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When people think of earning elite status, car rental programs aren’t typically the first things come to mind. But they shouldn’t be glossed over. There are some appreciable benefits that come with status with different car rental programs, and it’s not all that hard to earn. Sometimes status is granted in conjunction with status in an airline or hotel program, or by simply holding a premium credit card.

Hertz is definitely my favorite program. I’ve held Hertz Five Star status for over a year now, and it has paid off. Here’s how you can leverage loyalty membership and status with Hertz.

For starters, sign up for Hertz Gold Plus Rewards

Like most loyalty programs, signing up for Hertz’s Gold Plus Rewards is completely free. You’ll want to do this now to be able to earn Hertz points, as well as enjoy perks such as counter-free pickup (this has probably saved me hours of my life). Counter-free pickup is the biggest plus, and one of the main reasons I choose to rent with them when I can (although other rental companies offer similar service). It’s so nice to walk straight to the garage/lot at SFO or Sacramento International Airport (SMF), hop in (or pick out) your designated car, and simply drive to the exit gate.

Even if you don’t rent frequently, signing up for Hertz Gold Plus Rewards is painless. It only takes a couple minutes. If you are able to go one step further, however, and lock in elite status, the benefits get even better.

Earn bonus Hertz points

One of the benefits that comes with holding Hertz Five Star status is the ability to earn bonus points. You will earn a 10% bonus on your normal earnings. This may not seem like much, but every bit helps, and the points are valuable. If you rent often enough to hit 15 rentals in a year, you’ll also get an additional 675 points (worth $60+), which is enough for a one-day rental as long as a standard award for an economy through full-size car is available.

Hertz points are also valuable. I peg them conservatively at 10 cents each. My last two points rentals have gotten me insane value (SEE: Getting 13 cents per point on a car rental!). Hertz sells points for 20 cents each to top off your account, and I eclipsed that value the last time I rented. Points make one-way rentals possible for us that would otherwise be obscenely expensive.

Unlike other points-based rental programs (e.g. Enterprise), you earn points on other charges billed to your rental, including things like prepaid fuel and car seats. The 10% bonus should apply here as well.

Pick cars out of the Five Star section

Hertz Five Star status comes with the ability to receive one-class upgrades on your rentals. But I’ve found that it often goes much further than this. At many airport locations, Hertz has designated Five Star and President’s Circle sections where elite members can simply pick out a car from the selection.

I’ve been quite lucky with the Five Star section, often getting full size cars or even an SUV when I’d reserved a compact. It’s been quite a while since I’ve driven away in a compact with Hertz, even if it is nearly always what I reserve (SEE: Why you’re foolish to rent a “standard” car).

Case study: my recent rental from Sacramento

I flew into SMF a few weeks ago, returning from a week away in Virginia for work. It has become my favorite airport among the five options in central California. Like always, I headed directly to the Hertz Gold Plus board once I arrived at the rental car center. As expected, my name was on the list and said “5 Star”.

I walked to the Five Star section to see if the typical small SUV was available. I’ve basically been guaranteed it the past few times. Sure enough, there was one there.

But hertz had something even better. The Five Star selection included a Camaro. Forget the SUV.

3 ways to earn Hertz Five Star status

There are a number of ways to earn Hertz Five Star status that don’t require renting frequently from Hertz. Mostly, these are perks from holding elite status in some other program or a credit card. Three primary ways to easily get Hertz Five Star status include:

  1. Hotel status – Hold Platinum Premier Elite status with Marriott or Spire Elite status with IHG (visit this page for Marriott match)
  2. Airline status – Hold United Premier Silver or Delta Gold Medallion status
  3. Status match from another car rental program – if you have an American Express Platinum card, you may be able to match the National elite status that card offers to Five Star status. Just email your proof of identity and proof of status to hertzstatusmatch@hertz.com.

If you hold the United MileagePlus Club card, you may not know that this comes with complimentary Hertz President’s Circle status. This card is not a common keeper among travel circles (I don’t personally know of anyone with it), but if you fly United weekly for work, I can see how it would actually be worth it.

Conclusion

While being a member of Hertz Gold Plus rewards offers a number of perks for free, I’ve found that holding Hertz Five Star status to be especially valuable in the past year. It has gotten me decent vehicle upgrades, earned me some bonus points, and provided expedited service.

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