A Series Of Unfortunate Events #2: Credit Card Required At Check-In

Filed Under: SriLankan

I was thrilled to read the news that Steph has joined the OMAAT family this week. Her guest post on her stressful experience at China Eastern check-in was my favourite guest blog post. I kept imagining myself in that situation — it’s like an escape room –- you have to solve an equation before check-in closes in order to be able to leave!

In honour of Steph joining I thought I would share my most stressful check-in experience.

Happy New Year

A few years ago I went to Bangkok for New Years Eve with my cousin. On the evening of New Years Day, we were due to fly out to Colombo on Sri Lankan Airlines. We had had a pretty late night the night before ‘ringing in the new year,’ so were not feeling 100% and were looking forward to catching up on some sleep on the 3.5 hour flight.

We took a taxi to Suvarnabhumi Airport and found the Sri Lankan check-in desk around two hours before the flight departed. I had booked the flight online six months earlier, as a revenue ticket on Sri Lankan’s own website, and had the PNR ready to go. We hadn’t checked-in online as we had luggage to check-in.

The check-in agent efficiently went through the check-in process, had tagged our bags and was just about to print our boarding passes when she said:

‘I just need to see the credit card you used to book the flights with’

The only problem with that was that a Bangkok ATM had swallowed it up the day before.

Sri Lankan had notified of this requirement when I booked the ticket six months earlier, but I knew that I would be packing that credit card anyway. In the excitement of the new years celebrations I hadn’t put two and two together that the swallowed card would equal check-in problems.

I had called my credit card provider (GE Money in Australia) immediately after it had happened to cancel the card, and they were sending a replacement card to my house when I returned back to Australia.

I explained this to the check-in agent. She called over a supervisor to explain the situation. The supervisor said she would need to verify the credit card number. I explained I did not have the number (and could not recall it from memory).

The clock was ticking and so began my problem.

Sri Lankan had notified me of this requirement when I booked the ticket

45 minutes to go

By now it was about 45 minutes until check-in closed. The supervisor explained that she could not check my in without my correctly informing her of the number, and that if I wasn’t able to locate it in the next 45 minutes she could transfer me to tomorrow’s flight, but I would have the same problem then.

So how do you find an old credit card number at 8pm on New Years Day in Bangkok?

Credit card providers specifically tell you not to write down the number anywhere.

First of all I checked my online account (using my username, which was not a series of numbers). The account did not show the card number.

I then checked some monthly statements sent to me by email, but the number was starred out with asterisks (*****). I even found the welcome email when the card was first approved years earlier, but this did not have the number.

Even Google auto-complete for forms *** out the number.

40 minutes to go

I then called GE Money over Skype, spent forever verifying my identity because of course I couldn’t give them the card number, and tried to explain the situation to the phone agent as quickly as possible in my paniced, rushed voice.

Eventually he understood and when I asked him to please give me the card number (noting it was already cancelled!), he said:

‘Sir, we would never give the card number out to you over the phone’

25 minutes to go

I recalled I had some paper statements in a filing cabinet back home so then Skyped my partner, who was fortunately home at that exact moment (and also feeling a little slow after the previous night’s festivities).

He quickly started yanking out files and statements, eventually found the GE paper statements and of course said:

‘the card number is starred out’

15 minutes to go

I’d tried to remain as calm as possible but at this point I started to panic. I like to think I’m a good problem solver but had run out of ideas to solve this problem.

My cousin had remained calm the whole time but even he became worried when I started saying ‘I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to solve this problem.’

I had organised all the flights for the trip (he is now hooked on earning and redeeming points!), so I felt it was my responsibility to solve this problem.

And I couldn’t.

The closer we got to the check-in deadline, the more stressed I became.

10 minutes to go

The check-in agent and supervisor were very friendly and understanding, but would not budge on this requirement for me to tell them the number. All of the remaining passengers had now checked in, and I could tell the staff were eager to close check-in and go and commence boarding for the flight.

5 minutes to go

Okay, time to think outside the box.

I could vaguely remember some of the numbers from the card (I thought) so started writing down combinations on the piece of paper the s supervisor had given me 40 minutes earlier. You know those movies where someone is dismantling some explosive device as it ticks down to zero? That’s what it felt like.

I somehow managed to correctly guess the first eight of the sixteen numbers.

I then had a thought.

When I paid the bill each month there was a reference number used. I knew that it wasn’t a 16 digit number but guessed that it might be related to the card number. I also remembered that this number was saved in my banking app. So I quickly loaded up the app, and found an eight digit reference number that was different to the first eight digits I had provided.

I wrote this down next to the first eight I had guessed and passed the 16 digit number over to the supervisor.

She checked it against her records, looked up at me, smiled, and gave me a thumbs up. With about 2 minutes before check-in closed she printed our boarding passes and we thanked them, apologised and raced to the gate.

Bottom line

I know the requirement to present the credit card used for payment is unique to some airlines, and some origins. Airlines will usually notify you of this on your itinerary if you are required to present the card at check-in.

