Should You Earn Rental Credits Or Frequent Flyer Miles For National Car Rentals?

by joeheg

I’ve been a member of National Car Rental’s Emerald Club for about 25 years (Ugh, Really? 25 years?) (Note from Sharon – when did I marry such an old man? LOLOL!). For all that time and for all those rentals, I’ve never earned a single rental credit with National. I’ve earned frequent flyer miles for my rentals instead. I don’t rent cars often enough and it would take me forever to earn a free rental day.

National gives 1 rental credit per rental and if you rent a car for more than a week, you can earn extra credits. Here’s a breakdown of the earnings for longer rentals since this information isn’t easily found on National’s website. It took some digging and I’m not surprised they want to keep it a secret:

A “qualifying rental” is defined as the number of vehicle rentals or the number of paid rental days that occurred at a participating National Car Rental or Enterprise Rent-A-Car brand location within each calendar year.

  • If your rental is 1 – 7 calendar days, you will be rewarded 1 credit
  • If your rental is 8 or more days, National rewards you even further by dividing your total rental days by 4.
  • This means:
    • At 8 rental days you earn 2 credits
    • At 12 rental days you earn 3 credits

You need 5-7 credits for a free rental day, depending on what status you have with National. If you earn enough credits for a free day, you can claim that free rental day until December 31st of the following year. This system rewards business travelers, who make frequent, short-duration rentals, more than leisure travelers who typically might rent a car for a week.

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That’s the same face I make when I find out I’m only getting 1 stinkin’ rental credit for a 7-day rental.

If earning National credits isn’t for you, there are plenty of other options. National has several domestic and international airline and hotel partners and even gives Signature TailWins points to private pilots. Here’s the breakdown of how many miles you earn with them. National does charge a fee when you earn airline miles and I’ve included that as well. As you’ll see, it can make a big difference in the value you’re getting:

  • Alaska – 50 miles/day (fee of $0.75 per rental day)
  • American – 50 miles/day ($0.0725 per rental day)
  • Delta – 500 miles/rental ($0.63 per rental day)
  • Frontier – 50 miles/day, 500 miles/5 days or longer ($0.75 per day, max $7.50)
  • Southwest – 600 points/rental ($1.50 per day, max $7.50 per rental)

The entire list of National’s airline partners can be found on their website 

For a 7-day rental, you’ll earn the most points with Delta, Frontier or Southwest. However, you’d have to pay a $7.50 fee to get Southwest points, $5.25 for Frontier and $4.41 for Delta SkyMiles.

Final Thoughts

Should you earn rental credits or frequent flyer miles for National car rentals? There’s no simple answer. There are several variables to consider, such as the length of rental, how frequently you rent from National and how much you value airline miles over free rental days. I choose to get Delta SkyMiles for my rentals but it might not be the best choice for you. As always, Your Mileage May Vary.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


derek May 1, 2022 - 8:33 pm

Often, the highest yield is having hotel stays earn hotel points and car rentals earning car rental company points. The exception was with Hertz, when they were too pig headed to extend the points due to the pandemic even though they did for some people. Fortunately, I only lost 1 free rental day.

BartP June 4, 2023 - 8:22 am

Have been Emerald Club, one tier or another, since the early 2000s. Earning the rental days has been exponentially more important than airline miles. Something you don’t often consider is surge pricing on rentals at peak season, though this isn’t affected by the free days you earn. I find car and hotel points to be better to accumulate as they can end up being more expensive than the flight.


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