Charged for insurance I never wanted — or needed

Jenny Tran discovers a mysterious $260 charge on her credit card and discovers she’s been charged for optional car rental insurance she never wanted, or needed. Can she get a refund?

Question: I recently rented a car from Avis in Houston with a friend. A few weeks after we returned the car, I discovered a $260 charge for optional insurance that we never asked for. I need your help getting a refund.

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Here are the details. We had pre-paid for the car using Priceline’s “Name Your Own Price” service, which covers the entire cost of the rental. When we got to the counter, my friend offered them his debit card — it’s all he was carrying — and an agent said they needed a credit card.

So I gave them my card. Before I handed it over, I asked if it’d be charged. The agent said “no.”

After coming home from the trip, I found out I was charged $260 and wonder where this amount was coming from. We looked at the paperwork from Avis, and that’s when I saw his signature to accept the optional insurance. I asked him if he knew he signed for it and he said “no.”

Why would we agree to pay $260 for insurance when we have our own? On top of that, the $260 charge went over my credit limit and now I am paying $200 for minimum payment instead of just my regular $20 minimum payment. Please help me. — Jenny Tran, Los Gatos, Calif.

Answer: You and your friend appear to have experienced the “sign-here” scam. That’s when someone slides a contract — and more recently, an electronic pad — in front of you and asks you to initial or sign it.

Two ingredients are essential to the scam. First, you have to be made to feel rushed, which is pretty easy when there’s a line of other customers behind you. And second, you have to receive verbal assurances that your signature is just a “formality.”

Was this a scam? I don’t know, because I wasn’t there when you rented your vehicle. But I’ve heard your story before, and I know car rental agents are rewarded for “upselling” customers like you on optional, and highly profitable, insurance. At the very least, this was a misunderstanding.

It’s not unusual for a rental agent to ask for a credit card. Car rental companies need a valid card, just in case a customer damages a car. Think of it this way: They’re handing you the keys to a $30,000 automobile. They need some assurances that you’ll bring it back in one piece. The credit card imprint does that.

You should have read the contract. I know you probably realize that now, but it merits repeating. Read. The. Contract. Had you done that, you would have noticed that your friend was signing up for optional insurance. You could have fixed the problem then and there.

Once you saw the charges, you should have written to Avis, not called. Why? Because you’re creating a necessary paper trail so that, in the unlikely event you need to forward this to the Texas insurance commissioner, you would be able to prove that you went through all the correct channels to get this resolved. I know it’s difficult. When you see a bogus charge on your credit card, you want a resolution yesterday. But patience can be a powerful and effective tool to get this kind of car trouble fixed.

I contacted Avis on your behalf, and it has offered you a full refund.

What do you think happened to Jenny Tran's rental?

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93 thoughts on “Charged for insurance I never wanted — or needed

  1. “We looked at the paperwork from Avis, and that’s when I saw his signature to accept the optional insurance”

    So your friend agreed to purchase the insurance. It was not a “$260 charge for optional insurance that we never asked for.” It was a $260 charge for something your friend agreed to purchase in writing.

    I’m not sure what happened at the desk. I don’t know what your friend verbally agreed to or declined. What I do know is that he signed that he agreed to purchase something. That is why it is critical that you at least quickly review any document your are about to sign to make sure that the other person has not made an error. I’ve actually caught mistakes both ways when signing rental agreements. Ultimately, the only lasting record of what occurred is what you signed (whether its additional purchases, damage etc)

    You’re lucky they refunded your money after you received the benefit.

    1. Yeah, I wonder what the OP would have done had they had an accident. Would they still complain that they wanted a refund on the insurance?

      1. Well.. yeah. She indicated in the letter that she had her own insurance which would have covered your theoretical accident.

        1. Did she have Liability only? What were her limits? Does she have a deductible? Does her own policy cover rental cars, not all do, especially budget policies which someone who cant afford more than $20 a month might have? Does it cover loss of use?

          1. Straw man – thanks for playing. OP indicated “Why would we agree to pay $260 for insurance when we have our own?” The reasonable inference is that she is saying she would be covered for your theoretical accident.

