Posted in Travel

Best Price Guarantee

Most hotels offer you a Best Price Guarantee (BPG) but only if you book directly with them.  Before booking ALWAYS CHECK THE CURRENCY depending on which country that is in.  Also keep in mind that there are different types of rooms, some with breakfast or taxes included, so you really have to be sure to compare “apples with apples”.  Most hotels claim that if you find a lower rate elsewhere they will match the lower rate and give you an additional 5-10% off which sounds good but they exclude a few websites and have terms and conditions so you may disqualify. Now, if the room rates are non-refundable and you disqualify you get stuck on a higher rate without getting the promised refund and 5-10% discount.  It is the hotel’s best interest that you book directly with them because they try to avoid paying a commission to travel sites who sell their rooms but you need to watch out for your best interest 😉

Before booking a foreign hotel make sure that your credit card does not bear transaction costs for international purchases because if it does, it is best NOT to book directly with the foreign hotel; is best to book your hotels in the USA, in US funds to avoid such transaction costs.

American travel sites also offer you a Best Price Guarantee (for foreign hotels) and I personally prefer to deal with an American company because I can use coupons and reward bucks, earn points or get money back if I belong to a loyalty program.  Customer service may not be as good outside of the USA so it is more pleasant and worry-free to deal with American companies (should things go bad with the hotel).  American sites also refund you the difference and Expedia, for example, gives you a $50 travel coupon which I have qualified for many times.  The only disadvantage of the Best Price Guarantee on American sites is that you need to find a lower rate within 24 hours unless you are Expedia+ Gold level customer, in that case you can take advantage of the BPG program until the day of your travel, which is more like it.
Image: iscrapapp
Posted in Car Rental, Travel

Car rental contract hijacked by another company at the Istanbul airport

Istanbul, Attaturk Airport, November 15, 2015

Turkish Airlines just landed, we passed immigration and customs, picked up our luggages and exited to the arrival terminal.  The Istanbul airport is the most chaotic airport I have seen in my 25 years of traveling, filled with rude people, rushing and bumping into you, no lines anywhere, people are already smoking while exiting.  The airport lacks signage so you basically just follow the crowd.

Back to the topic: we had a car rental reservation with Fox Rent a Car for an economy size car via  We found a “wing” packed with car rental offices, travel agencies, money exchange and public transportation but Fox Rent a Car was nowhere to be found.

I asked the information booth but they have never heard of that company.  Then I lined up at Avis who directed me to the booth that said “Expedia” on it.  I walked over and noticed a lot of company names on their sign:  PayLess Car Rental and different tour operators, taxi, etc. It did not seem right, I have never seen a car rental that sells so many things.   Anyway, there was no line here so I asked the guy for information.  HE SAID FOX RENT A CAR WENT OUT OF BUSINESS AND HE TOOK IT OVER.  He asked me if I had paid any money to the rental company, I said no (which luckily was my case) so he asked me to show him my reservation print-out to see what I reserved.  I passed my papers and he told me he had my car but on a higher rate, Fox Rent a Car was now under his company so different rules applied.  Red flags started to fly left and right….

Luckily the higher rate was only $2 more per day so for the 10 days it was only $20 more. The good news was that he gave me a bigger car for the extra $20 which benefitted us even more since we were 4 adults with fairly big size luggages.  I really think he just wanted to make a little money but he kind of favored us.


While driving though Turkey this car rental contract kept bothering me a bit, what if Fox Rent a Car does exist and I just didn’t find them, what if they charged me for not showing up and here I am driving another car, paid the same amount to another company. It bothered me the point that when I returned the car I took 3 panoramic pictures of the airport with the car agencies lined up next to each other to prove there Fox is not there. I still could not find Fox, neither their return lot at the airport so I calmed down again, maybe they did go out business.

What I learned is that the Istanbul airport prohibits placing company signs in parking lots, which is insane because tourists need to find where to return the car and then find the proper lot.  Try asking for help, people don’t speak English.  We ended up returning the car to the public (paid) garage,  which is where the security guard directed us.  PayLess told me that we parked at the wrong place and need to pay the parking ticket. I told him that I wasn’t going to agree to the extra $10 cost for parking the rental car and I was going to reverse it with my bank.  He calmed me down and told me that he was going cancel the ticket out but he gave me the check-out documents in Turkish so I had no clue what he wrote on it.

When I returned to the USA I decided to send an email to to tell them my story and protect myself from potential charges using my photographs.  I received a reply saying that Fox does exist but it appears that I got “hijacked” by another agency, which they claimed was not the first time.  Well, soon the extra $10 charge appeared on my bank statement as well.  I thought about disputing it but I let that one go even though that I already knew that was “hijacked” but the $10 charge might have been a legitimate charge from the paid garage, which they don’t control.


Posted in Car Rental, Travel

Car rental scam in Costa Rica

San Jose, Costa Rica, Juan Santamaria Airport, December 25, 2015.

Learn from my experience and avoid renting from Firefly Rent a Car in Costa Rica.  This is how I remedied the situation (investigation is still ongoing).

On December 25, 2015 we landed at the Juan Santamaria international airport in San Jose, and after passing immigration, customs and collecting our luggage we headed to the car rental office to pick our car up.  We were excited and looked forward to this 10-day self-drive adventure spending Christmas and New Years there.

