National Car Rental Bahrain
Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Unauthorized Users of Corporate Codes: Is This Company Cracking Down?

A number of ways to get low rates on different aspects of travel exist, which include various discounts and promotions. However, sometimes the lowest rate which can be procured — and perhaps earn frequent travel loyalty program miles and points and access benefits which elite level members typically enjoy — is by using a corporate code not typically available to the public.

Unauthorized Users of Corporate Codes: Is This Company Cracking Down?

Although I have earned Executive level elite status member of the Emerald Club frequent renter loyalty program of National Car Rental, a client of mine gave me a corporate code to use, which results in a lower rate per day and automatic insurance coverage.

What if you plan on renting a car from National Car Rental and asked me to give you that corporate code so that you may use it for yourself? Would it be ethical of either me to give you the corporate code — or you to use it even though you are not an employee or service provider of that company?

Ethics aside for a moment, FlyerTalk member m907 recently warned that “anyone who is using a contract ID you are not authorized to use: There is a new notice that appears on the reservation page on the website that says, ‘The travel administrators for [x] will be emailed rental details for this reservation.’”

Although other FlyerTalk members do not recall seeing this warning, FlyerTalk member miadeals concurred that “I saw the same thing. Seems to show on maybe 2 out of 10 contract IDs.”

What Could Happen When an Unauthorized User Uses a Corporate Code

Depending on the company, an unauthorized user of a corporate code could potentially get in trouble for encouraging the violation of the terms of the agreement between the company and the travel provider — like, for example, losing the client. If I were an employee of that company, my employment could possibly be terminated. Or, perhaps no one at either the company or the travel provider will even know or care — especially if use of that corporate code is not abused by a wide audience…

…and with rental cars, the last thing you would want to do is be involved in an accident — whether or not it is your fault — if you rented a vehicle under a corporate rate of which you are not eligible to use. The main reason is due to potential issues dealing with the insurance policy linked to the corporate rate.

Some frequent fliers have argued that using corporate codes is not ethical; and that they should be used by a qualified person — for if anyone other than a qualified person uses that code, it could violate the legal agreement between the company and the travel provider. Others contend that the more people who use the corporate code are actually doing a favor for the company by giving enough business to the travel provider to warrant the special discount and benefits in the first place — as well as give the company more power to negotiate with the travel provider.

What if someone publicly posted a corporate code on FlyerTalk for you and everyone else to use, rather than me give it to you privately? Would that be unethical?

The main reason why some people like to use corporate codes illegitimately is because the risk of getting caught is usually low and there are usually no problems — but note that the key word here is usually.

Keep in mind that if you do decide to use a corporate code and you do not have proof that you can use the code legitimately, you could be forced to pay the full rate on the travel product or service which you plan to use — or you may be turned away altogether. The front desk of a hotel property on the first night of your stay is not the ideal place or time to learn that not only can you not take advantage of the corporate code, but that you might have to pay full price — or perhaps find lodging elsewhere for the night.

If you want to use a discount code, there are usually plenty of public codes from which you can choose; but those codes do not usually offer as much of a discount. You may not be able to take advantage of possible benefits with a public code like you would with a corporate code.

Interestingly, corporate codes are not always a bargain. For example, I also have access to a corporate code with Hilton — again, legitimately from a client — for stays only at hotel and resort properties branded as Hilton; and even then, fewer than half of them recognize the corporate code. Although I do get discounts and benefits with that corporate code whenever I am successful at using it, the room rate at hotel and resort properties worldwide can be more expensive — never mind getting the discount or benefits. I mention this simply because use of a corporate code does not guarantee the user any benefit.

In fact — more often than not, according to my experiences — the American Automobile Association rate is less expensive than the Hilton corporate code to which I have access; and yes, I am indeed a legitimate member of the American Automobile Association.

