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Old Jan 6, 08, 2:57 am   #1
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Thrifty Promotions and Discounts

Promotions and discounts for Thrifty Car Rental seem to be mostly ignored on the Web, so I thought I'd start a consolidated Thrifty promotions and discounts thread here. I will attempt to keep this post updated with all known promotional codes. Please feel free to post your own codes or PM me about new ones and I'll add them to this first post for everybody's reference! (Thanks goes to ByeByeDelta, who inspired the design in his well-kept 2008 Amtrak Promotions and Discounts thread in the Amtrak forum.)

Unless otherwise noted, the following codes are publicly available and available for use by anybody (subject to standard rental qualifications).

Nationwide promotions are listed first, while location-specific promotions are organized by region.

About Promotions and Discounts
Most Thrifty discounts are promotion codes and are entered in the "Promo #" field on the Thrifty website. Promotion codes are usually four alphanumeric characters.

  • When using promotion codes, it always helps to do a price check both with and without the code. Sometimes, special non-discountable rates will be available on the Thrifty website. Applying a promotion code may cause the booking engine to look for a [higher] discountable rate and then apply the discount to that. A 5% discount does not help if it's off of a rate that's 15% higher.

Occasionally, a discount may be listed as a corporate code (also known as a corporate discount number, which should be entered in the "Corporate #" field at the Thrifty website. Corporate codes are usually 10-digit numbers beginning with 0. However, most corporate codes are for internal use by a specific corporation's employees, and it is not the purpose of this thread to publish corporate codes that are not intended for public use. Thrifty uses association discounts and corporate codes much more sparingly than some other agencies, who have corporate affiliations with every organization and association known to mankind and allow the general public to use those corporate discounts. Rather, Thrifty's strategy is to target the leisure market with rates that are consistently low (and are often lower than the competition's rates even with the discounts!).

  • Corporate codes are typically negotiated rates available year-round at all locations. Quite often, you will be able to find lower rates than are available with a corporate code (especially on weekends and/or in a location's off-season). Depending on the size of the corporate account, corporate rates typically come with various benefits (waived additional driver/underage driver fees, included partial Loss Damage Waiver and/or liability insurance, etc.), but any corporate codes posted here will likely be rate-only codes and will not include any benefits (exceptions will be noted). Even the corporate programs that include these benefits generally stipulate that the benefits are only valid on business rentals, although employees of that corporation are allowed to receive the negotiated rate without the benefits for leisure travel--but enforcement of that provision is sketchy. I am not aware of any way for a retail renter to get underage or additional driver fees consistently and legitimately waived nationwide--but see the section labeled rental tips below. For reservations in Florida, be sure to check out the Orlando Magicard discount listed below.

Some discounts or specials may require you to visit a certain site. I will include the link in the description of the promotion.

Reserving a Car
It usually pays to book directly at thrifty.com. The GDS systems used by online (and brick-and-mortar) travel agencies (e.g. Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz, etc.) are expensive to maintain, and the travel agencies receive a small commission on reservations booked through them. Both of these cost Thrifty money, and so rates loaded on the GDS systems are typically $1-2 per day higher than rates available directly from Thrifty (but not always!). My strategy is to use the online agencies to comparison-shop, but I then go directly to the rental company's site to actually book the car. (You'll have to do this anyway, of course, to use promotion codes; some online agencies do allow you to book using corporate discount numbers, but not promotion codes, through their site.) If you're a travel agent and want to use promotion codes, you may book through Thrifty's Travel Agent website, where you can enter your IATA number and receive your commission on GDS-commissionable rates (plus a $1 booking bonus!).

Travel metasearch engines like Kayak and SideStep search multiple websites and then forward you to the vendor's site to complete the booking. However, Kayak sometimes misses Thrifty's site, and consequently, results for Thrifty found on Kayak may forward you to places like Orbitz and CarRentals.com (which use GDS systems and therefore usually have slightly higher rates). Before SideStep was bought by Kayak, it would foward you to thrifty.com, but it would do so through thrifty.com's travel agency site and load SideStep's IATA number (so SideStep would get a commission). I do not know if this affected the rate. I don't know the current state of this, so pay attention.
Money-saving tip: If you're flexible or are renting for a longer period, renting from an off-airport location might save you some money. (Airport fees continue to creep up across the country, and in some places, it could save you 20% or more to rent off-airport. Since airports are usually owned by local or state governments, these airport fees are codified into ordinance or statute, and regulations vary for each airport (some require that you not have flown in within the last 24 hours, others simply differentiate between on-airport and off-airport offices, etc.). Sometimes, the more competitive nature of on-airport rentals results in lower rates (especially on weekends), and so a higher rate at the off-airport location could wash out the savings from not paying the airport fees. Be aware that most off-airport locations (at least at airports that have on-airport locations) do not offer shuttle service from the airport to their offices, and so the cost of a taxi or the hassle of public transportation or hotel shuttle bus shuffles might outweigh the potential savings. But all else being equal, the savings can certainly add up.

