I got an idea the other day and wonder if it would be cheaper to make a booking for a rental car using a different IP location through a VPN service.

I am located in Denmark and would rent a car in USA (Key West, Florida) and say I use VPN server located in fx. Brazil or China (where ever).

Any experience with that?

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    Why do you think it'll make a difference in price? Your bank may refuse the foreign transaction, too. – Roddy of the Frozen Peas Nov 8 at 11:29
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    Just as an FYI, if you are planning to stay only in Key West you don't need a rental car. – Laconic Droid Nov 8 at 13:22
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    Sure, everyone does this all the time. (Roddy, they price by your origin, you pay more if you're richer country.) – Fattie Nov 8 at 15:10
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    To expand on @LaconicDroid's comment, Key West is 3km east to west, much of that space is taken up by the airport, and parking is at a premium. Everything you might want to visit is in walking distance; you might even be able to walk to your hotel/AirBnB from the airport. Unless you're going to be traveling up the overseas highway to other Florida keys, getting a rental car is probably not a good idea. – Michael Hampton Nov 8 at 17:11
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    @Pepys Key West itself is a very small island, and parking is at a premium. The locals tend to cycle, and many places you will want to visit are within walking distance of each other (especially if you are staying in Old Town). If you need to travel further (i.e. across the island), cabs are plentiful and reasonably priced. And if you want to take advantage of all Duval Street has to offer, you won't want to drive anyway! – Laconic Droid Nov 9 at 21:16
up vote 18 down vote accepted

Yes, it may be very well worth to give it a try. Location based price differences are quite common in the travel industry and it is very much possible to save money by pretending to be somewhere else.

Seeing that you are from Denmark, a specific example would be the Color Line ferry from Hirtshals to Larvik tonight at 22:15. If you try to book two persons and a car on the Danish Color Line web site, they will offer you a ticket for DKK 815. If you try to book the same ticket from the Norwegian web site, you are offered the same ticket with the same conditions for DKK 640. On the Swedish site, the price is DKK 590 and on the German site they want DKK 730. To take advantage of these different prices, you don't even need a VPN service, but you can simply go to www.colorline.se instead of www.colorline.dk to get the cheapest ticket.

I don't see how any of the disadvantages listed by Burhan are likely to apply. Even if you are from or live in Denmark, it is not particularly unlikely that you actually are in Brazil or China when trying to rent a car in the US. Order forms are usually designed to cope with international customers, if your bank is declining credit card usage just because it seems as you are travelling, you should consider to change your bank and if you are offered payment options not applicable to you, then simply choose another applicable option.

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    Where I'm from, banks habitually decline credit card usage from unexpected countries; this is a totally standard anti-fraud mechanism (and frankly I'd consider changing banks if they didn't do this!). You're expected to inform them if you're going to be travelling. Other than that, great answer. – Lightness Races in Orbit Nov 8 at 18:03
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit That might be common in those few countries where most people never travel internationally like e.g. the US. It is elsewhere neither common, nor expected to inform your bank that you intend to use your cards in other countries, as this is one of main reasons why many customers get an internationally accepted bank card at all. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Nov 8 at 18:11
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit From the first ten UK banking FAQs I can find on Google for international card usage (Halifax, Metro Bank, Co-Operative Bank, Lloyds Bank, Barclays, Santander, Natwest, HSBC, Bank of Scotland, Yorshire Bank), only Natwest and HSBC recommend, but do not require that you inform them about international usage. Most other banks explicitely remind their customers that it is not (or no longer) necessary to inform in advance about international card usage. It seems to be a common misconception in the UK that you are supposed to do so. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Nov 8 at 18:31
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    @Tor-EinarJarnbjo: In my experience with a French bank, it is simply that unless otherwise forewarned, the daily/weekly limits on the card are far lower internationally (out of EU) to prevent fraud. In case of travel, a simple e-mail to my advisor with the country and time period allows them to raise the limits for the specific country and time period. – Matthieu M. Nov 8 at 20:01
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    Speaking as someone who has built credit card fraud detection models - pretty much every model is going to treat an out of country transaction with no notification as having increased risk. Whether that increased risk causes them to actually reject the transaction is dependent on many, many other factors specific to that particular case, such that your anecdotal evidence is unlikely to be predictive of other people's experiences. – user3761894 Nov 8 at 22:41