          2. If you want to discuss fallacies, you are making a conjunction fallacy as we do not know what her policy covers, yet you assume it is full coverage including rental car coverage and no deductible which is extremely unlikely. We can both only assume in this scenario. I assume the $260 coverage will cost her less than her insurance will cost her, assuming she has any coverage. At least I admit its an assumption. Both of us are assuming, though your inference is far less likely under conjecture. Her insurance may have a $500 deductible (more than $260), or may be liability only which does not cover the rental car itself at all (much more than $260). In the event of an accident the “reasonable person” would rather pay $260 and walk away then deal with heir own insurance or pay a higher deductible. However, when no accident occurred, the “Reasonable Person” regrets paying $260 when they didn’t need it and throws out their own straw men like, “but I have insurance”. That’s why insurance is cheaper than the payout in an accident, it is a gamble and anyone purchasing insurance is gambling they will have an accident, and the insurance provider is gambling they won’t.

          3. So in your proposed scenario the OP has a higher deductible than the cost of the car rental agency’s insurance, her insurance may not cover a rental car at all, and the car rental agency’s insurance would offer full coverage without an additional charge (deductible) in the case of your theoretical accident.
            All of which flies in the face of the proffer of the OP which I quoted above. But I’m the one making a conjunction fallacy?
            OK – you’re right and I’m wrong. Happy? You win the internet. Live long and prosper.

          4. I have to respectfully disagree on the two main points.

            The OP states that she already has insurance. There is nothing in the story to suggest that she is either lying or mistaken, thus why not take her at her word?

            Regarding the $260 insurance payment. No one pays $260 to protect against a $500 loss. Even if her deductibe is $1000. That would be a ridiculously high payment. She would have to have an accident every second or fourth time she rented a car, just to break even.

            That’s why insurance is such a hard sell. It’s a terrible deal for anyone with their own policy.

          5. I totally agree its a hard sell, and not worth it in my book based on the same logic you use. However, there is more to the $260 policy than just protecting against a $500 deductible. I was just comparing the two amounts after the fact in the event there was an accident (I explain at the very end).

            Assuming that she rented the car for a week, that would equate to the full 100% everything coverage at Avis. It means she can total the car by falling asleep and crashing into a $100,000 Mercedes totaling both cars and resulting in major medical bills and walk (hopefully) away with zero liability for anyone involved, have everything covered, and not pay 1 more cent nor even have her own insurance raise her rates. So the $260 payment is actually protecting against a loss that could easily exceed $100,000.

            I do believe that she has insurance, however even assuming again that she has better than average insurance, it will still not cover everything that the Avis policy would cover. According to my cousin who is a Subrogator (I think that’s the word, he is the one who goes to court and presents numbers) for Geico, 60% of insured drivers have only liability coverage and less than 1% of insured drivers have a deductible below $500. So while she has insurance, I don’t think she even realizes that it doesn’t cover what the Avis policy did even assuming that she is in the 40% that have collision coverage.

            I know I am making two assumptions and sharing more info than anyone wanted to here, but back to my original point that started this whole thing:

            My initial statement was based on an after the fact assessment. If the OP had an accident while in the car, would she seek a refund of the $260 so she can go through her own insurance, pay a deductible if she even has comprehensive, arguing over LOU, and have her rate go up? Or would she just tell Avis to keep the $260 and walk away?

          6. Assuming she has full coverage, what would the Avis policy cover that her own policy wouldn’t, except maybe the extremely bogus LOU?

          7. Its hard to know and would depend on her limits. The minimum limit I believe varies by state, and the maximum is up to the purchaser. The minimum for property damage in my state is $15,000, if she had that its enough to cover both the rental car and the other car.
            Assuming she has full coverage, I still think at the end of the day if she was in an accident, she would choose to keep the Avis insurance and pay only $260 v. paying her own $500 deductible.

    2. My normal mantra: Buy the AMEX Premium Car Rental Insurance — ALWAYS. It’s a flat $25 per rental (not per day) and they become the primary insurance on your rental. Another big benefit — they’ll fight those flakey claims. Who do you think some car rental franchisee wants to fight: You or Amex?

      Not that it would necessarily help in this case, except you could show you already had primary car rental insurance so it’s logical that you wouldn’t buy it again. Tips the scale of what was the ‘intent’ firmly in the OPs favor.

        1. Most people don’t have a Diners Club. It is a card that isn’t accepted in most places. So unless you rent cars a lot, not a reasonable option. Also, if you prepay a car rental, you have to use the same card at the counter to get any coverage….at least that is what as an agent I have been told, never tested it.

