National Emerald Club: a review of National’s rewards program

What is National Emerald Club?

Picture of a wide camera shot of a car driving along a beach

National Emerald Club is National Car Rental’s rewards program designed to provide car renters with free rentals, free upgrades and elite level benefits. Photo by Sayan Nath on Unsplash

A complete review of National Emerald Club

The National Emerald Club is National’s rewards loyalty program for frequent customers. In a nutshell, National Emerald Club members can enjoy exclusive benefits and choose between earning free rental days or earning points for another frequent traveler program. The National Emerald Club program is designed to make the car rental experience faster and more convenient and also gives the opportunity to earn rewards in exchange for your loyalty.

National Car Rental is an internationally-known rental car company, with locations in 100+ countries on six continents. Enterprise Holdings Inc., owns National, in addition to Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Alamo Rent a Car. Read on for more details and a full review on why you should join this rewards program.

Joining National Emerald Club

Picture of a National Rental Car green neon signage

National Emerald Club is the rewards program offered by National Rental Car. Photo by CompareBare

You can join the National Emerald Club for free by just going to the official website (www.nationalcar.com). During the sign-up process, you’ll need to sign their ‘Master Rental Car Agreement and Program Rules and Conditions.’ The agreement is a document allowing you to pre-agree to the related paperwork you would do anyway if you were to rent a car traditionally at the counter; also the document allows you to bypass the check-in counter and choose any car in the aisle at participating locations. You will need to provide basic information like your name, email address, credit card and your Drivers License number. Having a Driver’s License is required to rent a car, so you won’t be able to bypass this step. Also, you will need to follow the directions on the screen to complete the account registration process.

The overall process is pretty straightforward, and the time it takes to do this can be worth the elite benefits you receive from being a member.

How does National Emerald Club work?

Picture of brown, red, and white sport utility vehicles parked on a hill

Emerald Club lets you bypass the counters and provides more car options for your rental. Photo by CompareBare

After you complete all the steps for account creation, you’ll be ready to earn with the National Emerald Club! To start earning, you have to book and complete a car rental through National Car Rental. More importantly, you’ll need to make sure your reservation connects to your National Emerald Club account. You can do this by making sure you’re logged in to your account while making the original booking. Also, you can double check at the National Rental Car desk and ask the attendant if your account number is tied to the reservation. If your account is not linked to the reservation, you will not get credit for the car rental!

With each completed car rental reservation, you’ll work your way towards two things: gaining elite status and earning either free rental days or points/miles within another frequent travel program. You’ll also gain instant benefits for just being a member of the National Emerald Club. We explain the details in the following sections.

Earning National Emerald Club status

Picture of a road running along side a tropical beach shoreline

Elite Emerald Club status tiers could take your vacation rental car from average to awesome. Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

National’s Emerald Club offers three tiers within the program. The base tier is called Emerald Club member, and anyone who signs up for the program gets this status. The next two levels, Emerald Club Executive and Emerald Club Executive Elite, can be earned either by accruing a certain number of paid rentals or a certain number of paid rental days in a calendar year. Reaching each level has a different set of requirements (see table below) and provides various types of benefits to members (see section below). Here’s the breakdown of how to qualify for each tier:

Emerald Club Member Emerald Club Executive Emerald Club Executive Elite
How to qualify Automatically given upon sign-up. 12 paid rentals or 40 paid rental days in a calendar year. 25 paid rentals or 85 paid rental days in a calendar year.

You can view your current status by logging into your National Emerald Club account and click ‘my profile.’ Your membership status appears directly below your name and account number in the center of the screen.

National Emerald Club status match

Picture of two white cars parked side by side

Status matching is an important factor when determining if a rewards program is right for you. Photo by Connor Lunsford on Unsplash

If you are already a member of another car rental rewards program but are considering making the switch to the National Emerald Club, you’re in luck! National offers the Emerald Club status match program, which means that National will match the same status level that you’ve earned at another rental car company. It will grant you the status level that National deems comparable to their three tiers.

And the best part about the Emerald Club status match is that National has extended the matching to other types of programs, including airlines and hotels. If you have status in an airlines or hotel rewards program, National will also match your status. That’s a pretty incredible offer, and it is pretty rare for a status match to extend to different categories. If you are not a member of an airline or hotel rewards program and want to learn more, check out our review articles on Delta SkyMiles rewards and Hilton Honors rewards.

How to get the National Emerald Club status match

To the status match, you’ll need to submit this form on National’s website to prove you have status in another program already. You will have to attach proof of status, which can be a copy of your monthly statement or membership card, showing your name, current elite status and your status expiration date. Attach this to the form and hit submit!

