Is it better to rent a car through a credit card portal (like Chase or AMEX Travel)? Or is it better to rent directly through the rental car company? What about renting through an OTA website like Hotwire?
Zuzu & I are taking a quick 2 night trip to PCB to stay in the new Hyatt Place Panama City Beach and decided to rent a car while we’re there.
As recent empty nesters who want to travel as often as possible, we stay at luxury hotels and resorts for free. In 2022, we’ve stayed at 11 different hotels and resorts for free!
We try to save our hard earned money for memorable experiences and for when we absolutely have to pay. If we do need to spend money on something mundane, we want to make sure we’re getting the best deal possible.
Since we often have to pay for a rental car, we’ve developed a quick process to make sure we get a great deal.
Here are the 4 websites that we check to get the best rental car deals.
Renting a Car Direct or via Credit Card Portal: AMEX vs Chase
I typically check 4 websites when we rent a car.
- Rental Car Company Website(s)
- Chase Ultimate Rewards Portal
- AMEX Travel Portal
TL:DR: For this trip, the best deal was to use cash to book our rental car on the Chase Portal. Even thought the price wasn’t the best at Chase, I get 10 Chase points for every $1 spent on car rentals via the Chase Travel Portal. I only get 3x points for booking a car rental at other sites.
And that difference in points made all the difference in why I booked my rental car thru the Chase Portal.
While there are many other OTA (Online Travel Agent) website where you can rent a car like Travelocity, Orbitz, Expedia and Priceline, I’ve used Hotwire for decades and I’ve usually found the best prices there.
So that’s where I start my rental car search to get an idea of what prices are going to be for my trip.
For this trip, total prices started at $233 and the full size car (that tall guys like me prefer) was $258. The low prices were all at Dollar so I checked the Dollar Rental Car website.
Rental Car Websites
Dollar has the same rental for $310 but they’re running some “City Specials” which brings the rate down to $279. While I’ll sometimes pay a little extra to book direct, paying $21 extra in this case doesn’t seem like it’s worth it to me.
Just for fun, I checked Hertz since it had the next lowest prices on Hotwire. Booking direct with Hertz would have been $361 so that’s not an option.
So far, it makes sense to stick with Hotwire at $258.
The Chase Travel Portal is powered by Expedia. Checking the same dates shows the full size car that I want is $265. That’s only $7 more than Hotwire.
Since I’ve got the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card, I have 2 options for booking this rental.
- I can pay with cash and earn 10x points. On a $265 rental, I’d earn 2650 Chase points. Chase points are worth about 2 cents to most people. To Zuzu & me, they’re worth more like 3-4 cents each.
- I can pay with points. Since I have the Sapphire Reserve, points are worth 1.5 cents each in the portal. I can cover some or all of the $265 charge with points. 17,604 Chase UR points would fully cover the cost.
Paying cash makes more sense as 2650 Chase points are worth ~$52 to most people but closer to $75-100 to me! If we say $75, that makes my car rental more like $190!
AMEX Travel Portal
Since I hold an AMEX Business Platinum Card, I checked the American Express Travel Portal to see if they could do even better than the Chase Travel Portal.
Same full size car from Dollar Rent a Car was $310 (a little higher than any other option) or I could use 44,396 AMEX points, yikes!
That’s more than TWICE as many points as the Chase credit card portal was going to charge!
Best Car Rental Website
For this trip, here are the 7 options I considered:
|Dollar Rental Website||$279|
|Hertz Rent a Car Website||$361|
|Chase Portal Cash||$265 but earns ~$75 in points = $190|
|Chase Portal with Points||17,604|
|AMEX Travel Portal Cash||$310|
|AMEX Travel Portal with Points||44,396|
For this trip, the best way to rent a car was through the Chase Credit Card Portal and paying the cash price. By getting 10x points for the purchase, my net cost of the rental car was around $190.
Even though renting a car though the Chase Portal won’t always be the best option, it’s the best car rental option about 25% of the time for us. More importantly, I know I’m not overpaying by checking just a few different options.
To me, it’s worth the extra 15 minutes that I spent to be confident that I’ve booked a great deal on my rental car.
Next time you need to rent a car, try this process that Zuzu & I use to get the best deal. And let me know how it worked for you!