Warning: Ensure Your Rental Car Reservation is Indeed Canceled — Otherwise…

“I  was supposed to go to Kansas City two weeks ago. I had to cancel the trip last minute when I got stuck at work. I canceled my flights and meant to cancel my car but I think now I forgot. Last week I got a call from Hertz that I’d never returned my rental. I called back and was told the call was made to me in error. Today I got an email from Hertz with my e-mail statement of charges. Apparently they think I picked up a Hyundai Sonata at 12:30 PM Friday the 18th and brought it back Saturday the 19th after putting 473 miles on it. I was even thanked for using Express Return. Why the email only got to me today I don’t know.”

Because reservations for rental cars can usually be canceled with no penalty, forgetting about canceling a reservation is not unusual — and what typically happens is the reservation simply expires with no adverse consequences on the part of the renter of the vehicle…

Warning: Ensure Your Rental Car Reservation is Indeed Canceled — Otherwise…

…but the experience as imparted by FlyerTalk member CMK10 demonstrates what could possibly happen when you forget to cancel your rental car reservation — and there can potentially be cause for concern when “After calling Hertz they looked into it and reversed the charge thankfully but I wonder how someone was able to get the car out without them verifying they weren’t me.”

That is a good question — especially when CMK10 is not the only person to which this has happened.

A similar situation was experienced by FlyerTalk member rjburns — who is a member of Presidents Circle with Hertz — at Washington Dulles International Airport earlier this year: “I called, wrote and emailed but Hertz never refunded me. Never returned a call or responded to multiple attempts to reach them. So I disputed in with Visa and got my refund that way. In September, Hertz suspended my rental privileges, closed my Hertz rewards account.”

Even when you canceled your rental car reservation, similar issues can still occur. “I canceled my Friday evening reservation on Friday morning, so you can imagine my shock seeing a statement of charges email as I’m waiting to board EWR-BOS 200 miles away from the car that I had allegedly just returned”, FlyerTalk member aindfan posted pertaining to a reservation to rent a car this past September at Logan International Airport in Boston. “Since customer care was closed for the weekend already and that was supposedly the only department who could help (huh?), I went to Hertz as soon as I arrived in BOS to sort out the charges. No one had any power to wipe away the fraudulent record, but the shift lead zeroed the balance on the rental so I wasn’t charged.”

That good news should have been the end of the situation for aindfan, who was charged for tolls several weeks later. A few weeks of “going back and forth with @Hertz on Twitter” elapsed before the toll charges were finally refunded.

“Happened to me at the end of October this year with HOU reservation that I forgot to cancel. Sent an email to Hertz immediately when the return receipt came to my inbox. Took Hertz TWO weeks to respond. Then another two weeks for the charge reverse to show up in my account”, posted FlyerTalk member CalItalian. “My reservation was for return one week later at the same station, HOU, but on the receipt it was returned at AUS 5 days after pick up. Over $550 in charges.”

Not Only Hertz

Hertz is not the only rental car company with which members of FlyerTalk have dealt with this issue. Consider the experience of FlyerTalk member gary_nj, whose reservation was booked to rent a car at a “small station” with National Car Rental but at least had the issue resolved with little effort: “I did not cancel the reservation, and when I showed up, the agent said, ‘But you already took your car.’ After assuring him that I didn’t, he was a bit nervous. He had manually rented all the cars that were dispatched that morning, and it was pretty clear that my ID matched my name, and he did not recognize me as being any of the earlier renters.”

FlyerTalk member lit experienced a similar issue with Avis last month — and the reservation was not paid in full in advance. “I booked on avis.com directly and didn’t pick up, but Avis charged to my credit card on file and emailed me a statement of charges.”

Speaking of Avis, the opposite situation occurred with FlyerTalk member SceneStealer7. “I didn’t like my assigned car and the agent reassigned me a different one (not in the exchange aisle, but in a regular row). I went through the gate, showed my ID, and they waved me through. The next day, I got a standard courtesy email from Avis telling me they were sorry I had no-showed my reservation. I called in to confirm that I did in fact pick up my car, and learned that my car was marked as checked out to someone else. To make matters worse, I am a female and the person whose car I took was named something like David, so pretty obviously a male! Complete fail with the ID check that day. They got it worked out without my having to return to Avis, but I always wondered what would have happened if I hadn’t said something and never went back.”

