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These rival car-rental giants offer some sweet benefits for frequent customers. Which one deserves your loyalty?

Car-rental programs often fly under the radar when it comes to loyalty programs, but for travelers who rent vehicles often, there are lots of discounts and upgrade opportunities that you may be leaving on the counter. We take a look at two of the largest rental car companies and their frequent renter programs: Hertz Gold Plus and Enterprise Plus. 


Earning perks

Hertz Gold Plus Rewards members receive one point per dollar spent. Points don’t expire as long as there is activity in the account every two years. Members can also purchase points (or transfer from partners like e-Rewards) if they need more to reach a certain award level. If you’re looking for rental suggestions and how best to redeem points, the Hertz Hub is a community-driven site where members share their tips and feedback.

Enterprise Plus members earn one point per dollar spent. As long as Enterprise members have one qualifying rental every three years, their points will remain active. Enterprise currently has a double points offer (available through January 31), which can help rack up points more easily. Enterprise Plus members can also earn points when renting with National in North America.

Advantage: Enterprise. With a longer window of activity to keep points active and more earning opportunities, Enterprise holds a slight edge. 


Elite status

With Hertz, members with Gold status (the basic level) can skip the lines at the counter and go directly to their car (their name and parking spot are displayed on an automated board), which is a nifty time-saving feature. Hertz offers Five Star mid-tier status, which is extended to customers who spend between $1,500 and $3,999 per year. Bonuses include one-class upgrades, 600 bonus points for 15 qualifying rentals in a year, and a 10 percent bonus on point earning. The top status is called President’s Circle, which is earned after 20 qualifying car rentals or spending at least $4,000 per year on rentals. In addition to the benefits awarded to Five Star status members, there is an even bigger 25 percent bonus on points.

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Scoring top-tier Hertz status is easier than it looks. If you have certain credit cards like the United MileagePlus Club card or American Express Centurion card, you receive free President’s Circle status. Several other programs gift Hertz status. IHG Spire Elite and Delta Gold Medallion members automatically receive Five Star status while Delta Platinum and Diamond Medallion members qualify for President’s Circle. United has a similar program offering status for its own elite members. If you have status with another car rental company, Hertz offers a status match program. Hertz throws a bone to those with the Platinum Card from American Express by providing four hours of additional free rental car use and a discount off the total price when paying with the card.

Enterprise Plus has three elite levels in its program. Silver status comes with six rentals, Gold status comes with 12 rentals (or 40 days of rentals), and Platinum status is awarded for two dozen rentals (or 85 days of rentals).

The related perks for Enterprise status are solid, with a 10 percent bonus for Silver, 15 percent for Gold, and 20 percent for Platinum. Even better are the upgrades provided to elites, with one level for Silver, two category levels for Gold, and four category levels for Platinum. Expect Platinum members to be driving around in hot cars for a lot less than everyone else. Even better, Enterprise offers an elite status match from other car rental programs, giving travelers the chance to sample its solid upgrade benefit. World Elite MasterCard holders can receive a one-category car upgrade and 5 percent discount on Enterprise rentals when paying with the card.

Advantage: Hertz. While Enterprise awards its top-tier members with exceptional upgrade opportunities, there are many more ways to achieve Hertz status through partnerships. 

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Burning those points

For as few as 550 points, Hertz Gold Plus members can redeem for a free weekend day car rental. The program also allows redemptions for one-way rentals and specialty vehicles, such as SUVs and convertibles. As with airline programs, there are a variety of awards based on the type of rental (weekday, weekend, or one-way, for example) making things more complex. There is also a difference in award types, including awards that cost less if travelers are willing to deal with blackout dates. More popular travel dates (during the holidays, for instance) cost more points for AnyDay redemptions. If you don’t have enough points for an award, the program allows pooling points with a spouse.

Enterprise offers redemptions for as few as 400 points, and there are no blackout dates or variable pricing for busier periods. Unfortunately, there is no option to redeem points for one-way rentals.

Advantage: Enterprise. It offers redemptions for as few as 400 points, with no blackout dates, making it the clear winner in this category. 


Our verdict

Both companies have solid elite status programs for upgrades, and you may already qualify for them just by holding certain credit cards or having airline elite status. But when it comes to getting a free car rental faster, Enterprise comes out on top, with awards for fewer points and point accrual privileges with National. 

>>Next: Loyalty Card Showdown: Hilton Honors vs. Marriott Rewards