Do Rental Car Companies Charge You to Earn Partner Airline Bonus Points?

Rachel Smith
By Rachel Smith 
Edited by Mary M. Flory

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Often, travel rewards programs will have partner programs that allow you to earn bonus points.

But when it comes to rental car companies that partner with U.S.-based airlines, customers sometimes hit a snag in the point-earning game.

Rental car companies charge customers to earn these bonus points. It’s a catch hidden away in the fine print.

The charges exist because of the excise tax requirements of the Tax Relief Act of 1997. Companies explain the concept in different ways in their terms and conditions sections and often call it a “tax recovery surcharge” or “frequent flyer surcharge” in bill breakdowns. The additional charges range from six cents per day to $8 dollars per day, depending on rental car company and airline partnership.

But, the fee only applies to U.S.-based airline partners. So if you are booking a rental car with an airline based in a different country, for example, a Hertz partner bonus with Lufthansa Airlines, the airline would not require a surcharge. And several car rental companies, such as Enterprise Rent-A-Car, do not have U.S.-based airline partnerships.

How to shrink the fees

While the charges won’t disappear, there are a few tactics you can use to avoid bigger fees and earn as many points as possible. They include:

  • If you redeem rewards with airlines not based in the U.S., check for bonuses with those airlines first to avoid paying fees.

  • If you only use U.S. airlines, check multiple airlines rewards programs to see which one has the best deal with your rental car company. Some airlines, like Delta and United, offer higher rewards for status holders.

  • Earn even more points by booking your reservation with a travel reward card, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.

  • Don’t expect bonus points if you have a discounted car rental rate, including corporate discount programs. Many rental car companies do not allow bonus earnings on those rates.

  • If you have rented a car recently and didn’t know about partner miles bonuses, check if there is a retroactive credit option for partner programs.

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023, including those best for:

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