Alamo charged me for two extra days — after I returned my car and flew home

When Rachel Lipnoski returns her Alamo car rental and dashes off to catch her flight home, she neglects to hold on to her receipt. This becomes an expensive problem when days later she receives an updated bill — one that charges her for two extra days.

Question: I rented a car from Alamo rental company for a weekend in Chicago for $119. My flight out of Midway left at 9 p.m., so I returned the rental car around 8 p.m. on Monday night.

The car was not processed as a return until Wednesday night, leaving me with a staggering $379 bill that I have no intention of paying since it was not my error.

I have tried disputing this with my credit card company, but they have the official paperwork from Alamo documenting a return on the Wednesday instead of Monday. The only thing they will accept to resolve this in my favor is that tiny slip of paper they hand you while you are running late, frantically trying to gather your belongings out of the car. By the time I started to dispute the charge I was unable to locate this receipt.

Alamo keeps sending me back and forth between corporate and the actual rental center at the Midway airport. Nobody has been able to rectify this, and they always promise to call a manager and have them call back, which they have yet to do after many, many calls.

I am outraged to get stuck with this bill. I have been trying to get my money back since February. At this point, I am desperate, even a credit will suffice. I can’t lose $260 for an error on the part of Alamo. Their customer service has been terrible thus far, and their follow through even worse. Can you please convince Alamo that a mistake has been made? — Rachel Lipnoski, Salem, Mass.

Answer: I have always loved puzzles — finding those stubborn missing pieces is all part of the challenge. And I often approach cases in the same way.

Related story:   Here's why you should never report a credit card charge as fraudulent when it isn't

Unfortunately, the cornerstone of your puzzle was missing. That little receipt that would easily prove your case beyond any shadow of a doubt was nowhere to be found.

I read through your paper trail and I could see that you had fought an ardent battle trying to convince Alamo that you had returned the car as scheduled.

Using our Alamo executive contacts, you implored the rental agency to return your money. And you expressed your bewilderment as to how your car could have been scanned on Wednesday as a return date. At that point, you had already been home for two days.

Despite your efforts, Alamo would not budge.

After your attempts to resolve your problem directly with Alamo failed, you reached out to your credit card company for help. You filed a chargeback for the additional $260.

Alamo fought the chargeback and provided a return receipt for your car. This receipt showed that the car was “officially” returned on Wednesday. Your credit card company informed you that you would be responsible for the extra charges.

Case closed? Not so fast.

Your final step to a resolution was to reach out to our advocacy team.

Although you didn’t have your receipt, I thought we might be able to find some alternative ways for you to prove that you had returned your rental on time.

A boarding pass and any Boston-area credit card receipts would prove that you had arrived home as scheduled. And if you had arrived home as scheduled it would have been impossible for you to have kept the car for two extra days. These documents made a strong case for your position.

Related story:   Her doctor grounded her, but why can the airline keep her money?

I reached out to Enterprise, the parent company of Alamo, on your behalf. I forwarded your boarding pass that showed you took a 9:55 p.m. flight home to Boston on Monday night. I also sent credit card receipts to show that you had made purchases in Boston the next morning.

It’s hard to take a look at your evidence and refute the fact that you could not have kept your car rental in Chicago for those additional days. It would seem that your case was the result of a scanning error at Alamo.

Our executive contact at Enterprise agreed. The company has now refunded the $260. You are pleased with this final outcome and will be certain to guard your future car rental return receipts.

Michelle Couch-Friedman

Michelle is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, consumer advocate, writer and photographer who spends as much time as possible exploring the world with her family. She is Advocacy & Editorial Director at

  • Alan Gore

    Good save using the ‘negative evidence‘ proof that LW could not have been in two places at once, but that was a close one. During my consulting days I used Alamo for years because it was the company’s default, and aside from its oddball return-empty policy, never had a problem.

    But now Alamo is owned by Enterprise, and things have doubtless changed.

