How Does Hertz’s Loyalty Program Work?

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A couple of weeks ago, we learned that SkyTeam is making an…interesting choice in introducing a new member to their “airline” alliance: Hertz. While I’m hoping this means flying cars become part of their Ultimate Series fleet, I have a feeling that the term “GroundTeam” is a more likely outcome of this unique partnership.

In all seriousness, the details of the program are still pretty vague, and there are, naturally, some questions around the implicit value of rental car status with Hertz.

While I can’t predict details of a program that hasn’t fully formed, I can take some time to break down some of the nuances of Hertz’s loyalty program, given that I’ve probably spent at least 60-70 days in Hertz rental cars this year.

Rental cars are more fun when you’re basically in a car commercial

Overall, I’ve been pretty happy with Hertz Gold Plus Rewards® – and particularly their Ultimate Choice upgrade setup. The program itself is a little hairy in some areas (have you seen their list of airline partners?) but I figured it was worth at least providing an overview.

Hertz Airline Partnerships

This partnership may not be quite out of left field as it seems, given how many airline partners Hertz has.

At the moment, they list 64 airline partners on their website, and while I’ll spare you the details of listing them all out, chances are, you can throw a dart and hit one of their airline partners. You’ll find airlines from Aegean to Xiamen, as well as a few that I’ve never heard of before. (The link is above as well as right here, in case you’re looking.)

You can also earn choose to earn points with Priority Club, Marriott Rewards, or Amtrak (which seems a little odd), if you would rather credit your points to a hotel (or rail) program.

Just be aware that if you credit your Hertz rentals to Alaska, Frontier, Southwest, Spirit, or United, you will incur a “Frequent Flier Surcharge” for the cost of…wait for it…”up to $1 per day.” Rentals credited toward American’s AAdvantage or Delta’s SkyMiles may incur a surcharge as well, but the cost is so convoluted that I can’t even make heads or tails of it.

Status Tiers

Like any other loyalty program, different levels of use will earn you various levels of status, which come with various perks of varying degrees of value. Hertz Gold Plus Rewards is broken into the following tiers:

Gold 

Just for signing up, you get access to the Gold Plus Rewards area, which means that you can skip the line and go straight to your rental car. You also have the choice to select any vehicle in the “Gold” section when you rent a mid-sized car or higher from an airport with Ultimate Choice lanes. This area typically consists of full-sized cars, a la Nissan Altima and Toyota Camry.

Nothing glamorous, but they get you around just fine.

Finally, you have the option of crediting points to an airline partner, or earning Hertz Gold Plus Rewards points at a rate of one point per dollar spent on qualifying Hertz rentals. This includes add-on items, such as car seats and insurance coverage, but does not include taxes and fees.

Five Star

Five Star members get all the perks that Hertz Gold members receive, as well as the following:

  • Access to the Five Star rental area at participating locations, when you rent a midsize car or higher. This typically includes a nicer array of cars to choose from, including the odd selection of minivans and SUVs.
  • A one car class upgrade, based on availability – this comes in particularly handy when you’re renting a roller skateToyota Yaris or other car that doesn’t qualify for the Five Star Ultimate Choice area.
  • A 10% bonus on Gold Plus Rewards points.
  • 675 bonus Gold Plus Rewards points after fifteen qualifying rentals.
  • No additional driver fee for spouses when renting in the U.S.

President’s Circle

President’s Circle members get all of the same perks as Hertz Gold and Five Star members, as well as the following:

  • Confirmed reservations at participating locations (if I rent an SUV, I’ll get an email confirming which Ford Expedition is mine, and what stall to pick it up in)
  • Access to the President’s Circle rental area at participating locations, when you rent a midsize car or higher. Depending on the location, this may include minivans, SUVs, or even premium vehicles (more on that below).
  • A guaranteed one car class upgrade, which is particularly nice when you’re renting from locations that don’t have an Ultimate Choice area.
  • A 25% bonus on Gold Plus Rewards points.
  • The same 675 bonus Gold Plus Rewards points after fifteen qualifying rentals.
  • No additional driver fee for spouses when renting in the U.S. (same as Five Star status)

How to achieve Hertz status

Like airline status, you can achieve rental car status through spend requirements or a minimum number of rentals, but there are plenty of other ways to get there without ever putting your foot on the ignition.

