Checking for the Best Car Rental Rate for a Canadian Vacation

Recently, I’ve been helping a friend try to book a family vacation in Alberta. The hotels were booked first because there is very little available in the Canadian Rockies on short notice. Then the flights were booked a few months ago. Now it’s time to book a rental car. The prices are all over the place, though, so we started experimenting to see what we could find.

Renting a Car From an Airport Location May Cost a Lot More

We’d heard that if you rent a car directly from an airport location after you land you may be paying much more than someone who rents from a city location. For a one or two day rental that may not matter because taking a cab to a hotel may eat up any price difference. But for a multi-week rental, the difference may be large.

For example

Avis.ca offers a two week rental of a Full Size car from YYC at $1310.47.

The same rental picked up from their 115 9th Ave SE location, but dropped off at YYC is $762.51.

You could also save another $71.40 by pre-paying. That’s risky though if your plans change or there is some problem with them not having the car you paid for available at the time you need it.

So the premium for picking up your car at the airport location is over $500!

Renting a Car Through Costco Travel Can Save Hundreds of Dollars

If you are a Costco member, you can book cars online using the Costco Travel part of the website.

If you are not yet a member, you can still check the rates. If it’s going to save you a lot of money, it may be worth joining Costco to get their rate.

  1. Go to Costco.ca
  2. In the blue horizontal links list near the top of the page, hover over Travel and then select Rental Cars.
  3. Enter your Pick-up and Drop-off Locations.
  4. Select your pickup and drop-off dates and times.
  5. Click the “I am least 25 years of age” check box.
  6. Click the Search button.

(If you are under 25 in Canada and trying to rent a car you will likely have to pay a significantly higher rate. Not all companies will rent to younger drivers at all.)

Sticking with my Avis example, the Costco rate for pickup at the YYC airport for a Full Size car is $892.

That’s much better, more than $400 better, than the $1310.47 quoted on the Avis website.

The Costco rate for pickup at the 115 9th Ave SE location, is $653.

You can see that it may be worth joining Costco for $55 a year to get these rates.

Renting a Car Through CAA May Save Some Money

CAA members also get some discounts on car rentals. They are also eligible for discounts on some items like children’s car seats and GPS units. The discounts vary depending on various factors.

A Full Size rental from AVIS from YYC would cost $1051.

Apparently, though, I can’t rent from AVIS through CAA at an alternate location in Calgary.

I can rent a Full Size from Thrifty in downtown Calgary, though, for $541.27 That’s lower than the above two examples, but it’s also not from the same company.

The CAA car savings are significant if you are picking up the car downtown but are not that great if you want the car at the airport.

Renting a Car with a Corporate Discount Code May Save Money and Improve Convenience

Fortunately for my friend, she works for a large corporation which has negotiated a company discount with two car rental companies.

Using her corporate discount rate, she could…

Rent a Full Size car from AVIS at YYC for $496.28.

Wow.

There are some perq’s to working for a major corp!

Out of curiosity, I also checked what it would cost to pick the car up at the downtown Calgary location.

It would be $762.51.

It costs more to pickup from downtown than from the airport!

We went ahead and booked her car using her corporate rate for the airport. I hope if we get to travel next year we can get a good rate too, but I suspect we’ll be using Costco.


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Do you have a strategy to get a good rate when renting cars? Please share your tips with a comment.

How Did We Use Up Our AIR MILES Dream Rewards Miles Before They Expire?

We aren’t big AIR MILES rewards customers. We have a credit card with a very low limit which we use for online purchases to reduce the risk of exposing our high limit card to fraud. That credit card earns us the occasional Air Mile. We also get a few Miles when we purchase groceries at Metro, wine at the LCBO, or clothes at one store our children like. We don’t shop at any of those locations frequently, though, so we don’t have many points. Still when I heard most of our AIR MILES were going to expire on December 31 2016, I went online to try to redeem them for something we might use.

What Is the AIR MILES Expiry Date?

Any AIR MILES earned 5 years ago or more will expire on December 31, 2016. From then on, when a Mile reaches 5 years of age, it will expire on the next March 31, June 30, September 30 or December 31.

Once AIR MILES have expired, they vanish. They have no value after they expire. It’s as if they never were earned.

How Can I Check When My AIR MILES Will Expire?

Go to the AIR MILES website at https://www.airmiles.ca/arrow/Home

In the text field under How many miles do you have?  type your
Collector Number
And click on the Go button.

At the top right side of the screen is a choice called Your Profile.
Hover on the downwards pointing arrowhead beside Your Profile.
From the menu, select View Transactions.

You will be asked to enter your PIN.
(If you have forgotten your PIN, click on the Forgot Pin/Need Help link.)

In the text field type your
PIN
And click on the Continue button.

The Your Account Page

There is a list of choices under the heading Your Account.
Click on the Request an Expiry Statement link.

Check whether the email address they have on file is correct.
(If not, click on the link Update my email address in my Profile.)

If it is correct, click on the Submit request button.

If all goes well, you will get a green check mark and a Success! Comment in a green highlighted bar.

You should receive an email in 12-24 hours listing your AIR MILES and when they expire.

They warn you to check your Spam and Junk mile folder for the email.

If you’re finished with your AIR MILES transactions, from the top right side of the screen, click on Sign Out.

When Did I Get My AIR MILES Expiry Statement?

I’m waiting to see when I get my report.

I made the request at 6:24 EST Sunday July 17 2016.

I got the report on Monday July 18. So it is fast. It lists how many points will expire at each of the four next expiry dates.

For What Did I Redeem My AIR MILES?

The pickings are pretty slim for people with only a few hundred AIR MILES like me.
So far, I’ve redeemed my points for some tickets to the Calgary Zoo (to see the Penguins!) and to the Toronto Zoo (to see the Pandas!). You can see we’re going for a “black and white creatures” theme this summer.

I noticed, though, that they are limiting the number of tickets available to these zoos to 12 pairs of tickets per calendar quarter. That’s not very many happy AIR MILES customers!

They also are not “e-tickets.” You have to wait to get passes in the mail, and it could take 3-4 weeks for them to put those passes into the mail. With a mail strike pending!

When the mail strike was imminent a week or two ago, by the way, they refused to let you try to redeem the AIR MILES for these rewards at all.

UPDATE: The Calgary Zoo tickets have arrived so that took one week.

I suspect the passes will have to be redeemed for tickets at the zoos after waiting in a line for a long time. I’ll see how that goes when we get them and use them.

Do I Think AIR MILES Is a Good Reward Program?

No.

The only reason I belong is that it costs me nothing.

And back in the olden days, I used to get some reasonable deals buying diapers at Metro and getting AIR MILES and then using the AIR MILES to get $20 gift certificates for Metro. It worked out that I was getting the diapers cheaper than from Costco or Wal-Mart, especially since I would wait for sales. They don’t offer the same incentives recently, I’ve noticed.

Will I Be Able to Use All of My AIR MILES Before They Expire?

I’m not sure. I have to wait for my Expiry Report!


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Do you collect AIR MILES? Will you be able to use all of your Miles before they expire? Did you find any good uses for low numbers of Miles? Please share your experiences with a comment.