Last Updated on July 20, 2023 by Michael


We always recommend that you sign up for car rental rewards programs because of the benefits that come with membership. The vast majority of the time, these programs deliver benefits exactly as promised. But occasionally, there’s a glitch and your rental car loyalty program lets you down. Here’s what to do to turn the situation around.

Ask AutoSlash for a Quote on a Cheap Car Rental

Let’s face it: We join frequent renter programs because we like the benefits. We like accruing points for upgrades. We like great service. And we like bypassing the rental car counter and getting in and out of the rental car locations quickly and without drama.

When we rent at Hertz or National, we expect the only interactions we will have with staff will be at the security gate, thanks to our Hertz Gold Plus Rewards and National Emerald Club accounts. We’re willing to pay a slight premium for the ability to walk straight to the lot, make a choice of vehicles, and leave. Yet humans sometimes make mistakes and break promises. What happens when a rental car company doesn’t fulfill a guarantee?

How to Complain About a Car Rental Rewards Program

We’re big fans of National’s Emerald Club, but even this program falls short occasionally. Unfortunately, I recently had a negative experience.

Members of the Emerald Club can reserve a midsize and then take any vehicle on the Emerald Aisle. Executive and Executive Elite members can choose any car on the Executive Aisle or the Emerald Aisle. When I arrived on a Monday afternoon, the Emerald and Executive Aisles were almost empty. I didn’t want the Nissan Frontier, Dodge Ram 1500, minivan, or the Hyundai Sonata nearby. There were two Cadillac XTS vehicles in the Executive Aisle, and as a member, I can take any car off the aisle.

This was going to replace the BMW X3 as my favorite Emerald Aisle car.

But, after hopping in a gray XTS, Enterprise and National staff members stopped me. The three Enterprise Holdings companies (Alamo, Enterprise, and National) share a level of the parking garage and each company has its own parking spaces. National had allowed sister company Enterprise to put Cadillacs on National’s Executive Aisle for Enterprise’s customers. In other words, the cars in the spaces reserved for National’s most frequent customers weren’t available to its customers.

Tired after a day of airline delays, I took the Nissan Frontier for my one-day, one-way rental. I also sent a note to National about the Executive Aisle that contained cars unavailable to National Executive members. When a rental car company doesn’t live up to its promises, it’s important to contact the corporate office if the local staff can’t help you. In this case, the story’s ending had some good news and some bad.

First, the bad news. I had the Nissan Frontier for a 300-mile drive. The truck got 20 mpg on the highway, and was more cramped than my compact car at home.

The good news? After reviewing my photo of the cars in the Executive Aisle, National placed an award day in my account within hours. Good customer service is a big reason why customers rate these companies so highly.

What to Say About a Negative Rental Car Experience

This story has multiple takeaways. One is that even good systems don’t always deliver as expected. The staff at this particular airport location for Enterprise and National knew the companies’ policies for the National’s Executive Aisle but decided to use the space to benefit Enterprise’s customers instead. I accepted a far less desirable vehicle because I reasonably believed National’s corporate staff would rectify the actions of the airport staff, and I was right.

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Another tip is to document your problem. A photo or video can be a compelling piece of evidence to use as you make your case.

Another lesson is that the corporate parents of individual rental car companies appreciate feedback. They really do work hard to ensure that their frequent renters reap the promised benefits. Corporate headquarters want to know when a benefit is not delivered. There’s a maxim in business that only a small percentage of customers with legitimate complaints will actually complain; many customers will just stop being customers. When a rental company doesn’t meet a guarantee, pointing out the lapse is how to resolve the situation.

Rental Car Company Customer Support Numbers

Have a problem during normal U.S. business hours? There’s a high probability that your rental car company even has social media staff on Facebook and Twitter to address customer concerns quickly.