          1. Yep, the cardholder agreements all state they only cover your rental when the car is rented and paid for with that same card. Reserving it with the insurance card and then paying with a different one means no coverage. The AmEx premium insurance also requires you to use a registered AmEx card to pay for the rental as well.

          2. My Diners Club card could be run as a MasterCard. But I found I didn’t use it for anything other than car rentals, and that was only because of the insurance coverage. I eventually canceled it as I didn’t feel it was worth the $75 annual fee I was paying.

          3. It has been years since we had a Diner’s Club card and it was because the company gave it to us to use for business expenses. Only one business in our area accepted so it was useless and the company dropped it for another card type. I know with our family business, we don’t accept Diner’s Club nor does my agency.

      1. I have that AMEX coverage, too. I had a rental agent at the Enterprise airport location in Pensacola, FL, flat-out lie thru his teeth saying it wasn’t any good in FL. Last time I ever rented from that location.

      2. DavidYoung2, thanks for the tip; I just signed up. I agree that the cost is well worth it in order to avoid future hassles. The only issue might be in foreign countries where the rental agency claims the local law requires that I buy their insurance, regardless of the American Express policy.

        For us Californians, it’s only $17.95 per rental. I guess we’re special.

    3. They refunded the money because Chris, a strong consumer advocate with a national bully pulpit, intervened. Had he not been involved, the customer would have had to eat it, based on the friend’s signature approving the charge. No great humanitarian move on the company’s part; it simply didn’t want the bad publicity.

    4. I agree with you completely. Unless neither of them had rented a car before, I would think they’d know insurance is an option or pay attention to what was going on. That goes for BOTH of them, and as it was her credit card being used for incidentals, she should have been paying very close attention to what was signed/agreed to on the contract and avoided this surprise altogether. I’ve only needed to rent a car 10 times or less in my life, and, don’t ask me why, I remember very well that rental agencies offer their own full coverage insurance as an option for an additional fee. As I’ve always used my own insurance, I remember having to provide my insurance details to rent a car; if they did this, then obviously their intent was to use their own insurance, and yes, it was probably a misunderstanding. However, if they provided no insurance info, this is too easy of a loophole for a rental company to allow customers to take advantage of. Being rushed because there’s a line behind you is no excuse for not paying attention to the details when signing and initialing a one page contract. Frankly, she should consider herself very, very lucky to have received a refund.

  2. This sounds like they were inexperienced travelers, who did not take the time at the counter to read what they were signing. The contract was signed and the friend accepted the insurance. Kudos to Avis to reverse the charges.

    1. If the counter rep says “your card will not be charged”, I think they can be forgiven for actually believing that statement.

      1. The counter rep may have been responding to their question correctly until the friend put their initials in the wrong spot. Then the card would be charged.

  3. The “insurance” is the biggest “scam” that Chris Elliott always talks about. How did you not realize to make sure your friend wasn’t signing up for it but still knew to contact Elliott to help you get your money back?

  4. I’m pretty sure they got scammed… if the rep says “your card will not be charged” it should not be necessary to then read the entire rental contract to see if the rep is outright lying to your face. Alas, it IS necessary read the contract, since snuck-in insurance is such a common trick.

    On another note, I was renting a car from Thrifty at the Fort Lauderdale port once, and the rental agent told a couple that their credit card insurance would not cover Loss of Use charges. She said this with absolute confidence, despite never asking for any more information. And I know, speaking for myself, I’ve never seen credit card insurance that DIDN’T cover LOU charges. Their job depends on getting people to buy upgrades and sign up for insurance, so it’s not surprising that they push it so hard and frequently stretch the truth or outright lie.

    1. Most credit cards will cover loss of use that is “substantiated by a fleet utilization log.” Rental companies don’t like giving these out. In addition, they may have requirements like 85% fleet utilization, which doesn’t always take things like car class into account. For example, if someone brings back a minivan damaged and a customer comes in with a minivan res and all the rental company has is a compact car, the company lost business because someone with a minivan res can’t just make do with a compact car. In this case, fleet utiliZation isn’t necessarily relevant.

        1. I don’t follow you. Explain how, in the following scenario, the rental company isn’t entitled to LOU:

          1. Renter brings back minivan badly damaged.
          2. Damaged minivan goes to shop.
          3. Renter with minivan res comes in to pick up. No minivan is available but lots of compact cars are, causing fleet utilization to hover around 75%.
          4. Renter goes to a different rental company.

          In this situation, the rental company experienced real loss because a car was damaged.

