Avis rental car
Photograph ©2022 by Brian Cohen.

One Consequence of Using a Corporate Code When You Are Not Eligible to Do So

This consequence can potentially be quite hefty...

Getting low rates on different aspects of travel is possible through a number of different ways, which include various discounts and promotions. However, sometimes the lowest rate which can be procured — and perhaps earn frequent travel membership program miles and points and access benefits which elite level members typically enjoy — is by using a corporate code not typically available to the public. One consequence of using a corporate code when you are not eligible to do so can wipe out all of the savings you have enjoyed over the years — and then some.

One Consequence of Using a Corporate Code When You Are Not Eligible to Do So

Rental car Hertz
Photograph ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

The following warning has been posted in its entirety by FlyerTalk member iitool:

A word of warning about using AWD codes you are not entitled to use. I have rented many times with Avis using a discount code associated with an education institution without issues…. All the way up until I had an accident in a rental car. Part of the AWD code was a reduction in the insurance deductible from $5000 down to $100. The process of reporting the accident required me to prove my association with the institution which I was not able to do. Avis initially attempted to void the rental agreement and went after me for the value of the vehicle plus lost business costs (approx. $25,000). I fought with them for nearly two years and was able to get the fee back down to the original deductible of $5000. I ended up giving in to the $5000 as they threatened to take me to court and claim that I used a discount code I was not entitled to use.

An AWD code is an Avis Worldwide Discount code. Some of them are publicly available; while other AWD codes are corporate codes that are only meant to be used by eligible customers.

FlyerTalk member iitool relates the conclusion to the aforementioned experience:

Initially they tried to invalidate the contract by saying I had breached one of its clauses (The renter must return the car to the agreed location at the agreed time). I argued the point saying that the car could not be returned because it had been involved in an accident and was towed from the scene because it was wrecked. I also went to hospital that night and was not able to make contact until the next day. They eventually agreed which left me on hook for the standard deductible of $5000 in this case.

I spent the next two years arguing with them that I should only be liable for the $100 deductible as that was the stated amount in the rental contract I had with Avis. Back when this happened I had never been asked to provide evidence of my association with the AWD code or even asked about it at all. When making a reservation then picking up the car there was no way to tell if a code had been used. I found that the website and app remembered the code and even when clearing it from the reservation form it would still apply. Based on this I put it to Avis that it was their responsibility to verify the entitlement to the code before entering into a rental contract and that any contract signed by both parties was legally binding (At the time there were no clauses in the agreement about using AWD codes).

Eventually they threatened to take it to court and they stated they would argue that the use of a the code that I was not entitled to made my actions fraudulent and that they would push for me to pay the entire cost of repairing the vehicle plus legal costs. I spoke with a lawyer who advised that it was probably better to pay the $5000 than risk full costs plus fees so I did.

Rental car Hertz
Photograph ©2019 by Brian Cohen.

One possible solution is to use a corporate code which does not include insurance coverage or benefits — but then that steps over into the realm of the debate of ethics, as frequent fliers have argued that:

  • Using corporate codes is not ethical; and that they should be used by an authorized person — for if anyone other than an eligible person uses that code, it could violate the legal agreement between the company and the travel provider
  • The more people who use the corporate code are actually doing a favor for the company by giving enough business to the travel provider to warrant the special discount and benefits in the first place — as well as give the company more power to negotiate with the travel provider

The main reason why some people like to use corporate codes illegitimately is because the risk of getting caught is usually low and there are usually no problems — but note that the key word here is usually. Some companies — such as Avis — have recently been stepping up enforcement pertaining to the use of corporate codes by requiring renters to prove with official documentation or identification that they are indeed eligible to use those corporate codes.

Keep in mind that if you do decide to use a corporate code and you do not have proof that you can use the code legitimately, you could be forced to pay the full rate on the travel product or service which you plan to use — or you may be turned away altogether. The front desk of a hotel property on the first night of your stay is not the ideal place or time to learn that not only can you not take advantage of the corporate code, but that you might have to pay full price — or perhaps find lodging elsewhere for the night.

