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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What Reward Gives Me the Most Value When I Redeem My Petro-Canada Petro-Points?

It’s been a couple of years since I last redeemed a huge chunk of Petro-Points and our balance has grown again. So when a reader recently asked for an updated review of the best reward choices to maximize the value of the points, it encouraged me to go review the Petro-Points rewards and figure out the best way to redeem our points for the most value.

These rewards do change from time to time so you should do a quick check yourself before making a decision. For example, they used to offer redemptions for Digital Media including music, movies, TV shows, eBooks and Audiobooks but that will be discontinued on April 1, 2016. The information in this article was collected on March 8 2016.

UPDATE January 9 2017: There is no longer a Best Buy e-Gift Card offered. There is now a HBC e-Gift Card offered.

There’s also a new rewards for the Student Price Card.

Want a quicker summary? Scroll down looking for a table of the value in $ of 1000 points for the various choices you can make.

The Extremely Popular Fuel Savings Rewards Card Choice for Petro-Points Collectors

One of the most popular uses for Petro-Points is to buy a Fuel Savings Reward Card and reload it from time to time to save money off each litre of gas pumped.

But the Fuel Savings Rewards Card isn’t the only choice. You can use points to buy

  • a “Fuel Savings Rewards Card” to decrease the price paid per litre by 5 cents or a different one that drops the price paid per litre by 10 cents a litre, or
  • a “Petro-Canada Gift Card” which is basically cash you can apply against your purchase regardless of how many litres you buy

Obviously you can only use these cards at a Petro-Canada station not at a competitor’s.

Why Buy the Fuel Savings Rewards Card Instead of a Petro-Canada Gift Card?

It seems a bit stupid to only get $0.10 off a litre if you could just get a gift card and pay for your entire purchase to immediately get the value from your points.

The reason is that you get more $$$ for your points if you redeem them for the “cents per litre” cards. That’s because Petro-Canada wants you to keep coming back to the station. They’re hoping if you do, you might also get the car washed or buy a Mars bar for your child.

So Petro-Canada gives you a more $$ per point if you redeem your points for a Fuel Savings Rewards Card than if you redeem them for a gift card. They even have “specials” fairly often where you can get the Rewards card for fewer points, increasing the $$ value of your points even more. Keep an eye out for big cardboard signs near the gas pumps for those kinds of specials.

On March 8, 2016 the offers on the Petro-Points website were:

Card Number of Points Saving Value Dollars of value per 1000 points
Fuel Savings Reward 12 000 to buy a card in store,
11 000 to reload a card online
5 cents per litre for 200 L $10 $0.83 and
for $0.91 reload
Fuel Savings Reward 10 cents 22 000 10 cents per litre for 200L $20 $0.91 for reload
Petro-Canada Gift Card 45 000 $25 $25 $0.056

You can see that today the Fuel Savings Reward cards offer the best value per point. Those values are often even higher due to various promotions.

The Also Very Popular Superworks Car Wash Points Purchase

Lots of drivers save their Petro-Points for car washes. It’s an easy way to pay to make the Lamborghini shine.

The website says, on March 8 2016, that a SuperWorks Car Wash costs 9 000 points. I don’t know the regular price for that car wash, so I can’t tell you the $ per point for that choice. Sorry!

What Else Can I Get That’s Not a Petro-Canada Product with Petro-Points?

You don’t just have to buy gas or get your car cleaned to use your Petro-Points. Here are some other offers.

The Newest Offer: Using Petro-Points to Get The Student Price Card

Obviously, this offer is only useful if you are a student. You can only use this card for discounts if you also have a Student ID card from one of the places listed on the SPC website.

For those who are the right kind of students, though, the offer is:

redeem 12 000 Petro-Points for a SPC card. The regular cost of the card is $10 (plus $2 for shipping). So the dollar value per 1000 points is $0.83 which is respectable but not epic.

The Best Way to Get Best Buy Savings Using Petro-Points

There were are two ways to change Petro-Points into savings at Best Buy and one of them was is a much better deal than the other.

UPDATE January 2017: Best Buy e-Gift cards are not offered any more.

The best buy for using your points at Best Buy is to buy Best Buy e-Gift Cards. (Yes, that is a deliberate tongue-twister!)

The e-Gift cards for Best Buy can be used at the online Best Buy website or at the store near you. You can only get this type of e-Gift card online. You can’t drive up to your local Petro-Can station to buy one. The “card” is just an email that they send to you and you print it off to take to the store (or just copy the information to use it online.) There is no real plastic or paper “card.” (That, by the way, makes it a bit less desirable to many people if they plan to give the e-Card to someone else as a gift.)

They sell the Best Buy e-Gift cards in sizes of $10, 25, 50, 100, 250, and 500.

Each Best Buy e-Gift card has the same value of $0.67 per 1000 Petro-Points. So buying these e-Gift cards gets you less than $1 in value for every 1000 Petro-Points. It’s also less value than a reload of your Petro-Canada Fuel Savings Rewards Card.

Your worse choice for Best Buy would be to get a regular plastic Best Buy gift card by redeeming your points at the gas station. That way, the value of the the card per 1000 points is only $0.50.

