Avis Preferred Enhancements

I received an email this week alerting me to some new enhancements to the Avis Preferred program that started yesterday, June 7th.  Basically, theyAvis Preferred are giving an option similar to National Car Rental’s Emerald Aisle.

In Avis’ case, they will still pre-assign you to a specific vehicle but, if you don’t want that one, you can go to their “Select & Go” area to exchange it.  They will also be moving to a system where there will not be a contract in the vehicle.  Instead, the contract will be printed as you exit the parking area.

This clearly seems to me to take away the differentiation of other rental car companies.  I will try it on my next trip to see how it works in practice.

Tripit and Tripit Pro – Great travel tools!

If you read almost any of the various “Great apps for travel” articles, you are almost certain to hear about Tripit.  Tripit is a free service that allows you to easily consolidate your travel plans into a comprehensive itinerary that you can share with friends and family, view on your computer or mobile, and add directions and maps between your destinations.

With Tripit, all you do is forward your confirmation email from your travel provider – and almost all the major ones are supported – to plans@tripit.com and, voila!, you receive a link to your on-line itinerary.  As you send additional details – hotel reservations, car rentals, flights, trains, etc. – Tripit recognizes whether they are part of an existing itinerary, based on dates, and updates the itinerary.

I joined a few years ago and have found it to be a wonderful service.  However, I recently decided to upgrade to Tripit Pro.  What a great investment!  For $49 a year, the tool supports you as you travel.  Trip updates, gate changes, delays, and cancellations all come directly to your phone or email.  I have found that when I turn on my phone on touch down in a connecting hub, I almost always receive an email immediately with my arrival and connection information.  This is certainly handy when on a tight connection.

And, if your flight cancels, Tripit Pro supports your efforts to rebook by showing alternate flights and open seats.  There are a few other amenities of the paid service including a points tracker and complimentary membership in Hertz Gold and Regus, but the real value lies in the real-time support for my current travel.

National’s Emerald Club Executive vs. Avis First

I’ve been an AVIS guy as long as I can remember.  Primarily, it’s because my last company had Avis as their designated car rental agency.  When I started my own business twelve years ago, I just carried this loyalty forward.  They have been solid for me and I’ve not questioned my choice.

This year, I’ve decided to step out and try some other programs where it makes sense.  With my Avis First Preferred status, I was able to get a status match with National and now have two rentals under my belt for comparison purposes.

The most obvious learning so far is that it is hard to differentiate your service in this area other than by price.  One of the reasons that I picked National for a trial is that they seem to be right on par with Avis on pricing.  But, both programs make it easy to get to your car without stopping at a counter.  Both programs offer an easy return process and an electronic receipt that appears in your mailbox almost instantly.

Where National tries to differentiate their service is in two areas.

First, and this is the catchy one, when you reach their Emerald aisle, you are not assigned to a particular car as you are with Avis.  Instead, you can look at any car on the aisle and pick the one you want to drive.  How much difference does it make?  I’m not sure.  It’s not like I would show up at my Avis spot and be upset at the car that was selected for me.

Over the past two rentals, I’ve selected a Hyundai Sonata and a Ford pick-up truck.  And, while there were no Porsches or exotic cars on the aisle, it was kind of fun to have options.  Also, when using the Emerald Club Executive status, you reserve a mid-size and the cars on the aisle are full-size.

The second difference from the Avis progam is in the rewards.  With Avis First, the primary reward is a two day weekend rental with every fourth qualifying rental of two or more days.  Honestly, I have never used one of those awards as I have rare occasion to do a weekend rental.

With the Emerald Club, you earn credits for each rental and when you achieve the required number of credits, you earn a free rental day.  Since this day does not have to be a weekend, I’m much more likely to use it.  The number of credits required vary depending on your membership level as follows:

  • Emerald Club – 7
  • Emerald Club Executive – 6
  • Emerald Club Executive Elite – 5

Rental credits are earned as follows:  One credit per qualifying rental or one credit for every four consecutive rental days. Valid for rentals in the US or Canada only. Example: One rental lasts 8 days = 2 credits. One rental lasts 2 days = 1 credit.