Traveling is something that is unavoidable for many entrepreneurs and business owners. While some many log more miles than others, everyone has the same opportunity to save money and cut expenses with travel hacks.
Let’s talk about rental cars for a minute. While ride share services like Uber and Lyft are very convenient, sometimes you need a car at your disposal for the entire trip. Rental cars can be found for as little as $19 a day and due to demand can often be several hundred dollars a day.
Here are some rental car hacks that can help you locate the best offers and save you money. If you travel often this can add up to a lot of savings throughout the year.
See what your credit cards offer for benefits.
Most major credit cards have rental car loyalty programs that either offer you a nice discount for simply being a card member or they have a points relationship, where you are able to earn extra rewards by using a certain company or allow you to use your card points to rent cars.
You will of course need to weigh the benefits and pros and cons of all options, but if you are able to get a nice discount as well as earn extra points it can sometimes be worth it to stick to a certain company, like Budget for example. “Check all of your business and personal cards, as they all have different options. Look for the one that makes sense for your specific situation and needs,” offers Oliver James of PWD.
You should try to maximize credit card points if you can. Some cards offer triple points for shopping at healthy supermarkets like Whole Foods, while others favor spending on travel. Chose wisely to end up leveraging the most points for your needs.
Pick one company and join their elite program.
Most rental car companies have their own loyalty programs and elite status clubs, which give you discounts and special perks, like not having to wait in lines, upgrades and being able to pick your car. If you travel often these are worth looking into just for the convenience, as well as the discount.
“When you find a program you want to join see if they have a way of digging up your past reservations and giving you credit for those past transactions,” says Loren Taylor of Soothing Company. “This is usually a quick way to advance up into their higher tier programs by leveraging reservations you have already made.”
It never hurts to ask and you will see that most of the companies want to make you happy, so they will often give you the credit or a complimentary bump to a higher status to keep you happy and a loyal customer.
See if your airline program has a benefit relationship.
Airlines will often have partner program with rental car companies, so if you are a frequent flyer with any of them see what type of offers they can extend to you. “A lot of rental car companies and airlines will swap program benefits, and you can sometimes earn double points,” suggests Irene McConnell of Arielle Executive.
Some of the most elite programs and offers are not made public, so it’s always a good idea to periodically check in to see what new programs and offers are available. When you find a credit card, airline and rental car company that all work together you can really take full advantage and rack up the savings.
Check professional organization benefits.
Are you a member of any small business organizations or local professional groups? If so, ask them about any type of discount programs they have. “Large rental companies like Budget will often partner up with any organization that has business owners as members and extend free upgrades, lower rate options, etc.,” says Pat Skinner of answerfirst.com.
They are more common than you might think. You can also call the rental companies directly if you want and see if they have any partner programs with companies in your local area. Sometimes you can find some new organizations this way that are goldmines for networking and personal growth.
Rent off-site from the airport.
“You will always pay a higher rate at an airport than at a location off-site. If you can, make your reservations at the closest rental car location that isn’t located within the terminal,” says Chris Moberg of Slumber Search. These companies pay a much higher rate to be at the airport and the costs associated with being on-site result in much higher daily rates.
Find locations that are a few miles away from the airport and pay the $7 or $8 to Uber there to pick up your car. I’ve seen weekly car rates drop from $800 to $350 just by renting the car at a location slightly outside of the airport. This is probably the easiest way to drastically reduce your rental car bill each time you go on a business trip.
Book reservations in advance.
This is common sense, but still something that a lot of people forget. If you know you have a business trip in a month or two, make the car reservation now far in advance. The longer you wait the higher rate you will pay, and if you are going to a large conference or event you will risk the possibility of them running out of rental cars.
“Big industry events that draw 20,000+ attendees will often see hotels and rental cars sell out, leaving you stuck,” says Pedro Del Nero of Vaporizer Vendor. “If you have to take cabs and Ubers everywhere you will often pay much more, as they will often roll out surge pricing because of the demand.”
Once you know you are traveling, book the car to secure the lowest possible rate. It’s the easiest way to save money and ensure you aren’t stuck without a car when you land.