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Car Rental Booking Approach To Maximize Airline Miles and Savings

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I’ve earned tons of miles and saved a lot of money through car rental promotions. In 2009, I earned over 150,000 Delta SkyMiles booking car rentals and today I’ll share my approach with you. By using available coupon codes and searching multiple places you can ensure maximum award earnings or significant cost savings. Scoring the best deals on rental cars takes a little bit of effort and a methodical approach. I’ve outlined my approach below.

Simple Approach That Works

Step 1: Check autoslash, bidding sites and other sites for the lowest available rates

  • Find the lowest available rates to use as your starting point
  • Priceline has good advertised rates and I can get 30% – 40% savings in my market
  • Autoslash will allow you to book your reservation, check for a lower rate until your reservation, then will rebook you at the lower rate and send you a notification

Step 2: Compare lowest available rates against benefit earned through airline or hotel award bonuses

  • I check web for coupon codes that provide the most points and miles benefit to me
  • I find a balance with the award benefit vs the lowest rate
  • Car rental agencies typically charge a frequent flier charge of about 99 cents to earn points or miles
  • My go to promotion code is the Avis / US Airways code that gives 3,000 US Airways miles for every rental; expiration is March 31, 2012
  • I was earning 3,000 Continental OnePass miles for every rental with Avis but that expired in June, 2011

Step 3: Check car rental coupons to get the lowest rates

  • The last step before I book is to see if there are any car rental promotion codes that offer a significant cash savings
  • For this approach you can check out the car rental websites or various other promotion sites

Step 4: Book using the option which makes most sense at the time

  • This step depends if your goal is to save money or earn the most points and miles
  • Make sure you book the best card; Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card gives you 2 points for every dollar spent
  • Sometimes booking the lowest rate is a better benefit than earning miles
  • My recent rental had mile earning rates around $200 for my market
  • Alamo had the lowest rate in my market, so I searched their insider site and found a coupon for $35 off using coupon AD2724FZA
  • I ended up spending about $140 for six days instead of spending about $200, realizing a $60 savings!
  • If I paid the mile earning rate ($200) and earned 3,000 US Airways miles, I would have essentially purchased miles for about .02 cents per mile (60/3000=.02)

Bottom Line

Being flexible and focusing on what makes sense to you is key. My recent rental allowed me to save enough money to outweigh the potential mileage earning gain. Make sure you check airline or hotel promotions to maximize your miles and point earning.

If you have any questions or other options that I missed, please share them in the comment section.

*Points, Miles and Martinis will receive a very small referral credit for reservations booked through the Priceline link in this post. All deals mentioned are ones that I considered for myself.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or suggestions expressed on this site are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

About the Author

About the author: The Weekly Flyer is writes about travel from a business traveler perspective. He travels the world every week accumulating points and miles along the way. Feel free to reach me at theweeklyflyer@gmail.com

{ 4 comments… add one }

  • Bachovas November 27, 2011, 12:00 pm

    I made a reservation through Avis and Southwest for the points and then put it on AutoSlash.

    If they find me a different (cheaper) rate with the same company would my eligibility for those points be gone? I had to put in a code and a coupon.

  • The Weekly Flyer November 27, 2011, 3:25 pm

    It depends on the coupon code they use. If they use a code instead of the southwest one, you would not earn the miles.

  • Rapid Travel Chai November 27, 2011, 7:59 pm

    Costco Travel (for members and those pretending to be members) is a great place to check for Step 1. They often beat Hotwire,Priceline, AutoSlash and the rest.

    Also should factor in the mileage surcharges sometimes added by rental companies.

  • Bob November 27, 2011, 8:39 pm

    You can avoid airline frequent flyer surcharges by crediting your rental to Amtrak Guest Rewards. Amtrak points are worth more than airline miles assuming you travel by train.

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