Read your rental car agreement’s fine print (Costa Rica adventures part 1)

My fiancée and I went on a trip to Costa Rica over my school’s winter break in order to get some warmth, beach time, and relaxed exploring of a new country. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience that I look forward to writing about for some time on this blog.

For this first entry I want to focus on the rental car that I had reserved for this occasion. The flight down was uneventful (United airlines from Newark) although we were pleasantly surprised to have video on-demand service on the flight even though everything I had read told me otherwise. When we arrived at the airport in San Jose, Costa Rica, we retrieved our bags relatively quickly after customs and were taken on a shuttle bus to the Avis location off-site.

We arrived and I immediately walked up to the Avis Preferred area (there was no line otherwise but I know I am an Avis Preferred member). I began discussing the rental costs with the agent and discovered quickly that I would be mandated to pay for insurance I did not want.  The Costa Rican government has required these payments to cover damage to other people’s cars in case of a collision. This was written quite clearly in the terms and conditions of my reservation:

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Since I had not contacted my credit card company ahead of time in order to get the letterhead statement of insurance coverage, I had to pay the minimum amount of $19/day in this case.

Then, based on something the rental agent told me I did some quick research on my phone to discover that because I have to take this mandated insurance, I am no longer allowed to use the insurance from the credit card that I have:

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Visa is a company that requires you to decline the rental company’s insurance. Therefore, with this scheme in place, in order to be covered for the other vehicle as well as my own car, I had to pay $34/day to get fully insured.

The final unfortunate blow came when I was told I could not use the credit card I normally use to earn double points (my Chase Sapphire Preferred) because it does not have raised numbers. Even though it worked everywhere else in Costa Rica, at the rental agency they use the old-style credit card slider-with-carbon-paper and require the ridges of raised numbers. This, along with a warning about debit cards, was also listed in my terms and conditions:

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Suffice it to say that I learned a lot about my rental car insurance during this trip to Costa Rica. I will be doing more thorough research in the future to ensure I do not get scammed again. And, when return to Costa Rica (because it really is a beautiful country), I will be getting a letter explaining the waiver to use my credit card’s insurance.

More blog posts to follow about our Costa Rica trip. Check out Part 2 soon regarding how we actually booked our tickets with miles!

Getting into the miles and points game

Over the past few months I have begun my journey into the world of frequent flyer miles, travel blogs, points-gathering, and annoying my fiancée in earnest. I have signed up for a few credit cards, referred a few people to them, and am eagerly waiting the time when I can use these points/miles for their intended purpose: near-free travel.

I suppose I really entered this game in January 2014 when I left a conference and was convinced to sign up for the United MileagePlus Club Card by a friend. The card itself was a big bonus over most others in that every purchase provided 1.5 miles per $1 spent. As my friend said, “it adds up faster than you think.” While the $395 annual fee was daunting, there was a one-year fee waiver that I accepted because I signed up at a Chase bank branch near my house.

Since then I’ve accumulated about 110,000 miles with purchases made through the card or through rental agreements, dining out bonuses, and more. I used the card to get one free plane ticket to Toronto with Air Canada but have yet to use its benefit of free first and second luggage check. We currently pay our rent with the card, a service that nets us over 3,000 miles per month due to the large multiplier on standard purchases.

In full disclosure, however, I will be ridding myself of the card in December as the annual fee is not worth it for us now that I have a better understanding of other credit cards I can use.

Since then I have also applied for and received the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, the United MileagePlus Explorer card, the Chase Ink Plus card, and retained my old US Airways Premier World Mastercard. I’ve started learning about credit scores and their tracking through and make my Internet purchases through the Chase Ultimate Rewards shopping portal.

I’m so excited to start this blog and share with you stories of travel, transit, and miles/points accumulation from my view. We’ll see what turns up around the corner!