Contest: National Emerald Club One Two Free

Full disclosure: National offered to compensate me for writing this post, which I have declined. Instead, we’ll be giving away some extra perks to FIVE readers — see details at the end of the post.

National Emerald Club is back with their most lucrative promotion, One Two Free.

The promotion is valid for rentals between August 20, 2014, and January 31, 2015. Registration is required prior to the first rental in order to qualify.

Through this promotion you earn a free one day rental after every two rentals in the US of a midsize or larger car lasting at least two days. There’s no limit to the number of free rentals you can earn.

As a way of marketing the promotion, National wanted to showcase a few Emerald Club members who truly take advantage of the loyalty program. I’m all about taking advantage of loyalty programs, and I like being able to give stuff away to y’all, so it was an easy decision :p

Emerald Exchange Spotlight

National seems to be pretty engaged with their elite members, and one of the ways they do that is through their “Emerald Exchange” community, which is an invitation-only online community of 300 Emerald Club members. It’s a known fact that I know very little about the rental car side of the game, so I connected with one of those members, Jason, in order to learn a bit more about the program.

Jason, like many of you, is on the road nearly constantly. As an IT Project Manager he visits the sites he supports once or more a month, which means lots of domestic travel, and many, many car rentals.

Photo courtesy Emerald Exchange member Jason

Just like with airline travel, elite status makes renting cars less painful. Jason noted that by consistently renting from the same company, he’s been able to achieve a higher status level. This means better perks, better upgrades, and accelerated points earning.

Sound familiar?

For routine travel, Jason has found that staying loyal to one company is the best way to maximize perks. But what about maximizing a specific promotion?

Understanding Emerald Club

Typically, the National Emerald Club program is based on credits, whereby you earn either one credit per qualifying rental, or one credit for every four consecutive rental days.

Unlike airline and hotel programs, the benefits of elite status come on the redemption side. The more rentals you have with National, the higher your elite tier, and the fewer credits are required for a free day.

Emerald ClubEmerald Club ExecutiveEmerald Club Executive Elite
Rentals required to achieve statusNone12-24 rentals
40-84 rental days per calendar year
25+ rentals
85+ rental days per calendar year
Credits required for free rental7 Rental Credits = 1 Free Day Certificate
(up to Midsize car, based on availability)
6 Rental Credits = 1 Free Day Certificate
(up to Fullsize car, based on availability)
5 Rental Credits = 1 Free Day Certificate
(any car type based on availability)

It is worth noting free days expire on December 31 of the year following the year in which they were earned, which is something to consider (and keep track of!).

That’s pretty straight forward, so for the most part there’s not a lot of “maximizing” to be done throughout the year. Jason typically uses his free rental days when on vacation in more expensive markets. Rates and fees in places like Florida and Alaska can add up quickly, so redeeming free rental car days for family trips easily saves him a few thousand dollars each year.

Photo courtesy Emerald Exchange member Jason

Jason also noted that he’ll occasionally rent multiple cars when traveling with several coworkers. While all Emerald Club members can choose from any car in their booking class, Executive and Executive Elite members (like Jason) can book a midsize car and automatically receive an upgrade to a fullsize vehicle.

So while you don’t earn credits for multiple or overlapping rentals, this can be a good way to get better cars for the group.

Jason mentioned that depending on the location, there are often small SUVs and other “premium” vehicles in the Executive Aisle, so it’s possible to upgrade more than one class.

And Emerald Club members don’t pay an additional fee when family members or business associates are added as additional drivers.

Photo courtesy Emerald Exchange member Jason

Maximizing One Two Free

I find it interesting that National runs a single promotion for nearly half the year. Compared with hotel promos, which generally run several times a year for a few months (at most), or the ever-diminishing airline promotions, it’s interesting to see something that lasts for six months at a time.

Not like that’s a bad thing, I just find it fascinating.

Unlike the standard rewards program, One Two Free is points-based, whereby certain activities earn points. These range from booking through the mobile app or referring a friend to earning points on each rental. You still earn rental credits as you typically would, so this is above and beyond your standard points-earning.

Each qualifying rental earns 300 points, and each time you reach 600 points, you will be awarded a Free Rental Day coupon.


One of the tricks Jason shared to maximizing One Two Free is to take advantage of local rentals for short-distance trips where he’d typically otherwise use his own car. Not only can these be very inexpensive, but you can potentially earn bonus points for Neighborhood Rentals as well. In that case, a cheap local rental could accrue 500 points, which is nearly enough for a Free Rental Day during One Two Free.

