One of the best ways to improve the car rental experience is by enrolling in a company’s loyalty program. For example, National Car Rental’s Emerald Club members have all their information stored in their profiles so they can bypass the counter and get on the road faster. Whether you’re an infrequent renter or a road warrior on business, it’s a simple and free way to improve your travel day.
Recently I had a chance to talk with Neb, who works as the Global Engineering Director for a major manufacturer in in Southern California. As a business traveler for ten years, what could he tell me about his experience as an Emerald Club member? (Disclosure: This post is sponsored by National Car Rental.)
Travel varies, and there isn’t always enough time to check the details of a reservation. However, Neb remains excited about each trip. “[National] really hit it on the head with their website,” which, after a recent update, he can now use on his company’s VPN. Neb also appreciates that the details about his reservations “are in the National Car Rental mobile app and everything is set.” Reminders and alerts through the app ensure he stays on track, and he’ll usually open the app a day or two before travel to confirm.
The app even comes in handy for last minute planning. Many of us are in front of the computer all day and still let such things slip. Neb says, “I can take care of [making my reservation] with the app.” It continues to track things after he arrives, confirming which car he’s selected and that he’s getting the same rate he reserved online. Overall it has “a very high level of usability” that helps Neb stay in control of his travel days.
On the ground, the rental experience lives or dies on convenience, which means providing Neb exactly the right information when he needs it. It depends a lot on the airport, but he says, “It definitely helps when the cars are near the airport [terminal],” and provided the example of Minneapolis. It actually offers two different National Car Rental locations, one for each terminal. That makes it easier for him to hit the ground running.
National will even text Neb when he lands with specific instructions for finding his rental car’s location. That matters, whether it’s a familiar location or a new destination. “There’s peace of mind that you’re going in the right direction.”
Neb is an Emerald Club Executive member, which means that he can select any full size car he wants from the Executive Aisle as long as he books at the midsize car rate. This is ultimately the biggest advantage he sees in being an Emerald Club member. Neb has found “incredible selection in the Executive Aisle, including four BMWs” at one location in Boston. While not every location is the same, he knows as an Executive Emerald Club member that he’s guaranteed to get an upgrade from the midsize rate that he reserved. That kind of choice keeps him coming back to National.
In fact, the National Car Rental mobile app now has a “Virtual Aisle,” available at some locations so you can view your choices while still in the terminal. Make a selection on the app when your plane lands, and National will hold that vehicle for 15 minutes. That’s in addition to the app’s standard features, including an overview of your Emerald Club status and tracking progress toward free rentals, making new reservations, and mapping the drop-off location.
Those free rentals are particularly easy to use because National doesn’t mess around with complicated points. Emerald Club members receive a free rental day after every 5-7 credits (depending on status) and most rentals under a week earn 1-2 credits. Neb says he’s been able to use these without much trouble, usually when on vacation. Free days can also be used as partial payment for one-way rentals and premium cars.
All road warriors have their own advice on how to keep ahead of trouble. Worry-free business travel often relies on staying well-informed. Neb says that he starts every rental in unfamiliar cities by asking the lot attendant for information on avoiding local toll roads. But if it makes sense to pay for the privilege, he’ll also confirm that the rental office provides an automated toll transponder.
Finally, stopping at the gate is a great opportunity to chat with the staff. Neb says that National Car Rental “really goes out of their way to train people for customer service. I see a lot of smiling faces. When you arrive at 11p.m. at night, I’m sure they have other places they would rather be. Instead, they’re making sure you and I have the cars we need to stay productive on the road.”