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Agoda charged me $5,886 for three nights in a budget hotel. Help!

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Michelle Couch-Friedman

Consumer reporter and ombudsman

Two weeks after Robert Perry’s recent stay at a $54-per-night budget hotel in Thailand, he got an unpleasant surprise. That’s when he discovered Agoda, his third-party booking agent, had made a mistake and charged him $5,886 instead of $162.

Perry wasn’t overly worried and assumed that Agoda would quickly correct the outrageous billing error. 

But he was in for another shock. Instead of fixing the giant overcharge, Agoda simply referred him to his original confirmation. Much to Perry’s dismay, he belatedly noticed that the reservation indicated that he had agreed to pay $5,886 for three nights at the budget hotel.

Frustrated by Agoda’s refusal to admit its billing mistake, Perry filed a credit card dispute – which he soon lost. 

Now, Perry says he has nowhere else to turn and hopes Consumer Rescue can save the day (and his cash). He’s sure Agoda mistakenly charged him in U.S. dollars instead of Thai baht. 

But with Agoda refusing to consider that possibility and with a failed credit card dispute, is there anything a consumer advocacy team can do?

Let’s see.

Booking a budget-friendly hotel with Agoda

In January, Perry was exploring Southeast Asia, making plans as he traveled along. He was committed to sticking to a budget for his adventure. 

One evening, while browsing the Agoda website, he found the perfect property for his upcoming stay in Phuket: Hotel Burasari. For three nights, he would pay 5886 Thai baht (roughly $162) for an entry-level room at the budget-friendly hotel.

 Perry used Agoda to book three nights at the budget Hotel Burasari in Phuket for 5886 Thai baht ($162)… at least that’s what he thought

Agoda soon sent Perry an email confirmation of the hotel reservation and he took a cursory look. 

“I didn’t notice anything unusual,” Perry told me. “I expected to pay 5886 baht for the three nights. So when I saw the confirmation and the figure of 5886, I assumed we were all set. I didn’t look closely at the reservation.”

That was a mistake… one that put nearly $6,000 of his travel budget in jeopardy.

Perry was completely unaware but Agoda had just charged his credit card an ultra luxury resort price for a stay in a budget hotel.

What went wrong here? A budget hotel at a 5-star price

A few days later, Perry made his way to Hotel Burasari and checked in. Because the reservation was prepaid via Agoda, his hotel registration form didn’t show any rates; it simply referenced the booking agent.

“I had selected the cheapest room category available on Agoda for Hotel Burasari,” Perry recalled. “It was $52 per night.”

Perry says the hotel was lovely. It was by no means luxurious, but it was exactly as described on the Agoda website. With a swimming pool, restaurant and comfortable, clean rooms, it was everything Perry was looking for in a budget-friendly hotel.

At $52 a night, Perry says Hotel Burasari was definitely the bargain he was looking for.

“I’m a senior citizen and the reason I chose Thailand is because there are much better deals traveling over there,” Perry explained. “I enjoyed the stay at Hotel Burasari.”

It would be 10 days before Perry discovered the shocking reality about his visit to Phuket. Agoda had immediately charged him over $1,900 per night for his stay at the “budget-friendly” Hotel Burasari – the exact opposite of a bargain. 

Discovering Agoda’s shocking billing mistake 

After checking out of Hotel Burasari, Perry continued his exploration through remote areas of Thailand. During that time, the internet wasn’t reliable. That caused a significant delay between when Agoda charged Perry’s credit card and when he discovered the massive upcharge. 

“A little less than two weeks after checking out of Burasari I went back on the Agoda website to book another hotel,” Perry explained. “That’s when I first noticed the problem.”

Where he expected to see an invoice for $162 or 5,886 baht, there was a bill indicating he had paid 5,886 USD. Initially, he figured it was just a typo that would be easily fixed. After all, there was no way anyone would pay that type of rate for the budget hotel. 

But then Perry signed into his Capital One credit card account. 

There, Perry discovered that nearly four weeks previously, Agoda had charged his card $5,886 for three nights at Hotel Burasari. 

