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I don’t know how other bloggers do it, but I often get ideas for posts, and sometimes I just bang them out right away, and sometimes I have to let them stew in their juices for awhile before posting.  I have a post in my head right now called “Why car rentals are a scam”.  This is not that post, but it’s another (bad) experience I have trying to rent a car.

I am going to the Family Travel for Real Life conference / meetup this weekend in Washington DC.  If you read my previous posts on the subject, you will remember that I am flying into Reagan National airport (DCA), while the conference is at a hotel near Dulles airport (IAD) about 45 minutes away.

I looked into various options such as public transportation, Uber, etc. but in the end it looked like my best bet was going to be renting a car.

Renting a car with Avis

I’ve actually had pretty good luck with Avis – I’ve signed up for (the free) Avis Preferred, which means that I don’t have to stand in line – I just walk out to the car lot, get in my assigned car, and go.  Frequent Miler had a post with a link to get free Avis First status, but although I tried it, it didn’t seem to work for me.

Anyways – the prices picking up at DCA were crazy.  Even though I was only renting for a day (and not even a full day), every car place was charging like $70!!  I even considered trying to take a taxi / shuttle / bus to an off-airport Avis where the price was much lower, but in the end didn’t want to deal with that.  Looking at Priceline / Hotwire it got the price down into the $30s, but then I came across another idea

Chase Ultimate Reward mall

Conventional wisdom says that using your Chase Ultimate Rewards for travel directly is not the best use of them, and while that may be true, they also tend to have good deals on car rentals.

In fact, logging into the Ultimate Rewards portal found me this.

chasecarrentalBoom!  Super low price, plus I can pay with points, which I a) have a lot of and b) can get pretty easily.  I mean geez, I can pick up $2000 points in 10 minutes when OfficeMax is giving away free money, like they like to do….

Getting my bennies!

Still, I wanna get my bennies!  When I’m renting the car, I don’t want to have to wait in line with those…. commoners!! :-).  But seriously, I am on a fairly tight timeline.  My flight gets in at 8:15, and registration / meetup starts at 9!

There was no way to put in my wizard number at the Ultimate Rewards mall, so I call the customer service number at Avis.  I give them my confirmation # and wizard number, and she says, “Well putting in your wizard number makes it recalculate the reservation, so your total is now $89.08.

Wait, what?!?

She tries to tell me that car rates change “all the time” which … whatever.

Doing a bit of searching around shows me that I am far from the only one that has encountered this.  The aptly named Flyertalk thread entitled “Avis’ Dirty Tricks” suggests clearing out my “AWD” number from my profile, but I’m unclear whether that will do anything.

Calling the branch office

My next thought was to try and call the actual airport Avis location as oftentimes they can do things that the corporate headquarters can not do.  I tried that but did not have any luck in talking to an actual human being there.  I’ll try again later.  UPDATE – I got through to the branch office and they were able to hook me up.

Anyone else ever experience this?  Any suggestions as to how to get my Preferred benefits on this reservation?  Or am I out of luck because I didn’t book directly through Avis?

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