Shortcuts To Emerald Club Status

National Emerald Club offers a status match program, which is an easy way to attain Executive or Executive Elite status.

  • Hertz Gold Five Star, Avis First, and US Airways Chairman’s and Platinum Preferred are all eligible for Emerald Club Executive status
  • Hertz Gold President’s Circle and Avis President’s and Chairman’s Club members can be matched to Emerald Club Executive Elite status

Alternatively, a few credit cards offer elite status as cardholder perks:

Finally, if you purchased a MilePoint Premium Membership last year you can activate your Emerald Club Executive status through the link that was sent to you.

An Even Faster Way To Executive Status

As I mentioned at the top of the post, National is sponsoring a giveaway for readers of One Mile At A Time.

FIVE winners will each receive a year of Emerald Club Executive status, along with a $200 American Express gift card.

We’re going to be doing something new, and you’ll actually have more chances to win!

  • Telling me how (or if) program loyalty has changed the way you travel will give you five entries
  • Sharing a link to this post on Twitter (or RT mine) will get you an additional entry
  • Following me on Twitter, or visiting the blog Facebook page will each get you an additional entry

Here’s the catch! You have to complete these activities via the box below. Click “+1 Do It” and follow the instructions in order to have your entry tracked. If you don’t use the app, I won’t be able to track your entries.

You don’t have to sign up for anything to use the app — just enter your name and email address so I can contact you if you win. You can sign in through Facebook if that’s more convenient, but it’s not a requirement.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

You have until 11:59PM Eastern time on Saturday, November 22nd to enter. The five winners will be randomly selected and announced on Tuesday, November 25th.

Good luck, and thanks to National for sponsoring the giveaway!


  1. National’s loyalty program has encouraged me to book my leisure travel via their site/app rather than just going for the cheapest car available because their Executive Elite status allows me to redeem for any car on free rental days. Helpful when I want to impress!

  2. I have been a loyal Hertz renter for some time, as they offer their Gold members an option to rent ithout young drivers fee in the US. Next year I’ll be turning 25 so this won’t be a problem anymore. I have been getting fedup with Hertz as the cars I have been getting as a 5Star have been really bad lately. Very high mileage. My dad is a National Executive renter and when traveling with him it always amazes me how awesome it is just to be able to pick out your own car. He rents exclusively with National in the US.

  3. National’s Emerald Club lets me feel confident that I can book a mid-size rate and still get a vehicle with enough room for the insane amount of luggage my family packs for a three day vacation.

  4. I typically rent with hertz since I have gold status. Makes it much easier to get a cat when they already have your info and up just have to flash your license.

  5. I love National’s pick your car. With my profile updated online it’s quick to walk straight out to a car and stop at the booth in the lot. I’m on my way in a hurry when I rent with National.

  6. Emerald Club membership means we can choose our car from the Emerald Aisle, which is especially valuable when traveling with family, so we can be sure to get a car with enough trunk space!

  7. Agreed with the above, except for some reason I ended up mostly renting from Budget (after logging one extensive rental from them when they had the cheapest rates). Always nice knowing you can “fall back on” the rate if you can’t find a better deal.

  8. I’ve recently switched from Avis to National, mostly because you pick your car and get in & out in 10-15 minutes. Huge when you’re in a hurry!

  9. The Emerald Aisle is great because they often sprinkle in fun cars (Mini Coopers, VW Bugs, etc.) that I would never buy but enjoy having the chance to try!

  10. While I am not a National Elite loyalty member (yet) I find it increasingly valuable to be part of as many loyalty programs as are available to me in the travel space. Whether it’s for upgrades, free magazines (which tends to be our purchase of choice when my wife’s small airline miles balances are about to expire) or to know that I can redeem for travel for my family, I know I get to earn and burn regardless of the burn rates.

  11. I have status at Avis so I don’t even shop around for different rates anymore. I always get new cars and they offer high end cars in my area.

  12. The ability to make traveling easier has led me to try and stick with the same companies for travel, given the price being competitive.

  13. Was National loyal with over 40 rentals a year. Then they gave me a car without a toll tag ( I asked before leaving and they said it did have one) and I racked up fees and fines for not paying my tolls. I wrote them explaining the situation. They did not respond and I was at their highest level of loyalty members. I took my 50 plus rental this year to Hertz and have not looked back. Be cautious with National as they don’t take care of their best customers very well.