I know you are not supposed to record your credit card details anywhere but if you are going to need to present it at check-in for a flight, make sure you can remember the number in case something happens to the card!

I hope you all don’t think I’m some hopeless, naive traveller — 99% of the time my travel goes completely smoothly but that doesn’t make for very amusing stories.

Anyway, welcome Steph!

What was your most stressful check-in experience?

  1. This happened to me when I flew Sri Lankan from Colombo to Singapore in February. I had my credit card, they asked to see it, and I was good to go. It was actually the first time I’ve ever had this happen. Some airlines such as Bangkok Airways say to have the credit card but I’ve never been asked. Sri Lankan was the first that asked me for it at check in.

  2. I keep a photocopy of my cards, passport etc. on a secure fileshare. Not the most safe thing ever but not any less safe than using my card on a day to day basis imo.

  3. James – Nice post and glad it worked out. Unless I’m missing something obvious it seems to be a silly requirement. Heck I’d be lucky if I hadn’t canceled the card lol.

  4. I take a picture of the front and back of every card in my wallet before any big international trips just in case. Just 2 pictures. You line them up next to each other on one side and then you flip them over. 2 minutes of work to save a lot of headaches.

  5. I have never understood why people obey card companies when they say never to write down the card number. The companies are serving their own interests, not yours, when they seduce us all into security concerns. If my card number is used for any purpose by someone other than myself, that is the card issuers problem, not my problem.

    I keep photos of the front and back of every card in my Google Drive and I don’t care what security security security security issues anyone has with that.

    My scariest check in was also in BKK, checking in for cathaypacific in j on an award ticket funded with American aadvantage miles. The American agent had written down the card number wrong, because we all know that the only way to book an award ticket is verbally over the phone. The trip was never ticketed and nobody ever told me. Nobody phoned because I was out of the country. Nobody emailed me because security security security security. So I’m at the check-in and the nice woman says yes I see your reservation but it is not ticketed, I cannot issue a boarding pass. Phone American at their Thailand number and I’m told to photograph a valid credit card front and back and send the photos to an email address that does not end in american.com. without the slightest hesitation and without the slightest concern for security security security I followed the instructions and my trip was ticketed. I caught my flight but it was a tense 45 minutes between pressing send and when the check-in agent confirmed that all was now good.

    The opposite of security is convenience.

  6. Good story, but why on earth do they need the credit card number to check you in? How does that help them fly you to your destination.

    This could happen, the card could get lost, compromised, stolen, forgotten. It just seems to do no good to have it.

  7. It would be extremely useful to list the airlines with this requirement. Also worth making a note of whether they accept a signed photocopy of the card (say if you book the ticket for someone else). Please do make this list as I don’t think anyone has done so as yet. I think ANA had this requirement when we flew with them from BOM to NRT, but I am not certain and this was a few years ago.

  8. I’m not sure this is a Sri Lankan Airlines requirement as much as a Thailand one. Every single time I’ve checked in at a Thai airport, irrespective of the airline I’m flying, I’m asked to produce a credit card.

    Six years ago, I flew Thai Airways from BKK to Chiang Mai. I purchased the ticket six months previously, and during the ensuing gap, my credit card expired and I was sent a new one. Thai Airways flat-out refused to check me in because my new card number didn’t match the one that was used to purchase the ticket. I was sent to their ticket counter, where after much arguing and phone calls to supervisors, they agreed to void the ticket and sell me a new one (at the same cost) that I could use my NEW credit card to purchase same-day. It was a huge amount of unplanned stress.

  9. BKK is notorious for this, probably reflecting the level of CC fraud . They will INVARIABLY want to see the card, even if it has expired since the booking was made. The Sri Lankan staff were accommodating to the extent they didn’t insist on the physical card. It is a salutary lesson.
    Most places will say they’ll need to sight the card, in Thailand they really mean it.

  10. Safari and Chrome do allow you to see the complete numbers of saved credit cards, you just have to enter your local user password. At least that’s on Macs. It has saved me plenty of times.

  11. Excellent reason to use a secure password manager (1Password is my preference) to store all of your credit card info securely on your phone. Can just store the card data or include photos of the front and back.

  12. Looks like an indian movie hard to believe.
    First airlines require the card,the hard plastic card .
    Second who on earth can remember the 8 first card number and if someone managed to memorise the 8 he will do the 16th.
    Bollywood at its best

  13. If you are flying out of Taiwan and booked flights on EVA/China Airlines/Cathay Pacific official websites, you will need to present the PHYSICAL credit card which you paid for the ticket due to frequent fraudulent.

  14. The credit card number shouldn’t be a big secret. Part of the number ids the bank. Then there is a pattern numbers have to match otherwise systems know it is fake.

    The bigger security issue is the number combined with exp date, zip code and the security code. So taking a photo of the number isnt a big deal although I’d avoid including the security code.