  • The Original Joe S

    Photograph the receipt. If you are a klutz like I, you’ll lose the paper. Hard to lose the phone or camera…..
    I try to put the paper in my wallet. Harder to lose it.

  • Mel65

    Great save Elliotteers! However, you should never cut your timing so close that you are “running late, frantically trying to gather belongings” that you lose a receipt, and returning a car at eight for a flight that leaves at nine seems a little close to me. The receipt should be tucked into your purse, pocket or wallet immediately while you calmly thank the representative and walk away, secure in the knowledge that you have plenty of time to make your flight. Also, National and Alamo etc. without fail always email me a copy of my receipt within minutes of my car return I wonder why the OP did not get one?

  • Joe Julio

    I had a similar situation at Orlando Airport with Hertz. We were running late and the agent was busy away from the return lanes (the return kiosks were out of order) and told us it would be fine to just go. Later the agency wanted to charge us 1 extra day since that was when the vehicle was scanned back into their system. I provided my checked bag receipt and they corrected the charge.

  • BubbaJoe123

    OP probably isn’t signed up with Alamo’s frequent renter program.

  • Jeff W.

    A gas receipt from a station near the airport close to the time of the drop off could have also been used as proof. This assumes you fill up before returning and do not pre-pay or let the rental company fill up the tank.

  • Chris_In_NC

    Good job Elliott team.
    Glad an executive was finally able to apply some common sense. How the heck did the car not get processed as returned until Wednesday?

  • Bill___A

    Well done Elliott dot org. Unfortunate that Alamo was so stubborn about it. One would think that the local franchise would know if they had been behind checking cars in.

  • AJPeabody

    But their lateness could be profitable. Why do things right when wrong pays?

  • cscasi

    Perhaps. But, who is to say one just got gas there and went back out with the car? Certainly, it says gas was purchased at a date and time, but that is all. Still, anything is worth trying.

  • Steven Reed Sr.

    Could this “return scan error” be the beginning of a new way to scam people that are in a hurry to return the car and make their flights? have to keep an eye on this as well

  • I always video my car return. The video metadata also provides a date/time stamp for the video. That, within the context of the return lot, should be enough.

  • greg watson

    another scanning error………hmmm……… they didn’t know that the car was in their lot for…2…days……..hmm…………yes, I guess I believe that……….hmmm……….no…I don’t think so

  • Jeff W.

    True. But we are trying to believe the renter. Under that logic, she could have certainly flown home, but let a friend/relative she may have been visiting keep the car for a few extra days.

    I’ve rented many cars while on business and sometimes the person picking up the car is not the same as the person returning it. A common-enough occurrence for corporate rentals.

  • Annie M

    Why did she return the car so late? That’s party of the problem. Recommended check in for domestic flight is 2 hours before a flight. She barely made the cutoff for check in.

    Good call made by Elliott’s writer to use a boarding pass. Good thing she kept that.

  • joycexyz

    Great job! Yes, she cut it very close. Yes, she should have kept the receipt in her wallet. Nonetheless, proving that she flew out that evening and was elsewhere when the car was allegedly returned did the trick. Bravo!

  • jsn55

    Great puzzle solving! Wouldn’t you think someone at Alamo would have suggested ‘alternate proof’ for the missing receipt? Nah, they just do nothing and hope she’ll go away. ‘Customer Service’ these days is a sad state of affairs.

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    And my phone uploads all pictures automatically to the cloud, so even if I lost my phone, I’d still have access to the picture. So I agree, take pictures of every important piece of paper (or location of your car at the airport parking lot).

  • Kerr

    She may have checked in ahead of time.

  • BubbaJoe123

    I routinely arrive 45 minutes before my flight (and very rarely more than 60 minutes before), having checked in hours previously on my phone.

  • Annie M

    One of these days you may get stuck in traffic and miss your flight. If you are traveling with just a carry on that’s great but if you have to check luggage that 45 min. could be a problem. As a regular traveler I am sure you are aware these things can happen so you wouldn’t be one to come here and stamp your feet and demand a refund.

Get smart. Sign up for the newsletter.