Uh-oh! My Expedia coupon had a little accident

Question: Maybe you can help me with this little dilemma. I booked a trip for my nephew to Reno, Nevada, through Expedia. I made the reservation by phone. The trip went well, but I was promised a $50 gas card.

When I received the card, it was damaged and there were no instructions on how to activate it. Expedia said I could use the card anywhere, but when I tried, no one would honor it.

I contacted Expedia, which sent me coupons for future travel. I don’t want coupons — I want the gas card. Can you help me to get Expedia to do the right thing? — Viola Wilson, Baltimore

Answer: Expedia should have sent you a $50 gas card that worked, as promised. But the online travel agency did you no favors by telling you it would send you a gas card without also informing you of the terms.

At the risk of stating the obvious, Expedia is an “online” travel agency. It’s best to use Expedia’s website to make a booking. That way, you’ll have an opportunity to review the fine print on any offer.

It turns out the $50 gas card is a prepaid debit card with significant restrictions. First, it’s only good “while supplies last” — so Expedia could have run out, and it would be under no obligation to send it to you. It’s also a highly restrictive offer in other ways. Customers are advised that it takes “8 to 12 weeks after travel completion for your card to arrive” but that the card expires 90 days from the date it is issued. In other words, you may wait longer for the card to arrive than you have time to use it.

I wouldn’t expect a representative to read these terms to you by phone. But the person with which you spoke should have alerted you to the significant limitations of the $50 gas card and pointed you to the Expedia site, where you could have read the fine print. It appears that didn’t happen.

Even though Expedia was well within its rights to send you a coupon, an IOU or nothing at all, it should have found a way to communicate the terms of its gas-card offer with you before you made the reservation.

Of course, had the card arrived undamaged, then none of this would be necessary. But a look at the card reveals that this wasn’t wholly Expedia’s fault — the fulfillment appears to have been handled by a third party. Or the card might have been damaged in the mail. That’s known to happen, too.

Given Expedia’s lack of disclosure, I thought I would check with the online agency to see if it could re-send the gas card. I contacted it, and it re-sent a card — this time, intact.

Note: We moved servers this morning and lost the original poll. My apologies.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • Thomas Kirby

    Of course it was Expedia.

    No suprise here, the company that promises big but does not deliever.

    Then they say not my problem.

    They are nothing but a scam.

    People you would have better luck going through a Russian Viagra site…

    Google all the Anti-Expedia sites.

  • BillCCC

    I voted no. Reading the terms and conditions of the card would be a waste of time. They should have replaced the card promptly.

  • EdB

    “But a look at the card reveals that this wasn’t wholly Expedia’s fault — the fulfillment appears to have been handled by a third party. Or the card might have been damaged in the mail. That’s known to happen, too.”

    Don’t try passing the buck for Expedia. Doesn’t matter if it was Expedia or a 3rd party that damaged the card. Expedia is still responsible to fulfill it’s pledge and then it can go after the 3rd party for the damages. This also has nothing to do with disclosures, or lack there of, either. They sent the card so they admit he was entitled to it and they hadn’t run out at the time.

  • EdB

    Hmmm…. The site was having problems when I first got on this morning. Did you get a poll question? I’m still not showing one here.

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    We’re moving servers this morning. Please let me know if you don’t see the poll in a few minutes.

  • Edmond


    When a company tries to blame a third party my pithy response is usually, “that sounds like an awful issue your company has to resolve. I, however, did business with you and not that company, so you need to make this right.”

  • BillCCC

    Yes I saw the question. Should Expedia have explained the terms of the gift card, something along those lines.

  • http://www.facebook.com/damon.shanle Damon Shanle

    No poll at 10:40am (pacific)

  • http://www.facebook.com/marilyn.leland Marilyn Bockstanz Leland

    I’m not seeing a poll.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    “Note: We moved servers this morning and lost the original poll. My apologies.”

    Don’t worry. The poll question didn’t really apply, anyways.

    Something like, “Should Expedia have told the OP about the gas card limitations on the phone?” vs. “Should the OP have read the materials that came with the card”. Since no materials came with the card, that point is moot. Yeah, yeah, I know, all the poll question wordings are completely subject to your whim of the moment (“I have a thing for tabloid headlines and online polls that grossly oversimply [sic] an issue.” from your FAQs).

  • StarKiller

    no poll

  • Charles

    We just returned from a trip to Jamaica booked through Expedia. We’ve used them probably a 8-10 times over the years and never had any difficulty at all. We have only used them when we got a bargain, but they have been seriously cheaper on vacation packages several times. We did get one of those $50 cards one time. It came with activation instructions and we used it right away for gas and it worked just fine.

  • technomage1

    I’ve taken several trips with Expedia through the years and never had a problem. I don’t think the company is a scam at all, though I’m sure they do have problems on occasion like any other company.

  • $16635417

    Seems like a greater percentage of problems come when people “call” an online travel agency.

  • Felicity

    uh oh! right! you just have the cards replaced..!

  • jm71

    Personally, I (and I’d think a reasonable court or credit card company) wouldn’t read the terms as anti-consumer as you stated (as much as Expedia might like them too).

    “While supplies last” would be something that would have to be determined at booking, notifying/rejecting the booking if the reward is not available. Deciding after the payment was made and the rest of the product used that this part is no longer available shouldn’t be kosher.

    “8 to 12 weeks for delivery” and “90 days from the date it is issued” means to me that while it may take months to be issued in the first place, I will receive the card with most of the 90 days remaining.

    Consumer law generally doesn’t allow a merchant to put terms in the fine print that basically say they can choose whether to deliver the product or not, with no recourse, which both of the above would be if interpreted in the most anti-consumer way. And of course, deciding to outsource to a “fulfillment company” doesn’t absolve them of the responsibility, as pointed out already here.

    Expedia would be well advised to fix this by sending a new gas card or refunding $50; a credit card chargeback for that amount or a small claims suit would likely find in the OP’s favor. All IMO, not a lawyer, etc…

  • EdB

    “8 to 12 weeks for delivery” and “90 days from the date it is issued”

    I’m pretty sure the courts have ruled that the “issued date” is the post mark on the envelope the card would have been mailed in. So even if they takes 2 to 3 months to mail it, the 90 clock doesn’t start until the post office receives it. Until that time, it is not “issued”.

  • JenniferFinger

    I don’t see the poll, Chris.