Annoyed by Hertz? Me too. A look at Avis.

I love a luxury bargain. What that means is that while I prefer the finer things in life, I don’t want to pay full price for them. Or, as my grandmother would say, I have “champagne taste and a beer budget.” (You gotta love the grandma sayings.)

Recently, I received an email from reader Rebecca. She suggested that Avis might be right up my alley, and wrote a very persuasive, detailed description of some Avis benefits and perks she thought I would enjoy. Rebecca was right! Avis is totally busting out with the luxury bargains.

Below, you can read a description of their rewards program, plus a few reasons why you might enjoy Avis as well:

The Avis Rewards Program: Avis Preferred and Avis First

Avis Preferred is the basic member level in the rewards program. It’s free for anyone to join. When you are a member, you can skip the lines and paperwork and go straight to your car. (The very first time you rent from Avis, you do need to check in at the counter so that they can set up your account in person, but after that, you can head straight for the lot). Another membership benefit is that if you’re on an Avis courtesy bus, you’ll be dropped off first (ahead of non-members).

Avis First is the “elite status” program for frequent Avis renters. To qualify, Preferred members must complete 12 or more qualifying Rentals or a cumulative total of 35 or more qualifying Rental days in a calendar year. Benefits of Avis First include:

  • free 2-day weekend rental awards after every 4th qualifying rental (of 2 consecutive rental days or more)
  • free upgrades
  • frequent coupons and access to special promotions

Select and Go

This is the equivalent as walking into your favorite boutique to buy a basic staple item, such as a t-shirt, and then being offered an array of more premium tops to choose from instead…for the same price. Awesome!

Select and Go is a service offered to members with Preferred Status or higher. The way it works is genius:

  1. Check your email or use the Avis app to determine which vehicle you’ve been assigned. You can also do this in person, once you get to the lot.
  2. If the pre-assigned vehicle isn’t exactly what you’re looking for, select a different vehicle that better fits your needs from the Select & Go Exchange area — no extra charge.
  3. If you’d like to upgrade, pick a car from the Select & Go Upgrade area — this is usually where you’ll find specialty cars and SUVs — for an additional daily charge (displayed in the vehicle’s windshield).
  4. Once you’re happy with your selection, drive to the Exit Booth.

A tip from Rebecca: note that if you get in on a late flight, sometimes there aren’t many options left.

  1. Low Prices

Rebecca created this awesome price comparison chart. She writes: the rates can really vary, and for the heck of it I did a comparison.  Interestingly enough, the Costco Avis rate was high.   The Avis.com pre-pay rate was not bad, but the Amex Rewards *AWD code & United AWD prepay yielded the best rates.  I also ran car rental rates on the AAA website. The results were not competitive therefore I left off.

*Note that AWD stands for Avis Worldwide Discount. You can find AWD codes by simply doing a search online. (For example, search for “United AWD Code” and see what comes up). You can also search sites such as Slick Deals or Fat Wallet for codes.

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Rebecca: In the recent months that I learned about Autoslash, I’ve entered in my car rental reservations to see if they could find anything better. In one case they did, it was also with Avis, however in the end, the coupon they found was not honored.  Further evidence that Avis has the best rates if you qualify for a good AWD rate code.

Tip: if you find an AWD code online and you want to figure out which company the code belongs to, start here. The web address will look like this:

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Notice that the letter (A) and the last seven digits displayed (177232) correspond to the AWD code. In this case, A177232 corresponds to USAA.

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So if you want to determine where another AWD code is from, simply change the numbers in the web address. You can then see if the code is right for you. Normally, Avis codes do not “stack” (you can only use one per rental), but you can always try and see if it works for you.

Convenient Phone App

Rebecca loves the Avis apptheir phone app is seamless & easy to use. I can easily view, edit or make a reservation. I can see what car I’ve been dispatched – so that I know whether or not I want to exchange it with Select & Go…even before I get to the lot.

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Earn Points and Miles

You can earn Points and Miles with every rental. Just use the AWD code that corresponds to the airline or hotel partner of your choice. You can find those codes under the tab “Cars and Services.”

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If you forget to enter this code, you can also do it in person once you get to the site.

I have also had success with securing a great rate via my usual easy two-step method (read all about it here), then providing a miles-earning code in person. Right now (through December 31, 2013), you can earn 1500 American miles with every qualifying rental of 3 or more days. Just use code # MUAA070, and you can find the link here. I did this on a recent trip to San Diego and it worked great.

Avia rental promo

However, if you choose to earn miles for your rental you do not also earn Weekend Rental Rewards, which are the free weekend rentals you receive from Avis in exchange for all of your hard-earned points (thanks to reader Patrick for highlighting this fact).

I’m Ready

I’m looking forward to including Avis in my Points and Miles toolkit. I’d love to hear if anyone else has more Avis experience to add!

Comments

  1. I have rented a car from Hertz for business purposes a couple times a month for the last few years and have become increasingly dissatisfied with the services. Although I couldn’t say it was any one thing. I’ve been thinking about jumping ship but wasn’t sure who I wanted to go with, so this is a timely article for me. It’s very well written and thorough.

    I’m going to give Avis a try.

    Thanks very much Points Pixie!

    Peter

  2. This article was exactly was I was looking for. I’ve been Hertz President Circle for past few years and never have been treated well. Their customer service is terrible and their cars are crappy in general (they seem to like their Chevy’s). Past few rentals with Hertz have been painful and I was looking to jump ship as well. Thanks for this detail review. Next rental, Avis here I come.

