I have elite status with National–which is really nice. You just walk out and choose the car you want. There’s no waiting on line. No problems at all.
You don’t get this benefit when you book through a 3rd party. So if you use Hotwire, for example, you get a normal, elite benefit-free reservation.
But the kiosk may not be able to handle this distinction.
I booked a National rental on Hotwire and when I got there, I headed inside.
I pulled up my reservation on the kiosk and when I scanned my license, it said that I was an Emerald Member and needed to head outside. It printed out a voucher with what type of car I had and everything.
So I followed directions and headed outside. The problem was the kiosk printed out incorrect information.
When I went outside, the employee helped me find the section where I could grab a car from. I went to the gate, handed over my paperwork, credit card and license, and the gentleman at the gate was totally stumped. My reservation was completely wiped out.
It wasn’t missing. There was just nothing in it. He said he could see fragments of information but nothing that was complete.
It took about 20 minutes and me handing over my iPad with my original Hotwire reservation to reconstruct my reservation. Apparently, once I scanned my license, the kiosk switched over to the rules that apply to Emerald members. But I didn’t have that type of reservation.
So it decided my Hotwire reservation was wrong without creating a new type of reservation. When you have a 3rd-party reservation and are a member of the loyalty program, I recommend talking to a person instead of leaving it up to the kiosk’s algorithm.
Unfortunately, that usually means much longer lines than you’ll get at the kiosk.