(Update) Shameful: National Car Rental Prices Skyrocketing AFTER Booking

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National Car Rental Prices Go Up After Booking

National Car Rental Prices Go Up After Booking

I have always tried to avoid car rentals as much as possible while traveling, especially internationally. I’ll try to take public transportation to the city center sometimes and will do rideshare most of the rest of the time. I just hate dealing with the hassle and shadiness that is car rental companies. Plus, I don’t want to get arrested for no reason! A friend of mine had one such shady experiences, and it appears she is far from alone. It appears National car rental prices go up after booking sometimes, around $800 more in her instance. This is a completely reprehensible by National Car Rental and something you should be aware of. It looks like it may be tied to a certain type of booking though.

Update 11/15/22: 

Here is an update my friend got after National reached out when the article was published.  Reader A nailed it pretty good in the comments.

The initial reservation (which was made in June) was cancelled due to the employer code being publicly available and widely misused. They cancelled the code and stated employee work travel must be booked through company. I suggested improving customer experience by notifying people with reservations that their reservation was cancelled. The rep agreed and said they will work on this. The change to the reservation (made in August) was due to the personal use code being canceled by the company. A new contract was made but codes weren’t shared with employees and now they can only be added by account manager. They won’t share them publicly anymore due to misuse. Again I had the same issue about not notifying the customer. At this point my reservation changed to over 1000. They worked with me though, verified my employment and adjusted my rate back down to the original booking. All in all, everyone I dealt with was great and very responsive to my needs. I just wish they would have been more proactive in the beginning and let me know what was going on.

I am glad my friend was able to get this settled with National and we have a better understanding of what can happen with these corporate code bookings.

Details Of National Booking & Price Increase Timeline

My friend needed to book a car for their trip to Hawaii in late 2022. She originally searched car rental prices back in the summer. She works for one of the big 3 car companies (Ford, GM, Stellantis – formerly Chrysler) and they have a corporate rate for employees. You can book the rentals either as a corporate rental (work related) or they offer corporate bookings for personal use. I assume this is offered as a perk by National since they get all of the corporate bookings with the car company.

Initial Booking Gets Cancelled By National

She went ahead and booked the rental on June 8th. When she checked the reservation on August 21st and it said to contact contract manager as this code was not valid. She wasn’t able to access the reservation at all in her account. The price was about the same so she rebooked with the corporate rate for personal use again and cancelled the old booking.

National Car Rental Prices Go Up After Booking

Second Booking Price Jumps Without Notice

All had been good from August 21st until earlier this month. On November 1st Award Wallet sent her an alert email that the price of her rental had changed. It went from $273.21 to $1012.60. Pure insanity!

National Car Rental Prices Go Up After Booking

Why Do National Car Rental Prices Go Up After Booking?

My friend did some searching and it appears this isn’t such a rare occurrence. This Flyertalk thread has a ton of data points showing the same thing happening. It seems like most of the time they are able to get it adjusted back down to the original price, although they often have to pay the higher taxes. No one at National Car Rental seems to know why this happens and sometimes they need to speak to a supervisor to get it handled. Even they seem confused by it. As long as you have the original booking email you should be able to get it fixed. What a pain in the butt and something you should definitely tackle before you go on vacation.

My friend searched the dates again and the price was slightly higher so she just rebooked again and cancelled the old reservation. The trip is only a few weeks out so she is hoping it stays locked in until then.

I think this is National trying to combat people using corporate codes they shouldn’t be. That is why it seems to always be happening on corporate code bookings for personal use. From what I gathered from Flyertalk that was the same type of booking everyone else had when seeing these price increases. This is a horrible way to go about fighting against fraud, if it is in fact what is going on. You are screwing over the employees of some of your biggest customers in the process. Why not train the desk staff to check corporate IDs at check in and if they don’t have it THEN you charge the higher rate?

