As I have said before, I don’t like to write posts about negative issues. On the other hand, I feel a responsibility to disclose both the good and the bad. Some days are sunny and others are rainy. We need to deal with both sides of the coin.
A couple of months ago, I wrote about how I was scammed in Playa del Carmen. This time a car rental agency wanted to play a bad trick on me. Before I get to the details, let me say the story has a happy ending. Keep reading. This can happen to anybody.
On April, I visited El Salvador and Honduras for two and a half weeks. For the El Salvador leg of the trip, we rented a car (since my husband is from there and knows the roads) with National/Alamo. We started by renting a small vehicle for one week. I received a receipt the day I was handed the car. Later, we called the agency to extend the rental time two days. When I returned the car, I was provided with a receipt detailing the charges for the additional rental days. The vehicle was inspected and everything looked good.
Surprise a month later
A month later (I was already home), I received my credit card statement. The balance was ridiculously high so I proceed to look at the details. Turns out the rental agency charged me an additional $950 on top of the regular rental charges. I just stood there looking at the statement in disbelief.
How I dealt with the situation
First, let me say I am not an expert dealing with this type of situations. This is an account of what worked for me.
After discovering the dubious charge, I called my credit card’s customer service line (they work 24 hours). A representative advised me to find out the reason of the charge. Then, he asked me to call back (or not) depending on my findings.
Next day, I got in contact with National’s customer service in the United States. They requested an explanation of the charge to the office in El Salvador. The representative told me they had 5 to 10 business days to respond.
I also called National’s customer service in El Salvador. It was extremely difficult to get in touch with the proper customer representative there. I ended up calling about 8 times before being able to address the issue. Once I got in touch with a representative, I asked why I wasn’t informed about the charge. She didn’t give me a convincing reason. I asked the reason for the charge. She couldn’t answer. She said I had to wait for some reports from the fleet department. I mentioned I got insurance for my rental. She said insurance did not cover the problem. She told me I was going to be contacted with more details that same week.
What decision I took
I waited about 12 business days before taking another action. I called National in the United States. They said El Salvador didn’t respond. The people from El Salvador never responded either.
Since the company was unresponsive, I opened a charge disputation claim.
I wrote to the credit card representatives explaining the situation and including the evidence. About a week later, they credited the $950 to my account. You don’t know how happy I feel at this moment. All the calling and research paid off.
I am summarizing in here the pain. I don’t want to be boring. All I have to say is that my credit card company did a wonderful job. On the other hand, I experienced once of the worst treatments from National/Alamo. I don’t think I will make business with them ever again.
What you can do in a similar case
I have learned a lesson with all this. Renting a car in a foreign country may not be as straightforward as it looks.
If you need to rent a car, take into consideration the following suggestions:
- Have a good feeling of the level of customer service your credit cards offer. If you are a traveler, you should have a good idea of what service your credit card company offers. Use the “good” credit card to reserve/pay for your car. In my case, I use Citi Platinum Select. I can’t rave enough about the customer service they provide. This card has never let me down.
- Keep all you receipts. Keep your car rental receipts in a safe place. You may need the evidence later.
- Gather as much evidence as possible. Think about ways to find out crucial information that can help you to present your case. For example, I took a look at my credit card statement online. In there, I found the charge was made “with the credit card present”. This was totally false but I had another point to my favor.
- Try to find out from the actual car rental agency what happened. Fill out a report with customer service representatives on your home country. Keep track of the mandatory business days they have to respond and dates you called.
- It may be a good idea to get in touch with the agency in the country you rented. In that way, you have more evidence of your proactivity. Call even if you don’t know the language. If you are unable to communicate, well, at least you tried and you can include that as evidence.
- Insurance does not cover everything. Understand what the insurance covers. At this point, I am trying to learn more about the different types of insurance offered by agencies.
- Be prompt. Don’t let things go unresolved for a long time. You are decreasing the possibilities of a favorable settlement if you let time pass.
- Go the extra mile with your credit card company. Once you formally dispute a charge, the credit card is going to send you some paperwork to fill and sign. Don’t take the easy route. Fill the paperwork, sign and send all the evidence you have gathered. Write them a letter stating why you believe no service was received from the charge.
- Even if you received an explanation from the rental car agency, you can dispute the charge if you don’t agree with the explanation. This is something the credit card representatives told me. The credit card investigators have the last word.
I know this sounds like a lot of work. However, I was not going to pay almost $1000 for something I didn’t benefit at all.
What problems have you experienced when renting a car in a foreign country? Post your comment below. I am really interested in learning about what has happened to other travelers and how they have dealt with the issues.