Gold

Just sign up. Really. You can do it here, and it takes all of three minutes (most of which will likely be spent rummaging through your wallet to grab your driver’s license number).

Five Star

You can achieve Hertz Five Star status through either of the following means:

  • Complete 7-19 rentals in a calendar year
  • Spend $1,500 to $3,999 on rentals

You can also get Hertz Five Star status if you have one of the following:

  • United MileagePlus Premier Gold or Premier Silver status
  • Delta Gold Medallion status
  • Marriott Platinum Premier status
  • An American Express Platinum card
  • A Visa Infinite card, and are based in Europe

You will need to link your accounts in order to take advantage of this perk. United members can sign up here, Marriott members can sign up hereAmex Platinum Cardholders can sign up here, and Visa Infinite cardholders can sign up here. Delta requires you to log into your account, but you can access the link and read about the program here.

Just note that the status doesn’t always show up instantly, and may require some additional prompting – my husband linked his Delta account six weeks ago and is still waiting with bated breath for his Hertz status to show up.

President’s Circle

You can achieve Hertz President’s Circle status through either of the following means:

  • Complete 20 or more rentals in a calendar year
  • Spend $4,000 or more on rentals

You can also get Hertz President’s Circle status if you have one of the following:

  • United MileagePlus Premier Platinum, 1K or Global Services status
  • Delta Platinum or Diamond Medallion status
  • Marriott Platinum Premier Elite with Ambassador status

You will need to link your accounts in order to take advantage of this perk. United members can sign up here, and Marriott members can sign up here. Delta requires you to log into your account, but you can access the link and read about the program here.

Ultimate Choice

For many of us road warriors, the best part of the program is the ability to choose any car that you want from a select area, particularly when there are premium options available. This is also really nice when you have kids in tow or are driving to a more treacherous area, like a ski resort.

Aspen Highlands – prime SUV territory

Of course, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, so here are a few restrictions to be aware of:

  • The program is only available at Ultimate Choice locations. Unsurprisingly, with Hertz being a U.S.-based company, most of these locations are in the U.S. You can view a complete list of locations here.
  • In order to be eligible, you need to rent a midsize car or higher car class (more on that below).
  • Specialty rentals, like SUVs and pickup trucks, typically do not qualify.
  • Rentals through third-party sites, like Priceline and Hotwire, do not qualify.
  • You can choose any car in your designated area, and you can also downgrade, but you can’t automatically upgrade. For example, a President’s Circle member can choose a car from the Gold area, but not the other way around.

As far as those restrictions go, I’ve found that rentals through third party agencies are pretty much out of luck regardless of where you rent from. That said, some airports might be more generous in letting you pick from the Ultimate Choice area regardless of which rental car you’ve booked. In other words, I’ve still occasionally gotten access to the President’s Circle area when booking an economy car.

Anecdotally, I’ve found SFO to be the most generous by far (shoutout to Herb at the Gold Rewards desk if you’re reading this!), while D.C. area airports have historically been the strictest, in my experience. I’ve had moderate luck with Salt Lake City and Orlando, for what it’s worth.

All that said, if you want to pick your car, best to stick with the rules lest you accidentally end up in this behemoth:

Ford Excursion – driving equivalent of a 747

Overall, the quality (and choice) varies pretty significantly by airport.

At worst, you’ll probably end up with a decent selection of newer full-size vehicles. But I’ve seen plenty of upgraded cars in the President’s Circle row, including Chrysler 300s, Chevy Camaros, and even Infiniti Q50s.

Lucky day

So far, my best luck has been an Infiniti Q70 – again, at SFO – for a three-week rental. Honestly, I’m happy as long as I can work the radio and figure out how to open the gas cap, but it is really nice getting the rental car equivalent of a lie-flat seat. 😉

Earning and redeeming points

This is, perhaps, the real “Ultimate Choice” of Hertz – do you credit the points to your Hertz account or to a select airline?

Generally, if I’m booking directly through the Hertz website, I like to credit directly to my Gold Plus Rewards account. Hertz pegs their points at a value of 2.5 to 5 cents per point if you’re looking to apply points toward a discount, which is a pretty decent return on spend in and of itself.

