The Guide to the Dollar Express Rewards Program

Renting a car can earn you points through Dollar Express Rewards or one of the partner hotel or airline programs.
Sally FrenchApr 15, 2021

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If you’re booking a vehicle with Dollar Rental Car, then you may as well take the extra step to enroll in the Dollar Express membership program. It’s free to join, and membership comes with modest benefits that will likely save you time and money every time you rent a car.

Plus, you’ll earn Dollar Express Rewards points every time you rent, which can be used to score free rentals down the road. And, if you’d rather have frequent flyer miles or hotel points, you can alternatively choose to earn miles and points from Dollar’s travel partners, which include Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan, Delta SkyMiles, IHG Rewards, Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards and United Airlines MileagePlus.

The best benefits of Dollar Express Rewards membership

Dollar Express Rewards membership is free, so there’s little reason not to become a member. Here are some of the benefits that come with joining Dollar’s loyalty program:

  • Skip the counter: There are few vacation setbacks more aggravating than landing after a long flight and finding a 30-minute rental car line holding you back. As a Dollar Express Rewards program member, you get to skip the line. Instead, a parking space number will appear on a monitor indicating which rental car is yours, and the rental agreement will already be waiting for you in the vehicle.

  • Add free authorized drivers: Maybe you’re taking a long road trip and you want to take turns on who drives. You might want to add an additional driver, but there’s typically an additional fee. Fees vary, and some states cap them (New York caps fees at $5 per day, and California does not allow additional driver charges at all). But generally, expect to pay about $10 per day. That is, unless you’re a Dollar Express Rewards member and the fee is waived. Though you may still pay an age differential fee if the driver is between 20 and 24 years of age.

  • Earn points: Earn points to fund future car rentals, starting at 500 points per rental.

There are no elite status tiers in the Dollar Express Rewards rental car loyalty program; either you are a member or you’re not. So whether it’s your first time renting with Dollar or your 50th, you’ll earn points at the same rate and get the same member benefits as everyone else enrolled in the program.

Eliminating status tiers can certainly be good for keeping things simple. But if you’re a road warrior who is renting cars on a regular basis — and aren’t tied to a specific rental car brand — you might be better off committing to one with a tiered loyalty program, such as the Avis Preferred Program. That way, you can benefit from the additional elite benefits like accelerated points earning, extra discounts and complimentary upgrades, which you’d only get from having the highest tier of status.

How to earn Dollar Express Rewards

You’ll earn 1 point per dollar spent through Dollar Rental Car. To get credit, make sure you’ve provided your Dollar Express Rewards member ID at the time of reservation.

For rental car bookings online, your rewards will automatically apply if you book a reservation and are logged in to your account. Just make sure your member number appears in the “Loyalty Programs” section of the “Options & Information” page at checkout. If not, you can type it in manually. Otherwise, have that number ready to give to the representative if you’re booking over the phone or in person.

Dollar Express Rewards expire if you haven’t had any Dollar Express Rewards rental activity in the prior 24 months (activity means you either earned or redeemed at least one point).

How to earn other travel rewards through your Dollar car rental

Dollar also gives you the option to earn points and miles with a dozen airline and hotel loyalty programs in lieu of earning Dollar Express Rewards.

Dollar’s partner loyalty programs are:

You can’t double dip and earn rewards from multiple programs, so choose your loyalty program carefully. There are also a few circumstances where you can’t earn rewards, such as when booking with industry discount rates, tour rates or redeeming a complimentary rental.

Additionally, you don’t necessarily earn airline miles at the same rate you earn Dollar Express Rewards (the value is often much lower than had you chosen Dollar Express Rewards), and sometimes loyalty programs also vary dramatically in how many points you earn.

However, with most of the options, there’s a fairly significant catch: You’ll owe a frequent flyer surcharge, which Dollar says offsets a portion of its costs to participate in frequent flyer programs. The surcharge also varies per loyalty program — and some turn out to be a bad deal.

For example, Alaska’s surcharge is 95 cents per day. But since you only earn 50 miles per day, which we value at about 50 cents, you’re likely losing money if you go that route.

When to earn hotel and airline rewards over Dollar Express Rewards

Here’s a look at some of Dollar’s largest travel partners, and if we think earning rewards with them is worth it based on our valuation of hotel and airline miles:

Dollar Car Rental Travel Partners

Airline loyalty program

Miles earned on qualifying rentals at participating locations

Surcharge

NerdWallet’s assessment

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

Earn 50 miles per rental day, limited to 30 days.

95 cents per day

Skip it. Since we value your miles earned per day at 50 cents, and the surcharge is more, this is a money-losing proposition.

American Airlines AAdvantage

Earn 50 AAdvantage miles per rental day, limited to 28 days.

Calculated based on the Federal Excise Tax expense incurred (on average, 6 cents per day).

