Frequent Flyer

Program Devaluation Watch: National’s Emerald Club

Buried in National’s new program terms is bad news for Emerald Club members: rentals that earn airline miles will no longer count toward elite status.

Members of National Car Rental’s Emerald Club received an email notice yesterday notifying them that the program’s terms and conditions, “that you agreed to and accepted at the time of your enrollment have been modified, effective immediately.” Rather than summarizing what has changed, the missive unhelpfully provides a link to the company’s Emerald Club Master Rental Agreement and Program Rules and Conditions, a 44-page document. And like the email announcement, it includes no indication whatever of the changes that took effect on November 26, 2013.

What has definitely changed is the definition of rentals that count toward earning elite status in the program. The new definition reads in part as follows:

A qualifying rental does not include (and credits will not be issued) on the following type of rentals: rentals on rate plans for accounts that do not allow employees to participate in award programs; insurance replacement rentals; dealer replacement, body shop or fleet replacement rentals; rentals by employees of Enterprise Holdings, Inc. or its affiliates or subsidiaries, licensee and licensee employees booked under an employee discount rate; or when a member chooses to receive mileage, credits or points for a frequent traveler program (such as, but not limited to, an airline frequent flyer or hotel points program) or members enrolled through our Drive Alliance Partnership with Enterprise Rent-A-Car who are earning Enterprise Plus points.

What’s new in that over-packed sentence is the exclusion of rentals that earn airline or hotel points. In other words: Opt to earn Emerald Club points, or your rental doesn’t count toward elite.

That makes earning airline miles much less desirable. And clearly that’s National’s intent. But it also makes Emerald Club a much less valuable program for those travelers who normally opt to earn miles for their rentals.

And the company’s inexcusably opaque communication and lack of advance notice of the change just adds insult to injury.

Reader Reality Check

With no elite-qualifying credit for mileage-earning rentals, are you still an Emerald Club loyalist?

This article originally appeared on

By Tim Winship

After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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