I booked a Mini car on Expedia about 8 months prior to my trip by taking advantage of an early booking promotion for $22 per day with taxes included, which was a pretty good deal given December (winter) is high season in Costa Rica not to mention holidays.  Expedia advertised the car being at the terminal which was false information, they only had a booth shared with Hertz so we had to take a shuttle.  (By the way this was the main the reason I booked Firefly was supposed to be conveniently located at the terminal but forget that now).

After presenting our documents we were informed that they do have my car but they had a problem with my credit card because my name was on the front and the numbers were on the back and allegedly not raised enough. I pointed out the sticker on their entrance door showing the type of cards they accept and Visa was on the list!

The man insisted that my card was not acceptable unless I purchased an insurance from them for $699.99.  The word “TOURIST” was written all over my white forehead coming from the USA but I wasn’t born yesterday.  You might wonder how insurance could be so high on a Mini car of $220 but at that point I wasn’t interested in dealing with them anymore so I went back to the airport looking for another car.

The only car left on Christmas day at the airport was a Toyota Corolla from Thrifty for $130 per day, which was out of question, so I had no choice but to go back to Firefly and deal with them.  Unfortunately I only took one credit card with me (for safety reasons) so I could not use another card for payment.  They said that they have an old type of credit card reader which can’t read my card.  So here is my question: how can you read my card for $699 but not for $220? It is a the same card!!!! He was reluctant and would not give me the car out unless we paid what he asked for.  Unwillingly and with no other option, my husband signed the contract (since he was going to be the driver) but I grabbed my camera and started to take pictures to document the case for a later dispute.  I took a picture of the credit card acceptance sticker on their entrance door and both credit card readers (old and new) to show that they were indeed well equipped to take any card.

What makes this story worse is that they also made us sign some the blank pages in addition to the car rental contract, which the man filled out after we returned the car adding $50 tip to himself.  So now we were at $722.31 instead of $226.18, with an $500 overcharge. I saved all documents from Expedia including the fine print on Terms and Conditions, the car rental contract showing the higher cost without upgrading the car or purchasing any extras.  We returned the car without a scratch and with a full tank of gas. Hertz checked us out and released the $1,800 deposit which was on hold on my credit card.

Upon my return to the USA I wasted no time and contacted all parties.  Expedia said that the they took my credit card for the reservation but it was a “pay at the counter” type of reservation and because they did not charge me upfront they could not refund anything; however they rewarded me with a $350 travel coupon for my inconvenience, good for a year.  I applaud them for doing that; given I travel a lot, this is pretty useful, it will cover a few hotel nights within a year 😉 They said that their marketing manager would look into this company to prevent other customer becoming victims of scam.

I also contacted Firefly and learned that they operate under Hertz but the Costa Rica location is a privately owned and operated branch so there was no help there (and no response).  By the way US Hertz branches don’t deal with international issues anyway.

I also reported the incident to Orbitz who was responsible for paying half of my car rental cost in Costa Rica but the cost now was $500 higher than the original amount.  They were certainly not at fault and stayed with the original $100 but at least I got that.

My bank initially said that I agreed to sign the $699 contact and initialed it on 5 places before signing it at the bottom and because we also signed blank documents without any amount of them my claim got denied.  I appealed that decision and showed further evidence: credit card receipts, Expedia reservation, Firefly Terms and Conditions for the rental and the photographs I took at the location. I explained my story in more details telling them that I did not have any other choice.  My bank issued a temporary credit for the difference on January 29, 2016, about 4 weeks after I filed a claim with my bank.



Posted in Travel

Credit Card and Foreign Travel

It is not the safest to carry cash with you anywhere, you can get robbed on the streets or in your hotel room. When you land at your final destination just change between $50-$100 to get you out of the airport into your hotel, it will buy breakfast the next day and reserve the rest for those occasions when your credit card is not accepted.

Feel free to use your credit card; it is widely accepted and it certainly has a better exchange rate versus changing your money for local currency in banks or street shops.

Have a piece of mind using your credit card because if there is any unauthorized charge, you can always dispute it back home but if you have internet access over there, you can monitor your account daily from your mobile phone or laptop.

Most credit cards now don’t have foreign transactions fees so you have nothing to lose, on the upper hand, you will earn miles for your foreign transactions as well!

Lastly, most credit cards offer car and travel insurance so if you do rent a car overseas, you can decline their car insurance and simply use your own. As long as it is not a luxury or specialty car, you are covered for theft and collision, which will save you a bunch of money and leave you protected.  My credit card has many other benefits for other type of damages due to trip delays, reimbursement for lost or damaged luggages, medical emergencies, just to name a few. I can also board the air plain with priority (and those who travel with me), check more luggages and once a year I get two club passes to VIP airport lounges where I get free food, specialty drinks and gourmet coffee, while laying down on a recliner.  Last, but not least, you will also get free room upgrades and complimentary breakfast in over 700 hotels worldwide.  Travel in style, my friend, like I do! 🙂

If you do decide to take your credit card with you, you will need to report it to your bank so that they don’t decline the foreign charges.