Warning: Delta May Want to See The Credit Card Used For Your Flight

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Daraius:  Emily booked a trip to the Dominican Republic using my Delta miles to celebrate her birthday with her friend Kristen.  But they almost didn’t board their flights because Delta insisted on seeing the original credit card (my card) used for the award flight!

Delta Check In ID

We Almost Didn’t Make it Here!

Emily:  For my birthday, I planned a trip to the Dominican Republic for me and my friend Kristen.  I booked the flights using Daraius’ Delta miles and his credit card.  This was the first time I booked an award flight (Daraius said that I had to learn!)

The Delta website had lots of errors, but I finally managed to book our flights.  I flew from Austin and my friend Kristen was flying from Washington, DC.  We were meeting in Atlanta and connecting to the same flight to Santo Domingo.

But the agent at the check-in desk wanted to see the original card which I had used for the booking.  Kristen was asked for the original card at Washington DC as well!

Obviously Delta has a flawed policy because two people can’t check into different flights at different airports with the same physical credit card in their hand.

Daraius:  I was at home and got a call from Kristen telling me that the agent wasn’t letting her check-in unless she showed the same credit card which was used  to make the booking.

I spoke with the agent and explained that the reservation used miles from MY account and MY credit card, so it wasn’t as if someone got access to my Delta account and then booked a flight with their credit card.  But the agent was having none of that and gruffly told me to call Delta to fix the issue.

Kristen had only ~30 mins before the check-in time cut-off, so I called Delta and hoped that the issue would be resolved.

I wanted the agent to fix the issue as quickly as possible, so I appealed to her emotionally rather than logically.  I started off the call by jokingly (ok, not really a joke!) mentioning that she was the only one who could save my marriage because my wife and her best friend may not be able to make her 30th birthday celebration!  I also tweeted DeltaAssist to save my marriage, but was ignored!

Delta Check In ID

We Never Thought We’d Get on the Flights!

The agent giggled and I explained what happened.  Instead of mentioning that this was a stupid policy (how can 2 people in different airports show the same credit card), I said that I was happy to show her the credit card, but that there were only 30 minutes before boarding and could she do anything to help?

The agent said that showing credit cards was to prevent fraud and was in place for travel to certain countries.  She also said that a warning message should have shown up with the requirement to show the credit card at the airport while making the award booking.

Instead of arguing with her that this was a silly policy, I said that this was Emily’s first award booking and it is possible that she overlooked the message.  But the agent insisted that the card used to pay the taxes and fees had to be shown at the check-in counter & that she couldn’t do anything about that.

I casually mentioned that Emily and Kristen both had credit cards of their own and asked if she could change the reservation so that Emily and Kristen would pay the taxes and fees at the airport.  The agent put me on hold and said that she could do this.

Emily:  The Delta agent said that she would let me check-in if I showed her a picture of the card, so I called Daraius and asked him to take a picture of the card and text it to me.

But Daraius wasn’t answering his phone!

Daraius:  I was on the phone with Delta trying to fix Kristen’s ticket and I didn’t want to risk dropping the Delta agent by answering Emily’s call.  But she kept calling back and I realized that she must have the same problem.  So I asked the agent to fix Emily’s ticket after she fixed Kristen’s ticket.

Emily also texted me and asked for a picture of the card.

Emily:  A few minutes later, I got a text from Daraius with the picture, but the other Delta agent had “opened” my ticket in the system, and agent at the airport couldn’t check me in!  So we waited.  And waited.  And waited some more.

By this time, almost an hour had gone by waiting, and the ticketing agent & I were concerned that I’d miss my flight.  Tired of waiting for the other Delta agent, she reinstated my original ticket and used the text of the credit card photo to issue the boarding pass.  So, after an hour, I finally got my boarding pass!

Kristen ended up paying for the taxes and fees with her credit card at the airport after Daraius called to change the credit card used for the flight.

A Boarding Pass Never Looked So Good!

A Boarding Pass Never Looked So Good!

Bottom Line

Delta appears to require folks to show the credit card used to make an award booking – especially if the account holder is not traveling – more frequently than other airlines.  Here’s an article by Jason Steele which explains that this is more frequent for travel to countries in Africa, Latin America, and Asia.