  15. I had a very similar experience many years ago with United Airlines. I worked for a Software Company at the time, with an in house travel agent, who booked flights using a corporate credit card in the name of my employer. This was nearly 20 years ago when airlines offered lower fares booking via the internet. I could prove my employer, but didn’t have the actual credit card. After a lot of complaining and interaction of a supervisor, they allowed me to board, for the reason, “your an elite flyer, we don’t need to see your credit card”. Go figure?

  16. GREAT story James (is your last name Bond?) and thanks for the shoutout! I’ve been really enjoying your posts (and fortunately haven’t been victim to this problem yet, although I’ve had my fair share of others…)

    One quick thing that I would add: the credit card requirement is REALLY important to note if your flight is being booked by a client/employer/third party travel agency, and could completely bamboozle you if you’re not careful. I haven’t personally been hit, but my husband has had to make these last-second phone calls before. At JFK, no less. (All the more reason to justify booking any business flights on your own card!)

    Anyway, nice last-second problem solving. Keep ’em coming!

  17. I agree with Rob M regarding using a password manager to store credit care numbers. I use Dashlane, which synchronizes across all of my devices. You can store all credit card info including the full number, three or four digit code, and expiration date and access it all with a single master password.

  18. Bravo!

    I have my most often used credit card number memorized but then I just changed to another card, which I don’t have memorized. Oh! To make matters worse, I stopped using the old main card and now have two new main cards, one for airline use and one for other uses. Oh no!

  19. At CDG trying to checkin for our Delta return flight to the US nearly 20 years ago. With me were my French wife and two small daughters. We had visited my in-laws for Christmas and an ice storm the day before had made our 4-hour drive to the airport take over 6. So we were already stressed. The first problem occurred when the agent discovered that the passport for our 5 year old had expired (the agent in Atlanta hadn’t caught it). A supervisor said she could check in, but then my wife discovered that her green card was missing. After long discussions and waiting, I was required to buy her a 1-way return ticket in case she was denied entry to the US.

    Of course immigration in Atlanta took an hour to get through, and we discovered her green card still at home where she’d left it. And the refundable ticket showed a small profit from currency fluctuations.

  20. So what happens when your credit card is replaced due to fraud (not even at your request) …and they tell you to destroy the old one? I guess you shouldn’t. I am also surprised that would take the number and not the physical credit card? How does that help security?

  21. All this could be solved by using a password manager such as 1password (which doesn’t upload your encryption key online, nor does the company know your encryption key, so it’s much more secure than something like Google Drive).

  22. I have all my credit cards info, passport info, health insurance info and etc in a file folder in case things go sour. Someone in my family have access to my file folder. Its sealed and its only to be open in case of emergency. One phone call, and the person I can trust can break that seal and give me the info I need.

  23. I can’t believe these airlines require you to produce this card number or you can’t fly.

    I also find it surprising that unlike all other credit card companies Chase prints out the complete credit card number on every statement. What’s sitting in your mailbox?

  24. I have a list of credit card numbers and the contact phone numbers in an email I send to myself with a made up subject line completely unrelated to that topic. I suppose there’s a remote chance something could go wrong if I lost my phone, but I’ve felt it a prudent enough way to have access to the details wherever I go.

  25. @james when you book using a card it’s encrypted therefore the staff would not be able to see the numbers and to comply with PCI requirements
    So for example the card used was
    1234567890. In the booking system it will show was 1AXBTH7890. Therefore providing the 1st digit and last 4 sd sufficient. Also they cd ID you by asking other security questions such as the email phone and passport details

  26. I had a somewhat related issue with not having the credit card with me when I needed to cancel a BA Avio booking online.

    2 years ago when we were on a long trip that started with US to EU then EU to Aussie, Aussie to Asia and then back to US, at Sydney we decided to cancel the portion of BKK-HKG booked with BA Avios and just flew our originally booked SYD-BKK-HKG on TG booked with UA miles. Both were in J.
    Well, when I went on BA site to attempt canceling the booking (would forfeit the taxes paid), the site required the credit card number used to make the booking. I did not bring the BA card with us as we did not foresee any need to use it. Could not call BAEC offices anywhere in the world due to time differences as well as they dont work 24/7 and closed on Weekends!
    Called Chase and only be told the credit card number could not be given over the phone despite I correctly gave her the last 4 digits and the first 4 digits of the card. iPad could NOT open Chase statement online. Agent was well aware it, told me “You needed to find a computer instead of using the mobile app as it would not work.” Yeah right. At 10:30pm where did I find a computer?
    Thankfully we were staying at Park Hyatt and the wonderful Robi, the Concierge staff was with us all the time (he used the hotel phone to call Chase for us and we put the conversation on the speaker phone). He opened the business center for us once he heard Chase rep told me to find a computer… Once we were in front of the Mac at the business center, we were able to open up the statement pdf file and found the damn card number. Then we hopped on BA site to cancel the tickets. All were done within 10 min. We could not thank Robi enough for his professionalism in helping his guests. We also could not help to think HOW STUPID CHASE MOBILE APP WAS – virtually useless when you needed to access your account info the most.
    As soon as we returned to US we promptly went to our branch and requested to have both the personal and business online accounts combined – because business account online, even as of now, almost 2.5 years later, remains to be on the No Frill, Clean and Efficient display with all vital info shown on the first screen versus the worthless Personal account online that would default to Mobile App as long as you access it with a phone or a tablet. Business account online remains on the desktop form and is much much much more efficient in my opinion.