  3. Due to my profession, I rent a car almost every week and I must say, Avis and Hertz are both pretty abysmal. I shouldn’t have to be transferred 4 times to get to someone who can solve my issue. Not saying that rates aren’t important, but I don’t pay much attention to those as both are about the same. The one reason I rent with Hertz is because their loyalty program is points based, vs Avis’s “free” weekend certs. I like the flexibility to use points whenever, not just on the weekend only picked up from certain locations.

  4. My fall back has always been Alamo as a quick price comparison always put them at the lowest end of the scale. However, at our last rental there was a HUGE line for Alamo at the airport and only one clerk, if you can image that. It took us an entire hour to get the car and all the other rental counters were almost empty that entire time but were well staffed. It was a total mystery to us.

    When we got home we fired off an angry missive to Alamo and to their credit, they did knock a chunk off our bill.

    Sooooooo, I will be looking for a new rental car group. But dang, Pixie, by the time I get through a post like this I feel like I need to go back and pick up an engineering degree. I’ll go back and read it slowly and take notes. 😉

  5. I use Avis Preferred as my back up to Hertz when Hertz are too expensive. I always do a pre-pay option. However, every single rental (3 or 4 a year for the last 5 years) Avis has always added an arbitrary amount (between $10 and $20) to the rental on return. Usually, when asked what this is for, they shrug their shoulders and direct me to a long line, knowing that I have a plane to catch. Occasionally, they say it’s “exchange rate differences”. If the latter were true, then sometimes there would be more and sometimes less, but the amount is always in their favor, so clearly that’s not true. I regard it as a petty fraud – after all, pre-pay is pre-pay – and the rate is set at an amount where I can’t be bothered to query it at length. But it’s enough to make me intensely dislike Avis.

    • Points Pixie says:

      NB – That is super lame 🙁

      I It would be more than enough to make me intensely dislike them as well. I’d love to know if others have also experienced this?!

      • Yes, twice. Once, it was an “upgrade” fee – I hadn’t asked for an upgrade and the agent decided to be generous and charge me generously as well. The other time, it was a way higher rate than I had booked online, apparently due to the AWD code used. Both issues were reluctantly solved after 20+ minutes on the phone. Using different codes can dramatically increase your rate sometimes, and this is true for both Avis and Hertz :/

  6. Points Pixie says:

    Peter and Anne – Glad the post had some tips for you! I know there is a lot of info packed in – it’s my hope that people can bookmark it and return if/when they are ready to take action 🙂

    Maybe I missed my calling as an engineer, though.

  7. Patrick Mc says:

    Although you might want to note that if you choose to earn miles for your rental you do not also earn the free weekend rentals.

    Per the Avis website:

    “Can I earn Weekend Rental Rewards if I receive mileage/credits/points for a frequent traveler program on a rental?
    No. A Rental that earns mileage/credits/points for a frequent traveler program will not qualify to earn credit towards a Weekend Rental Reward. If you would like to earn credit towards the Weekend Rental Rewards, do not include your Frequent Traveler Program Number on your reservation or rental information.”

  8. I rent, a lot (mostly from non-airport locations). In my experience, if the Hertz counter has a Gold service desk, and if you are eligible to go there – the service is much better, and free car upgrades are abundant. They have also taken good care of me when a rental broke down. Avis has given me good-to-
    average service, and haven’t been super helpful with car issues. But prices, especially in the summer, are better than Hertz.
    A great benefit of Hertz for me is that a lot of its non-airport locations are open on the weekends. Gold Rewards redemption is much more flexible than Avis Preferred. Avis does not put a credit card hold in most location unlike Herrtz (usually $200). All in all, it’s a toss up between what’s closer, what’s open and what’s cheaper!

    • Points Pixie says:

      DC – I like your attitude 🙂 And I agree, I think that the services and amenities offered by a brand definitely need to synch up with what you are looking for.

  9. pinkisnice says:

    I remember when I was under 25 and Hertz was (maybe still is?) the only one to charge an extra daily premium because of my age. I understood requiring more insurance, but to jack up a daily rental rate felt like age discrimination, especially to my righteous 20-something self. It turned me off to Hertz then and any experience I’ve had with them since only reinforced that feeling. Go Avis!

  10. You also gotta love their accumulator offers: I earned 55,000 Flying Blue miles with them this year just by completing six standard rentals for 100$ each. Not that FB miles are super valuable, but hey..

  11. Go Avis indeed! (not an affiliate, employee or otherwise 🙂 I do love their services, and have to say Select & Go is the way to go! Often times they’ll have the smaller SUVs, Jeeps, and I’ve even seen hybrids in these lots. For no extra charge, this is a feature I really use and appreciate. Bypassing the counter lines is also something that makes me smile, saving me valuable time and getting me to where I need to go faster. Especially appreciated on those late night arrivals.

  12. Everything is relative.

    Check out the “The Avis Accumulator is back” at the Flying Blue forum on FlyerTalk. Not one single positive experience there. I am not exaggerating: a nightmare at best.
    I had my share of endless frustrations with a similar promotion in 2011. Which was enough for me to jump ship and…go to Hertz instead! A 1 minute wait at most at my regular renting stations, systematic upgrades (I’m 5*) and well. Miles always post!

    • Points Pixie says:

      Zembia – I was just thinking about this today. Everything IS relative. It really makes a difference who you are and what your perspective is. That being said, a series of frustrations is always enough to send me over the edge, never looking back. I don’t rent enough cars to have a strong preference, but so far Avis has been really good for me. Glad Hertz is good for you!!

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