Delta sometimes requires you to show the same credit card even for a regular ticket!  Here’s another post by View From the Wing about an employee who wasn’t able to board her Delta flight because she didn’t have the credit card which her boss used to pay for the ticket.

I understand that Delta wants to reduce fraud, but this policy is a bit silly.

What if you redeem your Delta miles for a family member or friend who stays in a different country?  Are you supposed to mail your credit card overseas?  A better solution could be to email or fax in a copy of your credit card before check-in to Delta for verification.  Or perhaps call or text you with a potential fraud alert (just like banks do) and have you verify the transaction and confirm that you used your miles and credit card for a flight.  Waiting to verify the credit card at the airport is silly.

Delta should also do a better job informing customers that they have to bring their credit card to the airport for certain flights.  They should also include a reminder to bring the credit card on the booking confirmation and on the email reminders about your flight, especially a few days before departure.

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60 responses to “Warning: Delta May Want to See The Credit Card Used For Your Flight

  1. Interesting, I’ve noticed that many foreign carriers have this same policy. I know TACA used to. However, I think only once have I ever been asked to show my credit card – I’d always assumed it would be something that would be easy to talk your way out of…

  2. i keep hearing nothing but trouble from delta. i really hope you and all the other bloggers with social media clout to embarrass the heck out of the person at delta who thought of this retarded idea.

  3. I have had this happen a couple of times as well with Delta (with Caribbean countries). The easiest solution if you are booking a flight for someone else at a different airport is to to go to any Delta counter (for instance, if you friend is checking in at CDG and you are in MCI, go to MCI) and give them the confirmation number and show them your credit card. They will note the reservation that the credit card is confirmed and you will not have that issue. I have done this a couple of times and it worked without a problem.

  4. @Charlie. That’s a great idea, if you are near another airport. Our closest airport is 90 miles away, so that solution is just not possible.
    This is the craziest think I have ever heard. What is Delta thinking??!!

  5. This is actually good to be aware of even for people such as myself who book my own travel. I once had a similar situation (Turkey & Turkish Airlines, I think) and it was only luck that I had the actual card I had used with me. I’m pretty sure I could have convinced them that I was me with other cards and passport, but nonetheless it was a PITA.

    Booking a long way in advance it’s tempting to use the card on which you’re trying to complete minimum spend. Since then I’m pretty religious about only using one of two cards for booking flights – two cards that I always have with me when I travel.

  6. What if you closed that account and no longer have the card physically available? This policy is stupid. Especially when they have all the time in the world to verify this info prior to the flight, but wait for the exact moment before you board to ask about it.

  7. How’d you ever manage to get a frequent-flyer ticket on Delta?

  8. I would avoid Delta. I was trapped in Cancun due to Hurricane Wilma with 5 small children. All flights were canceled out of Cancun. I changed my return home (after 5 days in a shelter) to leave from Mexico City, with a supervisor on the phone at Delta. I paid my own tickets to Mexico City, spent the night and got to the airport around 6am to check in. At check in, I was told, they see my new reservation but I cannot get on the flight because they don’t know if my ticket was paid for. This was Aeromexico, Deltas partner. They told me that Delta doesn’t open until 10am so they can’t confirm until that time and I would miss my flight. I had sick kids and was urgent to get home. I speak Spanish fluently and despite arguing like crazy with any supervisor I could they would not let me on. I had to spend thousands of dollars and purchase 7 new tickets and run to the gate like a madwoman with all the kids. Luckily, I disputed the charges with American Express and won when I got home. Delta and Aeromexico are not worth flying if they could do this to me with sick kids coming out of hurricane. I have never dealt with more disgusting people.

  9. Very useful information, thanks for sharing.

    • @Charlie – Too bad Delta doesn’t tell you that this is an option before your flight!

      @rob – Good point about using just 1 or 2 cards to make travel bookings so that you always have those cards.

      @Daniel – I haven’t heard of similar issues with United and American Airlines. But if Delta wants to see the actual credit card, they should ask for it before you’re at the airport trying to check in!

      @DAVID KOSKOFF – Very funny! We booked at the medium mileage level to offload our Delta miles.

      @sara – Sorry to hear about your experience, but glad you prevailed in the end!