I couldn’t believe it. I immediately contacted Agoda. The customer service agent told me that there wasn’t any mistake. He said I had agreed to pay that amount for the hotel. I’m a budget traveler! I would never pay $1,900 per night for a hotel stay. And there is no way any room at Hotel Burasari costs that much, no matter what time of year. But the Agoda agents kept referring back to the confirmation I received.

Perry

After getting nowhere with Agoda, Perry next called Capital One. He explained the situation and asked to open a credit card dispute for the giant overcharge.

This route to a resolution had nearly a zero percent chance of working for Perry, but he didn’t know that yet. He figured Capital One would take care of this problem.

Perry was about to get an education about the reality of credit card chargebacks.

The Fair Credit Billing Act and billing errors

The Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) protects credit card users against billing errors and fraud. However, a credit card dispute is not the fast track to fixing a problem that many consumers think it is. 

In fact, many credit card chargebacks fail –  even when they shouldn’t. That’s because the investigations conducted by credit card companies are not in-depth investigations like you see from our team here at Consumer Rescue

The truth is that credit card chargeback cases are often automated. If a merchant responds to the dispute, in nearly all situations, the consumer will lose, and the case closed.

However, a significant number of consumers who file credit card disputes are unprepared for the possibility or repercussions of losing. 

After a credit card dispute is found in favor of the merchant, that company has no reason to entertain the complaint further. Essentially, a lost credit card chargeback will leave you with nowhere else to escalate your complaint – even if you have a valid case. 

Worse, many merchants will put you on a permanent blacklist for filing chargebacks – win or lose. (See: Surprise! Your favorite cruise line just put you on the Do Not Sail List). 

If you need another reason to be cautious about filing credit card disputes, consider this: Even if you win a chargeback, the merchant can pursue the debt elsewhere. That can include sending you to collections and ruining your credit among other things.

Consumers should always keep in mind that the conclusion of a dispute only ends the credit card company’s involvement.

For that reason, a credit card dispute should be the last step to consider when attempting to fix any kind of billing error. Otherwise, you might be fast-tracking yourself to a complete loss even if the merchant legitimately owes you a refund. 

A lost credit card chargeback. Now what?

Perry’s dispute was doomed from the beginning. Agoda had a confirmation that showed he had agreed to pay $5,886 for his stay at Hotel Burasari, no matter how outrageous that figure was. 

Within the month, Perry had an official answer: Capital One denied his dispute and rebilled his credit card $5,886.

Capital One doesn’t agree that Agoda made a billing mistake, and the credit card dispute is denied.

Now, with his credit card dispute rejected, Perry had no idea what to do next. That is until he came across an article over at The Points Guy that I had recently written. In that case, Heather McKay had accidentally made a 72-night/ $9,200 prepaid hotel reservation via Booking.com. (Note: Booking Group is the parent company of Agoda).  

Although that case did not go in favor of McKay, it gave Perry hope. He thought I might be able to convince Agoda to examine the details of his situation more closely. 

“I just need someone to look at the hotel and see that there is no way it could ever cost $1,900 a night,” Perry told me. “And if someone at Agoda with the authority to fix this mistake could see that, I might have a chance of getting my money back. I know it’s a long-shot. Please help me if you can. I am a senior citizen living on a fixed income.

Consumer Rescue investigates: Did Agoda make a mistake?

When I received Perry’s plea for help, it had been nearly two months since his Agoda fiasco began. 

Looking over his paper trail and detailed timeline of events, I was unsure what our team could do. There was very little that we could use to build a foundation to successfully mediate Perry’s request that the booking agent refund $5,700. The failed credit card dispute only strengthened Agoda’s stance that it hadn’t made a mistake. But…

When I looked at Hotel Burasari’s website and checked its rates for all times of the year — including Christmas — I knew Perry was correct. 

There was no way this budget hotel could ever command $1,900 for any room category.

To be clear: It looks like a lovely property — not on the beach, but clean — and it gets plenty of positive reviews. But it is not a luxury resort. I would compare it to an upscale Holiday Inn or Best Western. Similar hotels to Burasari in Phuket have prices in line with what Perry says he expected to pay for an entry-level room—around $50 – $100 per night. 

I shared my concerns with Perry about his case. 