An interesting option is Thrifty's Wild Card program, available at most corporate-owned locations and some franchises. For about the same price as a compact, Thrifty will guarantee you to get at least a compact car (room for five people and two large pieces of luggage)...but a specific size, make, or model is not guaranteed, and Thrifty may give you a fullsize car, a luxury car, an SUV, a pickup truck, or even (gasp!) a minivan. To reserve a Wild Card, attempt a booking at your preferred location and be sure to choose "Show All Types" from the Car Type pop-up menu; if available, it will be listed under the "Specialty" type with a picture of flashing playing cards. (Alternatively, you should be able to select "Specialty" from the Car Type pop-up menu, but this will not always work.) The Wild Card promotion is a useful way to try to get a larger vehicle on the cheap, although you could (of course) end up with a midsize car or a two-door (but five-seat) convertible. I have not heard any experiences of trying to upgrade from a Wild Card reservation (if they put you in something you don't want) to another size (the waters get murky when you're trying to "upgrade" from a normally-$100/day SUV into a normally-$60/day minivan, although it's usually the opposite case). Reports indicate that the Wild Card is usually simply the vehicle that the location has the most of and/or needs the least, so it tends to be cars like convertibles (especially in the cooler months) and minivans. For a compendium of vehicles FTers have received under the Wild Card promotion, please see the Consolidated Wild Card Thread, and be sure to post your experiences as well! Also, note that the above link to Thrifty's description of the Wild Card promotion will insert the promotion code "WILD" into the booking screen, but this should not be necessary and occasionally even causes an error message to appear.

Another option offered at many locations is the Hot Deals option. This is only offered on the Thrifty.com website. When entering your pickup information, make sure to choose "Show All Types" from the vehicle sizes. If the location offers it, the following screen will have a bright yellow bar that says, "Hot Deals!" Click the green button labeled "Click for Hot Deals" to view and book rates approximately 10% less than the standard rates. I'm not entirely sure why it's set up this way rather than just making the rates 10% lower (it may have something to do with keeping those rates from being published to the GDS systems), but clicking the "Hot Deals" button seems to do nothing but apply an occasionally changing three-digit promotion code to the reservation (I've seen it apply 622, 101, 582, and others, and it will probably change again soon).
Thrifty.com does not generally require you to input a credit card when reserving the car. That is because most reservations (with the possible exception of some specialty vehicles at some locations) are not obligatory--there is no penalty for changes (except that the rate might change), cancellations, or no-shows. Avis is currently working with the GDSes to implement no-show/cancellation fees, and Thrifty and other agencies may eventually follow suit, but for now, you can usually change, cancel, or no-show for a reservation without penalty. Some online travel agencies will ask for a credit card number, but this does not need to be the same card you're going to pay with, and often, that card number is not even transmitted to the location. DO NOT rely on the credit card entered here to pay for the reservation--the driver needs to have a credit card in his or her name with him or her when he or she picks up the vehicle (more on that in the second post of this thread).

Do be nice to the agency and try to notify them if your plans change, as they try to manage the fleet carefully (even a small decrease in the percentage of cars on rent can drastically affect the bottom line, since the business is inherently high-overhead--most problems customers have with oversale situations is because rental agencies count on a 10-15% no-show factor, and when more people show up than planned, well, you know what happens). You can help keep someone else from being inconvenienced by ensuring you cancel any unneeded reservations.
Sign up for Thrifty’s free Blue Chip program. Aside from providing you with express service--your rental transaction is processed before you arrive, so all you need to do is sign and go--and a satisfaction guarantee (or you get a free day), you can earn Blue Chip Rewards, which in some cases can be more valuable than earning miles with Thrifty’s many airline partners (see the section on airline miles for a FlyerTalk geek alert; also see the section below on travel partners for current earning opportunities). With Blue Chip Rewards, you earn one credit for each rental day. After you accumulate 16 credits, you can redeem for a free rental day. Thrifty occasionally runs a double Blue Chip Rewards promotion wherein you receive two credits per rental day instead of one, which can make the rewards program quite valuable.

[FlyerTalk Geek Alert]: Using Blue Chip credits, a 6.25% return would be the average, given that rewards are equal to 1/16 of the days rented. However, if you earn low and redeem high, you can do a lot better than that percentage. In fact, if you work the system right--earning Blue Chip credits on cheap economy car weekend rates of $10 and redeeming them on $160-per-day SUVs in peak season--you can redeem credits at over 100% (which makes it over 200% with the double credits promo!). Note that you do still need to pay taxes when redeeming Blue Chip credits, so if you rent from ANC, which has $160 (or higher)-per-day SUVs in the summer, be prepared to pay 30% tax on that $160 per day.