    Oh, DB, the German national railway requires foreigners to use a credit card to set up account online in order to purchase tickets – you do not need to use that card to make purchase, but on the train you would be asked to present THAT card to the conductor, the first time you were checked. It was not needed once you were verified In Person. I dont know what would happen now our card for that purpose has long gone (a CSP) next time we need to use a DB train. LOL.

  27. So they wouldn‘t have refunded the ticket amount to the original card and charge the same amount to another card that you could present at check in counter? If I‘m not mistaken that should bw the standard operating procedure. It is not completely uncommon to lose a card or have it stolen, so the rebooking to next day would never wook as even a reissued card would then have a new card number. Really wish you had found the real solution for this issue that others may face too (rather than somehow put together the number in last minute).

  28. As others asked I’d be curious to know what you are supposed to do if your card gets lost or stolen between the booking and the travel date. I am actually traveling in a few days and paid for those tickets months ago, but had to replace my credit card because it was hacked.

  29. This is not a big deal, and a frequent occurence with Sri Lankan, and not all that dramatic.’

    They will ask you to buy a new ticket, and then refund the original card as soon as you fly.

    Its also very clear when you fly with them that they can ask for the credit card at chekin

  30. Why not just look at the pdf of the statement? All my cards have the full number on the statement. You can access the pdf when logging in and looking at past statements.

  31. If you issue a supplementary card for a family member, chances are the first 10-12 digits of the credit card number will be the same. So asking your family member for their card number and swapping the last few digits with the parts not asterisked out could have solved the problem

  32. I’ve also been on flights with this requirement and, having also had cards eaten/stolen, I’ve created a system for myself where I store all my credit card numbers in an encrypted file on a cloud drive. Of course, because I’m anal retentive, all the numbers are alpha coded so that you’d need a decoder I keep on a different cloud service (with totally different log-in credentials) to turn the letters back into numbers.

    I’ve never needed it, but it gives me peace of mind.

  33. @fll
    The policy for the online tickets of DB (German railway) was changed recently: now you only need a photo ID for authentication, it is not possible to use a credit card for authentication anymore.

  34. Qatar also requires checking of the credit card at check-in. At least, so they say. I can’t remember whether they’d actually done so on my previous trips with them.

    This was going to be an issue for me on a trip to WDH earlier this year, as in the months between booking, I’d lost and gotten the credit card in question reissued with a different number. I didn’t remember this until a few weeks in advance. Qatar does have an alternative method of sending in a copy of your credit card statement, which I usually consider ridiculous and an unnecessary invasion of my policy, but was my only recourse in this situation.

    It’s an annoying and frankly unnecessary practice.

  35. @Ulf

    SNCF (French Rail) also requires the payment card when withdrawing passes for tickets booked online. Really annoying when you’re in a hurry to catch your train and can’t remember which card you used.

  36. I fly in and out of BKK every 2 weeks And have for years with sometimes some crazy mixes of itineraries. But most usually with SQ or Thai. I have NEVER had to produce a credit card.
    I have Flown Bangkok Airways several
    Times & I have also booked my friends gf to or from Cambodia on Bangkok Airways with my own credit card and also his, without either travelling to the the airport with her, she once missed a flight and they rebooked her on the next without hassle,
    I have definitely seen warnings/mentions from both Bangkok Airways and Sri lankan Airlines about showing your credit card upon check in and have definitely heard about this from others first hand, and from these forums/blogs, but haven’t run into this problem before personally.
    I genuinely wonder why?

  37. There’s something I’m not getting. While I can somewhat understand the idea of having to show a physical card to prevent fraud (even though embossing machines are available), how does providing the complete credit card number makes anything more secure?

    Assuming you have used a stolen credit card number to buy your ticket, being able to give it again at check-in surely couldn’t be hard…

  38. If you have a laptop with Chrome on it, you can get your full credit card number from the autofill section by going into settings, opening up the advanced tab followed by the autofill settings. Click on the 3 dots and edit on the card you want to get your number from and you can see the full number there.

  39. I keep scans of all my IDs, health insurance information, membership cards, and credit cards in the cloud for access in an emergency.

    Certainly not the smartest idea to have it sitting in one place, but I use two factor authentication and accept the risk. No more risky than Equifax having your information I guess.

    Cards are easy to get replaced if compromised.

  40. @ Mo

    I have three credit card numbers with expiration date and security code memorized. It happens. Is a real thing.

  41. Was in Phnom Penh and woke up in the morning needing to get out of Cambodia and into Bangkok (don’t ask). No internet service. Called the airport, yes, they had a flight leaving in 90 minutes, “…but you won’t make it.”

    Wanna bet?

