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Quick Points: How to skip the car rental line on your next trip

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There’s nothing quite like packing up for a trip, making your way to the airport, getting through security and sitting through an hours-long flight to your latest destination — only to find yourself waiting in an endless rental car line on the other end.

Thankfully, there’s a remarkably simple way to remove this potential headache.

Here’s how to save time when landing your next rental car and make at least one section of your next trip dramatically shorter.

Join car rental rewards programs

Peugeot National rental car in Rome
Even with rental status, be prepared to check in at overseas locations. KYLE OLSEN/THE POINTS GUY

Major rental car companies like Alamo, Avis, Enterprise, Hertz and National offer expedited check-in and checkout when you sign in online or join their premium rewards program.

For example, Alamo’s “Skip the Counter” option is available at over 45 participating airport locations and only requires you to check in online beforehand. You also won’t be charged until you return your vehicle.

The same goes for Avis’s free loyalty program, Avis Preferred, which lets users bypass the rental counter at many locations and earn points toward free days. You may have to check in at a rental counter to show your license and retrieve your keys at smaller locations.

Enterprise and Hertz also offer similar benefits, with Hertz even offering dedicated zones of cars at select airport locations for members of its Gold Plus Rewards program.

Related: The complete guide to car rental elite status matches

Get a card with elite car rental status

Front MD
As a National Executive Elite, points and miles reporter Kyle Olsen recently enjoyed an upgrade to a BMW 740i. KYLE OLSEN/THE POINTS GUY

But why stop there? Many premium credit cards like The Platinum Card® from American Express, Chase Sapphire Reserve and Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card (see rates and fees) offer a number of benefits, including complimentary car rental elite status for your favorite services.

Platinum cardholders, for example, can enjoy elite status with Avis, Hertz and National, while the Venture X provides top-tier Hertz President’s Circle status*, which includes:

  • Guaranteed upgrades to the next car class
  • Access to the widest selection of vehicles
  • Earn 50% bonus points on all Hertz rentals
  • Dedicated customer service texting line to reach an agent for rental-related questions

These cards may not make sense for you if you’re an infrequent traveler, but they all make for great options if you can use their ample benefits.

Related: How you can rent a $100,000 BMW for $3 a day

*Upon enrollment, accessible through the Capital One website or mobile app, eligible cardholders will remain at upgraded status level through December 31, 2024. Please note enrolling through the normal Hertz Gold Plus Rewards enrollment process (e.g. at will not automatically detect a cardholder as being eligible for the program, and cardholders will not be automatically upgraded to the applicable status tier. Additional terms apply.

Bottom line

Rental car elite status is easy to earn through your credit card. It can also come in handy just as much, in some cases, allowing you to skip the sometimes hours-long line and get your trip started already.

It may not be the coolest perk, but rental car elite status can save you money and, more importantly, time — making it well worth your while to find ways to skip the line.

As always, pay for your rental on a card that offers primary car rental insurance on most rentals, like Chase Sapphire ReserveChase Sapphire Preferred Card or Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card.