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Thinking of blowing off your rental car pickup? Whether you've had a logistical snag or simply a change in plans, it's best to cancel your reservation—even at the very last minute.

The penalty for a rental car no-show can vary considerably. Depending on the company and whether you booked the "pay later" or prepaid rate, you might get stuck with paying no fee, a relatively small fee or the entire cost of the rental.

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Travelers are used to no-show fees. That's a charge made to your credit card when you do not show up for a reservation. Hotels typically charge at least one night (and sometimes as much as your whole stay) if you don't show and don't cancel a certain amount of time beforehand. Airlines can be even more draconian in their cancellation policies. But the rental car industry got into the no-show game late and there is no standard industry-wide policy.

 

How to Cancel Your "Pay Later" Rental Car

 

If you've opted to "pay later" for your rental car, but you did not book with your credit card number, you are in the clear for no-show fees. If you booked with your credit card or have your credit card on file—say, with the loyalty program—it's a good idea to cancel your reservation in advance, even if it's at the last minute..

 

How to Cancel Your Prepaid Rental Car

 

If you booked at a favorable prepaid rate, you definitely need to cancel your reservation in advance. The no-show fee typically depends on how far in advance of the pick-up time you cancel. While most rental car companies will impose a fee for no-shows, several major companies charge no-shows for the entire booking.

For prepaid reservations, Payless has by far the most egregiously strict no-show policy. The three companies owned by Enterprise Holdings—Enterprise, National and Alamo—impose the least onerous no-show penalties.

The best way to cancel a reservation is through the company's online portal.

 

No-Show Fees By Car Rental Company

 

Alamo:

Prepaid rentals: No-shows are charged $100 if you do not cancel your reservation prior to the pick-up time. Fee is $100 if you cancel within 24 hours of pickup. Fee is $50 if you cancel more than 24 hours before pickup. Pay later rentals: No penalty for no-shows. In the event of a flight cancellation, Alamo will not charge fee as long as a flight number and airline were provided in the reservation prior to scheduled pickup. Vehicles will be held for 24 hours from the scheduled time of pickup for any delayed flights.

Avis:

Prepaid rentals: No-shows are charged full price of rental if you do not cancel your reservation prior to the pick-up time. Fee is $150 if you cancel within 24 hours of pickup. Fee is $50 if you cancel more than 24 hours before pickup. Must request a refund online; refund will be credited back to your credit card within seven business days. Pay later rentals: No penalty for no-shows. "If you made a reservation without a credit card, please cancel your reservation as soon as possible before your scheduled pick-up time," per the Avis website. In the event of a flight cancellation, Avis will not charge fee as long as a flight number and airline were provided in the reservation prior to scheduled pickup.

Budget:

Prepaid rentals: You are charged full price of rental if you do not cancel your reservation prior to the pick-up time. Fee is $150 if you cancel within 24 hours of pickup. Fee is $50 if you cancel more than 24 hours before pickup. Must request a refund online; refund will be credited back to your credit card within seven business days. Pay later rentals: If you did not book with a credit card, there is no penalty for no-shows. If you booked with your credit card, fee is $75 if you cancel less than 48 hours before pickup. Your credit card will not be charged if you cancel up to 48 hours in advance of the designated pick-up time. In the event of a flight cancellation, Budget will not charge fee as long as a flight number and airline were provided in the reservation prior to scheduled pickup.

Dollar:

Prepaid rentals: No-shows are charged full price of rental if you do not cancel your reservation prior to the pick-up time. Fee is $100 if you cancel within 24 hours of pickup. Fee is $50 if you cancel more than 24 hours before pickup. Pay later rentals: No penalty for no-shows. In the event of a flight cancellation, Dollar will not charge fee as long as a flight number and airline were provided in the reservation prior to scheduled pickup.

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Enterprise:

Prepaid rentals: You are charged $100 if you do not cancel your reservation prior to the pick-up time. Fee is $100 if you cancel within 24 hours of pickup. Fee is $50 if you cancel more than 24 hours before pickup. Pay later rentals: No penalty for no-shows. In the event of a flight cancellation, Enterprise will not charge fee as long as a flight number and airline were provided in the reservation prior to scheduled pickup.

Hertz:

Prepaid rentals: No-shows are charged full price of rental if you do not cancel your reservation prior to the pick-up time. Fee is $100 if you cancel within 24 hours of pickup. Fee is $50 if you cancel more than 24 hours before pickup. Pay later rentals: No penalty for no-shows. In the event of a flight cancellation, Hertz will not charge fee as long as a flight number and airline were provided in the reservation prior to scheduled pickup.

National:

Prepaid rentals: You are charged $100 if you do not cancel your reservation prior to the pick-up time. Fee is $100 if you cancel within 24 hours of pickup. Fee is $50 if you cancel more than 24 hours before pickup. Pay later rentals: No penalty for no-shows. In the event of a flight cancellation, National will not charge fee as long as a flight number and airline were provided in the reservation prior to scheduled pickup.

Payless:

Prepaid rentals: No-shows are charged full price of rental if you do not cancel your reservation prior to the pick-up time or if you cancel within 48 hours of pickup. Fee is $50 if you cancel more than 48 hours before pickup. Pay later rentals: No penalty for no-shows. In the event of a flight cancellation, National will not charge fee as long as a flight number and airline were provided in the reservation prior to scheduled pickup.

Thrifty:

Prepaid rentals: No-shows are charged full price of rental if you do not cancel your reservation prior to the pick-up time. Fee is $100 if you cancel within 24 hours of pickup. Fee is $50 if you cancel more than 24 hours before pickup. Pay later rentals: No penalty for no-shows. In the event of a flight cancellation, Thrifty will not charge fee as long as a flight number and airline were provided in the reservation prior to scheduled pickup.

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