I’ve been a Hertz guy for a number of years now, and pretty much 100% Hertz since getting Hertz Platinum (their quasi-unpublished level with pretty cool benefits) a few years ago.
For the longest time, I credited my rentals to Southwest. Under the old Southwest program, they used to perpetually offer double credits and sometimes as much as quadruple credits for rental. At quadruple, it didn’t take long to accrue free tickets (8 rentals, iirc).
At some point in the past X months, Hertz started to focus on their rewards program although they’re doing a pretty crummy job promoting it, IMO. I only started paying moderate attention to it after reading this post from Mommy Points a few months ago. Back in the day when I carried an AMEX Membership Rewards card I used to redeem some points for car rentals. And WAAAY back in the day, my father used to get awards from the airlines that included a hotel and rental car certificate with them. Those were the days.
There are two schools of thought about Gold Plus Rewards, IMO. First is the “free vacation” theory. There’s something to be said for going on a completely free vacation. You’ve got points for airline tickets and points for hotels, why not collect some points for rental cars? Then, you don’t feel guilty going to an expensive restaurant or buying a cool souvenir. In the case of people traveling on a budget, I’m a big advocate of making your trip free so you can enjoy it.
For the slightly more advanced thinkers, the question is whether you can get better value crediting your Hertz rentals to an airline. AA has one of the better offers I’ve seen in a while right now, with quadruple miles. For the purposes of this comparison, let’s just assume that the rates using this discount code are the same as without it (frequently, the bonus miles offers are attached to discount codes that don’t yield the best rates). And, for giggles, let’s assume you’ve spent $4000 dollars on base car rental charges. The program is supposed to award points just for the rental fee and any other ancillary fee like NeverLost, but my early experiences have yielded higher numbers than that.
Under the AA offer, you’d earn 16,000 miles. Again, this is one of the more lucrative offer. There’s a couple of ways to compute what this is worth. I’ll use two. First, if you value AA miles at 2 cents a piece, this is worth $320. Second, if you assume that the average domestic ticket (25,000 miles) would cost $400 to purchase, then these miles are worth about $250.
For purposes of this example, let’s take the higher number of $320. For that 4,000 points, I can get any specialty vehicle for a week from Hertz. This is where I think the value for families is. Minivans are generally wickedly expensive compared to regular cars. On a recent rental I priced for a vacation, a full size car was under $300 for the week while the minivan was almost $900. This is a bit of an extreme example, but I had another recently where the minivan was $700+. At $900, I’m getting over 2 cents a point. More importantly, since I have lots of airline miles, I’m making a $900 bill disappear.
For a weekly full-size rental, the math is not quite as good. 2500 points gets you the weekly rental, worth about $300 on the high side. Crediting those rentals to AA using the quadruple miles offer would yield you $200 in value where you might get as much as $300 in value out of the rental car. It wouldn’t take much variation here to make it a zero-sum game. And, if you redeem miles for overseas travel in premium classes, you can probably get significantly more than 2 cents in value for those points.
Moral of the story for me is that I’m going to keep a chunk of Gold Plus Rewards points laying around since I normally rent specialty vehicles like SUVs and minivans. If I wasn’t a Platinum, this would be a sure-fire best bet for me, as I can sometimes convince a Hertz location to give me an SUV or minivan at the full-size price.
I think it makes good sense for people to hold onto some rental car points if they’re renting frequently with Hertz. I don’t think it’s a huge deal either way, but someone earning a decent amount of points on a yearly basis can benefit from the diversity here.