  10. Wow I have never run into this problem. Clearly Delta did not think through this policy!!!!! I could name about 20 situations that would make this policy impossible to work with. I’m going to make sure the person checking in has a photo copied printout of the credit card if it’s not possible for them to have the card in their possession. Thank you for pointing this out Daraius. I also like your attitude about being friendly. It never helps anything to call and start screaming.

  11. I has to stop by a ticket counter to verify card when buying a paid ticket for my sister to return to the states from Africa for my wedding. Would’ve been a hassle I weren’t flying myself around the same time.

  12. This is stupid.
    I just booked an award ticket 9 months out. I used my AMEX Biz Gold card, which I’m planning on cancelling in two months (annual fee is due).
    That card won’t exist when it’s time for me to fly (unless I bring my cancelled card with me to the airport)

  13. I agree with Daniel. Very stupid policy and hello, what happens if you’ve closed the account?! I guess I’m going to have to call Delta and discuss because this will likely be my scenario in January. I’m flying to Costa Rica on an award ticket, but planned to cancel my Delta Am Ex in December.

  14. Actually it happens all the time in Asia on usual (not award) flights – lots of community boards have tons of discussions around this. They actually deny people boarding pretty often – no excuses / explanations accepted.
    What I find the funniest is that at they same time they do not automatically refund the ticket price to the card. WTF? So if it was really a fraud, how a legitimate cardholder can benefit from, let’s say, a thief being denied boarding the plane if he is not refunded right away? 🙂

    It happened to me with Delta as well when I bought tickets on delta.com flying from Russia to the US, but DL website warned me several times (while I was buying ticket and while I was checking in online) that I would have to present my credit card to the ticketing agent at the airport counter. Agree, sometimes policies are completely silly and the worst thing is that you usually can’t do anything about that at all… (except for not choosing a specific carrier if you know that upfront, but this might not be an option as well)

  15. I book tickets for relatives in a different country all the times. What I do is write a letter certifying that it’s my card and I authorized the purchase along with photocopy of the credit card (both sides) and my passport. I then email this letter to the travelers so they can bring with them if asked.

  16. Surprisingly, this has not happened to me before, even though I book award tickets on Delta often. I’m especially surprised that they would need to see your card if it’s a co-branded card. Glad it all worked out. Delta does have a tendency to make everything more complicated than it needs to be!

  17. This article is a perfect example of why Delta is not a priority to many travelers. I chose to burn our delta miles with Macy’s gift cards.(30k miles for $200) My wife is happy and I don’t have to get upset with them telling me there are no rewards flights available.

  18. American Airlines has this policy for tickets bought outside the US due to stolen credit card use, which is frequent.

    The HUGE difference is that they inform you multiple times, the agent mentions this and finally when you book your ticket, it is the first paragraph in BOLD in your email confirmation. But award travel is exempt.

    Yesterday, I booked a ticket via mexico AA customer service and when I got email confirmation of itinerary, the first paragraph:

    So, the policy is standard for airline, just the DELTA implements it in a terrible way (just like everything else)

    Please note that in the case of routes that originate in Mexico, Latin America or the Caribbean, you may request the cardholder to present the credit card used for this purchase upon check-in at the airport and also may be asked sign the voucher, in acquiescence to the passenger to make the trip.

    In the event that the cardholder is unable to arrive at the airport, he or she may come before the travel date, to sign the voucher at any of our Ticketing Offices or Offices of Airports in Latin America, Mexico or the Caribbean.

    This requirement does not apply to the following types of Tickets: Miles awards AAdvantage ® program and tickets purchased using a credit card of Argentina, Bermuda, Chile, Haiti, Mexico, Uruguay or Paraguay.

  19. Are there alternate ways to pay to avoid this problem? Paypal, pay from checking account, etc? This will be a pain to track which cc you used to pay for a far out ticket, or for a friend/family, or if you used a gift card, etc. Can someone confirm that a “picture” of the card satisfies Delta? If so, that’s a work around to send a pic to friends/family that they can keep on their smartphone.

  20. three years ago when I booked award tickets using United points for my parents, I got a warning message asking me to go to the airport to show my credit card at the UA counter to verify the information. I did go and the agents explained that it was a new policy or so to prevent fraud. Thankfully, I never need to do it later. And I have to say, this policy is not “silly”, but purely stupid.