    My partner was just waking up, fully on board with need to get out now. We packed and dressed in 5 minutes flat. Front desk says they need 15 minutes to process a credit card, we toss cash at them and run out the door.

    Grab a cab and tell the cab driver we need the airport, and step on it. Driver says we won’t make the flight, which is now 75 minutes away. We say GO GO GO!

    Arrive at the airport with 25 minutes to spare. We take our things to the check-in, yes, there’s space available, but so close to departure you have to pay cash (what IS it with cash in Cambodia?) Of course we just spent all our cash so my partner books it to the nearest ATM (back through airport security and outside of the airport) and then hustles right back.

    Slap down the cash and the check-in agent escorts us personally through more security, out onto the tarmac and we climb stairs onto the flight. We were still finding our seats when the door closed and the Angkor Air plane started its engines (turbo-prop).

    We landed in Bangkok about 3 hours after we woke up without tickets. Escape from Cambodia indeed.

  42. I ran into the same “show me the card” requirement when I tried to board the train to Machu Picchu. The actual Visa card I had used to purchase my ticket was buried in my backpack, so I pulled out another Visa card and hoped the low-level functionary I was facing wouldn’t notice. He did.

    After a minute or two of rummaging around I found the correct Visa card and all was OK.

  43. I’m confused…how does sharing your most stressful check-in experience honour Steph joining?

  44. Just telling this @Miles..is not the Real Myles! Or are these silly ones missing me so much?? Really bxxxh you cannot find another name! I do not share! OMAAT should be aware, do you think you can handle two, LOL??

  45. I store all of my credit cards in Last Pass. It’s intent is to fill in the numbers for you when you’re online shopping, but it will allow you to access the full number if you need it. I’ve found it helpful on multiple occasions.

  46. I just book on the local Expedia site (your sign-in details transfer between local sites). It is usually the same price (sometimes less) and I never have the credit card at check-in drama.

  47. I’m sure writing my story is part of my catharsis and healing!

    I was on an around the world ticket for meetings in 4 countries (Australia, China, Singapore, India) on behalf of one of my customers… and in true OMAAT style, I’d added in 1-2 day stopovers in other countries (Japan, Cambodia & Sri Lanka) on the way then planned to meet my wife in Spain for a family vacation before heading back to the US, as the itinerary enabled that. Our company used Amex Travel and I also needed to get visas for India and China.

    While the ticketing was, to say the least, an ‘experience’, I’ll get into that later. First, my visa experience. The first issue was that my customer had forgotten to send in my applications forms, so I was left about 2 weeks to get them. Anyone who has applied for Chinese or Indian business visas will know that 2 weeks is a huge challenge! China came through for me effortlessly in the first week, leaving me 5 days to get the India visa. India was farcical and demonstrated that their visa processing is simply a money making exercise.

    Here’s why. I needed a multi-trip India business visa issued in 5 days and it was going to cost me ~$500 (for reasons I won’t go into). On Monday, I first had to go the embassy and get a letter authorizing the expedited visa. I submitted it successfully the same day through the third party India outsources the process to. The third party advised me I would get the visa Thurs or Fri, most likely Friday. My flight left Friday evening at 8pm!

    Not one to sit back and wait, I started calling first thing Thursday through Friday, only to be told it hadn’t arrived but to come in Friday afternoon. I turned up at 4pm, the time everyone had to arrive who was expecting a visa that day. The visa office shut at 5.30pm.

    Starting around 4.30pm, everyone’s passports were being returned from the embassy… and by 4.45pm, I was the last one left. Then they broke the news to me – come back on Monday!

    With at least a dozen flights over 3 weeks, multiple customer meetings and so on, that simply wasn’t an option! I asked to speak with the supervisor and was told they’d be back soon.

    Time continued to pass by. By 5.10pm I’m getting very nervous… and then suddenly the supervisor turns up. I explain the issue and they search through their records and find out my passport was NEVER sent to the embassy!!! Trying to remain calm, I push hard for a solution. At 5.20pm, they agree to take my passport to the embassy and see what could be done.

    5.30pm came and went. I’m sure by now I looked like a nervous wreck. At 5.45pm, the individual returned. I must have looked panicked, as he immediately smiled and waved my passport at me. There inside was the approved visa!!!

    I was hugely grateful… though later reflected on the whole exercise. I had paid $500 for someone to literally stick a piece of paper in my passport and stamp it, an exercise that likely was 5 minutes at most!

    In all the fun of getting the India visa, in the final few days of that same week, I had started having serious ticketing issues. As mentioned, our company used Amex Travel. I’d booked (or thought I had booked) the ticket about 21 days prior to departure… but come the Weds before departure when I was looking to change a seat on one of the flights, Amex Travel informs me that the ticket hadn’t been issued, as their international travel desk had never returned with confirmed pricing.

    From finding out on Weds through Friday, I must have spoken with Amex Travel at least 15 times, with each call getting progressively more panicked. I had multiple people tell me they would drive resolution, with each dropping the ball between calls, promises of returned calls never happening, and a complete refusal from Amex Travel to let me speak with the international travel desk directly (I began to wonder if they actually existed!)