“This is going to be very difficult because you completed your stay and didn’t notice the error until [weeks after you left] – and now Capital One has sided with Agoda,” I explained. “But I’m willing to give it my best shot since I see no indication that the rate for that hotel is ever much more than $100 a night.”

Perry was well aware of his predicament.

“I am grateful to you for looking into this matter for me, and I agree that it is a challenging situation. I believe that I may have exhausted all my alternatives at this point,” Perry told me. “But I’m hoping you may reach a sympathetic ear who may be willing to help resolve this unfortunate [situation]. Again, thank you for trying!”

Perry had convinced me he was right. 

Now, it was time for me to convince our executive contact at Agoda. 

Asking Agoda to reopen this customer’s billing complaint

Robert used Agoda to book a hotel in Phuket and chose to pay in Thai baht. The total should have been 5886 baht or about $162 for the three-night stay. The hotel is a budget hotel in Thailand called Hotel Burasari. Average room rates vary from $50 per night to about $200 per night during the Christmas holidays. 

Robert’s stay was Jan 24-27, 2024, and he was booked in the least expensive room category, but he never looked closely at his confirmation from Agoda until after his stay… instead of 5886 baht, he was charged $5,886 (US dollars) for the three nights at the budget hotel. 

He has been unable to reach anyone at Agoda who [is willing or able] to help with this problem. Would your team be able to review this case and see if Agoda can correct this mistake?  

Thank you!  (PS. Under my signature I have a screenshot of all the booking agents that sell rooms at Hotel Burasari. As you can see, this is a budget-friendly hotel and that nearly $6,000 charge for three nights is a wild overcharge🤪) 

Michelle Couch-Friedman, Travel Ombudsman
Evidence of a booking mistake: All online agencies across the board –including Agoda – show that Hotel Burasari is a budget hotel. There is no way it could charge $1,900 per night – ever.

Good news: Agoda corrects the billing mistake. Here’s your refund

Within a few days, Perry’s battle to prove his credit card had been overcharged nearly $6,000 came to a successful end. 

Michelle! 

Agoda Customer Experience Group has decided to refund back $5,724.41 USD and will only charge $161.95 USD which is equal to the original charge of 5,886.36 THB.

Can you believe it!? I am overjoyed! Michelle, thank you for believing in me. Thank you for taking the time to assist me. Thank you for all you did and all you do! Many thanks to Consumer Rescue Help! I am also an avid reader of The Points Guy. You guys do fantastic work and provide a great service.

I will be singing your praises to all my family and friends. Great job!

With sincere appreciation and gratitude,

Robert Perry

You’re very welcome, Robert. Rescuing consumers from seemingly impossible situations is our specialty! 

And with that, we can successfully add one more satisfied “customer” to our ever-growing list of consumer rescues.🛟😀 

How to make sure you’re not overcharged for your hotel stay

It’s not often that we see such a dramatic overcharge from a hotel or third-party booking agent. However, either through human or computer error, billing mistakes do happen from time to time. That means as a self-booking traveler, you have to stay alert

Here’s what you need to know to avoid your own hotel billing error nightmare. 

  • Take screenshots: When self-booking hotels or vacation rentals, it’s always a good idea to take a screenshot of the listing as it appeared at the time you made the reservations. This best-practice tactic will protect you should a significant alteration with the listing occur later (such as price or description).
  • Be cautious with pre-paid, non-refundable reservations: In their haste to get the best deal, budget-minded travelers will often book pre-paid, non-refundable reservations. The savings found with these types of deals are typically minimal, but if something goes wrong or your plans change, the financial headache can be huge. Always be cautious when booking hotel stays that you can’t alter in any way. 
  • Carefully review the confirmation: In this case, because Perry was distracted by his travels, he didn’t immediately review the Agoda confirmation. In fact, he never looked at the email closely until after his stay was complete. That was a mistake that almost cost him over 5K. Travelers should always review all details of their reservations as soon as possible. Remember, the longer it takes to discover a problem, the harder it will be to correct it. 
  • Set up a mobile alert for purchases: Most credit card companies today have a mobile app where customers can enable purchase alerts. This feature can be quite useful for international travelers who may be confused by the local conversion rate. Those alerts will show the cost in U.S. Dollars. Had Perry enabled purchase alerts for his Capital One credit card, Agoda’s mistake would have been detected immediately, which would have made the situation much easier to fix.
  • Resolve billing problems ASAP: Even if you are on the road, it’s critical to attempt to resolve any problems with your reservations as soon as possible. Perry got lucky in this situation because the executive team at Agoda agreed to take a closer look at all the details. But it is almost unheard of for a traveler to receive a confirmation for a hotel, stay at the hotel, and then successfully dispute the cost later. 
  • Keep your correspondence cordial and concise: Unfortunately, many travelers still believe that complaints with lots of details fare well when attempting to fix a billing problem with a hotel or booking agent. The fact is that the complaints that are clear, concise and cordial generate the most favorable resolutions. Those types of correspondence rise to the top of the complaint pile because they’re the easiest to quickly understand and fix. 