Screenshot of Emerald Club Status Match request web form

Emerald Club allows you to status match from another car rental, hotel, and airline reward programs so your hard work doesn’t go to waste!

From there, you’ll have to wait to get approved. Upon your approval, you’ll be granted a higher status in the Emerald Club until February 28 of the second calendar year following your status match approval.

Screenshot of National Emerald Club approval email for Executive Elite Status

Once you receive your approval email you are ready to earn at an elite status!

To maintain your status match, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Executive status: 12-24 rentals or 40-84 rental days in the full calendar year following status match
  • Executive Elite status: 25 or more rentals or 85 or more rental days in the calendar year following status match

Benefits of the National Emerald Club

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Emerald Club benefits including upgrades from mid-size vehicles to higher classes. Photo by Omer Rana on Unsplash

Being an Emerald Club member has a ton of great perks. And the higher elite status you earn, the better the perks get! Anyone who joins the program gets access to benefits such as special offers, no second driver fees, earning free rental days or frequent traveler points and even free upgrades with the Emerald Aisle. Below is an explanation of each of the core benefits each status tier of the Emerald Club receives.

Emerald Club Member benefits

  • Emerald Aisle access: you can choose any car from the Emerald Aisle and only pay the midsize rate (only available in the US and Canada). The Emerald Aisle typically has some great upgrade options like Ford Mustangs, SUVs, and even luxury cars.
  • Choose rewards: you’ll get the chance to choose between earning free rental days or points/miles through your preferred travel program. 
  • Free rental days: if you choose to earn free rental days, you’ll get one free rental day for every 7 completed National reservations. 
  • No second driver fees: you won’t be charged for adding a second driver to your reservation (excluding rentals in Europe).
  • One-Click reservations: when logged into your National account, you’ll be able to make a reservation in only one click since all of your information is already saved.
  • Special offers: you get access to exclusive discounts and offers emailed to you. 
  • Drop and go: the process for returning your rental car couldn’t be more straightforward — all you have to do is park your car at the return station and be on your way. Your receipt is emailed to you.
  • Priority service: you’ll get expedited service and a special lane for check-in at most locations.
  • Don’t stop at the counter: you can bypass the rental counter all-together at 50 major airports in the US and Canada.
  • Select your car: you can easily choose your vehicle make, model, style, color, etc., based on what’s available at the location, as long as you stay within your same category (midsize, full-size, SUV, etc.).

Emerald Club Executive benefits

You get all the same benefits listed above, as well as the following:

  • Executive Area access: you get exclusive access to the Executive Area, which offers premium vehicles and full-size cars and above (only available in the US and Canada).
  • Special pricing on Premier Selection: you can enjoy exclusive pricing when you upgrade to Premier Selection at the rental lot (only available in the US and Canada).
  • Faster free rental days: if you choose to earn free rental days, you’ll get one free rental day for every 6 completed National reservations. That’s one whole day less than the previous tier level.
  • Guaranteed upgrades: you’re always guaranteed a free upgrade in the US and Canada when you pay the midsize rate.

Emerald Club Executive Elite benefits

You receive all the same benefits listed in the two sections above, as well as the following:

  • Guaranteed vehicles: you’re guaranteed a full-size car and above with 24-hour notice when you reserve the midsize rate (only in the US and Canada).
  • Private airport delivery: your car will be delivered to most private airports located within 50 miles of a National Rental Car location in the US and Canada.
  • Fastest free rental days: if you choose to earn free rental days, you’ll get one free rental day for every 5 completed National reservations. That’s one whole day less than the previous tier level.

Earning rewards through National Emerald Club

Picture of a white SUV on a gravel road next to a water shoreline

Earning free rentals through Emerald Club can put you in the driver’s seat to spontaneous adventures! Photo by CompareBare

Upon signing up for the Emerald Club, you have the option to earn points by one of the two following methods: 

  • Rental credits: you’ll earn one rental credit for each completed reservation you make through National. Once you earn a certain amount of rental credits, you’ll earn a free rental day.
  • Frequent traveler program points/miles: you’ll earn points or miles with your preferred travel program. There are currently 29 partner programs that you can choose to earn with, including major airlines and hotels.

The good news is that this decision is not final. You can change your preference of how to earn at any time. To do this, you’ll need to log-in to your Emerald Club account, click ‘My Profile’ and then ‘Reward Preference.’ 