If you choose to earn miles instead of credits, your results can vary widely. To earn enough miles for a standard 25,000-mile domestic saver award would take 500 rental days with the programs that give 50 miles per rental day (you'd need to open up a new contract every 30 days). At the average $30-per-day rental rate and assuming the average domestic saver award is worth about $400, that's a return of 2.6%. If you could somehow manage to piece together enough rental days to rent at an average of $15 per day and you redeem your saver mileage award for a ticket that would normally go for $800, you could see your return jump to as high as a [still pretty lame] 10%. (With the triple miles promo, that's a more-respectable 30% return.) Some airlines used to award miles on a per-transaction basis (UA used to give 300 miles per transaction, even if you only rented for one day), which allowed for a much higher rate of return, but these have gone away.

Given the relatively low rate of return when earning airline miles and the surcharges that come with that, I'd choose Blue Chip Rewards over airline miles unless you rarely rent cars and want to keep your airline accounts active.[/End FT Geek Alert]
And now, what every FTer wants to know:

Travel Partner Programs
  • Enter your frequent flyer program information when reserving your car, or give your number to the rental agent when picking up your car. Due to the way the computer systems work, miles or points might not post correctly if you give your mileage program information after the contract is closed, but you can try filling out this form.
  • There is an additional surcharge for awarding frequent flyer miles to all U.S.-based carriers "to offset a portion of Thrifty's annual cost of participation in this frequent flyer program." These were substantially increased (by contract with the associated airlines) on September 1, 2008 with minor revisions on May 1, 2009. The specific charges are listed next to the programs below.
  • The primary renter's full name must be an exact match with the name of the frequent flyer program account holder.
  • Verify your name is spelled correctly on the rental agreement to ensure your miles are posted correctly.

U.S.-based airlines
  • Alaska Airlines: Receive 55 Mileage Plan miles per rental day (limited to 30 days); $.95/day surcharge. Also receive 250 bonus miles after three visits to the same Thrifty Parking location within 12 months.
  • American Airlines: Receive 50 AAdvantage miles per rental day (limited to 30 days); $.06/day surcharge. Also receive 250 bonus miles after three visits to the same Thrifty Parking location within 12 months.
  • Continental Airlines: Receive 50 OnePass miles per rental day (limited to 30 days); $.95/day surcharge. Also receive 250 bonus miles after three visits to the same Thrifty Parking location within 12 months.
  • Delta Airlines: Receive 50 SkyMiles per rental day (limited to 30 days); $.95/day surcharge. Also receive 250 bonus miles after three visits to the same Thrifty Parking location within 12 months.
  • Hawaiian Airlines: Receive 55 HawaiianMiles per rental day (limited to 30 days); $.95/day surcharge. Also receive 250 bonus miles after three visits to the same Thrifty Parking location within 12 months.
  • Southwest Airlines: Receive .5 RapidRewards credits per transaction; $1.50 per day with $8.00 maximum.
  • United Airlines: Receive 50 Mileage Plus miles per rental day for rentals of 1-4 days and 500 miles per transaction for rentals 5 days or longer; $0.95/day surcharge. Also receive 250 bonus miles after three visits to the same Thrifty Parking location within 12 months.
  • US Airways: Receive 50 Dividend Miles per rental day; $.95 per day. Also receive 250 bonus miles after three visits to the same Thrifty Parking location within 12 months.

Non-U.S.-based airlines
  • Gulf Air: Receive 50 Frequent Flyer Programme Falcon Miles miles per rental day (limited to 30 days).
  • Emirates: Receive 500 Skywards miles per transaction.
  • Kuwait Airways: Receive 500 Oasis Club miles per transaction. Also receive 250 bonus miles after three visits to the same Thrifty Parking location within 12 months.
  • Qantas Airways: Receive 3 Frequent Flyer points points per dollar spent at Australian locations and 700 points per transaction at all other locations.

Hotel programs
  • Hilton Hotels: Receive 250 bonus HHonors points when you show your Thrifty rental agreement when checking into your hotel. Possible special rates/benefits for HHonors members: CD# 0010156065

Other programs
  • HBC: Receive 20,000 HBC Rewards points per transaction at Canadian locations
  • RBC: Earn two additional RBC Rewards® points for every dollar you spend on a car or truck rental with Thrifty. To earn RBC Rewards® points with your Thrifty rental, simply use your RBC Royal Bank® Visa card to pay for your purchase. Not clear if this pertains only to Canadian locations.
  • Veteran's Advantage: Various bonuses and discounts. See link for details.

Bonus Mile Promotions
  • TRP9 - Book Smart. Get Triple Miles.
    Earn Triple Miles when renting a mid-size car or larger for three days or longer with participating airlines. Offer valid for pick-up August 10, 2009 through December 15, 2009 at all worldwide locations. Participating programs and bonus mileage levels:
  • WN21 - Low Rates. Double Credit. Sounds like a good plan.
    Earn Double Credit with Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Program when renting a mid-size car or larger vehicle for two days or longer. Offer valid for pick-up June 29th, 2009 through December 31st, 2009 at all worldwide locations.
  • HAT3 - Earn Double Miles
    Earn DOUBLE HawaiianMiles on rentals two days or longer of a compact car or larger. Offer valid now through December 31, 2010 at all Thrifty locations worldwide.
  • HB53 - Hbc Double Rewards Points Offer
    Receive 40,000 Hbc Rewards Points on your next rental in Canada when you quote Promo Code HB53 when reserving online. Present your Hbc Rewards Card at time of rental. Available for pickup now through December 31, 2009 at participating Thrifty locations in Canada. Rates are in Canadian dollars.