What Gives You The Most Dollar Value Per 1000 Petro-Points? CAA Membership and CAA Dollars

To get a CAA Basic Membership in Ontario, you can redeem 60 000 Petro-Points. In southern Ontario, a basic CAA membership costs $70. The dollar value per 1000 points is therefore 1.17. That’s the highest value offered on the site at the time this was written in March 2016. (There may be times when the Fuels Savings Rewards card comes with a special offer making it tie with this.)

You can also exchange 1 000 Petro Points for one CAA dollar. That means the dollar value per 1000 points is 1 dollar. That’s the second highest value offered on the site at the time this was written in March 2016.

If you register your CAA membership number online on the Petro-Canada Petro-Points site, you will also earn 20% more points on every purchase you make at Petro-Canada if you swipe your Petro-Points card or use a Petro-Points linked credit card. That’s actually a pretty hefty increase in points.

Another Way to Make 1000 Petro-Points Equal One Dollar

Itravel2000.com Rewards

You can redeem your Petro-Points for a discount on your itravel2000.com purchase.

10 000 points pays for $10 to be spent at iTravel2000.com. That’s a dollar value per 1000 points of $1.00.

That’s the same cost as the CAA dollars offer. HOWEVER: Read all of the terms and conditions and ask any questions before redeeming your points. The conditions are not simple and they might not work for you. The CAA dollars can be spent on a lot more things, more easily.

The Less Good Ways to Redeem Your Petro-Points

Gift Cards

On March 8, 2016 when I checked the Petro-Points website, all of the gift cards were being sold at a dollar value per 1000 points of $0.50. That’s a very low value. You should try to get more $$ for your points than that.

These gift cards are bought using your points at a Petro-Canada gas station, so not all cards may be available.

For 20 000 points you can get a $10 card for

  • League of Legends

For 30 000 points you can get a $15 card for

  • iTunes
  • Google Play
  • Xbox
  • Starbucks

For 40 000 points you can get a $18 card for

  • Sony

For 40 000 points you can get a $20 card for

  • Sony (hey that’s what the website says: but I’m willing to bet you can only get the $18 card anymore and they are sold out of the $20 ones….)

For 50 000 points you can get a $25 card for

  • iTunes
  • Cineplex
  • Chapters Indigo
  • Best Buy
  • Cinemas Guzzo
  • EB Games
  • Google Play
  • League of Legends
  • XBox
  • Home Depot
  • Hudson’s Bay
  • Sears
  • La Senza
  • Toys R Us
  • Shoppers Drug Mart
  • Gap
  • Homesense
  • Old Navy
  • Pharmaprix
  • Winners
  • the Keg Steakhouse & Bar
  • Cara Foods
  • Sir Corp. Restaurants
  • Earl’s
  • Pizza Pizza
  • Brewsters
  • St. Hubert
  • Pizza Hotline
  • Smitty’s
  • Starbucks
  • Cabela’s
  • SportChek

For 100 000 points you can get a $50 gift card for

    • iTunes
    • Cineplex
    • Chapters Indigo
    • Best Buy
    • Cinemas Guzzo
    • Sony
    • EB Games
    • Google Play
    • League of Legends
    • XBox
    • Home Depot
    • Hudson’s Bay
    • Sears
    • La Senza
    • Shoppers Drug Mart
    • Gap
    • Homesense
    • Old Navy
    • Pharmaprix
    • Winners
    • the Keg Steakhouse & Bar
    • Cara Foods
    • Sir Corp. Restaurants
    • Earl’s
    • Brewsters
    • St. Hubert
    • Starbucks
    • Cabela’s
    • Golf Town
    • SportChek

For 200 000 points you can get a $100 gift card for

  • Best Buy
  • Home Depot
  • Sears
  • the Keg Steakhouse & Bar
  • Earl’s
  • Cabela’s

How Can I Use My Petro-Points for Rewards to Maximize Their Dollar Value?

Here’s the handy summary table of rewards, as at March 8 2016 for redeeming Petro-Points. Your mileage may vary. (That’s a little “Retail” joke for you non-oil-patchers.)

Reward $ value per 1000 points, in $
CAA Basic Membership, Ontario only 1.17
CAA Dollars, Ontario and BC and check about other provinces by calling your CAA 1.00
itravel2000.com Dollars
(read terms and details carefully!)
1.00
Fuel Savings Reward Card redeemed online
(may be better if there’s a deal on offer)
0.91
Fuel Savings Reward 10 Cent Card redeemed online
(may be better if there’s a deal on offer)
0.91
Fuel Savings Reward Card at the station
(may be better if there’s a deal on offer)
0.83
SPC Card
(only available to the right kind of students)
0.83
Best Buy eGift Cards 0.67
Single SuperWorks Car Wash Pass
(Costs 9000 points)
???
Petro-Canada Gift Card 0.56
Gift Cards for Stores, Services and Restaurants 0.50


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Do you buy gas at Petro-Canada and collect Petro-Points? Or are you still furious with Trudeau, er, Pierre Elliott Trudeau? Have you redeemed any Petro-Points and if so, for what? Please share your views with a comment.