  21. I don’t like this policy either, but it’s not surprising to me at all. This is standard policy with car rental companies (i.e. National, Alamo, Enterprise) where if you prepay, you must show the original credit card used, and you cannot pay for another individuals reservation.

  22. I just booked British Air for me and my wife using each or our avios. I paid the fees for her ticket with my card, and got the warning to bring the card to the airport.

    I remember an incident with United to Central America where I actually paid again for the tix using the credit card I had with me and got the refund for the original purchase from the credit card company later

  23. It’s been interesting reading about all the various experiences with Delta. I used to expect them to ask to see my card (because of the free checked bags), but have never been asked. Maybe that’s about to change. I visit relatives often — just US travel–and have never had a problem getting an award ticket. Love flying for just $10.

  24. There’s a lot of uninformed commentary here.

    Airlines don’t implement this kind of policy simply to make things difficult for people, they do so because they have experienced problems with fraud. Ask yourself, how would you feel if someone used your credit card number to purchase a flight, took the flight, and the airline refused to refund the cost?

    Because the goal is to guard against fraud, it’s no good to do the verification over the phone or even off a grainy fax — the person using the stolen credit card information could easily place the call or mock-up a photocopy. That’s why the airline wants to ensure that the person actually travelling really does have the actual credit card or at least to verify, in person, that the actual card holder authorizes the charge.

    Of course, they should inform you about this. It sounds from the comments asi if most airlines do a good job of that. It was, as pointed out, Emily’s first award booking so it’s possible that she really did miss the notification. None the less, I think airline should probably step their attempts to notify you (including at the 24 hour point using whatever mechanism you’ve chosen for flight delay notifications).

    Also, it does lead to very unusual situations in which it’s impossible to meet the criteria (two people traveling different fraud-flagged itineraries simultaneously using the same card). I’m not sure how they would deal with this (other than having the card holder visit a Delta booking desk at another airport) but one thing that might help is having their computers determine whether there will be conflicting demands for credit-card presentation and taking extra steps to resolve those conflicts in advance.

  25. Is it possible to happen if you print your boarding pass at home?

  26. Happened to me when booking a ticket for a friend going to AK! I used an American Express gift card, which of course I no longer had as who would have thought! They refused him boarding and put the credit back on the now non existent gift card so I was out the $300+ for that ticket and then 40k miles for the eventual one way ticket used.
    No more Delta flying for us!

  27. Will this be an issue if you book revenue tickets through Expedia, Orbitz etc or through a travel agency such s the Citi Thank You Portal?

  28. I too would think that printing ticket at home should avoid this?

    Delta really helps its status members much better that regular travelers. Did Emily’s Delta FF (Non status?) membership help her at all?

  29. I don’t want to waste time on discussing whether it’s good or bad policy; I just want to know the best way to handle this situation since this is the first I’ve ever heard of this happening; I’m strictly a United guy who generously books domestic award tickets for friends and family and now I’m very nervous about dealing with this scenario.

    I would like to ask for suggestions for solid options. Assuming both when I have time to prepare and when I’m not able to prepare in advance for this scenario when I book an award ticket, since it’s never happened to me in the my life (knock on wood). I know I can show up at the airport.. Can I:

    A. Text a picture of the credit card to my passenger to show the airline ticket/gate agent?
    B. Tell my passenger to always print his/her boarding pass before arriving at the airport (don’t understand how that help)s?
    Does that bypass airline Ticket Counter/Baggage Check-In & Gate Agents?
    C. Give them the actual credit card I actually used to book the fees?
    D. If they call me with this problem, tell them to use their card and I will reimburse them? (don’t like this option)
    E. Can you ever fax a copy of the credit card to the ticket counter?

    Please help. Thanks.

    P.S. NEVER book any type of airline reservation ticket and/or fees using a prepaid card of any type; it just poses to many potential problems and doesn’t give you any type of protection or recourse should a problem arise. I speak from experience unfortunately.