    Around Friday lunchtime, likely compounded by my India visa problem, I started (reasonably in my view) to get really annoyed. I was promised by the ‘manager’ (who had been trying to push my ticket through since Thursday afternoon) that she would call me back by 2pm. 2pm came and went. I called at 2.15pm to be told that she was in a meeting that would be finished at 3.30pm. I essentially told the individual I was speaking with (who was very pleasant, so I felt very sorry for her to be in the middle of this), that I frankly didn’t care what meeting she was in, that she had to interrupt it, and let the manager know I was on the phone, and that if I didn’t get a call back in 15 minutes, I’d ensure… ummm… well actually nothing, as I didn’t have any other options!

    On the upside, I got my back back!!! However, there was no news on the ticket. I was promised another call no later than 4.30pm. So, while standing in a state of panic in the India visa office and watching everyone else start to get their visas, I found myself also at the same time talking with the manager at Amex Travel, who basically told me to catch my first flight at 8pm (a domestic hop to LAX) and by then the onward ticket to Australia and beyond ‘should’ (!!!!) be issued. Gulp!

    With my passport and visas in hand, I take the first flight to LAX and I’m standing at the Qantas gate an hour before my flight (the last of the two that day) departs with no onward tickets. I’m on the phone with Amex Travel again, with an agent who literally starts over on my whole itinerary, as there is NOTHING he can do on the one originally booked! 13 international and 1 domestic flight to book in 30 minutes!

    Just like James, the clock is truly ticking! I must have gone through all the stages of grief – anger, despair, acceptance etc. – multiple times over the following 30 minutes (the cutoff for boarding was 30 minutes before departure time). How I was going to miss the start of my customer meetings and the impact this would have on their success, whether I would have to cancel … and if I did, how was I going to resolve meeting my wife in Madrid and, if I couldn’t solve that, then having to cancel their trip… and so many other things!!!

    The clock was ticking down. Other passengers were boarding… which I think is a worse feeling than being at the ticket counter as, at least when you’re at the ticket counter, you aren’t literally seeing your plane and everyone else successfully getting on your flight!

    At 15 minutes before the doors closed, I’m telling the Amex Travel agent every 5 minutes how much time I’ve left, as if that would help make it quicker (which of course it wouldn’t). 10 minutes to go. I head to the agents desk and explain the situation. She tells me that I have to be done in 10 minutes (as if I was unaware!!!)

    5 minutes to go. I’m now seriously nervous. At 4 mins, I’m informed by the agent he’s nearly done!!! I start to feel relief, but I’m not going to get too excited just in case! At 2.5 minutes, he tells me he’s processing the ticket and….

    finally…. at 1.5 minutes it’s DONE!!!!!

    At that point, with the flight and visa issues, I felt like I’d already been on a huge journey and I’d barely left. I’m not sure I walked, more like floated with happiness, onto that Qantas flight!!!

  48. A flight from BKK to Colombo can’t be that expensive. Why not just buy another ticket at the desk (using another card) and then deal with the refund after the fact? Given the circumstances, presumably Sri Lankan could have been convinced to refund the original ticket.

  49. @ Storm – I’m not confident UL would have refunded the ticket – it was a cheap Y fare booked six months in advance.

  50. @ Nick – Steph’s winning guest post was about her stressful check-in experience with China Eastern.

  51. @ Anderson24 – you’ve never encountered an airline policy before that didn’t make complete sense? ; P

  52. I would recommend to download Dashlane. It’s a password manager and you can also add your credit card numbers, passport info etc. It is unlocked by a master password. With that I can access all my credit card info, membership numbers and ids quickly.

  53. Moral of the story – never withdraw ATM cash with a credit card – never book a flight on a debit card – both for multiple reasons.

  54. What I do not understand is that by the six month mark, if not a couple of months earlier, the chance of fraud would be negligible. By that point the charge would have gone through and the time to dispute a payment would have passed, so it is extremely unlikely fraud could have taken place. In addition a passport is being shown which will usually match the name on the approved charge unless a third party paid.

  55. Not sure how it is with credit card issuers in Australia, but if you look at a PDF of your statement, the machine-readable digits contain your credit card number. AMEX starts with 3; VISA starts with 4, MC starts with 5.

  56. Checking in at PHL headed to BZE with my wife and 9 year old daughter. We had her passport, but didn’t know we needed her Birth Cerificate upon arrival. They let us board without it, with the understanding we could be sent back.
    In Belize City, we hung back at Immigrations, scanning the Inspectors for the most disinterested looking. Went through with big confident looking smiles, and were through in seconds.

  57. It was a bigger issue a couple years ago, airlines seem to be less stringent nowadays. Flew SIA on a short leg and wasnt even using my own card to pay, no one batted an eye.

  58. Have seen this requirement for event tickets (particularly when picking up from Will call) but never an airline. Reason #105 that I fly exclusively on first world legacy carriers when I have a choice.