Now, on to the discounts!

The Discounts

Promotion or corporate codes are displayed in the thread's title (if applicable). The thread title will also be linked to the original source of the discount, if one is available. means the discount is new since the last update.

Ongoing Offers
  • Best Rate Guarantee
    Book your reservation on Thrifty.com. Within 24 hours, if you are able to find a better Thrifty rate on any other website, simply submit a claim here . There's no need to book the better rate, because once confirmed, we're going to give you that rate anyway plus discount it by 10%. Full terms and conditions at the link above.
  • Hot Deals
    Hot Deals are only available at some locations and on some dates but are generally 10-15% less than the normal online rate. Clicking Hot Deals on the Thrifty booking engine will apply a three-digit promotion code to the reservation. Since the promotion code changes occasionally, rather than input the specific code and guess which locations, vehicle sizes, and days they're available (if you guess incorrectly, it will fail), it is probably easier to attempt a normal booking (showing all car classes) and look for the bright yellow Hot Deals alert, since if Hot Deals are available, they will be shown there.
  • WMRT: 10% off time and mileage. Available to Wal-Mart customers (whatever that means). Theoretically, you must pay using a Wal-Mart credit card (which Thrifty Car Rental is supposed to accept), but this requirement is never enforced, and many Thrifty locations may not even know how to accept the Wal-Mart credit card (it requires a special machine).
  • SAMS: 10% off time and mileage. Available to Sam's Club members and may require display of a Sam's Club card in the primary driver's name.
  • AAA: 5% off time and mileage. Available to AAA members and may require display of a AAA membership card in the primary driver's name.
  • 5512: 5% or more off time and mileage. Another AAA code. See above for details.
  • SNRS: 5% or more off time and mileage. Available to anyone 55 or older. Replacement for former AARP discount, with the side effect that AARP customers between 50 and 55 are technically ineligible for this discount.
  • AU11: 5% off time and mileage. Valid through December 31, 2010 (has been extended year over year). No published requirements (it appears to be legitimately usable by anyone).

US Nationwide/Multi-Region Promotions
  • AX10 - Receive 10% off with any American Express ® Card
    Save 10% on time and mileage charges on any vehicle when you use any American Express® Card. Valid through January 31, 2010.
  • EMID - Mid-size car discount
    Get a 5% discount on a Mid-size car at participating locations in the U.S. when you pick up November 23 - December 14, 2009. 24 hour advanced reservations are required. Not available November 24-26.
  • EIFAR - 5% discount on Mid-size SUVs
    Get a 5% discount on time and mileage when you rent a Mid-size SUV at participating locations nationwide. Offer available for pick up through November 30, 2009. Not available November 23-27.
  • EMFPL - 5% discount on weekly rentals
    Save 5% on a Full-size, Premium or Luxury car when you rent for five days or more at participating locations nationwide. Offer valid for pick up through December 10, 2009.

US West Promotions
  • 9LAFV and 9LAFE - Los Angeles & Las Vegas Van Special! (alternate link)
    Rent our Full-size Van for $79.00/dy, $499.00/wk. Offer available through December 15, 2009. Not available November 23-30.
  • 9OPCE - Ontario & Palm Springs Offer
    Rent a Premium car in Ontario or Palm Springs, CA for $49.00/day or $329.00/week. Offer available for pick up through December 15, 2009. Deal mislabeled as Palm Beach, CA in 10/26 Thrifty email and again in 11/9 email
  • 9MTH5 - 5% Diso.... (sic) on Monthly Rentals
    Receive 5% off when you rent for 28 days or more in Phoenix, Tucson, Ontario or Palm Springs through December 1, 2009.
  • 9DNWE - 10% Off Weekly Rentals in Denver
    Save 10% on time and mileage when you rent a Compact through Full-size car for five days or more in Denver, CO. Offer available for pick up through November 30, 2009. Not available November 20-28, 2009.
  • 9LAME - Los Angeles Minivan
    Rent a Minivan for $39.00/day or $229.00/week at our Los Angeles airport location. Offer available for pick up through December 15, 2009. 24 hour advanced reservations are required. Not available November 24-28.

US Midwest Promotions
  • 9MWWE - 10% off in the Midwest
    Save 10% on time and mileage when you rent a Compact, Mid-size or Full-size car for five days or more at one of these Midwest locations:
    • Columbus, OH
    • Chicago O’Hare, IL
    • Cincinnati, OH
    • Milwaukee, WI
    • Dallas Love, TX
    • San Antonio, TX
    • Tulsa, OK
  • BNAWK - Weekly Rate Special
    Save 10% in Nashville, TN on an Economy, Compact, Mid-size, Standard, Full-size or Premium car when you rent for 5 days or more. Offer available for pick up through January 15, 2010. 24 hour advance notice required. Not available November 24-27 or December 21-25.

