National is now enforcing 1 Discover cert per rental

My favorite use of Discover Cashback is now severely limited.  Discover Cashback can be redeemed for cash or for discounted gift cards.  With gift cards, in most cases the savings are small, or the restrictions are huge, but I’ve always managed to get good value from the National car rental certificates:

National Discover Cert 1 Discover cert per rental National Car Rental

Discover lets cardholders redeem $20 of Discover Cashback for rental certificates worth $40 off your rental with Alamo, Enterprise, or National.  Alamo and Enterprise allow only 1 certificate to be applied when booking online.  National, though, allows up to 3 certificates.

The rental certificates have had the following stated restrictions all along:

  • One certificate per National rental
  • Not valid with any other offer, discount or promotional rate

National has enforced the second restriction for years.  For example, you can’t apply a free weekend day coupon to the same reservation in which you apply a $40 Discover certificate.  That said, the first restriction is not enforced online.  Nationalcar.com allows you to enter up to three Discover $40 certificates as long as you don’t put in any other promo codes.

Clawing back

I’ve received three recent reports in which people applied three $40 certificates to a rental, and then National charged them $80 after the rental was completed.  In all three cases, readers said that they asked National about the charges and were told that they had used 3 certificates, but only one was allowed per rental so they were charged for the extra two that weren’t used.

One reader reports success in getting his money back by arguing that they shouldn’t have accepted the certificates in the first place.  Here’s the comment David posted:

This just happened to me and my wife as well in the last two weeks for rentals in both Maui and Kauai. Two separate $80 charges about two weeks after the rentals were complete, and with no notification at all. Really pissed me off, and I called National and let them know as much. Both reps confirmed the charges were because 2/3 vouchers were removed from each reservation because “only one should be credited”, but they agreed with me that once accepted and the reservation confirmed (and completed) that they shouldn’t reverse them and charge after the fact (especially without any correspondence). They both reversed the charges, and in the 2nd instance she credited my account with a free day rental for the hassle. But it’s definitely happening, so be aware of it and make sure to keep an eye on your credit card activity. Also worries me that this might not last much longer…

Wrap up

Even though Nationalcar.com still allows three certificates to be used when booking a car rental (and it shows the $120 discount on the reservation), chances are that they’ll claw back the extra discount beyond the first certificate used.  So, I recommend against using more than one.

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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Comments

  1. Well this is disappointing. Was planning on renting with National again in November since I have Executive. Guess I’ll have to go with someone else then.

    • Glad I saw this post today because it looks like they double charged me for a rental I had in early October as well. Looks like I won’t be renting with National next time.

  2. Wow, this is a pretty crappy policy. That would be like Target saying you can only use one gift card per visit to their store, or for a better comparison once per month in their store.

    Seems like something discover would get peeved about too. Since it is one of the better benefits for their card. My question would be when does the money change hands for the purchase of the certs?

    Does Discover buy the certs in bulk (like other credit card companies buy points/miles) and issue them to customers? If so why is national sticking their noise in something that they’ve already been compensated for?

    Seems yet another way national is devaluing itself in the market.

    • I’m sure that Discover buys the certs for $20 or less each. They’re not losing money. All National is doing is enforcing a rule that has been listed on the certificates all along.

  3. Since the system is still taking them and National is only charging people after the fact, I wonder if we could use a temporary credit card number (doesn’t Discover or Citi offer these) and then cancel the card number immediately after rental? That way there is nothing for them to charge. Might create other problems though, I suppose.

  4. This is obviously an unfortunate development — especially since I recently took advantage of the “double cashback” sign-up offer to get a Discover card largely for the purpose of discounting my car rentals.

    Having a “limit one” definitely makes the National certificates much less valuable. Am I correct that it’s an “either/or” even if you use only one Discover cert? Like you can’t combine a Discover cert with a one-free-day code?

    For most National leisure rentals, there’s usually some other free code you can apply, so a $40 Discover cert (that you essentially “paid” $20 for) isn’t going to be very special. The exception would be things like one-day rentals.

    The other problem I’m having with National these days is that even though I love their Emerald Aisle service, their rates tend to be much higher than their competitors — including sister companies Alamo and Enterprise! So unless I can throw in 3 Discover coupons, their rates are just un-competitive.

    Because of this, I recently “bought” from Discover a $40 Enterprise voucher for a weekend rental. When I got to the local office, the staff was completely clueless on how to apply the voucher, even though it was in my reservation. It took almost an hour for them to figure it out — not the speedy service I’m used to at National.

  5. Buyer beware. It’s been years since I’ve tried to use these, but those certs were nothing but trouble. Better to look up some codes on FT than waste your time on these.

  6. My goodness, Greg, is this really the blogger who did million mile madness? Or going to Necker Island?

    Yes, they are trying to enforce the T and C, but as long as they allow you to use them online with 3 of them, they will have a hard time not giving the $80 back as pointed out above. I have have two reservations coming up with 3 applied to each. Funny part was, one of them was done some time ago, but when I read this, I figured that I might as well do one more if I have to call anyway!

  7. I just called into enterprise and tried to reserve a car using 3 certificates. Agent took all three codes but when he tried to submit the system wouldn’t allow it. Either he was savvy to the rules and only pretended to enter my codes, or it’s now hard coded into the system. I will bring the certs with me to see if they can enter them at the rental place after the fact. Worth a try.

  8. Just a follow-up, I’m the guy that you quoted in this story. I’d used three codes many times. This many be common knowledge now, but it wasn’t to me… but they’ve fixed their website and it doesn’t even accept more than one code now. It’s officially dead. Seems odd that they wouldn’t just remove two of the coupon/voucher fields instead of leaving them there and just telling you that nothing you put in will work together…? Oh well, it was great while it lasted, and def no big surprise since they’d been cracking down on it for awhile there. What a bummer!

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