However, you may be able to do even better with free weekend rental days starting at 550 points, and free weekly rentals starting at 2,750 points.

That said, Hertz points are earned at a rate of one point per dollar spent (excluding taxes and fees), whereas airline points are earned at a fixed rate, with bonus tiers depending on airline status. So you may still do better crediting the points to your airline of choice.

Obviously, your mileage will vary (pun intended, in this case), but you may want to do some quick math to see which program will offer the better return. Personally, I do like having some Hertz points at my disposal for vacation car rentals.

Earn bonus points on rental cars

But earning miles is only half the equation. I’ll often forego the Hertz points by booking directly through Delta. I’ve found rates to sometimes quote at 50-60% less than the price listed on hertz.com, and I still earn SkyMiles and receive President’s Circle access.

Exhibit A:

Hertz quoted price

 

Literally the exact same search criteria, on Delta

So in this case, I’ll take the SkyMiles, ~$84 discount, and vehicle upgrade over the Hertz points. As long as I can get away with the “Premium” tag on my expense report.

Now, we could run similar scenarios with each of the 64+ airline partners, but we would probably be here until Christmas. I do, however, want to reiterate that it’s worth taking a second look if Hertz partners with your preferred airline (guess what, they do), and weighing out both the points bonus and the potential cash savings.

And who knows what additional factors we will be considering once the SkyTeam partnership goes live.

Bottom line

Overall, I’ve been pretty happy with Hertz’s program, and I do like the creativity of adding a rental car partner to an airline alliance. Hopefully this is an indication of additional partnerships to come and not an opportunity to water down benefits, but in the meantime, I’m remaining optimistic. And I have to give credit for the creative interpretation of the “SkyTeam” alliance.

In the meantime, be sure to take advantage of the benefits available, especially if you are eligible for status and haven’t already linked your accounts.

And don’t worry, I’ll gladly leave you the large SUV upgrades 😉

Do you rent from Hertz? What do you think of their loyalty program? 

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Comments

  1. Something weird about that airline partners link…. it includes airlines like Malev, which went out of business over 5 years ago…

  2. I am Presidents circle but do not like it at all as I cannot book online. I always get ‘please call for price’ regardless whatever destination. If I book w/h logging in I get a price straightaway. Result is I always end up with Avis as I am really not going to call Hertz to figure out what the price is.

  3. You’re forgetting the unadvertised Hertz Platinum, which offers the ridiculously amazing perk of being picked up curbside at Arrivals in your vehicle. The Hertz driver takes the shuttle back to the rental car center and you drive off.

  4. Ultimate Choice, while a wonderful idea in itself, can be a hit or miss. I saw great selections at UC lots, but not always the case. So if you really need a certain type of car (e.g. AWD SUV), don’t bet on UC.

  5. Another benefit of the Amex Platinum partnership with Hertz is that you get a four hour grace period when returning. If you frequently rent in situations where you’ll be renting just over 24/48h this can save you quite a bit.

  6. Our company has some deal with Hertz and all employees are part of some exclusive loyalty tier. Essentially, benefits as far as I can tell include: car is available immediately outside the terminal in the valet parking, cars are always loaded with bottled water and refreshments, most of the time our personally selected car (I always pick the XJ-SuperCharged in Europe and the XJ-R in the US) is provided in immaculate condition, and we receive a personal concierge number with a note and their business card in the vehicle in case we encounter any difficulty. In addition, all tolls and gps usage are complementary.. It’s a fixed service rate so we are encouraged to use the service for our leisure trips as well. I don’t know how to or where to obtain the details to be enrolled in this program.

  7. I’ve been PC for the last couple of years and I’m on the whole sort of happy with the programme. I mostly rent from LAX which is a decent location for upgrades. It’s pretty sweet driving off in a Jaguar XF when you’ve paid for a Corolla. I will say that HLE locations are nowhere near as generous and the ‘guaranteed’ upgrade is absolutely not a guarantee because it’s still based on availability which makes a mockery of the whole thing but whatever. It’s not perfect, Hertz has crazy IT structural problems and I have to call up to get points awarded after nearly every rental but on the whole I’ve been happy with how it works.

