Avis Now Defaults to Charging Preferred Members to Convert Foreign Rentals to Their Home Currency — And Why This is Bad for You

Reader Mary Beth points out something I hadn’t seen before on the Avis website, when you go to your profile and update your credit card (probably because my credit card on file will expire soon, so I haven’t updated it in a long time):

Emphasis below is mine:

Note: International travelers using a MasterCard or Visa charge card have the opportunity to be billed in their local currency:

I choose to have Avis bill all my future rental charges in the currency of my Avis profile credit card.

I understand that if I am renting at a location at which the currency differs from my credit card issuing currency, Avis will convert my rental charges to my card issuing currency. Immediately after I return my rental car, Avis will use the prevailing conversion rate. Any converted amount will be billed to my credit card. The conversion will be conducted by the Avis location. The international currency selection fee is three percent. If you disagree please unselect checkbox.

They will convert the rental charge to your home currency and charge you three percent for doing so. There’s absolutely no reason that you would want to do this.

Most credit cards which do not waive foreign transaction fees will still charge those fees even if the billing is done in your home currency because the charge originated outside of your home country.

So if you have a credit card that waives foreign transaction fees, leaving this box checked means you pay 3% for the conversion anyway (and though Avis says you’ll get the ‘prevailing’ exchange rate there’s no guarantee it’s as good as the bank rate anyway, I’d be pretty confident it isn’t better).

And if your card doesn’t waive foreign transaction fees, you wind up paying those fees twice — three percent to Avis and then also (usually about 3%) to your credit card.

If you rent with Avis outside the United States, you definitely want to go to your account, edit your credit card information, and uncheck that box!

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I have routinely had this done to me in select Hilton Hotels in Australia without my consent
    It says on the receipt I have consented though they never ask!!!
    Every time I confront the hotel they act like its the first time its happened
    That and the credit card surcharge fee is just shy of a scam/money grab

  2. Sneaky of Avis. Thanks for sharing. I just updated my profile. I have the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Amex Platinum, both with no foreign transaction fees.

  3. Weird, the checkbox and disclaimer is not there for me. Not sure if it’s because I use an Amex and in your screenshot it mentions V/MC.

  4. Avis/Budget are far sneakier in my 20 or so data points of renting cars. I’m easily willing to pay $10 more for Hertz in most situations. There’s minor loyalty involved toward Hertz Gold (although I do like it), it’s simply economically better when you figure that Avis will find a way to defraud. YMMV.

  5. They do say “We try harder” (to get your money?). I don’t have to update my profile, since I stopped using them years ago.

  6. Auto Europe said in its contract with me that charges would be in local currency, in this case Euros in Italy. But the local company with whom Auto Europe contracted charged me in USD with a 2.5% fee. Turns out that the contract I signed with the local company disclosed this, but only in Italian. Beware.

    P.S. If you value your life, never, never drive in Italy.

  7. That’s dirty. The reason they do it is because the credit card company kicks back roughly 1% of the 3% (or 1/3 of the extra money that’s collected). That motivates the vendor, in this case, Avis, but certainly doesn’t benefit the customer. I’ve run up against multiple incidents in international travel where the vendor has no idea how to choose local currency for the credit card receipt. And I’ve had some lie and assure me it will be in local currency when in fact it is in dollars. Since the receipt shows both local currency and dollars, there’s no way to tell. It’s really frustrating. I can see a class action suit coming from this some day.

  8. I checked and double checked, don’t have that checkbox under the credit card tab in my account. I did not try updating the credit card. Since I’ve never consented to that option, I would not expect it.

    -David

  9. This explains the regular $10-15 extra charge on the few occasions I use them. They were never explained (relying on their agents’ ignorance and my desire not to miss my flight. That’s why I now always rent with Hertz unless Avis are massively cheaper.

  10. I am US based but I put a euro denominated credit card on my Avis profile, and ticked the box. Just got back from Italy and found they converted my euro rental to dollars! and then charged it to my euro card which then converted it back to euros. Also had the 3% charge as well. I realized that when you add a credit card, there is nowhere that you tell them the currency of the card. I also found language in Italian on my contract saying I was offered the opportunity to pay in euro but I declined. That is just a lie, it was never mentioned.

  11. I agree with the “Avis is sleazy” conclusion. Every time I rent at Avis in the UK, I have to waste time (on my way to my flight!) getting them to take off fuel surcharges they have added.

    This currency conversion fee is theft, plain and simple.

    The customer service at Avis is horrendous, really awful and hopeless. I always end up having to do a chargeback via my credit card company.

    We’ve never had those kinds of problems renting from Hertz. DO NOT RENT FROM AVIS OUTSIDE THE US.

  12. By the way,

    1) The fee is NEVER shown on your receipt, I had to contact Avis to get them to say what it was. Hey Avis, if you’re ashamed to show the fee up front, and ashamed to show it on the receipt, maybe you should be ashamed to charge it.

    2) It is now FOUR PERCENT. Clearly, they have no qualms about stealing from their customers.

    So – DON’T BE AN AVIS CUSTOMER.

  13. For all those saying Hertz is better than Avis when it comes to currency conversion, I have news for you: they are not. Hertz also practices the same scam. It happened to me last week in France. They say (in French) on the final bill that you are offered a choice, but this is deceptive: the choice is implied by the country where your card was issued. There is (was?) a class action suit against Hertz for these deceptive practices.

  14. Totally agree with Suzi. I will NEVER use Avis again. Just rented a car from them in UK. Saw the clause about foreign currency transactions but (reasonably, I think) assumed that if I paid in local currency there would be no cost and did not read word for word. I made sure the bill was in pounds when I checked the car in but when the bill appeared on my credit card it was cranked up by about 8%!! I called customer service and a snarky lady informed me I had agreed to the conversion(s), and by the way, they will provide no evidence of the actually numbers. I am using a US$ no foreign currency transaction card so it appears they converted to US$, then back to pounds and charged me both ways. Not a chance I am going to roll over for this bullsh**. They might win the $50 in the end but hopefully they lose customers. Don’t use them!!!

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