|Credit card insurance for rental cars? Don't believe it!
||[Nov. 3rd, 2012|08:08 pm]
Note: VISA has finally paid! See the followup at the end.
Everyone knows that the various insurances ("collision damage wavier", etc) that rental car companies sell you are seriously overpriced and represent almost pure profit. This became so well known that years ago the major credit card companies began to offer equivalent insurance for free if you charge your rental to their card and decline the rental companies' CDW.
Well, don't believe it. At least not from VISA.
In late July I made a business trip to Silicon Valley. I rented a car from my then-favorite provider, Enterprise, for two days and charged it to my AT&T Universal VISA card. On the first evening, July 26, as I was eating dinner with a large group in Mountain View, the rear window was smashed and my laptop bag was stolen.
The car was a hatchback. The cover over the rear storage compartment was missing, so the thief could see my bag through the rear window. Lesson learned: rent only sedans with trunks, not hatchbacks or vans, and if you can't get a sedan, carry everything or make sure anything you leave in it is very well hidden from view.
It could have been worse. My laptop was a 4+ year old, pre unibody, Apple MacBook Pro that had finally died that afternoon (that's why I left it in the car). I'd been planning to replace it anyway, and all of the data on it was fully encrypted and fully backed up; I didn't lose a bit.
I still lost medications and accessories that had to be replaced, along with the SSD I'd installed in the laptop a year or two earlier that was probably worth more than the laptop itself. And my time and aggravation in dealing with the aftermath has been the biggest loss of all.
I called the police and also Enterprise, who I asked to tow and replace the car as in my opinion it was unsafe to drive with all the broken glass. I had to wait hours for both to show up, but eventually they did. Other than the wait I can't fault the service I got either from the Mountain View Police Dept or Enterprise, who gave me a new car.
The fun started after I returned home. Naturally I expected a bill from Enterprise for the broken window, which I got several weeks later. I told them that I'd charged the car to Visa, and that they would pay according to their insurance agreement.
Three months later, VISA still hasn't paid. Although their insurance claims contractor, "VISA Enhanced Services" asked for a ridiculous amount of supporting documentation, some of it was actually halfway reasonable (police report number, etc). I gave them everything they asked for.
Everything, it seems, but one: "The monthly billing statement that you provided did not include the card number on which the transaction was made. Please provide the charge receipt and the monthly billing statement that shows the full card number".
As I have explained to them at least a half dozen times now, I could not provide the charge receipt because it was in the laptop bag that was stolen, and the card numbers did not match because, as a precaution, I had called VISA immediately after the burglary and requested that my previous card be cancelled and a new one issued just in case the thief obtained my previous card number from the receipts on my bag. The rental charge appeared on my August bill with my new card number, not the one to which I originally charged it. The account, of course, is the same, and my name and mailing address haven't changed either.
This is where it sits. VISA Enhancement Services says they're unable to get the information they need from VISA, despite being their own contractor. I've made multiple requests to VISA Customer Services to send a letter explaining the situation. Each was quickly answered with promises to do so, yet no letter ever seems to make it either to VISA Enhancement Services or to me. (I have, however, gotten several forms asking me to list fraudulent charges even though I had never complained about any. Again, I had changed my card number simply as a precaution.)
It's beginning to dawn on me that this is, in all likelihood, a deliberate ploy by VISA to drag their feet until I eventually give up in disgust and pay the claim myself.
I'm reminded of those "collect the pieces" games that fast-food restaurants often run where you collect all in a group and win a big prize. It is, of course, easy to get every piece except for one that's extremely rare -- and you aren't told which one that is. VISA required a long list of items of documentation without saying which they'd refuse because of some bullshit excuse completely outside my control. (They probably pick whatever item you give them last.)
It's especially infuriating that VISA Enhancement Services could easily get the information they want themselves, inasmuch as they're all supposedly part of the same company. They all use the same VISA logo on their letterhead.
I see now that it was a major mistake to play it safe by having my card number changed just in case the previous number had been compromised. The alternative would have been to contest any fraudulent charges that may have appeared. But I've been there too. Shortly before Katrina, we had a credit card number stolen on a visit to New Orleans, probably in a restaurant. Even though by law I was never personally liable, it took the better part of a year and many, MANY phone calls to resolve the situation.
The bottom line is this: credit card companies are more than happy to get the extra business you give them in good faith because of their "cardholder benefits" but don't expect to actually get those benefits. Not without a long fight that will leave you wondering whether it was worth it -- if you get them at all.
Followup: After at least three (3) requests, VISA finally sent me the letter listing both old and new card numbers. I forwarded it to VISA Enhancement Services, and within a few days they accepted it and began processing the claim. On November 12, they cut a check to Enterprise for the amount of the damage.
So it only took 3.5 months to pay a simple claim because they needed information they could have gotten for themselves. It's silly for any number of reasons. Not only is it inefficient, time consuming and tedious, but insecure too. Without verification, how do they know I'm not forging something? And if they can verify it, why not just get it directly in the first place?
I still think the system is designed to be as difficult as possible so that at least some of their customers will eventually give up in disgust.