Earning free rental days

Picture of a wide camera view of a man standing on a rock in front of a waterfall

Use your free rental days to get to the places that have no roads. Photo by Štefan Štefančík on Unsplash

To earn rental credits to get you free rental days, you’ll need to complete a ‘qualified’ rental. You will not get rental credits if you’re currently choosing to receive points or miles for another frequent traveler program. If your rental is between one and seven calendar days, you’ll receive one rental credit. If your rental is eight or more days, National will divide the number of days you rented the car by four, and the resulting number will be the number of rental credits you earn.

For example:

  • If you rent a car for eight days, you’ll get two credits, and at twelve days you’ll get three credits.

You’ll earn a free rental day once you hit a certain number of rental credits. This number will vary by your elite status within the Emerald Club program.

For example:

  • Regular Emerald Club Members need seven credits for a free rental day
  • Emerald Club Executives need six credits for a free rental day
  • Emerald Club Executive Elites need five credits for a free rental day

Your rental credit will appear in your Emerald Club account as soon as the reservation has registered as complete in the system (usually around 36 hours). You can view this directly on the ‘My Trips’ section of your account.

Please note that your rental credits do not expire. However, once you earn enough credits for a free rental day, that free day is valid through December 31st of the following year.

Earning frequent travel program points or miles

Picture of the ariel silhouette of an airplane from the ground below

Emerald Club allows you to also earn miles in other rewards programs such as airlines and hotels. Photo by Yu Kato on Unsplash

You can select one out of National’s 29 partner travel programs as your designated program to earn points through the Emerald Club. These programs include top names like Delta SkyMiles, Hilton Honors and even Enterprise Plus(a sister company of National).

Once you choose your designated travel program, you’ll start earning points or miles for completed National car rentals. The tough part is that the airlines and hotels determine the value of how much you earn. Sometimes, you also may see a small surcharge when earning miles for some programs. Unfortunately, these details are often not disclosed until you make and complete a reservation. Not having these details are a huge downside because you can’t calculate the value you are receiving until after your reservation has been completed and since nothing is explicitly defined, it leaves too much discretion to the airlines and hotels.

Due to the reasons outlined above we generally recommend sticking with earning free rental days instead of the frequent travel program points or miles. It’s just too much of a gamble in our opinion, and you could be missing out!

Earning National rental credits when booking through Enterprise

Because the same parent company owns both National and Enterprise, you can get credit at National for completed Enterprise rentals. You’ll need to link your Emerald Club membership number to your Enterprise reservation to get this credit. You should allow 36 hours for completed Enterprise rentals to post to your Emerald Club account.

Enterprise rentals also count toward elevating your Emerald Club status and help you gain higher status within Emerald Club. However, you should note that your status in Emerald Club only provides additional rental benefits when renting at National, and not at Enterprise. 

As noted above, you can also earn Enterprise Plus points if you opt-in to this in your Rewards Preferences. If you do this, you cannot also earn Emerald Club free rental days.

Redeeming Emerald Club free rental days

Once you successfully earn a free rental day, you can redeem it directly on the National Rental Car website. Make sure to log-in to your Emerald Club account to start the process. From there, click the ‘Reservations’ tab in the upper navigation bar and add in the additional reservation information. You should see an option for ‘Free Days’. Select the number of days from the drop-down that you wish to redeem. You can redeem up to seven free rental days per reservation. Once you select, click ‘Start Reservation’ and fill out the rest of the required information to complete your reservation.

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On the next screen, you’ll see a confirmation message notification saying “You have successfully applied 1 FREEDAY coupon’. Once you have chosen your vehicle and filled out the rest of the reservation form, you’ll end up on the ‘Review & Reserve’ page. On this page, you can see the savings you received on this rental by applying the free rental days’ coupon. To finish this reservation, fill in all remaining fields. Then click ‘Reserve’. You’ll then see the confirmation page and get a confirmation email, and the reservation booking will be complete. Congratulations for redeeming your free rental day through the Emerald Club program!

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Overall summary of National Emerald Club

Overall, National’s Emerald Club is one of the best rental car rewards programs. Members can enjoy some fantastic benefits, including free upgrades in the Emerald Aisle and priority service lanes and counters. If you earn Executive and Executive Elite status the perks get even better, especially being able to earn free nights faster. We recommend choosing to earn free rental days instead of earning miles/points in another travel program. The lack of information and transparency into how much you earn and the potential surcharge fees is just too risky (in our opinion). Finally, redeeming your free rental days very easily! You’ll automatically see the option during the reservation process when you’re logged into your Emerald Club account.

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