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My family just got back from a weeklong vacation on the Big Island of Hawaii. We’d rented a car with Budget Car Rental, and unfortunately, it didn’t go as smoothly as I’d expected.

For a previous trip, I’d joined Fastbreak, Budget’s free loyalty program for travelers who want their rental rides fast. I had a good experience my first time with Fastbreak so I was unprepared for what happened the next time.

What is Budget Fastbreak?

Budget’s Fastbreak Program is a loyalty program for Budget rent-a-car customers. The program takes pride in handling your rental experience expeditiously. Here’s how it works.

You sign up to become a Fastbreak member on Budget’s website or via the Budget app. You’ll have to provide credit card details to complete your membership profile, but there’s no cost to join.

Then, during rental pick-up, you simply go to the Fastbreak line (which is separate from the line for non-members), show your valid driver’s license, grab your keys, and go. The express service lets you skip the line and get on with your trip.

When it’s time to return your rental vehicle, you simply drop it off, and Budget emails you a receipt. Fast track, all the way. And because it doesn’t cost anything to join, it seems like a sweet deal.

First impression = Budget Fastbreak is a great perk

I first tried Fastbreak on a family trip to Kauai in 2017. I’d booked my car through Costco Travel (a third-party site), and chose Budget as my provider. Before we flew to Kauai, I created a free Fastbreak account with Budget.

Fastbreak came in very handy. There was a long line at the Budget office at the Kauai airport, but I got quick help because I had a Fastbreak account. I was out of there in minutes.

This meant we were able to start our Hawaiian vacation quickly, and who doesn’t want that? C’mon, just look at that line in the picture below!

a group of people standing in a line at a check-in counter

Me taking advantage of the Budget Fastbreak program in Kauai — no line! (July 2017)

But then …

Eight months later, in March 2018, I booked a minivan for a family trip to the Big Island of Hawaii. I made the reservation through Priceline and chose Budget as the rental company.

When we got to the Budget rental location at the airport, I was shocked to see the long lines …. so I was thrilled to see the Fastbreak queue with NO ONE waiting. I confidently went to that queue with my driver’s license ready to go, and as expected, I was called to be assisted next.

people standing in a line at a cash desk

I gave the agent my Fastbreak number, and he asked if I’d booked directly with Budget. I said, no, I’d booked with Priceline and chosen Budget. In my mind, this wasn’t any different than what had happened when we went to Kauai, when I’d booked a Budget vehicle via Costco Travel.

The agent said you’re eligible for Fastbreak program benefits only if you book directly with Budget (and not with a third-party booking system like Costco or Priceline). I didn’t want to cause a scene, so I left the counter and went all the way outside where the long lines stretched.

a group of people standing in a line

The long line to rent a car at Budget’s office on the Big IslandWhile I was in line, I had all the time in the world to check Fastbreak’s Global Terms and Conditions. There was nothing specific that mentioned that Fastbreak benefits apply only to direct bookings with Budget. NOTHING.

The nitty-gritty annoyance I learned about Budget Fastbreak

Turns out that all prepaid, third-party reservations must be handled at the counter, not in the Fastbreak line. I learned this from a Twitter exchange with a Budget customer service rep, who confirmed that this information wasn’t included in Fastbreak’s terms and conditions.

a screenshot of a chat

My Twitter exchange with Budget

I pointed out that Budget should specify that for Fastbreak benefits to work, the car rental must be booked directly with Budget. I left the Twitter conversation at that.

For those of you who have Fastbreak, what has been your experience renting a car? Have you always booked directly with Budget to get this perk to work for you? Or have you also booked with third-party sites — and what was the outcome?

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