Hertz Charges Full Price Of Car Rental Redeemed As An Award Because Of Shortage Of Cars

Reader Shawn shared their experience booking an award with Hertz recently and getting charged full price for the rental anyway, then getting caught up in the void of the rental company’s lack of customer service channels.

  • He redeemed Hertz points for a rental at the San Francisco airport.

  • His name was on the board on arrival, and it directed him to the Presidents Circle area where a Hertz employee directed him to take his choice of four cars that were there.

  • The award was for a standard sized vehicle, but all that were there were SUV crossovers (“2 Buicks, a Hyundai and a Kia”). With the shortage of cars recently it’s not surprising to see Hertz assigning whatever car is available rather than giving the reserved car class to the customer. He took the Kia as it was “smallest” and he’d “be doing a lot of driving and California gas prices are high.”

When he returned the car he got an emailed receipt showing he was charged “the full dollar amount of the rental.” When he called customer service he faced “several long holds” but was finally told he was charged because he “did not select the right vehicle type at SFO.”

In other words, he used his point for a standard vehicle. Hertz didn’t have that car, so the points couldn’t be used. Hertz did him a favor by renting him anything at all, but demanded cash for that rental. Only they never told the customer this was happening and that his award reservation wasn’t valid.

Hertz agreed to a “one-time exception” to return his points. He still had to pay, but Hertz agreed not to keep both his points and his money and this was supposed to be a favor.

Since that call he’s tried to get attention and resolution from Hertz to no available, including emailing ‘Executive Office’ addresses fond online and followup calls to customer service and attempts to escalate the case. He’s just asking for the points to be taken and the charge reversed, as it should have been from the start.

I would consider the following steps:

  • Dispute the charge with the customer’s credit card. The charge wasn’t authorized. And there’s confirmation (the award booking) that this wasn’t supposed to be cost of the rental.
  • Complain to his state’s consumer protection department
  • Sue in small claims court for return of the funds

Ultimately however renting from Hertz he should consider himself lucky that there were even cars available to reserve that they actually honored the reservation and that he wasn’t sent to prison for stealing the car he’d rented.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I rented in Ireland from Hertz. I told them to charge my card in Euros. I told them this when I got the car and I told them again when I dropped it off. They charged me in dollars almost 10% worse than the official exchange rate. When I complained they said exactly what Greg says above: you can do a chargeback but you’ll never rent with Hertz again.

  2. Almost every travel blog post that I’ve read over this year seems to point to Hertz having the worst customer service issues among the major car rental companies. I was never that keen on them and will avoid them like the plague now.

    I’ve had good/great experiences in the past with National, although my last rental with them was more than 18 months ago.

  3. I’m a Hertz President’s Circle member and have been for close to 20 years. I rent from Hertz about 40-50 times a year on average.

    In all that time, Hertz has been very consistent in that they never miss an opportunity to fail me.

    Crappy cars (when available), surly service and an IT infrastructure straight out the 1970s… I can’t avoid Hertz, but everyone else should try.

  4. I was with AVIS for years and was marginally satisfied….more so than with AA but less satisfied than I am with Hilton comparing in general the travel loyalties I have. However, now am forced to use National or Enterprise for company policy reasons….so chose National. Had a similar incident last summer in SEA, normally the perk is you rent a mid size or better and with my status as Executive I go to that aisle abs choose a car. Never had a problem finding a larger vehicle until the July trip to SEA, they had larger vehicles but none were in the executive aisle. It took a manager but eventually got a Highlander. Initially I was told I’d have to choose from what was in executive aisle which were all cars smaller than mid size! It seems that we can’t take the perks that we normally get for granted in this environment….but my problem is that if they are going to do this they need to inform the customer ahead of time!

  5. @ Gary — Perhaps our greatest travel decision of all time — rather than buying a newish car that we needed badly (our old pickup had reached 25 years old) in spring 2020, we decided instead to rent cars from Hertz frequently during the pandemic to draw our points balance down to zero. We reached that goal in March and bought said newish car at that time. We ended up with a better car at a better price by waiting, and now we are freed from Hertz.

    Shawn’s first mistake was receiving his receipt by email. So as to avoid prison, we always obtain a printed receipt before leaving the Hertz lot. If Shawn had done this, he maybe could have straightened this mess out before leaving the lot. Furthermore, if I were Shawn and I had tried everything else to get my money back, I would do the chargeback and never rent from them again. I imagine Shawn got stuck with a bill north of $500, and that is one I sure as hell would not have paid.

  6. @gary I will actually have this very same situation present to me in November — renting from Hertz at SFO station, Pres Circle member, standard car (class D), award booking for one week and one paid day. Any recommended steps that I should take to either prevent as the rental unfolds or be best positioned to fight afterwards if they try this on me? Thanks.

  7. It appears that the CDW coverage does not work with credit cards if you are booking an award. Is this true? I thought it would be covered with Amex plat even on awards but checking the specific terms of the card it does not seem like that is the case at all. Would love to be able to use up these hertz award points.

