Is the One Two Free game worth playing?

Every year National Car Rental offers a promotion called “One Two Free”.  The basic idea is that you can earn a free rental day for every two qualifying rentals.

EmeraldClubOneTwoFree

I recently explained why National’s Executive status is worth having, and I showed how to use Discover cash back towards discounted rentals.  For details, please see “Discover rental car discounts and upgrades.”  Also, see: “Instant free Avis and National car rental elite status!

Now National is back with their One Two Free offer and I’m wondering whether it is valuable enough to be worth renting cars just to earn free rental days.  The idea would be to rent now at the cheapest possible rates and then use the free days when only expensive rentals are available.

Basics

The basic idea of this promotion is that you can earn 300 points for each 2 day (or longer) rental, and for every 600 points earned you get a free day.  So, for example, if it was possible to find a two day (probably weekend) rental for only $20, one could earn a free rental day for a total of $40.  If the free rental day was then used for what would otherwise be an $80 rental, for example, this would be a way to get that rental for half price. 

Yes, that’s a lot of “ifs”.

In practice, when I look at my local National rental car options, I’m hard pressed to find a two day rental for less than $66 after taxes and fees.  There’s no way it’s worth doing that rental twice (for a total cost of $134) to get one free day.  Even if I use Discover half price certificates to lessen the sting, it simply wouldn’t be worth it.  If you can find $10 per day rental options near you, you might want to consider going for it.  Otherwise, consider other options…

Other options

Renting cars is not the only way to earn points.  National provides a whole menu of options:

EmeraldClubOneTwoFreeMenu1

EmeraldClubOneTwoFreeMenu2

Some of the options are one time things that offer a few bonus points for free: connect to Facebook, go paperless, etc.  These are no-brainers, but are not enough to get you to a free rental day.

The best option, I think, is the Refer a Friend option.  For each friend you refer, you will receive 300 points once they make a qualifying rental.  You are limited to a total of 3000 bonus points through referrals (5 free rental days).  Feel free, by the way, to put your own referral link in the comments below (but note that your comment may go to my Spam folder due to it containing a URL so I’ll have to manually approve it when I get a chance).

After the Refer a Friend option, I find the Fuel Service and GPS options the most intriguing.  For each option, you’ll earn an additional 250 points which is almost as many points as the rental itself.  So, if I understand this correctly, a two day rental with both options would earn a total of 800 points.  That’s more than enough for a free rental day.  What I’m not sure of is whether you would earn 250 points for each option with a one day rental.  Clearly the one day rental wouldn’t earn the usual 300 points, but I don’t see anything excluding the 250 point bonuses for fuel and GPS.  Still, my guess is that even these options require a 2 day rental.

So, how cheaply can one get fuel and/or GPS?  At my nearest National location, they charge $11.99 per day for GPS which comes to $23.98 for a two day rental.  Upfront fuel is even more expensive.  At current rates with the smallest possible car it prices out at $32.74.  To get 250 points, GPS may be worth the extra expense (even if you don’t use it).  Upfront fuel might be worth it if you actually need to drive around and actually use a lot of the fuel.  Otherwise, not so much.

Recommendations

There’s no reason not to sign up for this promotion.  And, when you do, there’s no reason not to use a referral link from a friend (or from the comments below once other readers add their own).  Then, you might as well connect to Facebook, download the mobile app, and opt in for virtual credits to get free points.

While I don’t recommend renting cars just for the credits, this promotion is lucrative enough that you might want to change your rental habits a bit:

  • Pick National over other brands if all else is equal.
  • Consider adding GPS for 1 or 2 day rentals (I’m still not sure if you’ll get the 250 points for a 1 day rental, though).
  • Consider the upfront fuel option if you think you’ll actually use a good amount of the fuel.

Keep in mind that the promotion runs through January 31, 2015 and free days can be redeemed through June 15, 2015.

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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Comments

  1. This is one of the most unbiased and well researched article on this subject that i have seen in the travel blogging world. Hats off to you for coming up with such an excellent analysis weighing all the pros and cons while all others are more interested in pushing out their referral links than anything else.

    In my experience of renting cars every weekend, i find that National rentals are way more costlier (double to triple) for small families. It could make sense while travelling with a big group where one needs a SUV/Van and then it makes sense to book a mid-size car and then go for the upgrade through status. From what i have read it is not possible to get even premium cars except on EEE status. I personally feel that National tries to just confuse the customers with different terminologies like executive aisle, emerald aisle and what not. For budget conscious travellers, costco travel is THE site to look for options.

  2. Thank you for the post, it definitely cleared up a couple of things for me. Q: Is this stackable? I like booking cars via the Rapid Rewards portal for the easy 1200 RR miles. As long as I include my National identifying info, do you think I could score both Emerald and RR points?

  3. One data point— just be careful if you’re booking a car that’s below a mid-size and using an upgrade coupon which books you into a mid-size at time of booking.

    For their 2013 1-2-FREE promotion, National denied credit on one of my rentals because I chose to use such a coupon.

    This caveat of renting below a mid-size and having a coupon that books you into mid-size was *not* put in the fine print of the terms and conditions of the offer.

    Sadly, the difference between a compact and a mid-size was only $5 a day.

    I would have gladly paid the difference, and skipping the coupon, had I been aware of this stipulation.

    Because of this, I lost out of a qualifying rental for the 1-2-FREE 2013 promo. So be careful!

    Here is my referral link for the 2014 National 1-2-FREE promo:

    http://bit.ly/1smUQKD

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