Check Travel Bills for Bogus Charges

by Kay Lynn

rental car counter, honolulu international airport

At the too early hour of 5 am today, I accepted the receipt from the rental car employee and rushed off to join the line for a shuttle to the airline terminal.  Halfway there, I glanced at the receipt before throwing it in my purse and stopped dead in my tracks.  I was charged for a full tank of gas even though it was already full.

Not only did the employee not notify me of the extra charge or any concern with the fuel level, he immediately ran off to start moving cars and there wasn’t another employee nearby.  Looking for a manager, I went to the counter inside.

I had gone out of my way the evening before to fill up the tank at a nearby gas station and my hotel was within a mile of the airport.After relaying what had happened and showing my receipt, a manager removed the charge from my bill.

Customer Service Success?

It was disappointing to have this experience with the largest rental car company.  It left me wondering if they always try to cheat customers or is it limited to just this location?  Was it because I had booked the car on Priceline?

Although the manager handled my complaint well, it didn’t mitigate my uneasiness about why the incident even happened.  No excuse was given.

Resolution Factors

A couple of factors helped this end successfully and quickly.  The first was that I had a receipt for the fuel purchase.  By keeping all travel receipts in a safe, accessible location it was easy to prove the charge was not valid.  The manager didn’t even bother having the car rechecked.

Arriving at the airport with time to spare enabled me to get the bill corrected at the time and place of purchase.  Maybe the outcome would not have been the same disputing this later from 3,000 miles away.


This experience was a reminder to always carefully check travel receipts even when in a hurry to get to your final destination.  The time investment may end up saving you a lot more than time later on.   Have you had problems with extra charges on hotel or rental car bills and if so, how did you resolve it?

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optionsdude May 23, 2011 at 4:27 pm

I have never had this happen with a car rental company. I always check my receipts, though, no matter what the transaction. I have had a few charges show up for long distance billing at hotels even though I never use the hotel phone and only use a cell. I have always had success in getting those charges removed after a quick visit to the front desk. Working things out in person seems most effective.

krantcents May 23, 2011 at 5:40 pm

It is amazing how often mistakes are made on bills. I think the sloppiness is almost rewarded because I doubt many people catch all the errors.

Avraham Loan May 24, 2011 at 1:31 am

it happens frequently since they write the bill, therefore they can create anything. I don’t have the patience to go through receipts but my wife does and makes amazing performance saving stuff. Identifying these bogus charges is very easy, my problem is go complain.

Kay Lynn May 27, 2011 at 5:49 am

@optionsdude: It was the first time I’ve had this experience with rental cars as well. I would think I rent cars half a dozen times a year. I agree that it’s easier to rectify these types of charges in person.

@ Krantcents: You’re probably right that many people don’t check. I’ve had more trouble with hotel bills than rental cars though.

@ Avraham Loan: Good thing you have your wife looking out for you two!

Money Beagle May 24, 2011 at 4:26 am

Stories like that are all too common, from what I’m hearing about rental car companies and really all niches of the travel industry. The first thought that popped into my mind was that maybe they try this on people that look to be in a hurry or look to be traveling on a companies dime, in each case presenting a higher probability of the customer not looking at their bill. That’s too bad. At least you got it resolved on the spot. Getting it done after you had left would have probably been a huge pain (something I’m sure they count on!)

Hunter May 24, 2011 at 6:24 am

That is a shocking story. My gut tells me that it is probably how that location manager has directed the staff to operate. Very Unethical.

I’ve had a few experiences similar to this. I had my car serviced, and was aware that they were going to rotate the tires. They charge about $30 to do this. Upon picking up my car I could tell by the brake dust on the fron wheels they they had not been rotated. I questioned the service manager. He tried to convince me that they had been rotated! Apparently he thought I was stupid. He then back pedalled and said that after inspecting the tires, they decided there was no need to rotate. He was then shocked when I asked for a refund.

Too many companies just don’t care. They charge what they think they can get away with.

SimplyForties May 24, 2011 at 1:53 pm

I rented a cargo van a couple of weeks ago and when I picked it up it had 1/2 tank of gas. I brought it to the renting agent’s attention and she said, “that’s fine, just bring it back with 1/2 tank”. It was on the contract that way too so they weren’t trying to cheat me. On my way back I realized this was another way for them to get just a little more money out of me. How hard is it to return a vehicle with 1/2 tank of gas? If it’s full you just fill it back up right before you turn it in but 1/2 full? It’s sort of hard to gauge how much gas you’re going to use so invariably you end up returning it with more than the requisite 1/2 tank. They charge you $5.99 a gallon if you return the vehicle with less than 1/2 tank but you can be sure they don’t pay you the $5.99 if you return it with more than 1/2 tank. I guess I could have insisted they fill it up but of course I was in a hurry and chose not to hassle with it. End result? They get a little extra gas with every vehicle rented!

Aspiring Millionaire May 24, 2011 at 8:43 pm

That’s terrible and sadly, not uncommon from what I hear. Glad you got it sorted and this is why I keep all my receipts too.

I actually have insane luck when I am travelling with free things and bonuses all the time. A lot of that is thanks to my husband and his ‘connections’.

For example when we went to Hawaii we got to our hotel really late because our flight was delayed. The night staff happened to have family in NZ (as did my husband) and despite having NO relation to each other he put us in at a family rate and upgraded our room! woohoo!

Glad you got yours all sorted easily.

Kay Lynn May 27, 2011 at 5:54 am

@ Money Beagle: I was thinking they tried it because of Priceline, but you’re probably right. I wasn’t in a hurry, but I was half asleep!

@ Hunter: It could be modus operai there. Your customer service story is horrific. I can believe the manager thought the job was done but not to automatically refund you the charge is crazy. He should have given you a certificate for a future service free!

@ SimplyForties: That’s really inconvenient that they rented you the van half full. How do you know how many gallons you got? Also, what if you had a long drive; who wants to have to gas up right away?

@ Aspiring Millionaire: I must admit we had received a free upgrade when I got the car. It was pretty nice, but I couldn’t figure out how to start it as it didn’t have a traditional key. After 5 minutes, we finally got going, but I sure felt old!

Lawrence@CreditDonkey May 29, 2011 at 12:17 am

Thanks for the heads-up there, I tend to be clumsy sometimes and I rarely check my travel bills because there is so many things that I need to do. This article really opened my eyes!

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