  14. Having loyalty can make flying a particular airline more appealing, even if it is marginally more expensive or less convenient. This is especially true with all the nickel and dime fees that are out there now.

  15. I typically rent from National unless I get an incredible deal elsewhere because I love being able to rent a midsize vehicle and have multiple options when I go to pick up a car. Knowing that I am close to a free rental also increases the likelihood that I will rent from them.

  16. Shifting all my rentals to Avis has helped me earn Avis First status, which has been huge for weekend getaways with my wife! Maybe now I’ll have to try National and see how it stacks up!

  17. Being loyal to an airline or a hotel makes it easier to accumulate points/miles and makes it more likely to get additional perks, especially once getting status. That’s why I usually try to stick to one company, unless the price is significantly cheaper.

  18. National’s executive isle service is great. I prefer it to Hertz as I can choose the car I want vs a preassigned car.

  19. I applied for the British Airways card and the AAdvantage card, however only chase accepted me and gave me credit. Because of that, I decided to give my loyalty to British Airways. I also wanted to get access to domestic lounges and BA would give that to me.

  20. I am slavishly loyal to my airline program (AA/oneworld), and moderately loyal to Starwood in the hotel world. To date I have to say that I’m not particularly loyal when it comes to car rentals, but perhaps this promotion will lead me to take a second look.

  21. Having loyalty can make flying a particular airline more appealing, even if it is marginally more expensive or less convenient. This is especially true with all the nickel and dime fees that are out there now.

  22. I almost always rent from an agency that gives me Mileage Plus miles; usually Alamo. Unfortunately, UAL just changed things, so they only accept from certain companies for car rentals. So, you could say United changed me – forced me to find companies who give me AA miles instead!

  23. I have been a long Avis Preferred member for a long time and had around 35 rentals in the first half of this year. They offer a free weekend rental after 12 rentals but I never was really able to use them well. I recently switched to National and the entire experience is much better than Avis.

  24. Love being able to pick my own car in the aisle, in fact I will be doing that in about an hour for a business trip.

  25. Although my rentals have dropped since I don’t travel as much, when I do rent, it is often National due to better service vs Hertz.

  26. Loyalty on my airline makes me choose a 1-stop instead of a non-stop when traveling internationally – but the benefits are worth it to me, especially when it comes to award redemption. It feels good not to be treated like cattle!

  27. I plan my stays at a hotel and car rentals by how many miles I can earn and how many nights I can credit… sometimes it’s a bit annoying but sometimes it’s worth it too!

  28. I’m used to my status -however lowly- on AA & try to maintain it with flights & point opportunities whenever I can

  29. National is by far the best rental car program in the US. I received a EC Elite status match when my company switched vendors to National/Hertz. I absolutely love picking my own car from the Executive Aisle. That is by far the biggest selling point for me. I enjoy trying out different cars, and National does a great job keeping new cars/SUV in the Executive Aisle. The free rental days are super easy to use and straightforward. I’ve been a big advocate for National and got several coworkers to switch from Hertz to National once I started sharing my great experience!

  30. National makes it so much easier for me because I am picky about the car I drive. So it helps to be able just to pick my own as opposed to having a car selected for me. Emerald Club facilitates that.

  31. Honestly, I don’t change my personal behavior for status. The price differential is usually too great. I stay loyal when it comes to renting cars for work, but they usually only allow a choice from 1 or 2 companies to begin with.

  32. Loyalty programs totally changed the way I travel. I’m now constantly going out of my way to find the best deals to maximize my points to fly more frequently, get nice cars when I rent, and get the best upgrades at hotel.

  33. Program loyalty has fundamentally changed my travel patterns. I began life dating many airlines before learning the error of my ways and committing (with the occasional bout of infidelity) to American. I will go out of my way to do so, even if it means connecting. I’ve also become borderline obsessed with collecting points but I’m guessing that’s an affliction shared by the majority of my brethren on here…

  34. For my personal travel most definitely. If my preferred brand of hotel is within 20/night of another hotel (different loyalty program affiliation or maybe even no affiliation) I will stay t my preferred brand even if its not as nice as the other hotel (if paying cash). If I’m using points, I have chosen different cities to vacation in depending on the availability of a points stay.