  59. In chrome, you can view settings and all your auto complete cards are there, I think you can read the full number?

  60. A few (but not all) Indian airlines also require credit card information during check-in if a non-Indian card was used.

  61. Classic BKK airline protocol. I expeienced a similar experience when I lived in BKK and flew back to the States regularily. I would purchase tickets up to a year in advance on line.

    Then, I went through a period when my CC was hacked numerous times. Turns out when I was back in the States a restaurant I frequented had a wait staff who double swiped CC and sold the numbers on the Dark Web.

    Fortunately, I remembered that at BKK, regardless of airline, the check in agent always requested the original CC. When my CC was hacked I called Thai to explain my situation. Yep, sure enough my ticket to Singapore, purchased six months earlier, and already paid for, would not be honored without that original CC (which had been hacked and subsequently canceled). I had to go to the Thai Airlines main office to have the original ticket canceled and purchase a new ticket with the new CC. Doing that I was able to retain my original seat assignment.

    This situation occurred to me numerous times until I stopped frequenting the restaurant in the States where my CC was being stolen.

    I experienced the “show me the purchasing CC” throughout Asia over the years.

    Bottom line, if your airline ticket purchasing CC is hacked, stolen, etc. and you are flying in Asia DON’T WAIT TILL YOU ARRIVE AT THE AIRPORT TO DEAL WITH THE SITUATION!

    One of the travel lessons not often written about….

  62. Korean Air has this as well. It’s incredibly stupid, in my opinion, because if you book from Korean’s website, you have to show your CC at check in. If you book from an OTA, you do not. We bought tickets 11 months ahead of time and someone stole my wallet so I no longer had that credit card with that number. We had to get chase to write a letter to us stating that this was my account and it was valid. So silly – I will be booking my future flights with Korean via an OTA.

  63. You were luck actually. I was flying along with my family – a total of 11 passengers in Business class form Bangkok to Shanghai on Thai airways. My card was stolen 2 days earlier and I had a police report mentioning the card details as well. In spite of this document, the Thai staff refused to check me as they needed the physical card!!! I was made to purchase 11 new business class tickets and they refunded the existing ones on the spot! I did get the money but the rationale behind this stupidity just fails to impress me.

  64. WHY WHY WHY WHY????????????

    You (bloggers who squeezing every last penny from airlines/card companies) of all people use a CREDIT CARD at an ATM. Unless I’m missing something here, CREDIT CARD + ATM = CASH ADVANCE = EXORBITANT FEES.

    Or the other possible scenario, use a DEBIT CARD to buy AIR TICKETS. Need I say more!!!!!!!!

    Just wondering. Either way, it does undermine @James credibility a bit.

  65. @james s

    “they agreed to void the ticket and sell me a new one (at the same cost) that I could use my NEW credit card to purchase same-day.”

    How do they handle a credit (reversal of the original purchase) to the old credit card number which has now been cancelled for a significant time? Is is automatically linked to the new number?

  66. I lived in China for 9 years, and traveled at least 4 times a year. China is a cash society, and we paid cash for all tickets at the travel agency that booked the flights. How would BKK handle that? Is the requirement to show a credit card across the board, or only if the ticket was purchased on a credit card?

  67. I agreee with Kyall and have also flown Sri Lankan. The anal retentive stuff some of your readers go through is astounding. If flying an airline that claims to require presenting the cc at check in, just use a card you carry. Simple and safe! There are only three or at most four cards I’d use and I don’t cancel them or use them at ATMs.
    Lost, expired or stolen? In that remote possibilty coinciding with a flight at issue there must be a better solution than your experience and the vast majority of the comments.

  68. For the Aussies … if you pay your card by bpay the reference number will usually be your card number

  69. @ John – I was using a credit card that does not charge any fees for FX purchases or cash withdrawal.

  70. When I lived in Singapore, this seemed to be a fairly common requirement at check-in at Changi regardless of airline. I always wondered how it would play out if I had booked and paid for a ticket on a card but then had cancelled that card. This was a real possibility as I tend to book multiple trips up to 10 months in advance and there was a period when I had switched from the AMEX platinum to a local bank’s Visa Infinite (I couldn’t justify the SGD1,750 annual amex platinum fee any longer). I don’t recall this being a thing when I lived in London and can’t think of being asked in North America either.

