This isn’t about debating the ethics of using a discount code. It's about saving $$$ when things are a bit tight.
Sometimes it's not necessary at all to find corporate discount codes; many car companies like Hertz make their best discount codes available online.1 But for other companies, like Avis, and special situations like one-way rentals, it can be slightly trickier to find a deal.
To find proper discount codes when the going gets tough, I usually turn to FlyerTalk for the best rates.
For the uninitiated, FlyerTalk is a forum for frequent flyers who geek out on this kind of stuff. Googling "Avis discount codes FlyerTalk" is bound to return something valid beside the normal coupons.
Don't forget that it's often possible to apply both a coupon and corporate rate to a rental. The ones found on FlyerTalk are often corporate rates and there many things to keep in mind using them.
It sounds silly but the most important thing is to KNOW WHOSE DISCOUNT CODE you're using. It's good not to get surprised at the counter when someone asks for, say, a UPS affiliation.
If it's a random code off the internet, definitely take the time to search and read up — especially on other experiences people have had with it. Be aware of all the possible issues.
Regardless, if you use any or all of the tactics below at your disposal, you're bound to hit the open road soon. There are still a few things to keep in mind.
Opt for codes that don’t include insurance.
First things first, do not use corporate rentals that include insurance. The best way to figure this out is to dig up what you can about the code. It’s good to know what you’re getting into. I previously covered this topic when talking about one-way car rental codes:
...the real reason why you don’t want insurance included is because if you get into an accident while you’re on the road, and you’re not eligible to use it, you could find yourself in a super, sticky mess. Codes that include no insurance are preferred, so you can use opt for your normal car insurance or for a credit card that has rental coverage.
Imagine getting into an accident under a Citibank code and getting a letter from Citi asking what's up? Now, I don’t know how liable that's bound to happen but it sounds like it could be possibly called insurance fraud.
Instead, it’s better to find a corporate discount code that doesn’t include insurance. It’s not worth the headache.
Make a backup reservation.
In case the person at the counter asks for ID and you’re SOL. The other option is paying the walk-up rate. (Remember, you’re not financially liable for the car unless you’ve paid upfront when you made the booking.)
That means it’s possible to make another reservation at a different branch or at another company just in case. It’s probably not gonna be as cheap as the original booking but it should be a better bet if things take a turn.
If things go awry, just make your way to the next place.
Flash those pearly whites.
Being in a good mood goes a long way — seriously.
People who work in the travel industry often have to deal with irate customers when things go nuts… and they often do. Being a pleasant person makes things so much easier.
I’ll often chat up the person at the counter when I think I might be at risk of being asked for proof—I obviously don’t work at an Ohio university—and will even chit chat and ask them questions about their day when they’re looking a bit too intently at the computer.
(Don’t overdo it. People can tell when you’re being fake.)
The last time I did this, I got upgraded without asking. I was then asked if I wanted another upgrade to an SUV, which I passed on because I dislike fuel-inefficient cars. And when I wanted to secure the rental by debit card, which usually doesn’t fly, the National agent had the manager override it with zero questions.
Sign up for the preferred customer program.
Not for the bonus points but because merely signing up sometimes entitles drivers to benefits they may not otherwise have, such as skipping the counter. You know, in case, you get asked for proof.
For instance, National’s Emerald Club often lets members directly pass the rental counter and go directly to the Emerald Club Aisle where they can pick any car sitting in the aisle, for instance.
Sometimes it takes at least one previous rental for this type of benefit to kick in, like Avis’ preferred program. Regardless, it’s nice to get the extra service or skip everyone else in line, all for free and without breaking a sweat.