I wonder the same thing, SceneStealer7.

“I’m Blue Chip, and showed up, but my name wasn’t on the monitor. The agent in the lot was somewhat puzzled, but found my reservation, cut me a contract, gave me a car, and off I went for a 5-day rental”, posted FlyerTalk member garkster, who rented from Thrifty Car Rental — which is a division of Hertz after the acquisition was completed on Tuesday, November 20, 2012 — at its location at the international airport which serves the greater Houston metropolitan area. “Imagine my surprise when, about 2 days later, I got an e-mail closing out my rental. Not the same car, not the same rental agreement, etc. I called immediately, got a C/S agent, told her the story, including the part about what car I actually did rent, and when, since I didn’t arrive at IAH until a good 45 minutes after the car was picked up. She gave me a case # and had the charges reversed.”

Wondering how this incident could have occurred in the first place, garkster continued that “At that location, they do take your driver’s license when exiting the lot, so it’s beyond me how my reserved car was taken by another person, who obviously didn’t have my license, and got out. Very sloppy. And no indication (apparently) in their system that a car had already been picked up using my reservation.”

Summary

The conclusion of garkster is that “…the thought of someone having a car rented out in my name, against my credit card, is almost terrifying.”

Although I have never experienced the situations which were included in this article, I have had my moments with rental car companies in the past — such as with Alamo; being charged for an extra day by Enterprise Rent-A-Car because of its policy pertaining to returning a rental car after hours; or my latest experience with Avis, which took approximately 17 months to resolve a simple issue, amongst three of numerous examples.

While there is not much you can do pertaining to such issues as poor customer service and careless mistakes, you can at least attempt to protect yourself and mitigate such occurrences from happening to you if you:

  • Ensure that you indeed cancel your reservation with the rental car company; and if possible, obtain a reservation cancellation number and a written confirmation of the cancellation either via e-mail message or as a physical paper copy.
  • Record every detail you can regarding your experience to contact the corporate office of the rental car company in case the issue needs to be escalated.
  • Dispute the charges with your credit card company if the situation is still not resolved — and check your credit card statement for at least a month after what should have been the date of the conclusion of the car rental to ensure that no surprise charges have been added.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

4 thoughts on “Warning: Ensure Your Rental Car Reservation is Indeed Canceled — Otherwise…”

  1. alex says:

    I had the opposite happen last month with Alamo at Tampa Airport. When I went to return the car, someone else’s name was on their record for the rental even though I had the rental agreement and it clearly says my name. So I had to go into the desk to clear that up and the representative onsite even told me since nothing happened to the car and the correct credit card was charged, there was no need to change anything.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      That is good news, alex; but if you do not mind my saying so, I personally would check the credit card statement for the next couple of months if I experienced what you did — just to be sure…

  2. Car R says:

    When I use Hertz, Avis, Thrifty et al, they never ask for a credit card to ‘hold’ the reservation ( I never pre-pay). Except hotels, where most require a card to hold the reservation, I try not to lock myself in as travel changes can and do arise; flexibility is the key to smoother travel. I have had situations where I have not canceled a rental reservation and was not charged, because I never gave them a credit card in the first instance. So this situation lies with customers who have given their credit card for a reservation or have it on file as a frequent customer with one of the car rental’s programs? A good and useful travel piece, again. Thank you.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Rental car companies such as Avis and Hertz do offer a lower daily rate if you pay for your reservation in advance with a credit card, Car R — and refunds or changes are usually not permitted on those particular reservations. Of course, the rules may vary between rental car companies.

      Sometimes the difference in the rate is minimal — think less than a dallar per day, which is usually not worth paying for a car rental in advance with the accompanying restrictions — and sometimes the difference can be significant.

      Of course, that significance can potentially become substantial if the rental period is at least a week in duration and taxes and fees are added to it…

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