Hidden campervan bond fees

Looking to rent a campervan this summer? Beware the hidden credit card fees on bond payments.

Beware the surcharge

If you're gearing up for a campervan holiday this summer, you may get a rude shock when you arrive at the counter.

Should you choose not to take out the campervan company's liability reduction product (the fee you pay to reduce your liability in the case that there's damage to the car), you may be required to have the full excess debited from your credit card upfront. This could cost you anything from $3000 to $7500. The catch is that the campervan company will only let you pay by credit card, but then they slug you with a surcharge to do so. This little exercise could add anywhere from an extra $100 to $345 to the cost of the rental.

For example, Apollo Camper's rental agreement reads: "When the bond is debited a non-refundable credit card administration fee will apply of 4.5% for American Express and Diners Club and 2% for Visa, MasterCard, Visa Debit and MasterCard Debit".

What companies say about the bond

The rental company reps we spoke with said there are ways around this, and some said they won't surcharge a bond, but this on-the-fly info left us far from reassured given what's in the rental companies' terms and conditions.

If you choose to pay for the campervan company's excess cover, the bond amount will be significantly reduced and the rental agency may only imprint your card rather than debit the funds. The campervan companies' liability reduction products aren't cheap either. For example, to reduce your liability to $250, you'll pay $45 per day with Britz and Maui and $44 with Apollo Campers.

Want to find out about alternative ways to cover the excess on your rental? Read our guide to car hire excess reduction.

Given many travellers may already have cover for the excess through their travel insurer, or may choose to cover themselves for the excess through an alternative provider, they shouldn't be forced into purchasing the rental agency's liability reduction product.

Can the fee be avoided?

We asked Apollo Campers, Britz and Maui (both owned by Tourism Holdings Limited) and Jucy Rentals about this practice to get a better idea of what is going on.

While Britz and Maui's rental agreements say their credit card surcharges are non-refundable, their spokesperson confirmed with us that they will refund the surcharge on bond payments made by Visa and MasterCard (but not for American Express) when you bring the vehicle back.

An Apollo spokesperson told us that while the fees are non-refundable, they can potentially be avoided by paying in full (including bond) at the time of booking. While on its website the bond payment isn't disclosed until after you have selected the vehicle, at this point, it does say you may save on the credit card fees for MasterCard and Visa payments (not American Express or Diners) if you pay the full rental and bond upfront.

Jucy Rentals assured us they don't debit the bond amount from the hirer's credit card, but just freeze the money, and won't charge a credit card surcharge to do this. However, its terms and conditions say that if the liability reduction options aren't taken out, "the relevant amount will be debited from the hirer's credit card immediately" and that "a credit card administration fee of 2% applies for the use of Visa and MasterCard and 4% applies for the use of American Express for payment and bond purposes". Given this, it would be a good idea to confirm there won't be any credit card fees on the bond before you travel.

Presumably, if you can freeze the funds without charging a fee, there's no reason for the campervan companies to be debiting the funds (and potentially benefiting from the increased cashflow) while you're on holidays.

Extra costs on bond payments?

Bond Credit card fees Extra cost paid
Britz $7500

MasterCard and Visa: 2% (refundable when bond is returned)
American Express: 4.6%

Maui $7500

MasterCard and Visa: 2% (refundable when bond is returned)
American Express: 4.6%

Apollo Campers $5000-$7500

MasterCard and Visa: 2%
American Express and Diners: 4.5%