Travel

Credit Card Perks for Car Rentals

Certain cards can boost your status in a rental company’s loyalty program and give you an edge.

If you plan to rent a car this summer, be ready to contend with low inventory and high prices. After cutting back on vehicles during the pandemic, rental companies are facing a dearth of new cars to buy to replenish their fleets following auto-plant shutdowns last year and a semiconductor shortage that is now slowing production, says Jonathan Weinberg of AutoSlash, a site that searches for car-rental discounts.

Book early to snag a reservation at a reasonable price. But there’s a chance that when you arrive at the rental center, fewer cars will be on the lot than customers in line to rent them. At large rental centers at airports, line wait times can be two hours or more, says Weinberg.

Being a member of the company’s loyalty program—even if you have the lowest-tier status—may give you an edge. “They’re more likely to hold a car for you,” says Nick Ewen, of travel website The Points Guy. In some cases, program members get to skip the rental counter and go straight to the vehicle.

The potential advantages increase if you have higher-level status in a loyalty program, and certain cards can give you the boost. Chase Sapphire Reserve and American Express Platinum ($550 annual fee for each card) offer a complimentary Emerald Club Executive membership with National Car Rental and Preferred Plus status with Avis. (Both cards are finalists in our list of the best rewards credit cards. Check for special discounts, too; holders of the Chase card, for example, get up to 30% off Avis rentals and up to 25% off with National. Amex Platinum also provides a Hertz Gold Plus membership and some additional perks for cardholders, including discounts on Hertz rentals, a four-hour grace period on returns and upgrades to the next-highest vehicle class.

Even if your credit card doesn’t offer this kind of perk, use it to book your car rentals. Some cards offer extra cash back or points on travel purchases, plus coverage that will pay the cost of a rental vehicle’s repair or theft.

Most Popular

Your Guide to Roth Conversions
Special Report
Tax Breaks

Your Guide to Roth Conversions

A Kiplinger Special Report
February 25, 2021
How to Know When You Can Retire
retirement

How to Know When You Can Retire

You’ve scrimped and saved, but are you really ready to retire? Here are some helpful calculations that could help you decide whether you can actually …
January 5, 2022
The 10 Best Closed-End Funds (CEFs) for 2022
CEFs

The 10 Best Closed-End Funds (CEFs) for 2022

These high-yielding CEFs won't just significantly boost your portfolio income. They'll also allow you to buy their underlying stocks and bonds at a di…
January 12, 2022

Recommended

What to Expect from the 2022 Summer Travel Season
Travel

What to Expect from the 2022 Summer Travel Season

Travelers have been dealing with the trials and tribulations of canceled trips and elusive refunds for nearly two years. It will get better this year.
January 25, 2022
Overdraft Fees Are On Their Way Out
Smart Buying

Overdraft Fees Are On Their Way Out

New overdraft policies are emerging as consumers and government officials pressure banks to get rid of the fees.
January 24, 2022
What to Do When You Can’t Pay Holiday Debt
Budgeting

What to Do When You Can’t Pay Holiday Debt

More Americans borrowed money to pay for holiday purchases and now the bill is due. Balance transfer cards offer a reprieve.
January 19, 2022
How to Just Say No to Binge Spending
Smart Buying

How to Just Say No to Binge Spending

Don’t let emotions steer you into buying things you don’t need or can’t afford. Know the warning signs and follow these tips.
January 14, 2022