  30. Is Kristen single? I live in DC :o)

  31. Happened to us on American. We had a new AA card ready for any airport fees but they wanted old closed card used 11 months prior to reserve. (Obviously all old card bills had been paid long ago before closing). Awkward solution, they were helpful , cancelled everything and put it on new AA card but a more nasty agent could have wrecked a long awited trip to Mexico- close call. We also had to wait 4 months to finally get repaid for refund on a closed account!

  32. Next thing you know, they’ll want me to send them a copy of my mugshot from terrorist weekly…

  33. Sorry, not funny today.

  34. similar has happened to me with Japan Airlines and this was on a revenue ticket for myself that I purchased more than 2 months in advance of my trip. By the time I was ready to fly, I had already paid off the charge and forgot about it. Thank goodness I still had the card in my wallet because I they weren’t going to let me check in without it showing it.

  35. Wohoo! looks like a fun trip. Hopefully there would be a trip report coming out soon.
    I have been booking Singapore Airlines tickets for my parents and they always require me to fax in a copy of my ID if I am not on the flight. They do provide adequate warning during booking and on the flight confirmation, however.

  36. Seems like an insane policy!

  37. So much for minimizing the number of credit cards you carry when traveling abroad. I’ll be using my Skymiles AMEX (due to the pay with miles option) for my flights to and from Europe next spring, but frankly I’d never use that card there so I would have kept it at home. Thanks for bringing this to your readers’ attention.

  38. This is probably another of the reasons that recently Delta was voted as one of the 10 most hated businesses in the U.S.

  39. If you book revenue tickets through OTAs like Expedia, Orbitz etc.- then you do not have to worry about this kind of issue.The payment is made directly to them and airline does not bother you since they have got payment from the OTAs.

    • @nycman – If you’re booking a cash ticket, you can avoid these issues by booking through a 3rd party site like Expedia etc. For an award trip with Delta, you may be better off with the actual card.

      @LarryInNYC – Delta implements this policy in a customer unfriendly way (compared, to say, American Airlines) by not giving you reminders of the need to bring your card. If someone has stolen a physical card, they could also bring it to the airport. There are many other ways to verify potential fraudulent charges. Most banks (with much more at risk) will call you and ask you to verify a transaction if they suspect fraud. Delta could do something similar as well.

      @Tatyana – You should be fine if you can check-in and get a boarding pass. But usually you can’t check in online if you need to show the card at the airport.

      @Cyclops – Usually not because the travel agent is responsible for paying Delta.

      @E – None of us have Delta status, but the agents at Austin and on the phone were very nice in getting it fixed.

      @Billy D – It really depends on the airline policy, but if you have a printed boarding pass you can go straight to the gate, unless you’re checking bags.

  40. I got an award ticket for my sister in law from CDG-IST using UA miles. UA had warnings when I booked about the need to see the original credit card when she checked in. Since I was in the US, this would present a problem. When I called UA, they offered the option of my presenting the CC @ any ticket counter in the world, and they would then annotate her PNR. The next time I flew, I went to a UA counter and did just that. This was a fairly close in booking, so I did not have a lot of leeway here. Had I not been traveling, it would have required that I drive to the airport ~45 mins. each way, pay to park, and go into a ticket counter; not ideal at all.

  41. This is but one more reason why I burned up all of my almost useless Sky Pesos, with only 5K remaining, years ago. Delta is the least likely airline I would/will consider for flights.

  42. I was able to verify my credit card at airport checkin for a trip prior to the trip to be verified. Agent said he verfied and lifted the alert. I guess I will find out when I will travel. Either way I always carry the card when on dl award tickets.

  43. I had this happen to me at the worst possible time. I can’t now recall if it was Delta or American, but I was flying to the Dominican as well. I was actually just a victim of fraud the day before, and when I reported it to the card company they told me to cut up the card and they would send a new one. Without even thinking about it I cut up the card.

    At the check-in counter they asked to see the card. It literally did not exist and a new one had not yet arrived since it hadn’t even been 24 hours. Thankfully, after a very long wait for and discussion with a supervisor they ended up letting me board, but I was so stressed out. I thought I wasn’t going to make it!

    This is truly a horrible policy. The ticket had already been paid for.

  44. This isn’t something new.

    In 2006 I ran into this issue flying Delta from NYC to DC for work. My employer purchased the ticket for the Delta Shuttle and I could not board because I did not have the company credit card.