I have been doing this many times, for flights, rental cars, and hotels, and never had any issues with it. Often you can save a lot, but it is not always cheaper; and you have to be aware of country specific regulations (and potentialy speak other languages - sometimes prices change when you switch the language).
[Example: flights within Peru are extremely cheap for Peruvians (often -80% or more). If you try to book those with an IP from another country, you get warned that you need to a peruvian citizenship to use those tickets; if you come with a Peruvian IP, you get no such warning (and then the ticket won't allow to fly).]

The idea being discussed that 'your bank will decline it' makes no sense, as your bank doesn't care or even know how you were logged in to the website or if you are in person in the office - they see only that company X is trying to charge your credit card.
That might or might not raise a flag, depending on your bank, the amount, and your previous payment behavior, but it is completely unrelated to which IP address you used.

There are a lot of issues with doing this, and getting a cheaper rate may not be the end result.

In short, don't do it because it won't help with the rates. Here are just some reasons why this is not recommended:

  • You will see requirements for rental that do not apply to you. For example, you may see insurance or documentation requirements that are not applicable to you, which may end up costing you more.

  • Your bank may refuse the charge.

  • The website may offer you payment options that are not applicable to you.

  • The forms you fill in may not be compatible with your information. For example, you may not be able to enter a billing address because there is no place to change the country; or you may not be able to enter a phone number because its expecting a US number.

The best way to get a deal on rental cars is:

  • Rent from a location other than the airport. Airport locations usually have a surcharge.

  • Look at your credit card for loyalty points or upgrades for rentals.

  • Try to pay upfront for the rental - many companies offer deep discounts for this.

  • Look at the airline, they may offer a rental reference code or preferred rates for your booking.

  • Use alternative means of renting (like Turo).

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    I'm afraid I disagree with the first four points. – Fattie Nov 8 at 15:09
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    Yeah, I have no idea why your bank would refuse the charge. Your bank won't be able to tell that you used a VPN... and they wouldn't care, anyway. – only_pro Nov 8 at 16:37
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    Looks like you made up most of the bullet points. – Koray Tugay Nov 8 at 17:31
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit The credit card charge is processed at destination country, and travel charges are supposed to include metadata about this too, so the bank sees the same charge, VPN or not. Besides, it would be a card not present charge, so the bank doesn't need a travel notice. – user71659 Nov 8 at 18:21
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    @only_pro Nope, you need to do some basic research. It is very common. Any half-popular online merchant does fraud detection, because they themselves are financially responsible for online credit card fraud, not the bank. If an online transaction is fraudulent, the seller loses 100% of the money. They pass the IP to a service (search for "ip reputation service") which does detect VPNs and anonymizers. They also use services (serch "ecommerce fraud prevention") that take factors like countries, IPs, and transaction patterns and such to tell them whether to accept or deny a transaction. – user71659 Nov 8 at 20:28

Okay I did my "research" :)

Short answer: yes there is a difference in prices

Long answer:

I switched VPN servers (getting different IP everytime), used Microsoft Edge in private mode and cleared all cookies and cached data at every new search/ip change.

The search was for 10 days rental, Key West airport, Ford Mustang Convertible

Rentalcars.com

USA - 593$

Denmark - 516$ (no vpn)

Germany - 516

Bulgaria/Brazil/UK - 516$

Expedia.com

Australia - 616$

DK - 597$ (no vpn, general website, not location based)

DK - 465$ (no vpn, local website, expedia.dk)

US - 597$

UK - 523$

Enterprise.com (not a search engine)

USA - 596$

DK - 612$

BG - 612$

So after all it seems that without VPN and using the website's local version (expedia.com mentioned above) is actually the cheapest option for me. It could be coincidence and it could be difference in their terms and conditions but at first glance it is the same deal I am getting from the same rental company.

Thanks to all that had something to say.

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