My plan to rent 24 cars in 1 day! How to maximize Hertz’s targeted United Miles promotion

BLUF:  If you received Hertz’s targeted United Miles promotion, it may make sense for you to go on a rental run to save big based if you have access to a Hertz near you.

That’s right…24 vehicles…1 day!  If you have been reading my blog, one of my principles I try to abide by is not chasing miles and not making unnecessary purchases.   But if there is one thing I’ve learned in the military, its that there is a waiver for everything, so there are times I make exceptions and this is one of them.

5,500 per rental with no minimum time lengths to qualify!

You can imagine I took a double take when I saw this drop in my inbox. Keeping up with travel industry news, I was aware the car rental industry was hurting due to the popularity of Uber and Lyft.  Couple that with cyclical pricing of heavy tourism locations like Las Vegas or right here in Honolulu, and you have a recipe for success.  This potential reminded me of the pudding man, a California engineer that maximized a promotion by mailing  in pudding cup bar codes to get 1.2 million miles for $3140, most of which was tax-deductible since he donated the pudding cups to a soup kitchen!

So first rental to test the waters was in May 2017…

Cost for miles/points

  • 1 rental = $53.34
  • 5,500 United miles  = 0.97 cents per mile
  • 160 Chase points = 33 cents per point

Not bad since most travel blogs value United miles at 1.3 -1.7 cents, but I realized this wasn’t going to be my pudding man story.

Fast forward to August.  The wife and I took a trip to Las Vegas where I rented and returned a car from Hertz every morning of my trip there. We even rented a car from the airport to get back home, then took two cars back to the airport the next day to return the rental.  Why go through so much headache?  Because the Honolulu airport regulates commercial services that can pick up customers at the airport.  So a $25-$30 UberX ride to the airport now turns into a $75-$90 ride from the airport since only traditional cabs and Uber Select are allowed to pick you up at the airport!  Renting a car for a day is actually cheaper than paying for a 30 minute ride home.

Cost for miles/points

  • 6 rentals = $50.42 / average per rental
  • 33,000 United miles  = 0.92 cents per mile
  • 907 Chase points = 33 cents per mile

I didn’t mind going a little out of the way of renting a new vehicle everyday when we needed a vehicle but, I wasn’t going to rent vehicles purely for the sake of getting United miles.  So I stopped thinking about the promotion until a post about JJ Todd pop up on The Points Guy’s webpage.  JJ Todd was renting a vehicle on a daily basis instead of purchasing a car.  He was able to amass 1.2 million united miles with the promotion, costing him $22-$30 per rental.  The key point I took away from the article was that at one point he rented 24 vehicles in a single day. I immediately jump on my computer and started crunching the numbers. I knew I needed to get tickets for myself and my wife from Honolulu to Korea to see the in-laws next spring.  I calculated that I needed to get below 1.45 cents per United mile to justify my run; hopefully by a substantial amount to get back how much time I’ve invested in research.

They had my keys ready and waiting for me in a separate bin.

As I was searching I noticed that the Sunday to Monday cost always seems to be the cheapest.  I guess it makes sense; the tourists for the week have flown out by Sunday morning and business travelers don’t start flowing in until Mondays.  I was pleasantly surprised when I crunched the numbers and the cost per mile came out to 0.63 cent per mile!  Just to put it in perspective, even when United directly sells miles with a 100% bonus, it still costs ~1.4 cents per mile.  Lets do this.  First round, 13 cars.

United/Hertz breakdownEconomyBusiness
Purchase cost RT (HNL/ICN)~$800~$2000
Asiana flt through United Mileage55,000 mies + $11.20120,000 + $11.20
Miles valuation through purchase cost 1.45 cents per mile1.67 cents per mile
1st mile run average cost ($34.81 per rental)0.63 cents per mile0.63 cents per mile
Cost through promotion~$360~$766
2nd mile run average cost ($24.45 per rental)0.44 cents per mile0.44 cents per mile
Cost through promotion~$252~$538

To justify this mile run, I needed to get below the cost of 1.45 cents per United mile.  Using my second mile run calculations, it cost me only $252 for n economy round trip HNL/ICN or I can fly Business for less than a direct economy ticket!

The first half of the miles took about a week to come in, then another week for the rest.  I’m sold.  I starting setting up my next round when I accidentally click the wrong return time making the cost jump up significantly just for an hour over the 24 hour mark.  Wait, if they charge such a premium for just over 24 hrs…do they return the savings if under 24 hours?

Making the rental for right under 24 hours, dropped the price for a full size down to $24 after all fees and taxes..

Sure enough, when I put in a period under 24 hours, it significantly dropped the price! $24 per rental = 0.44 cents per mile! I started making reservations at a rapid pace and the rest is history.

Lessons Learned:

  • If you’re going to chase miles, do so with a specific use in mind.  It helps to clearly calculate the Go/No Go line.
  • Make reservations for under 24 hours if you need to rent a vehicle for a day.
  • Hertz can handle more than one car at a time for one person but their web page only displays max 13 reservations at a time.  I still have reservation codes for the remaining 11 so hopefully it isn’t a problem getting my 24 rentals in a day.
  • It took about 2 weeks for my miles to get in but might take longer for others so don’t plan on using the miles in the near future.
  • Sign up for loyalty programs and their promotions so you have a chance of getting targeted promotions.
  • Uniteds search function for rentals were limit to Hertz locations only at airports.
Is anyone else taking advantage of this targeted promotion? Does anyone see a flaw in my calculations or logic?