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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.
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.