US East Promotions
  • 9JAXM and 9JAXE - Jacksonville Minivans (alternate link)
    Rent a Minivan in Jacksonville, FL for $49.00/day when you pick up Sunday through Wednesday. Offer available for pick up through December 16, 2009. Not available November 23-27.
  • CD# 004M001010 - Orlando Magicard Promotion
    Use corporate number 004M001010 and receive discounted rates plus free unlimited mileage, free additional driver fees, no drop off fees in most Florida locations and free Blue Chip Express Rewards. Advance reservations required.
    Promotion may require you to show Orlando Magicard. Print one free here. Promotion expires March 31, 2010 (but always gets extended).

US Northeast Promotions
  • HOUR1 - NY Metro Hourly Rate
    $9.50 every hour up to 6 hours total or $60 maximum per day for all compact, midsize, or fullsize vehicles. Available for pick-up June 12th, 2009 through June 29th, 2010. (blackout dates apply)
  • 9NEWK and 9NEWE - New England Weekly Rate Deal
    Rent a Mid-size car for $145.00/week at the New England locations listed below. 5 day minimum rental required. Offer available for pick up November 1- 20, 2009. 24 hour advanced reservations are required.
    Locations:
    • Boston, MA
    • Providence, RI
    • Burlington, VT
    • Manchester, NH
  • 9MAIE - Mid-size car $159/week
    Rent a Mid-size car for $159.00/week at the locations listed below. Offer available for pick up through December 15, 2009. 24 hour advanced reservations are required. Not available November 24-28.
    Locations:
    • Baltimore, MD
    • Chicago, IL (Midway)
    • Chicago, IL (O'Hare)
    • Cincinnati, OH
    • Dayton, OH
    • Houston, TX (Hobby)
    • Houston, TX (Intercontinental)
    • Kansas City, MO
    • Milwaukee, WI
    • New Orleans, LA
    • Norfolk, VA
    • Philadelphia, PA
    • Raleigh Durham, NC
    • Washington, D.C. (Dulles)
    • Washington D.C. (Regan) (sic)

Australia Promotions
Canada Promotions
  • AXCN - Receive 15% off your next weekly rental
    Receive 15% off your next weekly rental. Available for pick-up through December 31, 2010. 1 day advance and 5 day minimum. Must pay with any American Express®Card.
  • CAN8 - 10% Off in Canada
    10% off time and mileage on any car in Canada. Available for pick up now through December 31, 2009.
  • LM78 - 10% Off
    10% Off, time and mileage only, on car rental. Available for pick-up now through December 31, 2009.
  • CSNRS - 5% Off Senior Citizen Discount
    5% off time and mileage on any car for Senior Citizens. Available for pick up now through December 31, 2009. Renter must be age 55 or older.
  • GAS6 - Gas N’ Go
    Receive a free $10 Petro Canada gift card on the rental of any vehicle for 2 days or more at select Canadian locations through November 30, 2009.

Europe Promotions
  • GER10 - Airport Special - 10% Off All Cars
    When you rent any size car (Mini through Luxury) from one of the following Thrifty Germany locations, we'll take a 10% discount off the rate (time and mileage only). Available for pickup through December 17th, 2009 and must include promo code GER10. Requires a 24-hour advance reservation.

    • Munich Airport
    • Frankfurt Airport
    • Cologne Airport
    • Dusseldorf Airport

Latin America/Carribbean Promotions
  • LAT05 - 5% off in Latin America
    Get 5% off, time and mileage only, when you rent from one of our participating Latin American locations, available for pick-up February 17th, 2009 through December 31st, 2009.
  • SJDPC - Premium car in San Jose del Cabo
    Book a Premium car for $38.00/day or $228.00/week (USD) at the San Jose del Cabo, Mexico Airport when you pick up through December 12, 2009. Not available November 25-26.
  • CRGPS - Discount on GPS
    Discover all of Costa Rica with a GPS (global positioning system) on your next vacation. Available for only $8.00/day when you present this coupon. Available on all cars through June 30th, 2010.
  • More coming soon!

Middle East/Africa Promotions
  • MENA5 - 5% off in the Middle East and North Africa
    Receive 5% off, time and mileage only, when you rent any vehicle from a participating Middle East or North Africa location November 5, 2009 - December 31, 2010. 24 hour advanced reservations are required.

Last edited by jackal; May 6, 11 at 8:06 pm Reason: Update to Wild Card program
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Old Jan 6, 08, 2:58 am   #2
Moderator: Information Desk, Alaska Mileage Plan, Virgin America FlyerTalk Evangelist
Original Poster
  
Join Date: Mar 2004
Location: PIT
Programs: AS MVP (ex-75K), AA GLD, UA (ex-1K), AGR (ex-S+), HZ PC, Nat'l Exec, Costco Exec, NPS Passport
Posts: 21,722
Renting the Car
Now that you’ve gotten a good rate reserved, here are some tips on renting the car. I’ve heard from several people that the world of rental cars is foreign and confusing, so hopefully these pointers will help.