          1. The problem is that since rental car companies (especially airport locations) have hundreds of cars, as well as the ability to obtain cars from other locations, making a scenario fit neatly into a box is difficult if not impossible. There are too many moving parts. So a general bright line rule is employed.

            Consider the following murky scenario:

            Minivan is out of commission for 1 day, but the renter in #4 was renting the minivan for six months. Do we charge the renter LOU six months? Of course not.


            The company only rents sedans. Then a 75% threshold is a windfall for the company.


            Renter in #4 rents and pays for a more expensive car.

            As you see, LOU being charged for the number of days the vehicle is non-rentable, is in itself, not related to the actual lost revenue by the car rental company, but is based on a statistical model.

  5. I’m getting kind of tired of people not reading what they sign. I used to work for a major rental car company and rent cars several times a year as my job requires travel. In every instance, before I leave the lot, I get a sheet which clearly details all charges. I’m sure if the rental was totaled, the OP would have no problem with the insurance being included.

    Rental agents are trained to upsell and have comebacks to all objections, including “I have my own insurance.” My guess is that the agent somehow convinced the OP’s friend that they needed the insurance. The OP didn’t realize how much it would cost, and that’s where the dispute is coming from.

    1. You walk into a rental car place with a prepaid reservation, thinking you’ve paid for it all. The clerk tells you that a card must be on file, sign here and here and initial there and over here. I’m sure they had the hour or two to read all the fine legalese that you find in those agreements.

      Your guess has no basis in fact. I’m tired of having to literally watch out for being taken advantage of every time I rent a car. It just should not be a requirement to examine things so closely to ensure I’m not being scammed.

      1. Even with a prepaid reservation, a credit card is required. Sites like Hotwire and Priceline don’t pass on credit card info to rental companies, so rental companies need to swipe a credit card to have one on file for incidentals, kind of like, the rest of the travel industry. I’ve never used Priceline for rentals, but I’ve used it for hotels and have always been asked for a credit card at checkin.

        And every rental agreement I’ve gotten has clearly detailed what I’ve accepted and declined, as well as a total charge. If your grocery bill was $260 higher than you expected, you’d question it, no? I don’t think asking someone to read what they have agreed to is unreasonable.

        1. If my grocery bill was $260 higher than expected, i would examine the receipt at the register. And prices are posted on the items I buy. Not a valid example.

          Reading is one thing, but comprehending… and being misled at the counter? It happens…

          1. You would examine the receipt at the register, which is 100% reasonable. I have rented from enterprise, hertZ, Avis, alamo, and all have rental agreements which clearly break down all charges. How is it unreasonable to expect someone to read a rental agreement?

          2. How is it not a valid example? On a rental agreement, all options are clearly broken down, including rate of the car and any optional services. The renter made a reservation in advance, so she knew what she was expecting to pay. If she took, oh, I don’t know, 5 seconds to look at the total, she would have realized something was amuck.

            I said it in a post further down. People are regularly chastised on this site for not reading airline fare rules and terms and conditions when purchasing goods and services. Yet, when it comes to car rentals, it is completely unreasonable to expect someone to read what they are agreeing to.

        2. The flaw in your analogy is that most people are well versed in grocery shopping. The cashier rarely tries to pull a fast one. By comparison, if you’re not a frequent flier, none of the information that you stated (all of which is correct) is known to the infrequent renter.
          Also, the entire hospitality industry is not known for disclosures. When they swipe your card, they never tell you how much its being run for.

          1. Hertz does now tell you how much your card is being authorized for. I noticed this on my last couple rentals. I was completely surprised to see that! Don’t have a scanner handy to put a copy up here, but the rental agreement has lines stating the following:

            Total Estimated Charge: $53.52
            Credit Card Auth Amount: $553.00

            Hmm, I wonder why the auth is $500 more than the rental? Could it be to cover the personal auto insurance deductible? Nah, they would never do that! 🙂

          2. You’re right. I was imprecise. I meant verbally. At my location it’s buried on page 4 of 5

          3. No problem. I understood what you meant.

            But the auth amount actually appearing on the contract (that stack of connected card stock they print for you) is something recent for Hertz, at least at the locations I use. And it is on page 1.

    2. Trained to “upsell” ?? How about trained to confuse, intimidate, lie and do anything else necessary to make an extra buck at the expense of the consumer standing at the counter, tired from traveling and not familiar with the ridiculous complexities of a car-rental contract?

