Should You Credit Car Rentals to Airline Frequent Flier Loyalty Programs? That Depends…

Whenever you rent a vehicle from a rental car company, you usually have the option of either earning credit in your preferred airline frequent flier loyalty program; the membership program of the rental car company itself; or not earning any credit at all for the rental.

Should You Credit Car Rentals to Airline Frequent Flier Loyalty Programs? That Depends…

Hertz rental car

Photograph ©2019 by Brian Cohen.

If you are reading this article, the last option is likely not one which you would even consider — so what about the other two options?

The following text was extracted from this article which was posted at Your Mileage May Vary earlier today, Friday, January 22, 2021:

In the Dollar Express program, you earn one point per dollar spent per rental. If you’re paying attention, you know that my rental cost was $149.07.  So why did I only earn 56 points?

That’s because you only earn points based on the rental rate, not on taxes and fees.

Well, I’m sure Dollar points are worth something. Right? Tell me they’re worth something. Please. Don’t tell me I earned worthless points—anything but that.

Blue Ridge Parkway

Photograph ©2018 by Brian Cohen.

Dollar Express Rewards is the membership program of Dollar Rental Car, with which you can earn one point per qualifying dollar spent on the base rate. You can join the program at no cost to you and enjoy the following benefits:

  • Skip the counter and go straight to the parking lot
  • Best car reserved for you or choose your own
  • Free authorized additional driver for a spouse or domestic partner
  • Enjoy quicker reservations, pick-up, and returns
  • Earn free days with Dollar Express Rewards, as you can redeem:
    • 500 points during a weekend
    • 625 points during a weekday
  • Priority counter service when needed
  • E-Return — drop the keys off and go
Iceland car

Photograph ©2018 by Brian Cohen.

To keep your points from expiring, you must rent a vehicle at least once in 24 months — which is certainly not unreasonable, although not having points expire at all would arguably be preferable for members.

You may instead want to credit your vehicle rentals to an airline frequent flier loyalty program — perhaps because you need the miles to use towards an award ticket for a flight; or maybe you want to keep the miles in your airline membership account from expiring, as this action is considered qualifying activity in most frequent flier loyalty programs…

…but know that the catch is that you may likely be required to pay a fee just for the privilege of crediting your vehicle rental to your airline membership account in order to offset a portion of the annual cost of the participation of Dollar Car Rental in a frequent flier loyalty program. Again using Dollar Express Rewards as an example, points may be converted to frequent flier loyalty program miles as follows:

Airline Frequent Flier Loyalty Program
Miles or Points Earned Per Qualifying Rental Transaction
Frequent Flier Surcharge Fee Cost
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan 50 Mileage Plan miles $0.95 per day.
All Nippon Airways Mileage Club 300 Mileage Club miles No fee specified.
American Airlines AAdvantage 50 AAdvantage miles per rental day Effective Friday, January 1, 2021, for rentals in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Canada when the renter chooses to receive miles in the American Airlines AAdvantage program, the Frequent Flyer Surcharge will be calculated based on the federal excise tax expense incurred by Dollar when it purchases miles from American Airlines. Under the Tax Relief Act of 1997, all companies that purchase frequent flier miles from airlines must pay a 7.5 percent excise tax on the cost of those miles — on average, 6 cents per day.
Avianca LifeMiles 50 LifeMiles per rental day No fee specified.
Delta Air Lines SkyMiles 500 SkyMiles Effective Friday, January 1, 2021, for rentals in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Canada when the renter chooses to receive miles in the Delta Air Lines SkyMiles program, the Frequent Flyer Surcharge will be calculated based on the federal excise tax expense incurred by Dollar when it purchases miles from Delta Air Lines. Under the Tax Relief Act of 1997, all companies that purchase frequent flier miles from airlines must pay a 7.5 percent excise tax on the cost of those miles — on average, 6 cents per day.
Emirates Airline Skywards 500 Skywards miles per qualifying rental at participating locations on rentals of up to 29 days; 1,000 Skywards miles per qualifying rental at participating locations on rentals of a minimum of 30 days. No fee specified.
Frontier Airlines FRONTIER Miles 50 FRONTIER miles per day on rentals of up to four days in length; 500 FRONTIER miles per rental transaction on rentals of a minimum of five days $0.75 per day.
Japan Airlines Mileage Bank 300 Mileage Bank miles No fee specified.
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards 600 Rapid Rewards points $1.50 per day — up to a maximum of $8.00.
Spirit Airlines FREE SPIRIT 50 FREE SPIRIT miles per day on rentals of up to four days in length; 500 FREE SPIRIT miles per rental transaction on rentals of a minimum of five days $0.75 per day.
United Airlines MileagePlus 50 MileagePlus miles per day on rentals of up to four days in length; 500 MileagePlus miles per rental transaction on rentals of a minimum of five days $0.75 per day.

You can also opt to earn 125 IHG Rewards Club points per day for qualifying rentals worldwide with no fee specified.

Summary

Blue Ridge Parkway

Photograph ©2018 by Brian Cohen.

As you can see with the information pertaining to the Dollar Express Rewards membership program, each airline has different criteria with regards to both partner earning rates and frequent flier surcharge fees. Now multiply that with Hertz, Avis, National, and other car rental companies.

As with most everything else, do your research to achieve the best value for what you have earned. Should you credit car rentals to airline frequent flier loyalty programs depends on both your preferences and the rules of the programs, as sometimes an airline frequent flier loyalty program — especially one which does not charge a frequent flier surcharge for the privilege — is the best place to credit your vehicle rental; and sometimes applying credit to the membership program of the rental car company is best.

Also, keep in mind that preventing airline frequent flier loyalty program miles from expiring is becoming less of a concern — especially as miles never expire with such membership programs as Delta Air Lines SkyMiles, United Airlines MileagePlus, and an increasing number of other airline membership programs.

All photographs ©2017, ©2018, and ©2019 by Brian Cohen.


 

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