Home Rental Cars Why I Was Afraid To Use The Best Discount Code I Ever Found

Why I Was Afraid To Use The Best Discount Code I Ever Found

by joeheg

While the events in this post happened a while ago, the story’s moral remains the same and it’s worth repeating for those who’ve never seen it before.

One of my predominant character traits is that I’m honest, occasionally to my own detriment. From a very young age, I was a terrible liar. I guess it comes from being an only child; who could I blame for something if there’s no one else in the house? Over the years, I’ve also developed an almost visceral dislike for people who lie or are dishonest for their own personal gain.

Several years ago, I was stuck in a moral dilemma in regards to a rental car reservation. I’m curious about what others would do if they ended up in the same situation (and hopefully, I can get rid of the guilt I’ve carried with me all these years).

Way back before I had Autoslash to look for rental car discounts, finding the cheapest rate for a car was an hours-long process. To check the price with each discount code, you had to input the specific code for each discount you were eligible for (AAA, Entertainment Book, BJ’s Warehouse Club, American Express Platinum.)

It was a tedious, time-consuming process and just the type of thing I love to do. I’d use a pad of paper and a pencil, writing down each code number and the price I received for that rate. When I was all finished, I’d go back and complete the rental using the best code.

One time, I was going through the process and I received a quote that was at least 50% lower than any of the other prices. I couldn’t believe it so I tried again and to my disbelief, the same low price appeared. I decided to test this further and found that any size vehicle, up to a full-size car, showed the same price.

I went ahead and booked a full-size car for 70% less than the list price and felt very happy with my work for the evening. As I said before, this was quite a while ago so I couldn’t go onto Facebook and tell the whole world about this great code I found. Some message boards listed all the codes, but I was a newbie and I wasn’t even sure why this code worked the way it did. However, I wasn’t stupid so I make sure to write it on my list of codes for future use.

Now we’re going to jump ahead to just before the trip when you get emails from all of your reservations. I love that time, the pre-trip excitement. Except for this trip because sometime between when I booked the car and the email being sent, the rental car company updated their systems. Instead of simply showing the rate, there was now a line item of the discount and the code you used. When booking the car, I accidentally transposed two numbers and ended up using a corporate convention code. That’s why the price was so low. Oh no!

I gave a thought to rebooking. However, the rates were double from when I looked before (not double the rate I booked, but double the normal rate since I was only a few days from the trip). I worried that I might be asked for some proof I actually worked for this company?  I looked up the company whose code I accidentally used. Was it some government front and I’ll end up being interviewed by men in grey suits like Matthew Broderick’s character in War Games?


What can I say?… I was young and naive. I thought people got in trouble for things like this, even if it was an accident. And my bedroom never looked like that. OK, maybe it did but with the next generation of computers.

I considered being honest when I showed up to rent the car and tell them I noticed on my receipt that I was getting a discount code I didn’t recognize. I decided doing that would confuse the rental company clerk so I decided to do something that is totally against my character:

I made the decision to lie.

Well, I didn’t end up lying. I just didn’t say anything. I walked to the counter and rented my car. Since I was a member of the frequent renter program, I didn’t get any questions about the insurance or gas (and since you paid tolls at the toll back then, there weren’t any crazy transponder fees). My rental was processed and I went on my way. It was way too easy. I was half expecting to be flagged when I returned the car, but nothing happened. Pfew.

When I got home, I made sure to correct the incorrect code on my list.

I discovered through this situation that it’s pretty easy to get away with something if you discover, or are told, inside information. I also found out that I am the WORST person to try these things. I’m too nervous and I don’t need any additional things to worry about when I travel. I’ll just go ahead and find discounts I’m eligible for and sleep much better at night because of it.

What’s your take? Would you have canceled and rebooked the rate or would you have handled it the same way I did? Even more, would you have used the rate again? (If you’re wondering, I checked and it did work for a while longer with impressive savings until the car rental company eventually turned it off.) Would you have shared it with your friends? Maybe with everyone who’d listen?

(Note from Sharon: I would have used the code again and again, if possible. Hey Joe, do you think maybe that code still works? LOLOL!)

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

Cover Image by ErikaWittlieb from Pixabay


Christian January 29, 2020 - 10:28 pm

I would have done exactly what you did, and if things went bad I’d have been prepared to pay full price. Using the code repeatedly would have gone from a mistake to dishonest, which isn’t my thing either. People who try too hard to game the system tend to get bitten sooner or later, as many Citi AA cardholders discovered recently when their accounts were closed or locked. Not a moral judgment, just beyond my risk threshold.

Tom February 25, 2021 - 4:34 pm

I’ve done a similar things, like when I went to Disney with my 3 year old I’d tell them she was 2 to get in free. I felt a little bad but I ended up spending so much money that I kinda felt justified.

That being said I am also eligible for free healthcare due to my race. I can afford regular healthcare so I don’t use the free healthcare as I feel I would be using the resource a person with less could use.


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