  8. I feel this is the right time for a big investor to back a turo/avail type of company. Similar to what uber or airbnb did, get in front of the airport/state regulations or tie everything up in court for a few years and then build up enough market power to control the inevitable regulations that will occur later. These car rental companies are bleeding, and were left for dead. They are still in ICU trying to recover but with their crap customer service, it’s time to pull the plug on them.

  9. @bill I believe Chase Sapphire products do if you have any charge any revenue on rental.

  10. What @Gene said. Good advice for everyone, plus charge those SOBs back and go with a different company in the future. After several bad experiences, I decided several years ago that I was willing to pay more to NOT use Hertz.

  11. Heh? Just this November Hertz screwed up an award rental, I did a charge-back through my Amex Plat, no issues with rentals from Hertz since then.

    Hertz is a dumpster fire and has no idea what’s going on.

    Charge-back and sue away. Bigger things in this world to be concerned about than Hertz’s opprobrium.

  12. Hertz has sent me letters telling me I could no longer rent from them 3 times in the last 20 years.
    I can still rent from them.

  13. This is 100% the realm of the credit card dispute; and there’s no way it’ll be denied (but it will take a few rounds, almost certainly). Hertz Israel did something similar to me — outrageous undisclosed additional fees — and Chase eventually made it right. No trouble renting from Hertz afterward.

  14. Hertz is horrible. I have successfully done a chargeback with my credit card company and it was very easy and I was fully refunded. Hertz just continued to bill me and put me on the DNR list. So the chargeback approach is an option but comes at a price. I was fine to never rent from Hertz again as this issue was on the back of two other major issues in a short period of time. I now stick to Avis and National and happy with both of them and the service is significantly better.

  15. I’m not sure if the reader left out details or you did in rehashing his story.

    When you redeem hertz points you select a car at whatever rate you started with but you select the option of redeem points. You then have the opportunity to substitute one or more days with the points (usually 750 or 1500 per day).

    When you say “standard” do you mean econ-full sizes or actual standard size (between full and premium)?
    Because often when you redeem points you should just take the best size non luxury available since it’s usually same point rate regardless.
    If you selected compact then you can’t go to President circle and the employee who directed him there didn’t settle his account correctly.

  16. @SeanNY2. I’ve also encountered that same problem at Ireland Hertz despite repeatedly telling them to charge me in euros. Each time I’ve called the Hertz Ireland contact number or the location number and gotten through to their main business office. Each time they reversed the dollar charge and re-charged me in euros — as you say, often 10% lower. You have the law on your side; EU law requires the charge to be in local currency unless you explicitly agree otherwise (that’s why there is tiny-print, “I agree to be charged in my home currency” on receipts). Don’t rely on just talking to a desk agent or anyone at the location; you need their main business office. Here’s two email contactS from that office from several years ago, so not sure if they are active anymore: bgoldsmith@hertz.ie and dhayes@hertz.ie. Good luck.

  17. I’d suggest that of the three options suing in small claims is far and away the best option. All the facts are on the side of the customer.

    Hertz accepted the books. That means they were contractually obligated to provide a car. If they couldn’t provide the size car that was booked, then they were obligated to provide one that was at least as good as the one reserved.

    Hertz put his name on the board and directed him to the cars he should take. If that wasn’t supposed to be permitted then the failing was Hertz’s. They should have required him to go to the counter.

    However that the agent told them to take any car clinches it. He questioned whether it was Ok to take any car and was told to do so. That he took the smallest car makes his case even better.

    It would be wonderful if Shawn lives in Oregon because unlike most states you can sue for $5,000 above and beyond your damages and judges will give award this to send a message regarding egregious conduct.

    It’s rarely worth wasting ones time arguing in situations like this. Best to give the company a shot at doing the right thing and then put the facts in front of a neutral party (the judge) who has the power to issue a legally binding decision.

  18. I rented at IAH back during the crazy Texas ice storm. When the Suburban finally pulled up as soon as I opened the tailgate to put my bags in I could smell weed. I said it to the e guy that drove it up to me and he just laughed. When I pulled up to the checkout gate I told the guy working the booth to notate that the car smells like weed and I don’t want to get charged for it. He got out, smelled inside and said he couldn’t smell it. I thought maybe I’m just sensitive to it (21 years sober) and maybe it was the first worker that smelled like weed and didn’t want to jam him up with the terrible week they were having with the ice storm. Fast forward two days driving through Texas for meetings and I can still smell weed and think I’m going a little crazy. After one of my meetings I needed something out of the backseat and find a half smoked joint sitting there. I can’t find any ways to contact Hertz customer service outside of Twitter so contact them there and said that I wanted someone to call me back. Three days later they sent me a message that said “We clean all our vehicles and consider this matter closed”. I’ll never rent from them again. I’ve got a lifetime spend of close to $100k with Hertz. Let them go disappoint someone else.

  19. Why all the surprise? What else would you expect from a bankrupt outfit? Maybe they’ll bring back OJ Simpson as a pitchman. Or CEO.

  20. Hertz was #1 like 3 decades ago. Now more like #4 and falling.

    I was recently quoted almost the same price from Avis for a 1 week SUV rental than Hertz wanted for taxes and “fees” on a free rental. No thanks.

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