First of all, when you show up at the rental counter, you will need to provide a driver's license and a credit card. The credit card needs to match the name on the driver's license. It's not usually a problem to rent the car to a different person than it was reserved for (reserved for Joe Schmo but brother-in-law John Smith wants to do the driving), but the credit card needs to be in the name of whoever is renting the vehicle.

If you can, use a credit card. Not only do most credit cards provide some collision damage insurance (though it can be flaky), many locations have limits on accepting debit cards or even do not accept debit cards altogether. Customers who only have debit cards are viewed by rental agencies as riskier for numerous reasons, and it's harder to collect on bad debt from a debit card with $200 in the bank account than from a credit card with a $25,000 limit. If you use a debit card to rent the vehicle, be prepared for some (or all) of the following additional qualifications or restrictions:
  • Limits on the size of vehicle (basic vehicles only, no SUVs or specialty cars)
  • A possibly-substantial additional deposit above the amount of the rental (refunds can take some time to process)
  • A credit check (inquiries can hurt your credit score)
  • Restrictions by residency (no local renters, out-of-state driver's license required, flight itinerary required, etc.)
  • Proof of insurance required
  • Coverage options restricted (prohibited from purchasing coverage)

Handling the Sales
Most rental agents are on some type of commission or incentive system, although the specific system and its lucrativeness varies between companies and locations. Some locations (especially some, but not all, franchised locations) stress sales, while others are less intense or have lazy agents who simply ask, "Do you need any coverage?". While nobody should be subjected to ultra-high-pressure sales (and in case you are, read the following so you know what you want before you get to the counter), a good sales agent can effectively show you the value of the options he or she is offering while providing excellent customer service. Do not simply walk up to the counter, toss your driver's license and credit card at the agent, and say, "I don't need any of your expensive insurances or gas." Nothing is more off-putting to the agent, and he or she might do something like give you the oldest, most dinged-up car on the lot or put a note to show you absolutely no mercy on fuel at return or overtime charges--or, in extreme cases, nitpick some policy in order to deny you a rental car. If you have your heart set on declining everything, the best thing to do is listen politely and then politely decline the offers. Rental sales agents actually have a good bit of authority (they're not minimum-wage order-takers) and can make your life miserable if you treat them poorly or don't respect them. (I know one agent who would make it a point to offer and explain every option in full detail--politely and with a smile on her face--if a customer walked up and told her up front that they were in a hurry and just wanted to decline everything. That could make a transaction take upwards of 10 minutes. Surprisingly, too, she said she actually had good luck convincing these people to buy some of the options using this method.)

However, if you are interested in at least understanding what the rental company is offering, here is a description of the items an agent may offer you:

Upgrades: It's obviously in the company's interest to roll higher-priced vehicles, but most people attempt to save as much money as possible by booking small cars, even though they'd rather drive something bigger (there's a reason the Toyota Camry, and not the Chevy Aveo, is the best-selling car in the U.S., and trucks and SUVs are getting more and more popular despite rising gas prices). Agents are trained to offer upgrades in order to balance the fleet and, of course, maximize the company's (and their) revenue.
If you want to drive a larger vehicle, upgrading at the rental counter can be a way to get it for substantially less than what you can reserve it for--but not always. At some locations, upgrade prices are set in stone (or daily by a manager), while at others, the rental agent has a lot of leeway in quoting a price for an upgrade. The cost of the upgrade depends upon a lot of factors: your current rate, how many vehicles in your reserved class the location has (if they have 2 midsizes left, they might offer a cheap upgrade to at least get something for the SUV rather than have to give the SUV as a free upgrade to the third person in line behind you), how many of the larger vehicles there are (last Durango on the lot will go for more than one of 30), and even the agent's mood and how you phrase your request. (I would recommend letting the agent make the offer--asking up-front tells them you're willing to pay a lot more--and letting them know price is your main consideration by asking "How much is it?" when they first offer you the choice.) Agents will also typically offer the nicest/biggest/best vehicle in the fleet first. You can usually get a much better deal if you wait for a second offer or ask for something less expensive after the first offer.
Coverage or protection: There are several different options available, and many people are confused by them.
  • Loss Damage Waiver covers any physical damage to the rental vehicle and associated fees and is somewhat analagous to comprehensive and collision coverages on a typical personal automobile insurance policy. Although it varies by location, LDW typically includes coverage for the following items:
    • 100% of damage to the rental vehicle (no limit and no deductible)
    • Tire repair or replacement
    • Windshield repair or replacement
    • Diminution of value (the decrease in the resale value of the vehicle)
    • Loss of use (you keep paying while the car is in the shop or waiting for parts)
    • Administrative fees
    In other words, if anything happens to your rental vehicle, you are basically not responsible. This option is not an insurance policy but a contractual "waiver"--in exchange for a fee, the rental company is agreeing to "waive" its right to collect on damages from you. (Tip: don't confuse the rental agent by telling them you want to "waive" this option.) Note that violating the rental agreement (allowing an unauthorized person to drive, driving while intoxicated, driving on unpaved roads or out of the allowed area, reckless driving, etc.--read the contract for full details) will void this and any other coverage. Check with the specific location for any limits on coverage.