Initial Reactions From Readers of The Gate

In response to this similar article pertaining to the ethics of using a corporate code to procure significant discounts which I wrote back on Monday, July 27, 2015, the reaction of readers of The Gate submitted the following comments was mixed:

  • “If you cannot be trusted with little things, how can you be trusted with important things?” — Darth Chocolate
  • “Using a corporate rate that you are not authorized to is unethical. I have two rental car codes that my employer has provided me that I have used over the last two and a half years and it has saved me ballpark $1,000. I am all in favor of glitches and sales and coupons but corporate rates are different. They are issued to specific people and organizations not the general public. For me, I would never use one not because I am the most ethical person in the world, but for the reason you mentioned above, that I don’t want to get caught and have to pay rack rates. My vote is that corporate codes should only be used by people authorized to use them.” — Captain Kirk
  • “I know someone that uses these codes and scams front desk people all the time, asking for upgraded rooms to impress his boss and stuff like that. He’s what he calls a “professional hacker”. I think this is totally unethical and borderline stealing. I have walked up to a hotel desk to check in and he has put his name on my reservation so he can get points. Is there a place where we can report these people?” — Leslie
  • “Use the codes. If you feel better paying a corporate chain more of your hard earned cash, so be it. I lack empathy for billion dollar companies…” — flyboy89
  • “Is it ethical for a hotel to charge one traveler $138/night and one $458/night for the same room because the 2nd one doesn’t know the right code?” — Brother
  • “There is a much easier and completely ethical way to handle this. If you see that a rate is being offered that you don’t technically qualify for, pick up the phone and call the hotel directly and explain. The people at the front desk have quite a bit of discretion when it comes to adjusting the price dependent of course upon how booked they are. But if they are offering it to someone else for $200 and you for $300, it stands to reason that the hotel is able to make a profit even at the lower price and would welcome the chance to have someone stay in that room rather than miss out on the booking altogether.” — Jason


I am not sure of how long National Car Rental — or other companies in the travel industry who accept corporate codes due to specific contracts with special deals and benefits for client companies, for that matter — has been implementing this policy…

…but could this possibly be the beginning of the crackdown on customers who are not authorized to use corporate codes — and if so, what disciplinary action against those ineligible customers would be considered fair?

Even if disciplinary action as a response is remote at best, would you attempt to use a corporate code which you are not eligible to use in order to procure a significant discount and possible benefits? Do you frown upon the idea of other people using corporate codes when they are not supposed to do so?

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

  1. FYI – i was temporarily banned in the past month for using a corporate code that they claimed I was not supposed to be using. I had to reach out to corporate to get un-banned – it was from my previous company.

  2. The company I used to work for laid me off within months of my official retirement and actually told me I qualified for retirement under a bridge program but then reneged. With that retirement I could have rented at very decent rates with Hertz after leaving, far better than any other rate I have seen. I would use that code but I feel like I should be able to.

  3. What is driving those seeing a “pop-up” message when using certain National discount codes has to do with the negotiated LDW and often times, additional liability coverage included within the corporate rate agreement. Also, in high cost/high theft cities (New York, etc.) where car rental retail rates are priced much higher to discourage “local” rentals and/or low supply and high demand availability – the negotiated corporate rate may be significantly less in these higher cost cities.

    From a liability standpoint, when one uses a rate code at either National and/or Enterprise and you are involved in an accident – National’s risk management group will contract the Corporate Travel Manager or the company insurance department to verify that you are an active employee (some companies have negotiated to allow retirees and contractors to use the rate code – without the added insurance benefits.

    I know for sure in cases where insurance is included within the corporate rate, National has started offering two corporate rate discount codes, one for business reimbursable travel, and the other discount code for personal/leisure travel with almost the same exact rates.

    So, if you come across a corporate discount code(s) that are for leisure travel – I don’t see any reason why someone could not use it – as there would not be any insurance benefits included, and it also does help drive volume for the corporation itself when it comes time for re-negotiation of the corporate rate agreement.

    Another way to look at this, when rate re-negotiation occurs, in addition to overall profitability of the corporate account, National/Enterprise also looks at total losses. So, from a company perspective, I’m certain the corporation receiving the discount does not want to be penalized for those non-employees who utilized the corporate rate discount, and received insurance benefits that they should not have availed themselves of.


  4. Keep in mind that if you use a Corp code that is not yours. Or use one for your personal use, the included insurance is pretty much void.

    So if there is an option, take the discount remove the automatic free insurance and let your cc take the damage waiver.

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