If you need a refresher on the best ways to fix your problem, have a look at Consumer Rescue’s guide. And if you just need a customer-facing executive to reach, you can Just Ask Meera, Consumer Rescue’s research valet. You tell her the company you’re battling and she’ll provide the contact information of someone we know can help.

If all else fails and you’re in a dispute with a hotel or booking agent, send us your help request. Consumer Rescue’s mediation services are always fast, friendly, and free of charge! (Michelle Couch-Friedman, Consumer Rescue)

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Michelle Couch-Friedman

Michelle Couch-Friedman is the founder and CEO of Consumer Rescue. She is a consumer advocate, ombudsman columnist, mediator, writer, and licensed psychotherapist. Michelle is a public speaker, and her expert guidance has been cited in MarketWatch, Consumer Reports, Travel & Leisure, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Popular Science, CNN, CNBC, Boston Globe, CBS News, National Geographic, Travel Weekly, Reader's Digest and more. You might even catch Michelle on TV reporting on a situation. :) Michelle is also the travel ombudsman columnist for The Points Guy and is the former executive director of the nonprofit Elliott Advocacy. During her six years in that position, she resolved thousands of cases for troubled travelers and other consumers. You can read hundreds of 5-star reviews Michelle earned during her service to the nonprofit since 2016 here on Great Nonprofits. She is also a member of the Society of American Travel Writers. Today, she continues to spend as much time as possible fiercely defending consumers and traveling the world with her family. Contact her at Michelle Couch-Friedman or on Linkedin, Twitter or Facebook.
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DChamp56

Wow! How did nobody else see the incredibly high change from Baht to US Dollars!
Great job as always Michelle… you are the miracle worker!

Michelle Couch-Friedman

Lol, thank you, Dave 🙂

Dan

Because no one else looked at it. When booking through a cut rate OTA you’re never going to get through to a support person who can take the time to think outside the box. All they see is the confirmation said $5886 USD and the LW was charged $5886 USD – that means there’s no billing error, case closed.

Robert Perry

Hey Michelle,

Your team is Awesome! You guys did a miraculous job for me. Thank you so much!!

What a story. It was so unusual to see my name in print like that, but you wrote it so well! I hope that my story will help others who find themselves in a similar predicament and they will know to contact your organization, “Consumer Rescue”, for help. Fantastic job! Thank you so much for believing me.

It has been six days since I accepted Agoda’s refund offer, but I have not heard back from them yet. I am confident that I will hear back but I will wait a couple more days before sending another email requesting an update on the refund’s status.

Thanks again and I will let you know how things turn out.

Warmest regards,
Robert Perry

Keep up the great work that you do…

Michelle Couch-Friedman

I’m happy to have been able to help. I’m just updating this comment since you did receive your refund yesterday late afternoon :).

Robert Perry

I received the refund yesterday afternoon. It processed overnight and the charge was reversed this morning. I am now a very happy camper now. Thanks again Michelle, you really are a miracle worker!

jsn55

Unbelievable! You’ve really outdone yourself this time, Michelle! Thank goodness you’re here for us. As artificial intelligence makes further inroads so corporations can save money, horrors like this will multiply. Travellers especially should set up alerts on the credit cards they use, since your chances of getting help from the travel provider are remote. Great job!

LiLi

Fantastic work! If travel providers can pull back obvious Fat Finger fares (and I believe they should within reason) they should also bend over backward to help consumers when a “Fat Finger” clearly causes a problem in the other direction.

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