Guide to Saving on Rental Cars with Your Credit Card

The Ultimate Guide to Saving on Rental Cars with Your Credit Card

By Dawn Allcot / June 17, 2011
The Ultimate Guide to Saving on Rental Cars with Your Credit Card

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Most people should know, by now, to forego CDW (Collision Damage Waiver) insurance on your rental car if your regular auto insurance provider or your credit card already offers this benefit. And most quality travel rewards credit cards — and many other credit cards — do offer this service, at least as secondary coverage to cover what your car insurance does not in the event of an accident. (To a degree… some fees and expenses may not be covered at all.)

Other Ways to Save Money on Your Rental Car by Using Your Credit Card

One of the most frequent questions raised by CreditShout readers is: besides foregoing the collision insurance, “how else can my credit cards help them save on car rental costs”?

We are happy to report that you can save hundreds up front, and get the best prices available, by using a credit card.

When you use a debit card to book your rental car, you’re limiting yourself. Not every rental car company accepts debit cards, so you’re limited to finding one that does, and you may not be able to shop around for the best deals and lowest prices. Also, when you book a rental car with a debit card, the rental car agency may not just force you to pay upfront for the rental car, but they’ll put a hold on hundreds of dollars in your account (typically, $300).

While you don’t pay this money, leaving all this money tied up for transportation leaves you with less pocket cash for your trip.

Use your credit card to book a rental car — even if it’s the only time you use it. (And, with all these great rewards, we hope that’s not the case either!)

1. Look for cash back offers when you shop through your rewards credit card portal.

Dollar Rent-a-car is offering 5% cash back when you pay for your rental car with your Discover credit card.

Chase rewards credit card holders have a few more deals to take advantage of, including:

  • 2 rewards points per dollar when you book with your Chase rewards credit card, plus additional savings for booking online
  • 2 points per dollar from Enterprise, plus ways to save 10 to 20%, earn free upgrades or free rental days
  • 2 points per dollar with Thrifty car rentals, plus opportunities to save 5% on travel reservations and other special offers on rental cars

Currently, Citi and Priceline are offering a discount of $4 per day, along with up to $20 bonus cash back, when you name your own price for a rental car and book with your Citi ThankYou Rewards card.

This is just an idea of the deals available right now. Specials change frequently, so it’s smart to check the shopping portal for your rewards credit cards before you book. Don’t just limit yourself to looking for car rental bonus points, either. As the Priceline special demonstrates, travel portals like Orbitz, Travelocity and Priceline also offer rental car discounts when you book with specific credit cards.

2. Negotiate a better deal on the phone.

While some car rental agencies offer the lowest prices online, sometimes phone reps know the best deals available when you use a Triple A card, discount warehouse club card or a certain travel rewards credit card. Speaking with a phone rep also gives you the opportunity to negotiate an upgrade or a better price. Compare prices online and on the phone if you’re looking for the best rental car deal with your credit card.

3. Spend wisely on the road.

Don’t forget to use a credit card that offers bonus rewards on gasoline purchases every time you fill up your rental car. Never pre-pay for gas through the rental agency, as you’ll pay a premium. And, if the tank is on E, fill up a few miles away from the drop-off location to get a better price, and top off a gallon or two, if needed, at a gas station near the car rental agency. Pay attention to how much gas you need to put in the tank before you return it — if you didn’t get the car with a full tank, you don’t have to return it that way.

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