Should You Use Frequent Flyer Points For Car Hire?

use frequent flyer points for car hire on budget road trips

After flights and hotels, one of your more significant travel expenses is getting around locally when you’re at your destination. Many people prefer renting a car to give them more freedom. Most car rental companies have reward programs centered around regular discounts, upgrades and guaranteed availability. The major car rental companies have partnered with many major airlines to let you earn and redeem points with them. You can use frequent flyer points for car hire to offset the cost of your rental partially or even completely. But is this the best way to use them?

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    Earn frequent flyer points on car hire

    Earning frequent flyer points on car hire is relatively easy. The major car rental companies partner with various airlines, but it’s always worth checking whether you will earn points. Like hotel loyalty programs, bookings made through third parties typically don’t qualify for points; the same goes with discount codes such as those provided to corporate or NRMA members. Usually, these discounts will get you more value than the points anyway, so it’s not worth pursuing the points if you’re eligible for discounts elsewhere.

    Qantas partners with Avis and Budget, allowing you to earn 4 points per $1 spent on rentals in Australia while getting a flat rate of 700 points per rental overseas. While Qantas lets you book Hertz and Avis cars through their website, these bookings will not earn any Qantas points.

    Velocity partners with Europcar only for points earning potential. You earn 3 points per $1 spent, but depending on your status with Velocity, you get bonuses on top of this (capped at 6 points per $1 for platinum). This is applicable for rentals through Australia and New Zealand, while for rentals outside here, you receive a flat rate of 800 points regardless of the length of rental. Velocity is slightly more generous than Qantas in that they also give you a status bonus, earning 1,600 points for platinum members.

    While the overseas rental earning rates are almost a token amount, if you rent the car anyway, you may as well take the points offered. In most circumstances, it is not worth switching car rental companies solely to obtain points if you are after frequent flyer points.

    Use Qantas points for car hire

    Much like earning points on car hire, Qantas restricts you to two companies for redeeming rentals – Avis and Budget. Rentals come in two types – Classic Rewards and standard rewards. Classic Rewards work much like they do for flights in that they are more limited, especially around peak times, but offer much lower redemption costs. Redemptions using Qantas points are only available in Australia and New Zealand if Avis and Budget have an office where you are looking. This automatically limits the utility of using Qantas points to save money on car rental to a much smaller group of people.

    Let’s have a look at redemption rates for car rentals:

    camry hybrid frequent flyer point redemption

    As you can see, a Classic Reward gives you approximately 1c of value per point (about the minimum going rate to make a redemption worth it). A Standard reward provides even less value at around 0.5c per point. While I still advocate for people using points on what gives them the most value. Think of it like this – the 155,000 points you could spend renting a Toyota Camry Hybrid for six days could get you a return flight from Sydney to London, and three return domestic flights from Sydney to Melbourne or Brisbane. When you frame it this way, this is a reasonably poor deal. There are much better options for you to spend your Qantas points on.

    Use Velocity points for car hire

    Like Qantas, Velocity’s offering for car hire is somewhat restrictive. You can redeem Velocity points on Europcar hires booking through the Velocity engine. Unlike Qantas’ booking engine, it is more difficult to directly compare rates when saving for car rentals than paying with cash. Comparing a similar 6-day hire for a compact car, it appears that Velocity’s rates are on par with Qantas – a little over 0.5c per point. They don’t have an equivalent of Classic Rewards, so the rate you see is the best possible. These redemptions are also restricted to Australia and New Zealand, limiting their scope significantly. Below is a comparison of points compared to cash for paying for car rentals, and hopefully, you can see why better value might be found elsewhere.

    Should you use Hertz Gold Plus Rewards?

    Hertz offers their own reward program, which is much more comprehensive regarding car rental benefits than any airline partner. If you rent cars regularly, this or one of the other major car rental reward programs is worth joining. Other than the base tier, there are two further membership tiers – Five Star and Presidents Circle.

    For those who have status with Velocity – Gold status will automatically give you Five Star membership, and Platinum will provide you with Presidents Circle membership. Much like an airline program, you earn points depending on your spend. This starts at 1 point per $1 for all members and up to 1.5 points per $1 if you have made it to Presidents Circle. For non-status holders, ten rentals or $2,000 spent in a year will get you Five Star membership while fifteen rentals or $3,000 will get you Presidents Circle membership.

    The benefits of joining include a free additional driver; as you work your way up, you can get free upgrades. The main advantage lies in using your points for car hire. Hertz operates a similar system of rewards to airlines where there are both Standard rewards, which are equivalent to Classic Rewards on Qantas, and AnyDay Rewards, which offer more flexibility and availability but are more expensive. Rentals depend on the class of car that you’re after, but a normal compact car starts at 700 points per day of hire.

    A benefit many will appreciate is you can redeem Hertz Points in a wide range of countries for those who travel internationally frequently. This is a much more valuable reward program for people who often rent cars but remember that Hertz points can only be obtained through rentals rather than through multiple sources like you can with frequent flyer points.

    Other car rental loyalty programs

    Hertz is Australia’s only car rental provider that offers a comprehensive points-based loyalty program. Other companies such as Europcar offer slightly different benefits. They reward loyalty by providing regular discounts off the standard rate, free additional drivers and complimentary upgrades. Europcar’s program also rewards you with a free weekend car rental after every third rental and an extra 10% off their standard rental rates. Sixt offers escalating discounts off their usual rental rates as you work up the tiers. These benefits, while nice to have, only benefit those who stay loyal and rent from big car rental companies regularly. For the people who rent a car occasionally, it is unlikely you will spend enough money to work your way up the tiers and gain much benefit from the program.

    While there are some options for you to use your frequent flyer points on car hire, the airline programs offer far better value if you redeem your points for flights instead. If you do hire cars regularly, airline partners provide the ability to earn points, but if it’s outside of Australia and New Zealand, it is essentially a token amount. For those who frequently rent cars for travel or business and would like to benefit from their loyalty, look into the Hertz Gold Plus rewards program, as this provides a wide range of redemptions and much better redemption rates than Qantas or Velocity can.

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