Using National Car Rental free days for one-way car rentals [Sweet-spot spotlight]

Sweet-spot spotlight is a Frequent Miler series showcasing some of the best values your points and miles can buy. Each sweet-spot post will highlight one great use of miles, points, or other travel rewards and give you a quick overview on what makes that use notable as well as the key information you need to know in order to find and book these awards.

One-way car rentals are often quite expensive, which can make them a great use of rental car rewards such as National Car Rental free days. While this can also be true with other rental companies, it can be especially relevant with National given the ease with which free days can be earned and the way that elite status can open up more valuable one-way rentals.

Sweet spot spotlight:

  • The short story: National Rental Car free days, which can be earned with rental activity or through promos like One Two Free, can be used for one-way rentals (which are typically more expensive)
  • Rewards required: Free days, which can be earned from normal rental activity or promos like “One Two Free”
  • How to find awards: One Two Free coupons can be accessed via https://promos.emeraldclub.com/12Free2018/login. Free rental days earned via regular rental activity can be accessed by logging in to your account at NationalCar.com.
  • How to book awards: Book via the National Car website

Notes:

Most rental car companies charge higher rates for one-way rentals. Sometimes this is added as an additional one-way drop fee. In the case of National Rental Car, the higher fee is usually baked into the daily rental rate. That’s notable because free day awards zero out the daily rental rate, which means that you can save a bunch on a one-way rental with these awards. Note that you may still owe some sort of “facility fee” on these free days, so they may not be totally free.

For example, here are current rates for various car class sizes for a one-way one-day rental on a random weekday for pick up from JFK airport and drop off the next day at Boston Logan airport. Note that these are rates shown are when not logged in to a National Emerald Club account.

A free rental day on a trip like this can present quite a bit of savings.

The types of car classes available to you will depend on a combination of the type of free day you are redeeming and your status with national rental car.

“One Two Free” free rental day coupons

For many years now, National has repeated a promotion from around August to February awarding a free rental day after every two qualifying rentals. During that promo, National usually offers additional ways to earn credit towards free days such as by adding Sirius satellite radio to a rental, etc). You can read about the promotion that ended in February 2019 here. Keep in mind that coupons from that promotion must be redeemed by June 13, 2019 (these coupons have expired in June for the past several years).

To redeem a One Two Free rental coupon, simply click “Redeem Coupon” after logging in to the One Two Free promotional site (which requires your National Emerald Club number and email address). That will bring you to National’s website and apply the coupon for you. Just be sure to choose “Reward Days 0” from the drop-down box if you’ve earned any “traditional” reward days based on rental activity (see the next section for info on earning and using those Reward Days).

Once a coupon has been applied, you’ll see that car classes from Compact through Full Size drop in price to $3.10 total (in this case that is an airport facility fee that is not part of the daily rate & taxes). One Two Free rental coupons can be used on car classes up to Full Size..

Reserving either Midsize or Full Size will give you access to the Emerald Aisle or Executive Aisle depending on your status with National.

Free rental days based on activity (“Reward Days”)

Outside of the One Two Free promotion, National ordinarily offers the chance to earn free days on the following basis:

  • 1 free rental day after 7 rental credits to general members
  • 1 free rental day after 6 rental credits for Executive members
  • 1 free rental day after 5 rental credits for Executive Elite members.

You earn 1 rental credit for rentals of 1-7 days. For rentals of 8 days or more, you earn 1 credit for every 4 rental days (a rental of 8-11 days earns 2 rental credits, a rental of 12-15 days earns 3 rental credits, etc).

These free rental days expire on December 31st of the year after you earn them. Keep in mind that these free rental days work at “participating National Car Rental locations”, which for the most part means locations within the United States (a limited number of foreign locations participate).

If you have earned a free rental day based on your rental credits, you will have the option to redeem “Reward Days” from a drop-down as shown above (provided you are searching for a rental after logging in to your account). Which car classes will be available depends on your status with National. As an Executive Elite member, you’ll have access to most car classes available for rent. For the same dates/locations shown above, these classes were available in addition to those shown under the One Two Free section above.

That can be really valuable if you have a need for a specific type of vehicle, like a Minivan for a larger group trip. Depending on dates / locations, you may see even more car classes available. For instance, on a rental from Minneapolis to Chicago, I also saw the “Luxury” group available.

I’ve even seen the “Sporty” and “Premium SUVs” groups available at times with these coupons.

Bottom line

National Rental Car free days create a great sweet spot for one-way rentals since those rentals are often significantly more expensive than local rentals returned to the same location. Whether One Two Free coupons or traditional Reward Days, I find these particularly useful for positioning to an airport that’s just a little too far to drive. For longer trips, using free one-way days often beats paying for parking at the airport if I’m going to be gone for a couple of weeks. I often find myself willing to spend a couple extra bucks to rent with National, especially during the months when you can earn One Two Free coupons as they tend to be quite valuable to me. Finally, if you need to go one-way but need a car for several days at your destination, consider making a one-day one-way reservation using a coupon and then a separate local reservation at your destination airport in order to save yourself from paying the inflated one-way daily rate for multiple days.

About Nick Reyes

Nick Reyes is a (fairly) regular guy with an animalistic passion for maximizing the value of miles and money to travel the world in comfort and style. There is little in life that he loves more than finding a fantastic deal and helping you shop smarter & harder to achieve your travel dreams.

More articles by Nick Reyes »

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dotti
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dotti

daily rates seem very$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$64 or more for a compact is alot… not a great deal,. I had a similiar situation in Jax wanted $84 a day for subcompact called enterprise they said its spring break-last week but there is spring break somewhere starting in Jan??? nuts

mimi
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mimi

Recently did this when I needed to get from Connecticut to JFK. $5 rental plus gas was way more convenient and cheaper than a shuttle.
Also wanted to mention that free rentals give you rental credits.
I had 2 expiring one two free certificates which I wouldn’t have use for. I planned a couple of random one day rentals which got me over the rental credits needed for a regular free rental day.
So, don’t let your one two free days expire! At least get some rental credits out of them.

Billy Bob
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Billy Bob

You paid for unneeded rental days to save one free rental day?

Kalboz
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Kalboz

This is a great benefit that we used just last December when I can only find 4 biz class seats out of SAN to NRT. The total was $3.64 for an Escalade type of SUV

PICK UP
JOHN WAYNE ARPT (SNA)

RETURN
SAN DIEGO INTL ARPT (SAN)

Vehicle
Full Size SUV
Ford Expedition or similar

RATES & CHARGES

Vehicle
TIME & DISTANCE 1 DAILY @ $261.47 $261.47
Mileage Unlimited
Taxes and Fees
CONCESSION FEE RECOVERY 11.11 PCT (11.11%) $0.36
VEHICLE LICENSE RECOVERY FEE $3.25
SALES TAX (7.75%) $0.03
Savings
INFINITE – 5030849 (5.0%) -$13.07
EE/EV REWARD -$248.40
Estimated Total
(includes taxes and fees) $3.64