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

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

by joeheg

I’m a big fan of National Car Rental’s Emerald Aisle program. I’ve been a member for 20 years now (Ugh, Really? 20 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. For my travels, I just don’t rent cars often enough so it would take me forever to earn a free rental day.

National gives you 1 rental credit for each rental and if you rent a car for more than a week, you can earn extra credits. Here’s a breakdown of the earning 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 locations 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 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 partners. 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 ($0.75 per rental day)
  • American – 50 miles/day (fee $0.0725 per rental day)
  • Delta – 500 miles/rental ($0.075 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 $7.00 fee to get Southwest points, $5.25 for Frontier and only $0.52 for Delta SkyMiles.

Final Thoughts

Should you earn rental credits or frequent flyer miles for National car rentals? There’s no simple answer to this question. 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’d choose to get Delta SkyMiles for my rental 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


Wes March 9, 2019 - 8:08 pm

Good article. Status with National makes a big difference in the my decision to earn miles or rental credits. If you are executive elite (and maybe regular executive) with them your free day certs are not capped to certain car classes. I have been able to get outsized value this way using the certificates for a convertible in Hawaii and a 4wd SUV out of Denver in ski season. Definitely won out big time vs taking air miles.

Stefan Krasowski @ Rapid Travel Chai March 24, 2019 - 8:43 pm

That reminds me I have 500 Lufthansa miles expire on my, dropping me to 17,000 when I need 17,500 for a one-way domestic US UA F award before M&M devalues in May.

joeheg March 24, 2019 - 8:54 pm

I’ve never earned miles in M&M so didn’t look into sending National rentals to them but 500 miles per rental is a great way to get some extra miles.

Stefan Krasowski @ Rapid Travel Chai March 24, 2019 - 9:01 pm

I only did because of the Wyndham and Hitlon bonuses last year for the M&M 25th anniversary with this award in mind, then I haven’t had a trip to use it where UA had space. Forced expiration 3 years after earned, that 500 was for signing up and account and opting in to their newsletter.


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