    Note that LDW only covers your rental vehicle. It does not cover death or injury to you or the occupants of your vehicle or to third parties involved in the accident.

    The cost can be somewhat steep--anywhere from $9 per day up to $30 (possibly higher!) per day, depending on location, coverage limits, and size of vehicle--but the benefits are that it's hassle-free (no endless dealings with insurance companies, especially if they don't cover rental cars), has no extra out-of-pocket expenses (deductibles, loss of use and other items not covered by some insurance companies), and protects your insurance premium (no insurance company payout).

  • Supplemental Liability Insurance provides protection against third-party claims for both bodily injury and property damage, usually up to $1 million per incident and is more or less analagous to liability insurance on a typical personal automobile insurance policy. In other words, if you hit someone else, this policy will cover their car repair, medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, etc. It is "supplemental" in that it will extend any existing liability insurance offered by the rental company up to $1 million per incident, but since companies are rarely in the habit of giving things out for free, third-party liability insurance is only included in the rate in states where it is legally required (and even then, it is usually only up to state minimum coverage limits). It is a primary policy, meaning that the $1 million limit would need to be exhausted before anything is claimed against your personal liability policy.

    Note that SLI only covers third party claims. It does not cover your rental vehicle or any death or injury to you or the occupants of your vehicle.

    The cost is usually less than LDW (between $10 and $15) but of course varies by location, and the benefits are similar to the ones listed for LDW above. In addition, the $1 million policy can help provide substantial protection of your personal assets should you be at fault in a major accident.

  • Personal Accident Insurance and Personal Effects Insurance are usually sold bundled together as the Personal Protection Plan. PAI provides some medical, death and dismemberment benefits for bodily injury. Coverage is provided for the primary renter for accidents in and out of the vehicle and for injury to any passengers due to an accident in the vehicle only. PEI provides some coverage against loss or damage to personal property, subject to a deductible and limits on items covered (basically, it doesn't cover electronics, jewelry, or anything expensive).

    The cost for the two together is usually around $5 per day but may be less if bundled with other coverage options.

  • Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Protection provides coverage for injuries and damages caused by an owner or driver of an uninsured or underinsured third party vehicle. In other words, if Joe Schmo driving on a suspended license and with no insurance hits you and puts you in the hospital, damage to your car and your medical bills, etc., are covered. If Joe Schmo has state minimum coverage but your hospital bill ends up being $300,000, this policy would cover the difference.

    The cost is usually $5 or so per day and is only offered at some locations.

  • Pre-Paid Fuel may be the most confusing item on the menu. At most locations, the vehicle is delivered to you with a full tank of fuel. Normally, you are responsible for returning it in the same condition. If you do not, the rental agency will refuel the vehicle at a premium price (I know one Budget location that charges $10 per gallon!).

    With pre-paid fuel, however, you buy one full tank of gas in advance from the rental agency, usually at a competitive price per gallon with nearby gas stations (and sometimes a lower rate). By doing this, you are not responsible for refueling the car before returning it. However--and this is the part that confuses most people--you are buying a full tank of gas no matter how much you use. If you only use a quarter of a tank, you are not refunded for the other three quarters of a tank.

    If you're keeping the car for one day just to drive to a meeting and back, it's probably not a good deal (unless you're a Fortune 500 CEO and your time is worth thousands per hour, in which case the time saved by not having to refuel it may be justifiable). But if you're going to be driving at least a couple hundred miles and are the kind of person who waits until the last minute to do everything (including returning the vehicle and checking into the flight), or you don't mind paying a little bit for convenience--or you like to drive the car down to the last drop and want to get the most for your money (I've been known to drive 30 or more miles with the fuel light on), pre-paid fuel isn't a bad deal.

  • Other options include TripSaver roadside assistance (at $4.99 per day, not a bad deal if you're going to be doing a lot of driving) and GPS units ($10-12 per day, a bit spendy but fun and useful if you're in an unfamiliar area and don't already have your own). Other location-specific options may be offered.
Rental contract terms and conditions are mostly common-sense, but if you've never rented a car before, it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with them. It's not usually good form to hold up a line while you spend 20 minutes reading them with a magnifying glass, but it shouldn't be a problem to read them before you drive out of the lot and come back if you have questions or want to void out the rental.

Before you sign the rental contract, though, it's a good idea to review the charges, especially if your total is different than your original reservation's quote. It's a LOT easier (and you have a lot more bargaining power) to adjust or at least clarify things up front than complaining at the return (after you've gotten use of the upgrade or the coverage or whatever you "didn't know about"). Carefully read any spots the agent asks you to initial, too. A good agent will fully explain the contract and charges before having you sign it, but not everyone is as thorough (and, yes, there are a very few bad eggs out there, too, who may try to hide things in the contract that you don't want).

