A valuable use of one two free: one-way rental

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This week, Greg and I are both in Asia – with Greg on vacation in Japan and me on a trip to China. When I travel domestically, I usually fly out of Albany International Airport (ALB) on Southwest, but internationally the options out of New York City make it worth the ~3 hour drive to get a more direct routing that doesn’t rely on a domestic connection. However, it isn’t always convenient for us to park near the NYC airports for weeks at a time, which is why I love National’s One Two Free promotion: I can pay $0 for a (typically expensive) one-way rental to get to the airport (provided I’ve earned a free day).

One Two Free

Every year, National runs a promotion called “One Two Free”. During the promotion, you can earn a free rental day for every two paid rentals. Fortunately, this applies no matter the length of your paid rentals: two one-day paid rentals earn 1 free day the same as two 1-week rentals would earn 1 free day. I am not a frequent renter, but I almost always end up renting a car at least twice during the promotional window, earning a free day.

As an aside, I love renting from National because of the Executive Elite status I get from my Business Platinum card. You can also get that status from Visa Infinite cards. I like it because if I reserve a mid-size car, I can select from any of the cars in the executive area. This provides a lot of flexibility as there are often nice full size sedans and a variety of SUVs in that area. Furthermore, there are sometimes a couple of “fun” sporty options – and every now and then, I even see a convertible or two in the Executive area. A mid-size typically only costs a few bucks extra per day, and my typical rentals are only for a day or two – so for less than $10 in my case (most of  the time), I get my choice of a range of vehicles so that I can choose what fits my needs.

The thing to know about National One Two Free is that the free days do not last forever. During the last promotion, you could earn free days through February 28th, but those free days must be used by June 15th. As a result, I had a free day set to expire in about a month. I was able to make good use of it this week.

As I’ve previously written about, I am on a trip to Asia this week. I was happy when I found business class availability on Cathay Pacific to fly New York to Hong Kong to Shanghai (with the last leg on “Dragonair”, Cathay’s regional arm). Of course, that meant we needed to get to New York.

We could have driven and parked near JFK. In the past, I’ve paid around $70 per week using various Groupons/discounts. In this case, we’re not actually coming straight home from Asia, but rather spending some time with family in another state upon our return – flying back to New York for FTU New York. This would have meant parking for about 3 weeks. That wouldn’t have necessarily been outrageously expxensive, but neither would it be cheap.

We looked at the cost of a one-way rental from the nearest rental car facilities. There is a town with a Hertz and Enterprise about 30 miles away from us. Unfortunately, rates weren’t particularly cheap there either – at $150+ one way.

However, there is a National location at Albany airport and my sister-in-law was willing to ride up to ALB with us and drive our car back home. As a result, we used a free day to good value for a one-way rental to drop off at JFK airport. It did add about 30 minutes to our trip, but it provided us with enough savings to be worthwhile.

The one downside of doing things this way was that we needed to have the rental back within 24 hours. Thanks to being a Business Platinum cardholder, I could have used the Business Platinum CDP with Hertz to keep the car with a 4-hour grace period (i.e. for 28 hours). The way things ended up working out, that would have definitely been more convenient – but apart from that being the luck of how things turned out, we were pretty happy to have had the free day to use.

On the way back up, we have family that intended to come to New York City during the weekend of FTU, so we’ll catch a ride back upstate with them.

The nice thing is that the free day rentals are not subject to any of the additional one-way fees. A free days are free day. And Albany, I could have reserved any size vehicle for free for a one way.

Bottom line: if you have a National free rental day remaining, you need to use it before June 15th. A great way to use it can be for a one-way rental as you could potentially save big thanks to saving on the one-way rental fee. Keep in mind that if you don’t pay anything towards your rental, the credit card insurance might not cover you. You may want to take out the supplementary insurance.

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