Rental Genius points expire after two years and a renter only earns one point per pre-tax dollar spent (unless there's a promotion); the lowest value reward that's actually a reward for a renter requires $1,500 in pre-tax purchases to get a $25 gift card.
- Like EZ and other discounters, ACE Rental Genius points can only be earned if a renter books directly through the ACE website. The company wants to make comparing prices difficult and to avoid rewarding customers when ACE has to pay commissions to major booking sites such as Expedia and Priceline. We can't imagine many cases where a renter would benefit by booking directly through ACE (instead of comparing prices) to earn points which are meaningless except in the most extreme cases.
The personnel at ACE do solicit input on potential awards in the Rental Genius program. We could state that the most "highly desirable award" from a rental car company would be rental car redemptions; those existed in a previous iteration of the program.
The awards available at the moment? Ten thousand points ($10,000 in pre-tax spend) gets one access to a video game console, 4,000 points open up awards like a Kindle Fire, and 1,500 points open up $25 Starbucks cards*. Carbon offsets or a tree planted on the renter's behalf are possible at the 300 and 400 point levels, respectively, but those are gifts to humanity (not the renter).
* If the program presented decent award options, we would be willing to offer (for free) our advice on better names than Rental Genius (even Rental ACE isn't trademarked)!
The Positives of Rental Genius
Um ... on to the next section.
The program is -- on its face -- so bad, we're willing to wager that the ACE Rental Genius rewards desk doesn't require much staffing. We signed up, did research, and asked questions so you can save a few minutes out of your day! There are few times we're willing to state that signing up for a rental car rewards program is close to a complete waste of time; ACE joins Payless' punitive loyalty program on that ignominious list!
Ready to rent your next cheap rental car? We're happy to search quotes among many major (and some less-than-major) companies to find the lowest rates on your behalf! And as always, the choice of which company to book is entirely as the discretion of the renter!