How You Can Earn Airline Miles By Driving

If you’re flying to a vacation destination, one of your first stop after the bathroom and baggage claim might be the rental car counter. I hope you used the tips I listed in in this article and got a good price on that car. But what you might not have known is that you can also earn airline miles for most car rentals. Here’s how… 

Rentals from Silvercar were able to earn miles with Virgin America

I rented a car in Charlotte from Dollar during our Three Nights in the Carolinas trip. When I got home, I realized I didn’t select an airline partner when I made the reservation. Fortunately, you’re able to retroactively credit car rentals with most companies. The real question now was which airline would I credit the miles to.

Crediting the rental to an airline would mean I wouldn’t get rental credits from the car rental company. But I don’t rent cars often enough to have that make any difference to me and I’m not loyal enough to any car rental company to earn enough points to be worth anything, so I prefer to credit the rentals to my airline account. As always, Your Mileage May Vary.

The first thing I did was a quick Google search of “Dollar Car Rental Airline Partners” and the first non-advertisement link was for Dollar Travel Partners. It looked like Dollar partners with many domestic and international airlines, as well as IHG hotels:

I’m not a member of all of these programs (Note from Sharon: {THUD}) but I do have miles in several of them. So how did I decide what airline should I submit the rental to in order to get the miles?

My first choice would be any program that I need to keep active. This would have been a great opportunity to keep my Southwest miles active if the miles hadn’t already expired.

I had Hawaiian miles I needed to keep active within the next 6 months but I had an upcoming flight on JetBlue that I will credit to my Hawaiian account so I didn’t need to worry about that. Every other airline account I have would be good for at least the next 12 months. That meant I could now credit whatever account gave me the best rewards.

  • Alaska – 50 miles per rental day
  • American – 50 miles per rental day
  • Hawaiian – 50 miles per rental day
  • Southwest – 600 miles per rental transaction
  • United – 50 miles per day on rentals of 1 to 4 days in length and 500 miles per rental transaction on rentals of 5 days or longer.
  • IHG – 125 points per rental day

Since this rental was for 3 days, the best return seems to be the 600 Southwest miles. So I went to the Southwest airlines site and found directions on how to put in a claim for missing miles:

To request points for a past rental, you can mail a photocopy of your rental agreement, along with your Rapid Rewards® account number to:

     The Hertz Corporation
     Attn: Frequent Traveler Department

     P.O. Box 268899
     Oklahoma City, OK 73126-8899

Excuse me, but this is 2017. Who mails ANYTHING anymore? They don’t even offer a way to fax it to them, not to mention an email. There had to be a better way. So I Googled “Dollar Retroactive Airline Credit”

Here was the webpage for Dollar where you could put in the information about your rental, which airline you wanted to credit the miles and submit the information. And this was all ONLINE! WHAT A BREAKTHROUGH!

So I’ve submitted my information about the rental and I’ll wait to see what happens. Just a note that you need to follow up because these requests often end up lost in the processing until you ask what happened. Then, magically, the miles will appear a few days later.

While this example was with a rental from Dollar, the steps are pretty much the same for the other big car rental companies. Now, you don’t have to do this. You can put in your number when you rent the car. Sometimes airlines offer bonuses like double or even triple miles when booking and crediting the rental to them. Just be careful because sometimes these rentals require you to use a code for the rental that would be more expensive than what you could find otherwise. An extra 300-600 miles is nice, but remember that’s only worth about $5-$10. It’s not worth paying an extra $20 for the rental to get $10 worth of miles.

Do you credit car rentals to airlines or do you earn rental credits? If you credit to an airline, do you sign up in advance or wait until after the rental? Let us know in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter.

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