    So, after that incident I started traveling Acela Express!

  45. Delta Blows!

  46. Very simple solution – get 2+ exact copies of your card! I’ve told the credit card companies that I have more than 1 wallet, and I’d like an identical card for each one. They’ve been more than happy to comply. Hope this helps going forward!

  47. I just used AA MC for flights to Asia and they have the same policy printed on E-Ticket printout.

  48. So my husband and I just used Avios miles to book 3 tix Chicago-Dublin and paid for 2 with Visa. Week later account had to be closed due to fraudulent use. Next summer, when we go to airport, how do I avoid this? I don’t have the card anymore and the replacement has a different number.

  49. I live in DC. Is Kristen single?

  50. What an awful, illogical experience. I can understand that an airline would want to be sure of the person traveling is who they say they are. (for flight security) But if the ticket is already paid for, cash in the til, what’s the problem? (domestic or international, who paid for the ticket is not of consequence is it?)

    In the recent past, I’ve used Delta miles to fly friends and family — though just for US travel. I then used the Delta card to pay the minor security fees. No incidents – yet.

    By this policy, I simply could no longer use my miles to fly a friend or family member. (because I wouldn’t want to be passing out copies of my card.)

    Is that the intention of this truly….. puzzling policy?

  51. AA is showing the proceedure (after purchase) that if you are departing from Latin America the credit card holder has to go to an AA ticket office (anywhere) and show the credit card and ID.

  52. I’m dominican, and EVERYTIME I buy ticket on Delta.com, I MUST show the credit card at the counter, ALWAYS.

  53. Pingback: Dominican Republic Miles | Million Mile Secrets

  54. I’m due to fly out to Key West tomorrow morning from Minneapolis. I purchased my ticket on the delta.com website 2 months ago. As I’m checking in online this afternoon, I got a popup message saying I needed to present the credit card I used to book the flight. The problem is that in an effort to be financially responsible, we shredded our credit cards a couple of weeks ago. Dealing with Delta has been a nightmare. I get how they want to prevent fraud but I’m going to Florida. None of the CSRs or supervisors have been understanding. They all give the same canned response. “We can reissue your ticket when you get to the airport and then you have to repay for your tickets”. That’s all fine and dandy, but I don’t have a credit card nor $900 hanging around. It’s so absurd, I’m not wondering if it’s an excuse for you to get bumped off a flight so they can give people the seats.

    If they really cared about “fraud”, they would have a CLEAR notice when you’re booking as well as warning you about the need for a credit card when you check-in online (if you even decide to do so). Something is really sketchy. I’ve flown a ton and this has never happened before….thanks for letting me vent:) Cross your fingers I’m on a beach tomorrow.

  55. I booked a trip through my travel agent with delta.this was just less than 5 days before my flight. So at the check in, i was asked for the credit card, which i only had a copy of. So i had to repurchase the ticket at the airport.

    Buy the tickets through a third party person way more than 5 days in advance.

  56. Sri Lanka required me to show my credit card from flying from Kuwait -> Sri Lanka -> Bangkok (2 week lay over)-> Hong Hong. Never had to ever show my credit card before and luckily I had it on me especially when I have about 12 credit cards right now!

  57. I don’t think this article is accurate. My wife booked some tickets for my parents using her skymiles … they were not required to bring the original credit card. I spoke to Delta and they said that some transactions are flagged (supposedly randomly) and it will warn the customer 3x before getting the ticket that the credit card will be required. My wife’s award booking for my parents did not require this.

  58. This is still going on. I bought a ticket online from the Delta website for a friend to fly from Mexico to Maine.. This was 3 weeks in advance of his flight, and the credit card bill had been paid in full a week before his flight date. He was denied boarding, and had to buy another ticket at the airport. Now I am waiting for refund on my credit card.

    I have since scoured the small print on the confirmation email and there is no mention of this policy. I even logged into my friends Delta account and used the confirmation number to pull up his record. Still no mention of this. I was finally able to find the policy by googling “Delta + Credit Card Presentation. ”
    A ridiculous policy that causes so much ill will — but is probably a huge money-maker for this airline.. Will Never Fly or Buy Delta Again.