Avis Home Currency Conversion Scam Gets Aggressive in Europe

Avis and Budget have a sleazy practice of automatically opting customers in to charging foreign rentals in their home currency, plus a 3% conversion fee. This practice started around late 2012, with all cards in existing profiles defaulted to this without notice. Unchecking the box and updating the card did not correct existing reservations, but future reservations seemed ok. I opted out and not had issues until last month in two Spain rentals.

Avis Home Currency Scam

One rental was booked on an OTA without credit card, one was booked direct on the Avis website. In both cases I used my Avis First card to skip the line and gave my passport, driver’s license, and the credit card I wanted to pay the rentals, different from the old card on my Avis profile. I was guilty of not fully confirming they would charge the card I gave, because in both cases they ignored the card I gave, pulled the card from my profile and decided to opt me in to currency conversion despite my profile explicitly the opposite.

In a cursory check of the rental documents, the rates were all correct and in euros. I did not notice, on a different section, “I confirm that I was offered a choice of payment in but chose to be billed in US$. (US$XX.XX at exchange rate of 0.75 to US$1).” I was never offered any such option. Yes, it is my fault for not carefully studying every part of the contract. Legally, they’ve got me as signing off.

I did not realize this until I saw my credit card statement and the charges were suspiciously in euros. I called Avis to complain. We had a debate about how they did not charge the card I gave, and then about how in charging the card on my profile, they then selectively ignore that I had opted out of currency conversion. The agent said the local office “has no way to see that you have opted out.” So, opting out does what?

The first rental they agreed to reverse the charge, refund the conversion fee, and charge the correct card. Not looking good so far, looks like they are charging the new card much more than it should be, while no sign of the refund on the other card.

The second rental they said they could not refund because I committed a traffic infraction and somehow it is locked in the system. I have already been charged 42.35 administrative charge, this not converted to USD. For this rental I have started a credit card dispute over the rental charge and foreign currency conversion. I’ll see what happens.

What should you do if renting with Avis or Budget overseas? A good idea is to not use your Avis/Budget profile at all for the reservation. That will force them to use the card you present. Then watch like a hawk what games they play with the rental agreement.

Using portals like Capital One/Chase/Citi where you pre-pay for the rental is another tactic to avoid various junk charges. I had an Avis rental in Switzerland in May like this that went without issue.

Avoiding Avis/Budget is an option, though in many of my international rentals they have been either the only major agency or the only reasonably priced major agency. Outside Europe I have not had this problem with them.

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  • Gerhard

    I had a similar issue at Madeira (Portugal). The rate was clearly shown in Euro, with no indication of conversion. I paid with my US card and was billed in AUD (Australian Dollars)! Needless to say that I was never offered that option or did I request it (why would I?). So I had two conversions, from EUR (invoice) to AUD (charge) to USD (billing). I contacted Avis repeatedly and pointed out the nonsense, but they insisted that I had signed it, which I clearly had not. Very poor service!

  • LIH Prem

    Super sleazy … and the stuff that class action lawyers live for.

    Dispute every penny of it. Don’t let them get away with any of it. And make your displeasure known to them.

    -David

  • Gerhard

    I exchanged multiple messages with Avis Portugal on my case and they would simply not budge, even though it was deeply illogical.

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @Gerhard – did you try Avis in your home country? Not sure if that is US or AU or another for you, but the US billing dept was able, theoretically, to help me, though still not over.

  • Gerhard

    @Rapid Travel Chai – thanks, that’s a great idea. I only tried Avis Portugal, but could still try locally.

  • john

    Generally complaining to the US customer service of the company is more helpful then some overseas subsidiary.

    That administrative charge is rather high!!!

    I never use my profile to book overseas rentals. I thought there was no benefit to using your profile because you do not get credit towards free days or anything and I did not think they recognize skipping the counter in Europe. Even more so, even when I provide my drivers license information in the reservation, they still want to see it and type it in manually so there is simply no saving.

    The prepay option you say is interesting, but dont they still swipe your card when you pick up the car in case something happens? So that option only avoids the currency conversion and not the administrative type crap right?

    Looks like Avis in Spain is bad luck. I had a Sixt rental in Spain and had a traffic infraction and they did not auto charge me but instead just provided the traffic bureau with my info so they could send me the fine to my home and I could successfully not pay it.

    This brings me to a major annoyance with credit cards. In instances like this, where I was expecting a junk/annoyance type charge in the near future, I have called to say my card was lost and had them issue a new card. Unfortunately the crap charges still got charged even though they only had the old number. Rather annoying and similar to how I have read that even if you cancel a card its still actually open for six months.

    The only success I have had in this credit card game is using an Amex gift card with low balance to secure hotel reservations that I was not sure if I was going to make or not. Only works online unfortunately.

  • Avis is a bunch of scammers – I had a problem a few months ago with them trying to triple the price when I added my Wizard number to an existing Ultimate Rewards reservation.

    Eventually I got around that by calling the local Avis branch office (rather than any customer service numbers) and they were able to help me out.

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @Points With a Crew – over the years I have had more billing mistakes with them than any other, and like restaurants in China, the mistakes never favor me!

  • Carl

    I had a recent Avis rental picked up in Leipzig Germany, booked on avis.com using my existing Avis profile. I didn’t do anything special and it was correctly billed to my credit card in Euros, and it was converted by Amex within 1% of the interbank rate

    I believe I had previously made sure that the cards in my profile were correct.

    Maybe the scam is country-dependent or even franchisee-dependent. I am pretty sure that I rented and returned at corporate-owned locations. I find Avis easier to deal with than Hertz in Germany and more generous with the vehicles they give me.

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @Carl – good to hear on Germany, I have not rented there. I have had some Avis rentals in Eastern Europe and not had problems, either.

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