      1. Ridiculous complexities? I’m looking at a copy of my most recent rental agreement with National. On the front page, it lists options that I have accepted, and has a estimated total, bolded, at the bottom. It took me all of 3 seconds to find the estimated total.

        We aren’t talking about the fine print here. Rental agreements clearly list what one has accepted and declined, as well as an estimated total. None of this is buried in fine print. If you are honestly so stupid that you can’t take 10 seconds to look over a rental agreement and realize, “hmmm, this is $260 more than what I was expecting to pay” you shouldn’t be traveling, period.

  6. It appears that they received what they asked for. How was this a scam in any way? The OP makes no mention of being pressured or rushed. If I was her friend of course I would have said I don’t remember signing for the insurance, he would have had to pay $260.00.

      1. Is there anything besides the word of the OP that she was told that?

        Also, she wouldn’t have been charged, except that her idiot friend signed up for the insurance. He owes her money, not the rental car agency.

        1. Do we ever have anything besides the word of the OP in any of these reports. Occasionally the other side will comment, but usually all we have is the OPs word.

          For me, I accept the OPs word unless it has a ring of untruthfulness or there is something to contradict it. Neither is present here.

          1. In this case, the OP has a clear motive: they want their $260 back. They received the benefit of the insurance, and now they want their money back. No insurance company works like that.

            My replies are based on my dealings with customers when I worked as a rental agent. I dealt with people who I knew 100% consented to the CDW, say at the end that they never wanted it. Interestingly, the car was never damaged in these situations. I cannot recall a single case where the car was damaged with CDW and the renter saying they never signed up for it.
            Renters aren’t always honest. There was a case on here a couple of weeks ago involving Budget where the renter outright lied to Chris and Budget because he wanted to save $100 on a rental car. I’m skeptical of these cases, because it involves nothing more than a he said she said. While I have no doubt that some rental agents are slimy and would perpetrate the “sign here” scam, I also have no doubt that some people would sign for CDW knowingly and then dispute it at the end. The fact remains, however, that all of this could have been avoided if the OP took all of 10 seconds to look at the rental agreement before leaving the counter.

          2. Could you explain how you knew that the people 100% consent to the CDW.
            What I’m reading in your post is that the OP has pre-judged guilty in your eyes and she has to prove her innocence. We have read any number of stories here about the antics that car companies pull and the insurance scam seems to be one of the more commons ones.
            I remember that liar. He was pitiful. It was noteworthy due to its relative rarity.
            Honestly, I see someone lying to the car rental company, but not escalating it to a nationally syndicated columnist like Chris (except of course for the afrementioned scoundrel)

          3. Simple. At my office, I did everything-rentals, returns, answering phones. It happened a few times that the same person who I rented the car to would dispute the CDW. Since I was there for the initial conversation, I knew that they consented. What happened sometimes was I persuaded people to take the CDW, the spouse found out and got upset, and then the situation became, “I never wanted the insurance!” Also, I would witness the conversations between customers and co-workers.

            I have made guesses to what I think may have happened based on my experience dealing with customers as a rental agent. The bottom line is that no one, not you, not me, was there for the conversation. What annoys me is that the OP could have taken 10 seconds to look over the agreement and realize something was wrong. This was so easily preventable.

            If it was truly a misunderstanding, who should take fault for that? If the car was totaled, Avis would have paid, not the OP or her insurance company. The OP received the benefit of the service, and I feel she bears some responsibility for not reading what she was signing. We can argue about what we think may have happened, but one thing is not in dispute: the OP received the benefit of the insurance. Everything could have been prevented if she had taken 10 seconds to look over the rental agreement.

            You say that I have pre-judged the OP as guilty; what about all of the people who immediately concluded that the rental agent was pulling a scam? Are they drawing that conclusion from the hand picked articles on this site which highlight several dozen transactions gone wrong from the thousands of rental transactions daily? If so, it seems reasonable of me to draw my conclusions from the hundreds of rental agreements I wrote each month as a rental agent.

          4. I have to admit, it would not have occurred to me that you would remember any particular customer given the hundreds of folks that you had to deal with and the number of tasks that you juggled. I would be curious to know how you know that the spouse found out and got upset.

            You’re right. None of us were present so we go by our experiences. The 10 seconds to read isn’t fair if the OP was scammed. If it were a misunderstanding then I would agree with you.

