Rants from the road - too many rewards cards

Now that my children are grown up and periodically independent, I have a new set of problems. I can't seem to get control of my rewards cards. If three is the break point when it comes to offspring (three being the point when there are more of them than there are of us), then I can tell you for sure that I have too many rewards cards.

There is, of course, my Southwest Airlines Visa card. That isn't the problem. Southwest is never a problem for me. It's US Air that reduces me (when, every decade or so, I decide to try them again) to a banshee -- but that's another rant. I can handle my overworked, weary Visa card. It's the hotel and car rental cards that have me on the verge of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

There is the Choiceprivileges Rewards Program, good at Comfort Inns and Quality Inns and half a dozen other chains. This often entitles me to a free bottle of water. Then there is the Hilton Honors card, good of course at the Hiltons, but also at eight other chains, like Embassy Suites and Double Tree, and apparently even at the Waldorf Astoria Collection (whatever that is).
Don't be jealous, but I am also a Starwood Preferred Guest. Most important however, is that I never go anywhere without my Priority Club Rewards card, which is how I am diligently acquiring my free nights at Crowne Plaza (which I actually like), assorted Holiday Inns and more.

Confused yet? Me too. But the hotel cards are simple compared to the automobile rental cards. I confess that, unlike with my children, when it comes to the car rental cards, I have a definite favorite.

At National, I am a member of the Emerald Club. Not only can I scoot right through at the rental counter, but as an Emerald Club member, if you reserve an Intermediate car, you don't actually have to drive it! Emerald Club members can go right to the Emerald Aisle and pick any car sitting there. That means that you can click your ruby slippers together three times and drive off in an SUV.

This, however, is where things get complicated. Here's why.

National is not a Preferred Partner with my Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards frequent flyer program. This means that I don't get the 0.5 credit per qualifying rental that I can get with Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Hertz or Thrifty. I will not get my 0.5 credit on my upcoming trip to Colorado, where I am scheduled for a trip down the Emerald Aisle.

I also can't get that credit when I rent on my own dollar (that's dollar not Dollar) in Florida because Enterprise (which happened to have the best rental price by about 50%) also isn't a Preferred Partner. I do get to use my Enterprise Plus card though but I fear those points will expire before I do.

Soon they will need to develop spread sheets that will allow us to keep track of how many points we have on each card and how many we need for that free night, and which car rental company has a deal with which hotel. It would be simpler and saner if I limited myself to, say, two cards, but I travel on business six or eight times a year and I don't get to choose the hotels or car rental companies. I just keep the points.

It's hard enough just keeping the cards organized in my wallet. A spreadsheet would truly be helpful. Where are the entrepreneurs coming up with these tools? I'm waiting...as are thousands of business travelers like me.
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