Paying $200 for coverage I didn’t need — reader mistake story

Dec 20, 2019

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Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Lee, who missed an important detail at the rental car counter:

I recently used points from my Chase Sapphire Reserve card to pay for a rental car in Atlanta. I was able to book a mid-size SUV for an entire week for just 19,000 points using the Ultimate Rewards travel portal. My wife and I were excited that our Thanksgiving trip would be covered entirely by points and miles.

My mistake happened at the rental car counter. I always decline additional insurance because I have primary insurance through my credit card and secondary coverage through my regular car insurance. The agent (either benignly or not) misheard me and checked yes for the loss damage waiver coverage. I was trying to get our baby into the car as fast as possible, so I neglected to carefully read over the agreement when she handed it to me.

It was a shock when I got back and was billed $33 per day for the coverage — the extra $209 charge was nearly as much as the cost of the rental. We went to the counter to argue our case, but with the receipt they had given us (and I had not examined) at check-in, there was no refund to be had. The lesson for me is to always read over the agreement. Sometimes agents make “mistakes,” but unless you catch them before driving away, you’ll be held accountable.

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When you rent a car, you should always check for damages, mechanical issues and other potential problems before you drive the vehicle off the lot. Likewise, you should check your rental agreement to make sure you’re getting what you paid for and only paying for what you want. Rental car companies have a penchant for tacking on hidden or excessive fees, and regardless of whether the charges added to Lee’s contract were surreptitious or accidental, the onus was on him to verify the terms before signing. If you see any errors, don’t assume you can sort them out later; speak up!

Apart from the collision damage waiver, other terms you should check include mileage and range limits, prepaid fuel agreements, add-ons such as toll transponders and GPS systems, and of course the rental rate. If your itinerary is uncertain, request an estimate for likely return scenarios so you won’t be surprised when you keep the car for a few extra days or drop it at a different location. Beyond the contract, verify the hours of the rental office, and get instructions for returning your vehicle (ideally in writing) if you plan to drop it off outside those hours. This isn’t an exhaustive list, so if scouring every rental contract sounds like a chore, have faith that it takes less effort than trying to get illegitimate charges removed after the fact.

Related: How to avoid letting rental car companies take advantage of you

I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. In appreciation for sharing this experience (and for allowing us to post it online), I’m sending Lee a gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own travel mistake stories to info@thepointsguy.com, and put “Reader Mistake Story” in the subject line. Tell us how things went wrong, and (where applicable) how you made them right. Offer any wisdom you gained from the experience, and explain what the rest of us can do to avoid the same pitfalls.

Feel free to also submit your best travel success stories. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. Due to the volume of submissions, we can’t respond to each story individually, but we’ll be in touch if yours is selected. I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!

Featured photo by Michael H/Getty Images.

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