There are two types of loyalty program members: one who sits back and passively waits for points, and one who goes out and maximizes all the points they can. Road Warriorette has teamed up with National Car Rental to spread the word about their ONE TWO FREE promotion. With this promotion, renters receive one free rental day for every two qualifying rentals of a mid-sized or larger vehicle (for two or more consecutive days).
What better way to learn how to take advantage of promotions like these than to hear from an Emerald Club business travel pro and conduct a giveaway? Last week I was lucky enough to get to speak to Jennifer, a business traveler with almost two decades on the road, who has great advice about travel and capitalizing on points to earn the maximum benefits.
Jennifer hails from New England, where she is a relationship and event manager. For the last 18 years she has traveled nationally and internationally, often times going to a new location every week. I hope you enjoy the advice and experiences she shared with me. And don’t miss the giveaway at the bottom of the post!
She is a bonafide road warrior(ette). Jennifer has traveled the world for business, jetting off to such far-off locales as London, Mexico City, and Tokyo. She doesn’t travel to the other side of the pond as much now, spending most of her time right here in the USA.
She will fight to be the one renting the car. When coordinating events, having a car at every location is a requirement. There are always last minute errands to run: picking people up from the airport, getting copies from Kinkos at 2am, that last coffee run…. She also had to make sure that things went smoothly for her clients through all aspects of her events, which could mean a full 20-hour day of scouting restaurants and confirming that hotel accommodations are up to snuff. However, in Jennifer’s experience, most people don’t want the hassle of renting a car, so she would often volunteer to rent the car. “They had no idea I was doing it strictly to get more points!” she laughs.
Driving in the UK is easier than driving in Paris. When Jennifer told me she’s taken several trips to the UK, my first question was: How was driving on the “wrong” side of the road? (I know Americans go to the UK and drive all the time, but it sounds so scary to me!) Her trick to learning was to practice in a parking lot first, and while it wasn’t as hard as she thought it would be, driving a stick shift was a challenge. That was nothing, though, compared to the first time she rented a car in Paris. Back before most of the cars had built in GPS, she had to rely on her Blackberry for directions and she kept losing the signal. So she was driving around Paris, sticking her arm out of the window, holding her Blackberry, trying desperately to help the GPS figure out where she was, all the while trying to avoid the dreaded 6-lane roundabouts. Eventually she made it to her destination, but she said that was one time that “printed directions would have really come in handy!”
She LOVES points and miles. As a self-described “points hoarder” Jennifer has been an Emerald Club member for 14 years, and also belongs to the rewards programs for American Airlines, United, JetBlue, Virgin America, Hyatt, Marriott, and Starwood. Her favorite ways to earn points (aside from always volunteering to rent the car!) are bonuses. “There’s just no way to bump up your points totals like bonuses!” she says. “I sign up for things like National’s ONE TWO FREE every year as early as I can. Then I extend business trips in fun places like LA and San Diego, tacking on a few days of free travel.”
Another one of her tricks: use shopping portals, especially at Christmas. “I’ve actually gotten to the point that before I buy a pair of shoes I will check the American or United portals to see who has the better bonus offer. I probably spend more time on this than a lot of people, but it’s worth it when I get to take a great vacation!” And if a friend or family member needs to make a large online purchase, say furniture or a computer, Jennifer has also been known to offer to pay on her credit card. The shopping portal bonuses plus the credit card points really add up!
Her strategy: earn the points, then decide on a trip. Some people like to have a destination in mind and earn points toward that destination. Others just like to amass as many points as possible then figure out their ideal destination later. Jennifer is definitely in the latter group. She “loves to gather and hoard points and miles on all kinds of loyalty programs,” but usually doesn’t plan big vacations far in advance. As a business traveler, she notes that when you’re on the road for work all of the time you’re not always looking to do more travel. (She is so right!!) Depending on her travel load, she will frequently schedule mini-vacations just a few weeks out, but will only use points if the redemption rate is good.
She is making an exception for a trip to Valencia, Spain next year—an avid tennis fan, she’d like to spend two weeks watching a tournament, with a quick trip to Paris afterwards. Sounds good to me!
Her best tip for business travelers: be prepared. In Jennifer’s opinion, the way to make business travel easier is to be as prepared as possible. She travels with a kit of chargers, a MyFi, and (before it came on her phone) she always had a GPS unit. As for car rentals, she is prepared there, too: sitting close to the shuttle bus door so she can dash to the Emerald Aisle to have first pick of the cars. She doesn’t let herself spend too much time agonizing over which car to choose, her one requirement being satellite radio. “I love being able to pick my own car, but sometimes I would spend half an hour agonizing over which car to take for a 36 hour-trip. I had to just decide to pick based on one thing, and let the rest go.”
Jennifer also has a unique rental car return strategy. At busy airports like LAX, if she has an early morning flight home she will often return her car the night before. “If you’re staying near the airport, the shuttle driver will often drop you off at your hotel for free. Just tip him well, and he’ll remember you next time.” I have to say I’ve never thought of returning my car the night before a flight, but have often cursed the confusing return system before an early morning flight!
Readers, National is giving a $200 Amex card and an Emerald Club Executive Status Promotional Access card (good for one year) to one lucky reader. To enter the giveaway leave a comment below with your favorite strategy for maximizing points, then share a link to this post on social media using the hashtag #OneTwoFree. The winner will be randomly selected on Friday, October 17. Good luck! And don’t forget to register for ONE TWO FREE!
Quick legal stuff: Only US residents 18 and over are eligible to win this giveaway. One entry per person.
National compensated Road Warriorette for this post. All opinions expressed are her own.
Have a travel question or suggestion? Send it to RW @RoadWarriorette.com.