  35. I am an Executive Elite with more than 100 days with National. They are great when picking your own car at the airport but I find at regular location without aisle they don’t even look at your status and no real upgrades. I also find there isn’t really a big difference between Executive and Executive Elite other having the car delivered (never used this one because of distance limitations) and 24 hours confirmed car. They could do better on their top elites.

  36. I use the programs for the perks! Better perks increase my loyalty to that program. I use Avis in order to not put the miles on my car!

  37. Sometimes I purchase slightly more expensive plane tickets on Alaska to maintain my MVP Gold status, but the upgrades, free cancellations and same day changes, and more make it worth it.

  38. I think having status makes me check a particular chain first, but depending on the cost sometimes status is not enough. I usually check National for car rentals or Hyatt for hotels as an example, but if they’re not priced competitively then they’re not really an option.

  39. Hopefully someone might find this useful:
    If you use 2 consecutive one two free rewards days, you get a one two free rewards credit back (min 300 points+ app etc) and a credit towards a normal free day. Nice. IMO If you know how to get the best out of National/Enterprise it blows away all the competition. Remember Rewards days can be used on one way rentals and although there is a caveat with one two free, I haven’t found it to have any more restrictions than a normal rewards day (except for Manhattan)

  40. Program loyalty has actually not changed the way I travel, though it is a consideration in planning travel.

  41. Having status definitely changes the way we travel—always checking our preferred chains first and, often, receiving preferential treatment. Helps us to really feel cared for as well.

  42. My Life would change dramatically without loyalty programs — I’d probably be able to cut at least 20% of my travel spend if I wasn’t in love with my program perks…

  43. program loyalty has def changed the way I travel… even tho I live in a UACO aka *A hub, I prefer OW/AA and even fly out of my way to connect at their hubs. simply thanks to the CitiAA program/cards.

  44. I earned United Silver status after a RTW trip 15 years ago. I felt like the most important 23 year old in the world. I was so naive.

  45. Loyalty programs that confer status definitely change the way I travel because they help with some of the inconveniences of traveling, such as extra fees and waiting in lines.

  46. Having status keeps me with the same programs over and over. I value upgrades and short lines that keep me comfortable and save me time.

  47. I often go for the cheapest option, but when prices are similar I do select programs that I have elite status with

  48. To be honest, price matters more to me as I am not a frequent traveler. But I of course sign up for all the programs to receive any benefits I can, sometimes even at the lowest level.

  49. I think that what it will do is that it’ll increase my interest to stick with program loyalty more and eventually attract more of my friends to join which will even make my friends to travel more frequently.

  50. Program loyalty has totally changed my way of traveling. I used to book hotels using priceline bid; now I book directly with SPG, Hyatt, Hilton, etc so that I can get all the benefits of their loyalty programs.

  51. First got silver on Delta years ago my accident, got hooked on upgrades which lead to me discovering milage runs. For the past several years ive visited countries id never dreamed of going to simply because of cheap fares to earn me MQM. Ive been to parts of the world id never have been too if i hadnt discovered the perks frequent flyer programs.

  52. thanks to my Executive status through AmEx Platinum, I rent exclusively from National for many reasons…lower prices, free upgrades, Emerald Aisle Executive access, often brand new cars with less than 100 miles…the list goes on and on!

  53. I fly OZ exclusively for longhaul trips to asia, so I have been trying to accumulate miles with OZ Asiana Club using hotel and car rental partners with OZ. The OZ car rental partners that I use exclusively are National Car Rental, Hertz, and Alamo. Hotel Partners I use are Hilton, SPG Starwood, Hyatt. Being savvy with my car rental choices (National, Hertz, Alamo) has helped me accrue more miles faster with my frequent flyer program, and is getting closer to my next big trip!!

  54. Program loyalty def affected the way I travel. Having status has made things easier and got to experienced new things I wouldn’t otherwise had. Value to be had if you use and earn it strategically.

  55. Already have Executive status with National and thought I should point out that even a general member who books midsize can use the Emerald Aisle… It’s just that the Executives and Exec Elites get the Executive Aisle with better vehicles. Also, in addition to being an Executive with National, am a President’s Circle member with Hertz… which results in practically nothing as far as I can see. I miss my Avis Chairman’s Club days but Executive is pretty good, I just wish it resulted in some perks at Enterprise locations.

