Car Rental Experience: A Third-Party Booking and $560 Charge – Intentional or Innocent Mistake?

by joeheg

I wanted to share an interesting experience I had while getting our car at Charlotte Airport during our recent trip to North Carolina. I had forgotten to use the $300 travel credit from my Capital One Venture X card earlier in the year, so I was left with no choice but to use it for our car rental. I normally avoid prepaying for car rentals and prefer to pay when returning the car but in this instance, I had no other option.

During our booking process on the Capital One Travel portal, we came across Sixt, which offered the cheapest rental option. Although not as widely known as some other rental car companies, we’ve rented from them before and had a satisfactory experience. In fact, we received an upgrade on our past rental because of my Sixt Platinum membership, which is enabled by my Mastercard World Elite card.

Renting from Sixt has one drawback – check-in at the counter is required. However, due to the fact that not many travelers are familiar with the brand, there’s usually no long queue at their airport locations. Moreover, Sixt locations are typically situated on-site, which means that there’s no need to take a shuttle to get there.

This was my experience at Charlotte Airport’s car rental facility. Sixt had a small booth at the end of the room and there were three representatives. I was invited to the counter and asked for my name. After doing a quick search, the representative asked what time my rental was for. We arrived a bit early, and he eventually found our reservation.

After confirming the information from my license, which is expected when booking through a third party like Capital One, he went through the usual questions.

  • Did I want to prepay for the fuel?
  • Did I need a toll transponder?
  • Did I want to pay for the accident insurance (CDW or LDW)?

This was mildly annoying since I had linked my reservation to my Sixt account in advance, and all of these preferences were linked to my account.

When he inquired about my insurance carrier, I informed him that my Capital One Venture X card provides primary coverage for car damage. However, he persisted, so I disclosed the name of our auto insurance carrier. He didn’t ask for any proof, so I was fine with the conversation but felt a bit dubious about the whole process thus far.

I was then informed that Sixt puts a $200 charge on your credit card as a security deposit in addition to the cost of your rental. This is clearly spelled out on their website but there was no mention of it when booking through the Capital One Travel website.

In general, a minimum of $200 plus the amount due for the rental will be charged to the payment method for security purposes. The deposit for high-value vehicles may be higher. These funds will not be available to you during the rental.
For rentals in Canada, the conditions can be found in the Rental Information.

Note: Depending on the banking institution the amount is not immediately debited but held on the cardholder’s bank account until the final rental charge amount has been debited. When the vehicle is returned, the invoiced amount will be charged to the credit card provided, unless you (the renter) present another form of payment.

In practice, they put a hold on your credit card for that amount. My Venture X card was never charged.

However, when I went to sign for the deposit, the amount on the screen was $560. I questioned why I was being charged for the rental cost when I had prepaid. The rep said that he didn’t see a payment on my reservation.

I told him that I paid for the reservation through Capital One Travel. “Oh, so this is a third-party rental. Do you have proof of payment?”

Fortunately, I was easily able to search the emails on my phone and find my confirmation from Capital One showing that I paid $360 for the rental. I handed him my phone to confirm the details. After a few clicks on his keyboard, the amount due changed to $200.

Several things went through my mind.

  • Was this intentional or an innocent mistake?
  • What if I signed off on the $560 bill?
  • What if I didn’t have easy access to the email from Capital One Travel?

My recent experience has reinforced my preference for booking travel reservations directly rather than through third-party sites, as it allows for greater control and peace of mind.

I had to deal with multiple issues at the counter during my recent car rental. Despite being a Platinum member, I was assigned the exact same car that I had initially rented. As per my membership benefits, I should have been given a free upgrade if one was available. However, despite many better cars being available, I was given a Toyota Corolla, the same car that I had reserved. Although the agent offered me a BMW upgrade, I declined it as it was a paid upgrade. This experience was frustrating and has left me dissatisfied with the service.

I’m wondering if booking through Capital One affected the service I received during my recent car rental, or if this is a specific issue with the rental location. While I had no issues with the personnel, as everyone I interacted with was extremely nice, I couldn’t help but notice a difference in service compared to my previous rentals.

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Steven November 14, 2023 - 12:52 pm

Makes you wonder how to value 3rd party booking OTA credits. The $300 credit almost cost him $560. The CSR, the AR, and the Amex Biz Plat allow redemptions at 1.5cpp. The BofA premium rewards elite and the CSP allow redemptions at 1.25cpp. But I would personally take a cash out at 1cpp rather than use an OTA. So I would value that $300 credit around $200.

David Miller November 14, 2023 - 1:23 pm

Your experience s typical. The feigned ignorance is just another ploy to rip off the unknowing. Though you had done all that was required on your end, the car rental agency neglected to do their part by including your pre purchase with your reservation. It seems that almost everywhere that one must be ever diligent when dealing with any travel entity.


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