National Car Rental Price Change After Booking: Final Thoughts

This isn’t as bad as Hertz having customers arrested for theft when they have the cars sitting on their lots, but it isn’t good either. It plays right into the car rental companies are shady narrative. National is usually considered one of the best but they are failing their corporate account employees here. I get the need to fight fraudulent bookings but you are throwing out the good with the bad. There is a simple solution to this, check ID at the time of car pickup or have them upload it and send it in. Once something is booked you shouldn’t be able to change the price just because you want to. There should be consumer protections here.

Mark Ostermann
Mark Ostermann
Mark Ostermann is a father, husband and miles/points fanatic. He left the corporate world after starting a family in order to be a stay at home dad. Mark is constantly looking at ways to save money and stay within budget while also taking awesome vacations with his family. When he isn't caring for his family or taking a weekend trip, Mark is working towards his goal of visiting every Major League Baseball ballpark.

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13 COMMENTS

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13 COMMENTS

  1. I think what is happening is the Corporate Rate code is changing (for one reason or another). At my company, they removed insurance from personal use-corporate discount bookings which resulted in them issuing a new discount code. When they did this, ALL reservations with the “old” booking code went to a much higher rate without notice to people with reservations.

    It was very poor communication.

  2. I make all of my rental car reservations using Costco’s website, never had a problem. And the price often goes down as the rental gets closer, so I can cancel and rebook at a lower price.

  3. This just happened to me in Orlando. The original booking was about $275 and at the booth it was $853, and the system would not accept the original booking price. After about 15 minutes the agent worked around it by charging the new price and crediting back the difference, and i ended up being charged the original booked rate. Unnecessary aggravation at the start of a vacation. I’m sure the line behind me wasnt happy either.

    • Yeah that is super annoying to not find out until you are at the counter. I am glad they were able to get it fixed for you at least.

  4. My wife has a VERY GOOD corporate rate at National but I still notice SOMETIMES ( not always) they raise the rate we booked maybe $25 -$50 ( for the entire rental, not per day) so I always make sure to print out the reservation when we book and verify that is the price we are paying as we leave the rental lot, I have never had a problem getting the price we booked at but it sucks having to check.

    As an example of a rate my wife gets, we are going to MLB spring training games in Ft Myers in March then off to Key West the second half of our trip.

    We planned on taking the Key West Express from Fort Myers Beach to Key West and still hope it’s running but we made a backup plan just in case and rented a car at National.

    Pickup car Sat at RSW, drop off car Wednesday in EYW ( Key West Airport) is 185.17 which is actually about $75 cheaper than 2 One way Key West Express tickets and gives us a car our entire time in Ft Myers saving on UBER.

  5. Mark, like you, I’ve almost completely moved away from rental cars. Often, taxis and transit work. But, when I do, I don’t rent at the airport. I get a ride to my hotel and then rent a car in town. (One will actually drop off/pick up at the hotel.) This gets away from the airport-imposed fees. Big savings.

    At the airport = Nissan Pathfinder. In town for the same price = Mercedes SUV.

  6. As someone who rents a lot of cars from National, this sounds a bit hard to believe as a regular occurrence. I’ve booked many cars using several corporate codes I have access to and have never had this happen in Hawaii or otherwise. I’m sure it does happen but it’s not the norm as they say. Beyond this I assume this person would also use Autoslash for the rental which could also save them money potentially.

    • I see it quite often at National using my wife’s work code, it started during covid, if you don’t look close you may not notice as it’s not a huge amount of $$.

      Odd that you mention Hawaii as it happened at OGG in April 2022.

      I just looked and I have a one way rental that I booked May 3, 2022 for March 2023….. picking up @ EYW dropping off in FLL the next day , I booked at $70.98 and it now shows $75.29 on the National site

  7. Interesting – I have been National Executive Emerald Club for many years and have never had them change the rate after hundreds of rentals. BTW I am retired but my profile still has the corporate rate of my last employer and I have never had a problem or had National request any proof of my ability to use the code. My prior employer encouraged people to use their rate code even for personal use since the total number of rental days allowed them to negotiate better rates. Also it included collision damage coverage (not that I need it since I book with my CSR and also have coverage under my auto policy)

    • My guess would be you are using the corporate code and this seems to target corporate codes labeled for personal use. They don’t seem to change traditional corporate codes intended for work travel.

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