After signing everything, you'll be directed to your car. When you get to the car, do a very careful inspection for any damage, no matter how minor. While most locations are fairly lenient with damage (minor door dings or surface scratches are generally not a problem and are considered normal wear and tear), it is in your best interest to make sure the agency has all pre-existing damage on record--or you risk having to pay for it upon return. Pay special attention to the less-visible spots down near the bottom of the car, the windshield, and the tires (look for low pressure, indicating possible leaks). Report anything you see to the appropriate person (a gate attendant, lot attendant, or back at the rental counter) and make sure they have it in writing (either on a vehicle damage slip or at least in their computer system). It would be in your best interest to have a copy of that record as well. (You should do this even if you've purchased LDW in the event that something happens that voids the coverage, leaving you on the hook for those charges.)

Most corporate-owned locations and franchises do run an honest business and will not intentionally charge you for damage you didn't do, but sometimes damage does appear on cars and can be difficult to track down exactly who caused it. There are some less-than-ethical operators out there, too, and anything you can do to protect yourself is a good idea.

Last edited by jackal; Feb 13, 10 at 5:26 am
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Old Jan 6, 08, 2:58 am   #3
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Reserved--just in case!
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Old Jan 19, 08, 12:03 pm   #4
  
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Just want to say Thank You.
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Old Jan 20, 08, 6:51 am   #5
  
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anyone got a promo code for SXM this march

thanks cal
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Old Jan 20, 08, 10:22 pm   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xcalx View Post
anyone got a promo code for SXM this march

thanks cal
I haven't tackled the long list of Latin American/Carribbean promotions yet, but check out the following codes:

*STSUV Details here: http://www.thrifty.com/specials/16708.aspx
*STUP1 Details here: http://www.thrifty.com/specials/16709.aspx
*STM5 Details here: http://www.thrifty.com/specials/16706.aspx

And the full list of Latin America/Carribbean promotions here:
http://www.thrifty.com/specials/Deals_Mexico.aspx
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Old Jan 29, 08, 2:23 am   #7
  
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I booked a few days ago with WMRT and it worked fine. However today it doesn't seem to work, nor does SAMS. AU11 and AX11 still give 5% though.
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Old Jan 29, 08, 3:11 am   #8
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Originally Posted by stoked View Post
I booked a few days ago with WMRT and it worked fine. However today it doesn't seem to work, nor does SAMS. AU11 and AX11 still give 5% though.
I don't know why availability sometimes comes and goes. I think locations can block certain promotions (or maybe a blanket block for all promo codes), but for the most part, I think these blocks are inadvertent and accidental. The DTG rate/yield management department is not known for being particularly on top of things...

By AX11, did you mean AX10? Or is there a separate AX11 promotion? (I'm not aware of one.)
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Old Jan 29, 08, 11:41 am   #9
  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jackal View Post

By AX11, did you mean AX10? Or is there a separate AX11 promotion? (I'm not aware of one.)

Sorry AX10. Couple hours later the prices dropped again, used AU11 to save another 5 bucks.
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Old Jan 29, 08, 12:39 pm   #10
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Sorry AX10. Couple hours later the prices dropped again, used AU11 to save another 5 bucks.
Ah, thanks. I was worried that I wasn't on top of my game here!
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Old Jan 29, 08, 12:56 pm   #11
  
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very nice post.

Sadly, no code worked for a march 8-15 in miami, only 004M001010.
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Old Feb 5, 08, 10:54 am   #12
  
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I tried using SAMS and WMRTand neither worked (they had in the past)
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Old Feb 10, 08, 7:22 am   #13
  
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I reserved a car in sept for the holiday weeks in march and april and got a great rate but now may need to turn the car in early and perhaps to a different location. When I look at making a new res the fee is more than twice my res so I don't want to cancel. Can I just bring the car back early at a different location and what fees will I incur as I can only find the $15 early drop off fee online? Thanks!
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Old Feb 10, 08, 7:42 am   #14
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As I understand it, you should be able to drop the car off earlier without rebooking without causing a rate change (i.e. the rate won't recalculate to that higher rate), but you will be responsible for that $15/day early return fee. Dropping off at a different location will also incur a drop fee, but that would be the same whether you did it without notification or booked in advance. So your best bet should be to leave it as is and simply return it early.

Note that if your pickup location is a franchise, you won't be able to return it to a different location (unless it's owned by the same franchise, but SEA and PDX was the last multi-city franchise that I was aware of, and it's now corporate). Franchises also don't typically charge that early-return fee, either (yet, anyway--it's still pretty new even at corporate locations). If the website lets you put in the option to drop off at your alternate location, then most likely the pickup location is corporate (and will allow the drop-off and will charge the early-return fee). Might not hurt to ask how it will work when you pick up the vehicle to prevent any surprises, though.
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Old Feb 10, 08, 7:47 am   #15
  
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Thankyou for your quick response. I will be picking up at FLL and would like to drop off early at PBI as I am in the process of changing flights. Do you think that I should call the reservation line and just ask or just adjust my flights and then tell them when I bring the car to PBI? Thanks again
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