            If it’s a misunderstanding, Avis should eat it. Why? Because the merchant, and by extension its employees and agents, have far greater knowledge and sophistication in the transaction. There is a legal maxim that the drafter of the contract is responsible for any ambiguities, misunderstandings, etc. How easy would it have been for Avis to train its employees to go over the contract to ensure against such mistakes. One must wonder why they don’t?

            If of course, one party scammed, or tried to scam, the other party, then the scammer should eat it, period.

            No need to get defensive about prejudging. Everyone comes to a situation with their own biases and experiences. In my case, if the OPs story is reasonable and consistent with my experiences then I’m likely to believe the OP. My bias against the car rental company is simple. You articulated it well. You are effectively required to hard sell insurance, which is by any definition, a crappy, overpriced product, otherwise you make peanuts.

            As a member of the loyalty program I don’t have to contend with the insurance sell anymore, but it reminds me of extended warranties. The clerk always tries to sell me an extended warranty. At first I’m polite, then firm, then finally, I say, if you keep pushing that crap I won’t buy the product period. That finally shuts them up.

            Car rental insurance falls in roughly the same ethical place as extended warranties. Given the dubious ethics, it’s fairly easy to believe that someone added the extra insurance surreptitiously

  7. About two years ago, my wife and I were traveling in a Hertz car that we had rented for ten days. I had not added my wife as a driver on the car since I knew that there was a fee involved and usually, I do all of the driving. I was feeling ill one day and thought that it would be better if my wife drove. We were in Jacksonville, FL at the time and had planned to go from there to Savannah, GA. The JAX airport was on our way and we stopped at the Hertz counter there to inquire about adding my wife. The agent entered our rental agreement information into his terminal and then quoted us a price for the second driver that would have almost doubled the cost of the rental. I emphatically told the agent NOT to add my my wife to the agreement and thanked him for his time. Several days later when I returned the car to Hertz, I found a second driver charge of $17 per day (plus tax) for the entire rental period. When I got home, I called the Hertz reservation number and the agent there graciously agreed to credit my Amex card for the full amount of the charge. I have often wondered whether Hertz charged the agent back for his commission on the bogus charge and also whether the agent was disciplined for his action. I seems like the only way to get this sort of overcharging under control is to let the agents know that they could be subject to termination if they persist in this sort of larcenous behavior.

    1. I think you have it backwards. Agents behave badly because the company encourages this behavior. This behavior increases corporate revenue and profits.

      1. There has to be a point where this sort of behavior becomes non-productive for the company. The valuable time of reservations agents and supervisors is taken up by customers calling to protest the charges. Those agents could be booking business for the company. If a customer, who has not been scammed, has to stay on hold waiting to talk to a reservations agent because agents are busy handling overcharging problems, that customer might hang up and call a competitor. Customers who have been scammed probably will look elsewhere the next time that they rent.

        1. Maybe. But given the proliferation of such behavior, it doesn’t seem that we are any where near that point. My experience is that frequent renters, ie elte members of the loyalty program, seem to have fewer issues. Perhaps it’s the greater knowledge and that companies are less inclined to piss of good customers with nickel and dime antics.

          For example, I’m always asked about fuel but never harangued and they never ask about insurance.

        2. If a customer, who has not been scammed, has to stay on hold waiting to
          talk to a reservations agent because agents are busy handling
          overcharging problems, that customer might hang up and call a
          competitor. Customers who have been scammed probably will look elsewhere
          the next time that they rent.

          I agree with you 100%. But then I started thinking, well, yes, some customers will. But the rest will go to priceline, name their own price, and end up back at the company with long hold times and bogus charges. Ill add this to the list of the many reasons why I hate priceline. I wonder if the rental companies go out of their way to cheap preicline customers, because they know they will just use pricline again and probably will get repeat business?

          1. I am under the impression that rental car companies use Priceline to rent cars that might otherwise be sitting idle at their facilities. The average revenue earned by the rental car company from a Priceline transaction has to be much less than revenue from a booking made directly with the rental company. For example, Hertz charges about $286 including tax and fees for a compact car at LGA for a three day weekend beginning Friday, Sept. 6 of this year. A friend of mine successfully bid on a compact car at LGA for that weekend at $35 per day. The car will be provided by National Car Rental. The total cost including all taxes and fees is $182. Obviously Hertz would be better off with gross revenue of $286 than $0 (since Priceline gave the rental to another provider). My friend is happy since he saved $104.