  8. @Bjam

    Glad to know I’m not the only one. President’s Circle as well and Something happened earlier in the year and now my points NEVER post after a rental. I have call and have them posted manually.

    Every time I call no one can tell me why my points are not posting. It’s super annoying.

  9. I’m a lowly Gold, and Hertz usually has the highest prices, IMO.
    Their rewards program is not particularly easy (for me) for the following:

    1) the “best” rate from hertz is the pre-paid, but that requires manual processing of the points. 50/50 chance of having them tell you the 0 points they applied is what you get, or the “we’re sorry it’s still been years since we’ve known about this and we have to manually process this for you, here’s your XXX points).

    2) The points expire unless you actually rent or redeem. Not an issue for most, I imagine.
    3) Try redeeming them. Sorry, online never works, I don’t wanna spend 30+ minutes on hold, and even then there’s enough blackout/restrictions depending on when and where you rent, it makes it difficult to use them, IMO.

  10. I have the Amex Platinum, and I have already an account with Hertz.
    How do I get the 5-Star status? Is there under Hertz/myaccount?

  11. What am I missing: if you book a free rental using Hertz points you are not paying for the rental with a CC so you don’t get the CC’s free insurance for the rental – the cost of Hertz insurance often exceeds the cost of renting a mid sized car so the free rental costs you more than if you’d booked with, for example, Chase Sapphire Reserve and gotten free insurance.

  12. Hertz President’s Circle works well in the US but it is mostly useless in Europe. I had several occasions in Europe where my PC status was completely ignored by he local Hertz agent. Based on several personal experiences I can guarantee you the following perks are useless outside the US. Again, maybe none of them are considered “participating locations”:
    .Confirmed reservations at participating locations: I always rented a SUV for my family.Not once I got a SUV. All I got from the agent was: that is all we have. Take it or leave.
    .Access to the President’s Circle rental area at participating locations: some locations in Europe never even heard of this perk
    .A guaranteed one car class upgrade: never the case unless you want to pay the difference. No tks!!!!

    Again, my issue with Hertz is their inconsistency outside the US. I rather use Avis or National (Enterprise) abroad or even Sixt in Europe.

  13. Key thing about Hertz program is where it works and can be redeemed. Like Avis, they exclude all franchise locations from redemptions. Renting in Croatia or Cape Cod? You’ll be out of luck if you want to redeem those points (check their FAQ for included countries for earning and redemptions). And some quirks eg, can earn in Switzerland but can’t redeem there.

    When you do get a corporate owned location, the pain on redeeming outside the US is that you have to call in to do so.

    On the comment re PC upgrades in Europe, I’ve had good success in the UK-LHR, Spain-BCN and Italy-LIN, for example.

  14. @Steph:

    Thank you, this was really helpful, and a pleasure to read as always. Could we get similar walkthroughs for the other rental agencies?

  15. At lovely Hobart Airport, yesterday, I had to walk the 400 meters to their service yard to pick up the vehicle. So much for PC in Aus!

  16. Nice in-depth review of Hertz Status Levels and benefits! Surprised you didn’t also mention Hertz Platinum Level?

  17. The PC and Ultimate Choice combo is pretty good. For premium cars, I agree with you that SFO is great. LAX generally is bad. Other places are hit or miss, but you can often get an Infiniti. In general, if your expectations are that you will get the mid-sized car you reserved with a slight chance of a luxury upgrade, you will be happy. If you expect an SUV or luxury car every time, prepare to be disappointed.

    Best way to book is Autoslash + Priceline. Priceline prepaid rates are not eligible, but normal rates are essentially the same as booking on the Hertz website and you can still us UC. Amex Plat + Autoslash coupons generally gives the best rate. I’ve never had anyone verify that I actually have an Amex Plat either.

  18. I was Hertz President’s Circle at one time but switched to National where I’m Executive Elite (at least 25 rentals) several years ago and have never looked back. Customer service is better, car selection is better, upgrades more consistent, and using credits for free rentals is much simpler. Every 5 rentals for Exec Elite earns a free day coupon that you can use any day of the week. And each year they have a promotion where every three rentals earns you a free day. No more trying to figure out how many points I need for a certain number of free rental days…and did I mention the customer service is better?

