Discover’s National Car Rental certificates

In August I published “Discover rental car discounts and upgrades”.  In that post I described my approach to car rentals: maintain Executive status with National Car Rental (which allows me to reserve a mid-sized car, but pickup a much bigger or nicer car), and save a lot of money on rentals using Discover Cash Back.  Unfortunately, I’ve recently hit a few snags with this plan…

When you accumulate cash back with your Discover card, you can redeem directly for cash or you can redeem for partner gift certificates worth even more.  For example, you can get $50 Lands End gift certificates for just $40 in Discover Cash.  That’s a 20% discount:


Similarly, car rental certificates are available at a 50% discount:


I prefer the National Car Rental certificates because:

  1. They can be applied online (with the other agencies you have to call to use more than one).  All three companies have a 3 certificate limit for each rental.
  2. I can rent a mid sized car and then pick any car from their Executive Aisle since I have Executive status with National.  This can save a ton of money when traveling with a large group since minivans and large SUVs are often available so it is sometimes possible to rent fewer cars than otherwise needed.

Recently, though, when I’ve tried to redeem my Discover Cash back for National Car Rental gift certificates I found they were out of stock.  First the e-gift certificates were gone, and now the by-mail ones are gone too.  I don’t know if they’ll return, but I hope so.  The website currently shows them as unavailable:


Using the National certificates

Assuming the certificates return, here are a few tips for using them:

  • They can be combined with Contract IDs which can offer additional National Car Rental discounts.
  • You can apply up to 3 of these certificates to a single rental, even when booking online.
  • You can go through a portal to National Car rental to earn additional cash back.
  • You cannot combine these certificates with other types of coupon IDs.  This can be a big problem when you qualify for a free weekend day coupon, for example.
  • You cannot combine these certificates with free days rental certificates earned through National’s rewards program.

See also:

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  1. That is very strange, especially so since Enterprise and Alamo (all part of Enterprise Holdings) are available, so presumably it can’t be a new corporate policy – unless Enterprise and Alamo just haven’t caught up yet…

  2. A few years ago, National certs went out of stock when I needed them. They did come back in stock a few weeks later if I recall correctly. Don’t remember much else details though

  3. The coupon exclusion means these are useless for weekly and weekend rentals. I guess they are good for non-Saturday night stay rentals…

  4. Using certificate to pay for partial amount of the rental cost will nullify the primary insurance that came with the credit card (CSP or AMEX), is it worth the trouble?

    • I have the exact same question! I rent cars a ton, but I also don’t have a car, so I don’t have primary car insurance. I need the Credit Card’s policy!

    • I’m not sure that’s true. The receipt shows the gift certificates as “add ons” rather than payments. That’s the same place that discounts are listed. I think (but I can’t be 100% sure) that you would still be covered.

  5. I’ve used these with corporate rate and they worked just fine. However, you can only use it to cover the base rental fee. You’ll still have to pay for all the taxes and any other extras like car seat rental if you need it. Still worth it though.
    1 thing I found out when I tried to use then for trip to Panama was that the website won’t let me use them. Maybe they don’t work for international locations… or maybe just Panama.. idk.. anybody knows? Anyway,I just call Discover and ask to cancel and refund the money. It’s all good.

  6. 1) There’s specific language in Discover’s T&C that enables CDW insurance when paying with certificates + Discover card.
    2) How can you apply 3 certificates to Enterprise rentals? I couldn’t…

    • T&C says only one Discover certificate per rental for all three brands. It’s certainly not possible to apply more than one to an Enterprise non-airport rental, just because of the billing system used; however, even though the T&C say one per rental, it could be possible to apply up to 3 for an airport location, but I’ve never tried.

  7. Today when I went to look at the Discover cash back gift cards, National was not even listed on the site, but Alamo and Enterprise were.

      • Yeah, just noticed the charge 3 weeks later and CSR told me it was because I could only use 1 coupon. Made sure to ask which one so I still have the other 2 but kind of a bummer for now. Didn’t really see any angle to argue it since the T&C are clear….Just a heads up I guess for anyone whose done this in the last couple weeks to keep an eye out.

        • This just happened to me and my wife as well in the last two weeks for rentals in both Maui and Kauai. Two separate $80 charges about two weeks after the rentals were complete, and with no notification at all. Really pissed me off, and I called National and let them know as much. Both reps confirmed the charges were because 2/3 vouchers were removed from each reservation because “only one should be credited”, but they agreed with me that once accepted and the reservation confirmed (and completed) that they shouldn’t reverse them and charge after the fact (especially without any correspondence). They both reversed the charges, and in the 2nd instance she credited my account with a free day rental for the hassle. But it’s definitely happening, so be aware of it and make sure to keep an eye on your credit card activity. Also worries me that this might not last much longer…

        • Any more data points on this? Just noticed from cc statement that this happened to me for a rental in September. I haven’t called National yet to dispute. Charge was for $63.60.

  8. Tried to book Alamo at SJC with a Discover $40 cert. System’s giving an error message saying Cert is not valid at this pick-up station.

    I’ve used these certs numerous times at SJC – just not in the last 9-10 months. Has anything changed? Is this no longer a ‘participating location’?

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