    2. He might well have lost the commission, but the odds of him being disciplined are pretty low. First off, to be totally fair to them, your case has more potential than most to actually have been a misunderstanding: Ill driver stops in specifically to look into adding a second driver. But, even assuming they charged you contrary to your direction, I still think you’re missing the big picture: You’re so kind to the Hertz customer service person for so “graciously” waving the charge. That’s part of the overall system: They’ll wave this for most of the people who complain knowing that not everybody will complain. And, of course, they keep the money from all those who don’t. It’s not just a single rogue employee causing problems, it’s the whole system working as it was designed.

    3. I hope that guy lost his commission and got in trouble to boot. Hertz’s own website states that there is no charge for a spouse or domestic partner do drive the same car as the renter. Its been this way for years as I have used it many times with my wife for many years. Avis also has the same policy. Not sure about the others. I also think some states have laws to the same effect for all rentals cars within their state. But the Hertz and Avis policies are company wide.

      1. Two years ago, Hertz’s policy was different. The only way to get a second driver on the car at no charge was to book the reservation through AAA and show an AAA membership card at the counter. I am 100% sure of this because, at the time, two Hertz employees in different cities (Tampa and Boston) explained it to me. Hertz may have since changed the rules because of competitive pressure.

        1. My experience has been quite different, I have added my wife for free at Hertz dozens of times in quite a few cities around the country over the past 10 years without any trouble, though a few employees did try to get me to pay extra until I reminded them that I am aware that their policy states they cannot charge for a spouse and asked for a manger, it was then always done with no further question. I stopped using Hertz after a few issues I had with them about 3 years ago and now mostly exclusively use Avis. However, in that period of 10-3 years ago it was their policy. I imagine they are probably rewarded for lying about it and charging anyway. They like to lie, one of the reasons I switched.

        2. That may be all the employees had experienced, but it certainly wasn’t the only way. For Hertz Gold members, your spouse is automatically authorized to drive the car, no need to even list them on the contract (which is nice, my wife doesn’t have to be there at pickup, but can drive the car). That has been true for at least the past 5-6 years and probably longer; I know that 100% because I read the terms back then to find out.

          In addition, many CDPs (AAA may well be the most common one) allow additional drivers for free.

  8. A friendly warning to the OP, if she regularly pay only the minimum payment for her credit card, then she scam herself by much more than $260 by evey year.

    1. There were several alarm bells that went off in my head about the OP being at the limit on the credit card and only paying $20 a month on the balance. But, we don’t know the financial situation of the OP or her traveling companion or why they rented the car. Neither of these is relevant to this specific issue.

  9. I voted that it was a misunderstanding. I have rented from Avis at IAH before and they are very stand up people. I don’t think they would try to pull a fast one on anyone. I think the OPs problem should be with her friend who seemed to have no clue as to what he was doing and couldn’t even use his own card and had to use hers. I am glad Avis did the right thing, if this was really a scam, they would have stated that they have a signature so they won’t return it the money. They did the right thing by returning it.

    As a side note, and as someone who used to teach financial management courses, I think the OP really needs to see a debt counselor or financial adviser based on her comments.

    1. My only complaint against Avis is that you have to show a receipt for where you purchased fuel if you don’t get the refill option. Last time I rented from them at IAH, I bought gas right across the street from a station that was on their list of “close enough” but they charged me a refuel at $7.50 a gallon because the station I chose was “too far” from the airport. Luckily they only charged me for 1 gallon, which I seriously believe would have been nearly impossible to put into the car. I have not rented there from Avis since.

      1. Oh wow. That would annoy me, they have never tried that with me. They don’t always ask me for the receipt, but I guess it depends on who I get. They do usually ask, and I always keep it anyway for tax purposes, or just in case they charge me after the fact.

  10. The part most troubling (assuming the facts presented to be true) is that Avis hired, and at least initially stood behind, a liar. There is a certain degree of human civility and decency to tell the truth. Here the Avis agent purposefully lied. “I asked if it’d be charged. The agent said ‘no.’” The Avis agent should be fired for having done so.

    While Mr. Elliott’s advice to read the contract might have allowed Ms. Tran to call out the Avis agent for lying, it is probably impracticable for most people to do so regularly. Do airline passengers read the full contract of carriage before purchasing? I doubt if more than 1 percent do so. I might have been on the side of Avis if the renters simply signed away. But here Ms. Tran asked about a specific contract provision–will her credit card be charged?–and Avis had an ethical duty to respond truthfully. It did not.