  56. Because of loyalty programs I now pay more attention to everything. To which company has the better check-in process, the better customer service response, the better pricing, the better loyalty currency. And, because of loyalty programs, my travelling has increased as a whole as well!

  57. I am a loyalty member addict. I only fly my airline, even when its inconvenient and more expensive because i like the perks and I am used to the serice. not a big fan of change.


  58. Being loyal to one car rental company has allowed me to fit my entire family into a SUV or minivan, while only paying for a midsize rental.

  59. Delta has pushed me over to AA after sooo long. I still have status on both. I’ll continue to fly Delta for the rest of 2014 if it proves more convenient than AA but I’m done with Delta rev flights next year.

  60. I used to use Enterprise for all of my rentals because they were conveniently located around the small town i live in, but when I learned of National’s choose which car you want and go, I immediately changed. While there is only one National location (a shared location with enterprise) about 20 minutes from my home, most of my travel is done to larger cities through the air. Ever since I have switched, I have enjoyed quick exits from airports as well as newer and more luxurious cars. I have not looked back, it has been a wonderful experience.

  61. The National program has made alter my rental habits because of their service and coverage. I often travel and National is my preferred company because every staff member goes out of their way to make things right. I rented a van to drive from Vegas to Los Angeles earlier this year and the rep couldn’t have been nicer. She just told me which vans would be best to accommodate the luggage we had. Also, the partnership with Enterprise is also key. I often rent cars and having the ability to use my National number with an Enterprise rental is great to have. Overall, the program is the best among the rental car companies and would recommend over anyone!

  62. Emerald Club membership takes the hassle and uncertainties about what cars will be available out of my trip planning. The Emerald Club points and the simple promotions puts some fum back into the planning, too.

  63. I go out of my way to stay at my hotel brand of choice just to be a part of the program. It sometimes means not staying where I’d like but it’s worth taking my business to the brand that works for me the most.

  64. Loyalty has certainly changed the way I travel. I love guaranteed free breakfast and internet at Hiltons thanks to my gold status. I enjoy the small perks I get from airline elite status, although those are being whittled away, so my loyalty on that front is waning.

  65. What brings me back to National is their Emerald/Executive Aisle service. The ability to choose your own car is supreme!

  66. Love National Emerald Club. I don’t rent cars all that much, so am only base tier, but always get a nice upgrade and recognition.

  67. Program loyalty has changed my travel patterns slightly in that I now try to see if there are any hotels which would earn me miles I’m actively collecting first, if there is no significant difference in pricing

  68. Loyalty programs got me hooked with their promise of free nights, free breakfasts and free lounge access so that I’ve re-prioritized the hotels I stay at based on the benefits.

  69. Program loyalty of both airlines and rental car companies have absolutely changed the way I travel. As a result of program loyalty, my wife and I were able to take a two-week vacation to Portugal and Spain this year for free, with a week of free car rental and free travel around Europe!

  70. Loyalty programs have provided me and my family some free travel all these years. A very great invention.

  71. I drink at Starbucks a lot more since I joined their loyalty program, even though I don’t really love their coffee. I do think that they are a fairly decent company though so that balances it out. I use to fly American Airlines almost exclusively to rack up points towards million mile status. In addition, I used the credit cards, shopped through portals, etc… Then they changed their program and only actual flights counted towards earning million mile status and my loyalty started shifting. Before I would even fly American if it was a bit more expensive. Now I fly whomever offers the cheapest flights, loyalty programs be damned.

  72. Has not really affected the way I travel. i do not travel often and when I do, I just go for the cheapest thing out there. I will never travel enough to earn elite statuses on any program so there is no point to chase them.

  73. Well using loyalty cards has helped me great in Lounge access during my travels. Can’t tel you much I suffered in transits in the middle of the airport and now I have a place to stay. Also, with hotel loyalty upgrades and free wifi when I upgraded my hotel status to Elite. It’s fun feeling VIP all the time.

  74. Joining loyalty programs has allowed us to enjoy free airline travel and free hotel nights, thus saving our vacation dollars to be used on fabulous experiences once we get there. We love the perks that go along with elite status in the loyalty program.

  75. loyalty programs and status have made me indeed more inclined to book with particular airlines / hotel chains in order to receive the perceived additional benefits. Sometimes I do end up paying more to be loyal, but the ease of use and additional perks such as lounge, priority security screening, make travelling and loyalty that little bit more rewarding

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