Friday, September 24, 2010

Travel Tip #008: Red Car(pet) Treatment

JM and I don't own a car, so between destination weddings, weekend trips to Boston, random Ikea pilgrimages, and all our other travels, we end up renting a lot of cars. This used to be my least favorite part of traveling- the whole process of getting off a plane, taking a shuttle, waiting in line, filling out the paperwork, and then having to walk around the car looking for dents... it just really got my goat.  One time, after a long-delayed flight to Denver, we arrived at 1 am at the rental car desk to find a line of twenty people, with just one person working behind the desk, and I almost burst into tears. We didn't get out of there until almost two hours later, and thereafter I had an almost sickening dread of the whole car-renting enterprise (no pun intended).

But then, something wonderful happened! JM and I found out about the premier memberships at car rental places, and signed up for them, our lives changed for the better, and we lived happily ever after. The End.

Premier memberships at rental car agencies allow you to skip the line, go straight to your car and drive out. They also make you first in line for upgrades and other perks. Basically, they eliminate all of the unpleasant parts of renting a car, and make you feel like a VIP (even if it is just at the rental car parking lot).  But, best of all, if you are a little wily, you can get them for free. Shut up, right? But I won't shut up because it's true.  Like you, I always thought that you had to pay for those perks, but it turns out paying is for suckers - the agencies waive those fees for a wide variety of reasons, and some of them may even apply to you (and even if they don't, you can pretend they do). Here's how to sign up for some of the major rental companies premium service totally gratis.   You don't have to thank me- just wave at me as we both zip past the line and out of the parking lot.

The below programs are always free, for everybody. I think the only reason everyone isn't already signed up is because they seem exclusive. Don't be fooled and let the sheep stand in line. One caveat- you will have to enter your credit card information to sign up (and be sure to read the fine print, as with any offer).

Avis Preferred
Alamo Quicksilver
Budget Fastbreak
Dollar Express
Thrifty Blue Chip

Hertz #1 Gold: Hertz offers free Gold membership to American Express cardholders, US Airways frequent fliers, and many others (otherwise there is a $60 annual fee). You can check all the associations to which you belong, to see if you qualify, or you can just use this link, enter
Program Name: US Airways Preferred
Promotion Code: 6173
and be on your way.

A few more tips:
-Try to concentrate rentals on one or two agencies you use the most (we use Hertz and Avis), so you accrue points and free rentals.
-Lots of companies and associations offer discounts at rental agencies, so if you belong to AAA, USAA, AARP, etc. or you work at a large company, make sure to enter that info or mention it at the counter. You'll be amazed at the discounts.
-When all else fails, don't forget to check online coupon websites to find promo codes.


Anonymous said...

have you checked into zip cars?

Lily said...

@Anonymous- Yup! Love 'em. Use 'em all the time. They're great for zipping (duh) around the city, but when we need a car for more than a few hours, it's usually cheaper to rent by the day from one of the mass rental agencies.

Natalie | Make Today Great said...

Great ideas! Renting a car is definitely intimidating -- I didn't know that the preferred programs were free!

Anonymous said...

National is free,too.
My husband is a Hertz/Avis man, but I've loved National for a long time. good to know that my US Air FF might get me a free membership to Hertz and/or Avis. A back-up will be great to have.

squidravioli said...

This is great information, perfectly illustrated in the film "Up In The Air"