  11. The arrogance of these travelers is over-whelming. There is not 1 single car rental company in the world that does not have the normal traveler (frequent renters already have things set up for their contracts) sign a contract for the car. That contract specifically asks about insurance needs. Why do you need to get a refund for a person that does not read or listen to the agent and just signs for the car? The agent always push for the insurance! You have rented cars, i have rented 100’s and never not had to fight my way through the insurance power sale. The vote was mis-named today…should have had an asswer of ” Are travelers to much in a hurry to pay attention to details”?

    1. Arrogance?

      In any event, you answered your own question. You’ve had to fight through the power sales having rented 100s of cars. A newbie traveler would be a lamb to the slaughter.

      1. Sorry Carver, but hard sells are SOP for rentals nowadays. From the perspective of a former rental agent, When my company only offers base pay of $8 an hour, you better believe I’m gonna do everything that is in my power (as long as its 100% ethical) to sign people up for the extras. Sorry, but I need a roof over my head and food to eat. If you don’t like the hard sell, sign up for the frequent renter programs. No hard sell and the agent doesn’t lose credit for not making the sale. Win-win 🙂

        1. My post was directly related to Geofrey’s post about arrogant customers. He trashes customers for “not paying attention to details”

          But regarding your post, is a hard sell ethical? Why is it the frequent travelers, presumably the most informed of the traveling public, are the ones who are spared the hard sell? Instead, its the newbie and the ill-informed who are the ones who are being targeted to purchase insurance products.

          Just my musings.

    2. +1. readers will regularly hold people responsible for reading the terms and conditions. Yet, when it comes to car rentals, asking people to read what they sign is totally out of the question. I don’t think the OP would be complaining if the rental car was totaled.

  12. I don’t care how long the line is at the rental counter. I read every word, pay with Amex card and get the Amex $25 insurance (which Enterprise told me wouldn’t work and they would charge me a minimum $700 if there was an accident and let me fight with Amex and our auto insurer), take photos of car, note scratches and dents, come back to counter to have the clerk note scratches/dents, take photos when car is returned. Car insurance MAY pay for rental car accident damage, but usually you’re out the deductible. A call to your insurance company BEFORE you rent is a good idea. So often it seems people do not read, just sign and then come crying to Chris when the rubber meets the road.

  13. Christopher you rock! You are a god sent for people that have been wronged by big corporations and definitely a cautionary tale with good advice. Never let people rush you ALWAYS know what it is you are agreeing to.

  14. so now that they gave her a refund in 3 months she will get a bill for a microscopic scratch on the roof of the car that they say is worth $500?


  15. I’m a bit confused about who’s name the reservation was in. It sounds like the reservation was made in Jenny’s friend’s name…since he initially signed the contract and wanted to pay with his debit.

    Then Jenny ended up paying? isn’t the renter supposed to have a card in his/her name in order to rent?

          1. Well…you seem to think she was added to the reservation. 😉

            I believe she was added too. I’m just trying to understand that, if so, why THAT charge was waived (or not mentioned) and insurance was added. Something is not adding up.

          2. I hate omissions, I tend to get hung up on missing details and wonder what else may be omitted from a story.

  16. I choose C. They didn’t take the credit card with them that they’d made the reservation with. Then they signed and accepted insurance. They should NOT have received a refund, and they NEVER should have asked for one. Also, seriously?? $260 put you over your credit limit and now your minimum payment is $200?? Yeah, I don’t think so.

  17. Fortunately our company contract includes insurance so I never get the hard sell. However I have watched at last one company (Avis) try to sell it to someone else, and I am not surprised that someone ended up with insurance they didn’t really want. Actually being behind the person being sold to, was annoying enough, they weren’t only trying to get the customer to buy something they didn’t want, they were wasting both of our’s precious time.

  18. Most car insurance companies I’m aware of cover damage to rental cars, making the rental car company’s insurance useless. If they don’t cover it, then certainly many credit cards will.

  19. How about giving the option giving the voting option: “This guy bought insurance, didn’t need it, and now wants his money back”.

  20. It is possible to initial the wrong boxes unwittingly and wind up agreeing to take the insurance rather than decline it. I did that once, and to this day I still don’t know how on earth I made such a stupid mistake. But you can bet I will never make that mistake again.

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