Do it. While you’re only earning about 50 cents per day in rewards value, it’s tough to go wrong with free points.

Delta SkyMiles

Earn 500 miles per rental.

Calculated based on the Federal Excise Tax expense incurred.

Do it. Especially for shorter rentals, you can net $4.50 in Delta SkyMiles, aside from the surcharge.

Frontier Airlines Frontier Miles

Earn 50 miles per day on rentals four days or less in length, and 500 miles per rental on rentals of five or more days.

75 cents per day

Skip it. Since we value your miles earned per day at 15 cents, and the surcharge is more, this is a money-losing proposition.

IHG Rewards Club Program

Earn 125 points per rental.

None

Do it. While you’re only earning about $1 per day in rewards value, it’s tough to go wrong with free points.

Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards

Earn 600 points per rental.

$1.50 per day up to a maximum of $8.00

Do it. Especially for shorter rentals, you can rack up a couple bucks of value. A one-day trip would earn you $8.10 in Rapid Reward Points, accounting for the surcharge.

United Airlines MileagePlus

Earn 50 miles per day on rentals of four days or less in length and 500 miles per rental transaction on rentals of five days or longer.

75 cents per day

Skip it. Since we value your miles earned per day at 50 cents, and the surcharge is more, this is a money-losing proposition.

The only major programs we’d even entertain are from American, Delta, IHG and Southwest, and even then we’re not super jazzed by the prospect of simply earning a couple bucks. That said, here are a few situations where it makes sense to earn rewards through one of those travel partners, rather than Dollar itself:

  • You don’t anticipate spending $500 with Dollar anytime in the next few years: Since you earn 1 point per dollar spent, and rental rates start at 500 points, you’d need to spend at least $500 to get one free rental day. If your car rentals are low-cost or you’re not regularly renting cars, you’ll likely never accrue enough points for a free rental day anyway.

  • You’re not sure if you’ll rent from Dollar in the next two years: Dollar’s reward points expire after 24 months of account inactivity. If you’re not certain you’ll rent again from Dollar in the next two years, opt to earn airline or hotel rewards instead. Of course, some airline and hotel rewards also have their own expiration terms, so choose wisely.

  • You don’t like managing tons of loyalty accounts: Every new loyalty program you join is another password to remember and a set of points to track. Rather than have, say, $10 in one loyalty program account and $20 in another and $30 in yet another, you might find it easier to track (and actually use) points when you’re committed to just one loyalty program.

How to redeem Dollar Express Rewards

Dollar Express Rewards points can be redeemed for free rentals, starting at 500 points for a one-day weekend rental, and 625 points for a one-day weekday rental (though you’ll still owe taxes and fees).

When redeeming points, there are quite a few limitations:

  • Points can only be used for rentals booked online or by phone (so you can’t walk up to the counter and expect a last-minute rental on points).

  • Only compact, midsize, standard or full-size cars can be rented on points.

  • Points can only be redeemed on car rentals in the U.S. and Canada.

  • There are blackout dates, which typically align with major travel days like holidays. Some are region-specific, such as the Super Bowl host city during the days surrounding the game. See the full list of blackout dates here, although they have not been updated for 2021 yet.

The bottom line

Given the Dollar Express Rewards loyalty program benefits like free authorized additional drivers and the ability to skip the counter — coupled with the fact that joining is free — it almost always makes sense to take the extra minute or two to sign up for the program.

You’ll earn points toward future rental cars at a fairly good rate, and you can optionally earn points toward other travel programs (just watch out for those surcharges).

Plus, you can always stack Dollar Express Rewards with credit card rewards too. Pay with a travel credit card, and you’ll likely earn bonus rewards when you spend money on rental cars. Additionally, many of the best credit cards for rental cars also offer big money-saving benefits like trip cancellation insurance and car rental insurance.

Frequently asked questions

You can join the Dollar Express Rewards program as long as you are 18 or older. However, you may still be subject to an underage driver fee anytime you rent with Dollar and are under the age of 25. And in many circumstances, Dollar will only rent you a car if you are at least 20 years old (exceptions to the 20-year-old requirement include if you are a U.S. military personnel, you’re renting via some corporate contracts or you’re renting in Michigan or New York).

Dollar Express Rewards technically don’t expire, but it’s easy to lose them if you’re not a semi-regular Dollar customer. Points are forfeited after 24 months of no account activity (activity means a Dollar Express Reward point was either earned or redeemed on a rental).

Visa, Mastercard and Discover debit cards can be used to rent most cars at Dollar’s U.S.-based corporate locations if the reservation is made more than 24 hours before the time of rental. However, an incremental hold of $200 will typically be assessed on your account through the duration of the rental (on top of the estimated total for the rental charges).


How to maximize your rewards

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