Final Boarding Call

2021 Nissan Altima SV Hertz
Photograph ©2022 by Brian Cohen.

If you want to use a discount code, there are usually plenty of public codes from which you can choose; but those codes do not typically offer as much of a discount. You may not be able to take advantage of possible benefits with a discount code that is publicly available like you would with a corporate code.

Interestingly, corporate codes are not always a guaranteed bargain. For example, I have legitimate access to corporate codes with some travel companies. Sometimes fewer than half of them recognize the corporate code. Other times, the discount is not all that great — if a discount is available at all. Although I do get discounts and benefits with that corporate code whenever I am successful at using it, the room rate at hotel properties worldwide can be more expensive — never mind getting the discount or benefits. I mention this simply because a corporate code does not guarantee the user any benefit.

In fact — more often than not, according to my experiences — the AARP rate or the American Automobile Association rate can be less expensive than some of the corporate codes to which I have access; and yes, I am indeed a legitimate member of both organizations.

Using corporate codes for which you are ineligible can potentially save you a significant amount of money — but if you take advantage of the discounts and benefits that are proffered by a corporate code, know that you are doing so at your own risk.

All photographs ©2019, ©2020, and ©2022 by Brian Cohen.

  1. Thanks for sharing this. I’m curious – did you book with a card with primary rental coverage, and file the claim through them? Or was this through personal coverage and declined CDW?

    1. I was not the one who booked the rental of the vehicle in the article, Steve.

      You have raised an interesting point, however: if a damage claim was filed through the rental car insurance coverage of a credit card with which that insurance is primary, would the rental car company know about the illegitimate use of a corporate code — or would the damage be covered without question?

  2. Thank, good info. Did you book as business or leisure trip? Just wondering if that makes a difference on the ‘coverage’. I’ve always assumed it did, but maybe not!

    1. I did not book the rental car that was discussed in the article, Justine; but I do believe that the coverage depends on the terms and stipulations of the corporate contract.

      Some corporate codes are good for both leisure travel and business travel; while others are only good when renting a vehicle on official company business.

  3. This is a dated incident regarding AWD codes but worth saying and ties well to this article. Many years ago I was frequently renting cars with Avis. I wanted to rent with Avis that night but the price point was too much. I mentioned at the counter and the agent said ‘let’s see what we can do’. It took years to figure it out but what happened was that she put a code I was not entitled to. And I was benefiting on the code until one day an agent asked me if was a part of said organization – the agent was rude and accusatory. I followed up with customer service and was again accused of using a code I had no right to. I climbed up the chain with calls and letters and everyone blamed me. I went through my receipts and was able to see that on the night I asked for a better rate the new code came. Avis company lost my business from that day. Even when explained, the company stood by their claim that an agent could not and would not change the code, that only I could. Yep, still bitter over a company falsely accusing me of using an unauthorized code – would I? Yeah. Did I? No. Anyhow, interesting article, thank you.

    1. That is a bizarre experience, Bob McGurty, Rickshaw Journey — especially that an agent of Avis would offer a code which you were not permitted to use.

      Did you provide your proof to the corporate office of Avis in addition to your explanation of what happened?

  4. Interesting, but also, interesting that the car companies and corporates providing these codes don’t require proof.

    I wouldn’t call myself a ‘frequent’ renter, maybe 2-4 times a year, but when I do, it’s normally with Hertz. I have CDP codes I can [legitamitely] use with them – for being a AAA member, as well as via my Amex Plat and VentureX cards. In the last couple of years, maybe, AAA does ask for name and AAA number before you can book the rate, but that is relatively new. Prior to that, I was never asked once (in years of rentals) to show my membership.

    But the Amex plat code, and I think the Cap1, don’t require the sponsoring card to use it. And I actually typically don’t – for example, I typically use my CSR for rentals since it has primary rental insurance, and Amex Plat is only secondary. So I have plenty of time used the Amex code (which again, I legitimately do have access to) and paid with a Chase card. It’s beyond me why they wouldn’t want to ‘protect’ the CDP by requiring use of their card. Very easy to do, also.

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