  19. One question for everyone. I never ever get Hertz Gold emails with promos or statement balances. I always get my reservation confirmation and return emails though. I’ve called Hertz a few times to inquire and nobody can figure it out. Has anyone else had the same problem? Is there a magic word to ask for. Points post normally, but I always miss out on promos.

  20. I’ve rented from Hertz for almost 30 years. The quality of their vehicles is typically very good. Service is very hit and miss. Elite status is rarely recognized by staff and inconsistenly applied even at the same location. For example, one rental at LHR I might get upgrades to a Mercedes AMG, whereas the next time get nothing. Selections available at the UC section depends on time and day but never found anything unusual all this year with over 20 rentals. I can’t figure out pricing from one time to the next – assuming it’s driven by their anticipated demand, it varies hugely from week to week. I can never find cheaper rates using airline partner sites, I end up just using the AAA discount. Fortunately, never had an issue with any vehicle or rental. So I’ll stick with them for the foreseeable future. Oh, and the previous comments about points never posting appears related to prepaid rentals. It’s a known issue that I’ve had with Hertz for many years. They don’t seem to be bothered to fix it either, assuming most customers will not notice. You need to email them at [email protected] to make the request, since their missing points form is rarely answered so don’t waste your time.

  21. Amex Platinum doesn’t qualify the holder for 5-star status with Hertz. Instead, Amex provides a CDP number for the discount, benefits and upgrade: CDP#211762

    Note: the hyperlink in the article is incorrect as it references Delta status)

    The correct process for Amex CM to enroll in the Premier rental program using these online steps:
    Log on to americanexpress.com/platinum .
    Scroll down to Car Rental Privileges .
    Click Learn More .
    Select Hertz Car Rental Program , then click Enroll .
    Hertz CDP number 211762

    If your already a Hertz Gold member just add CDP number 211762 to your profile. As the committer above noted anybody can most likely use this.

  22. My pet peeve with all the rental agencies I’ve used is their definition of “midsize.” It’s not like the list is: compact, midsize, full size, luxury, etc. It’s more like: economy, compact, intermediate, standard, full size, hybrid, premium, luxury (I just looked this up for EWR)…plus a bunch of other classes for SUVs, minivans and the Prestige collection. To get that “free” one class upgrade you’re basically forced to pay to upgrade yourself from economy to midsize. So I basically tell them to F themselves and always rent the cheapest car I can find.

  23. @ Ron – there’s something wrong with your account. That’s not normal. I’m PC and have no gigantic issues online.

  24. +1 on National. Not greatest coverage map international, but simple rewarding program, great service, typically good cars. Last car I got was a BMW 740i less than 2k miles.

  25. Thank you. A great summary, much needed since YMMV from day to day, week to week. location to location. But once you accept that, it’s pretty good overall. I got away from Hertz for 10+ years, but returned in the last few just because they are the most consistent.

    A few things I have gleaned:
    Prices vary significantly from day to day depending upon demand and anticipated demand. I find it best to reserve something I’m OK with and return periodically to check prices. I saved $250 on a 10-day rental at JFK by doing do.

    Prices vary significantly from CDP to CDP. Amex is pretty good.
    Midsize = Intermediate
    If you are Delta PM or higher and want Pres Circle, you will probably have to email Hertz at
    [email protected] to make it happen. If you don’t hear back in a week or so, follow-up.

    Lastly, one of the reasons I came back to Hertz is most of their USA locations are corporate owned and are straight shooters. The Franchisees, especially in Europe and Germany in particular, have glommed on to the “damage assessment” to increase revenues. Be warned.

  26. There’s another level: Platinum. I was a Hertz Platinum for about four years then had it pulled a few months ago. The whole process is mysterious to say the least.

  27. Also PC. Service and car choices are good enough for the most part. The insurance thing is an issue as RDM mentioned although it’s never been more than the rental for me. Use points when the rental costs are ridiculous. If you have access to USAA, use their site for car rentals. Rentals are significantly cheaper and you can fill in your Hertz number which gives you express access like you do with direct rental.

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