  71. I had a similar situation with Korean Air last June. I booked a return ticket in January of 2017 to fly from Vladivostok to Atlanta via Incheon for a weekend for my sister’s wedding. So, I booked the ticket (the one and only time in five years of living in Vladivostok that Korean Air was cheaper than Aeroflot). I booked directly from Korean Air’s website and was aware that I needed to confirm the card at check-in. In April, my card was hacked so I cancelled it and got a new one sent to my US address. My mom shipped it to me, so I assumed no problem. Well, that Friday morning in June begins a tale. I arrived 2 hours before the flight, went to the check-in desk with Russian Korean Air employees who spoke not a lick of English (luckily I am functional in Russian). They asked for the card. I gave them the new one and explained the original one had been cancelled, but it’s on the same account. They wanted to know the number. I showed them the cancelled one, which I had kept in my wallet. The old card had my middle initial, but the new one just had my first and last name, as I requested. Well, Russians are very particular about names, as in Russia the middle (patronymic) name is very important, unlike the general insignificance of middle names in America. The agent insisted that I wasn’t the cardholder because the name was slightly different on both the old and new card. I think she was just trying to be anti-American, based on her attitude. She noted the name on my passport and reservation was not exactly as in the card info. That is the only time I have ever lost my cool on an airline employee, and told her she was an incompetent fool. I should not have done that, I’ll admit. Very unusual for me, but I was afraid that some stupid thing would cause me to miss my sister’s wedding, so I was stressed. Anyway, I walked to the offices section of VVO airport to the small Korean Air office, and demanded to see a supervisor, who actually spoke English. After several minutes of waiting while she made phone calls, she escorted me to the check-in area and authorized my boarding pass to be printed without so much as an explanation or an apology. (I did apologize to the agent for losing my cool, though she didn’t really deserve an apology). As an unrelated example of names being important in Russia, my mom once sent me a large package for Christmas, addressed to me in my first and last name, as is usual in the US. I got a notice in the mail that my package had arrived (8 weeks after she sent it. Legendary Russian Post service.) I went to the post office listed, presented the notice and passport, only to be told I can’t have it because the name on the package was not exactly as the name in my passport, meaning that my passport had my middle name included, whereas the package had only my first and last. I never did get that package, though I am quite sure that I am the only Jesse T. living in Vladivostok;)

  72. @John,
    If your debit card is skimmed your own money vanishes from your account and you have to convince the bank to give it back. Bad. So, never use your debit card in a foreign ATM.

    If your credit card is skimmed overseas, the card issuer has to persuade you to pay the bill, with all the fraudulent charges on it. You don’t pay. They sort it out, because it’s their problem, not yours. So, always use a credit card when you need cash overseas.

    But, credit card cash avdances attract interest charges! No they don’t, if the balance is overpaiud and the bank owes you. You withdraw part of your overpayment and there’s no interest, only a withdrawal charge, for Canadians CAD$5.00. I do about two a week when I’m in Asia, so $10/week. I’m satisfied with that and I’ve yet to hear a suggestion that’ll be as sensible and cost less.

  73. If you are a passenger that a friend or someone else has paid for you -OR- if you are the person paying on someone else’s behalf, I suggest you check with the airline. This is a very common practice in Asia and Africa even for one’s own ticket to require copies of the card, an authorization form, etc to prevent fraud.

  74. I think it depends on which airline you are flying and your airline FF status. I remember I lost my credit card a few days before flying on Singapore Airlines so I was worried that I may be denied boarding at check-in for my departure and return flights. I don’t have the credit card number with me and still went ahead to check-in as the agent never asked to see my credit card. FYI, I was a SQ PPS Club member.

  75. @James
    “I’m not confident UL would have refunded the ticket – it was a cheap Y fare booked six months in advance.”

    That’s why it’s wise to pay for an airline ticket with an AmEx charge card as they always favor the cardmember when there’s a dispute charge by issuing a chargeback even if the merchant refused to give a refund. You may be black-listed by the airline from flying with them ever again but you can always choose other airlines to fly.

  76. This is a mandatory rule that is followed in many countries (i.e. India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Singapore, to name a few) for security. The point is to ensure that a ticket has not been purchased by fraud and that there is some communication/relation between the payee and the traveler. In fact an actual credit card is not even needed as long as a signed copy of the front and back of the card is provided.

  77. @DenB
    I was told otherwise about negative balance stuff but never tried.
    I believe you and would give it a try. But just to recap
    If I have -$500 balance I go to ATM and take out $300 I will pay ZERO interest and few dollars in fees?
    Now here is my concern, what about if afterwards I charge $1000 to my card before statement closing, hence a $800 balance. Now, will I get the charged interests? Or I can charge $5000 as long as I maintain a negative balance (i.e.pay $6000) before statement closing date and have ZERO interests?

    I never really explored this as my banker told be I will still get hit with interests if I have a balance from credit purchases even if I still maintain a overall negative balance.

    I do have my work around when travelling. I have a specific travel debit card that reimburse ATM fee. I just fund that account from my main account as much I need on the trip, hence limiting my exposure. It has less than $1 right now.

  78. God! This happened to me with some airlines in asia wanting to verify you really own the credit card. I left the card in the US. I have this habit of taking pictures of my cards and passports and storing them in the cloud. That I pulled from the cloud and they were okay with just a picture of it.

  79. Google does star out the numbers on autocomplete… HOWEVER! The catch is that if you remember the verification number and use it to fill out certain forms (like Amazon’s add credit card form) it’ll pop up in full unstarred.

  80. It can be a way for the company to try discarding people from boarding, as flights are very commonly overbooked. Just keep a photo(copy) just in case.

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