When buying plane tickets online using a credit card, keep in mind that some airlines will ask to see said credit card before checking-in at the airport. If you fail to show the card, boarding will be denied.
When booking online you are likely to be told at some point: it may be during the booking process, or it may be written on the confirmation e-mail that you receive after booking (make sure to read the small print).
If you want to be sure, go to the Terms and Conditions page of the airline you're flying. Press Ctrl-F and search for "Card", to read their policy regarding this matter.
When booking you may be asked if the person paying is also flying. If someone else booked and paid for your flight you may get away with it by showing a copy of the credit card (both sides) used to buy the tickets, along with a copy of an ID and a note from the owner acknowledging the purchase. If you buy the tickets for someone else, you may want to provide those documents for them.
It's a good idea to have a copy (both sides) of your credit card with you. If your credit card expired, you may want to keep it and bring it with you at the airport.
As a general rule of thumb, using a virtual credit card is not recommended. Your boarding will be denied if the airline requires you to show the physical credit card (which doesn't exist) used to book the flight (unless their terms and conditions explicitly mention virtual credit cards, which is very rare).
If for some reason you think you may not be able -or will not be able- to show the original credit card used to purchase your tickets, you should contact the airlines as soon as possible before the flight. They will be able to tell you if the credit card will be needed or not, and what to do in your particular situation (lost credit card, someone else booked for you...) You can also do this preventively and contact the airlines before booking, or book through a travel agency instead.
These are some of the airlines that can require the credit card used to buy tickets when checking-in. They either mention it explicitly in their Terms and Conditions or are known for refusing passengers who can't provide the credit card when checking-in.
Air France's General conditions of sale say:
The credit card used to pay for the booking must be personal to one of the passengers and the credit cardholder must be over 18.
It has been reported that British Airways can require your credit card when checking-in, but their website does not say much about the topic. This page briefly mentions:
All you need is your booking reference or form of identification (e.g. credit/debit card, Executive Club card or passport).
China Airlines has a very detailed Notice for Credit Card Payment page that says:
Passengers who paid for travel for themselves and travel companions (passengers in the same booking) with their own credit card, can process the verification at the airport check-in counter by presenting the credit card that was originally used for the corresponding purchase. China Airlines reserves the rights for the passengers to sign the indemnity of payment forms upon check-in. (If the name on the credit card is different from the name in the booking record, the credit card verification should be processed according to number 2.)
If the credit card holder is not part of the travel party, he or she must process the verification in one of following ways:
(1) Visit a China Airlines city office at least 72 hours before first CI/AE flight departure during business hours. All necessary documents (please see B, Required Documents) must be prepared beforehand including the credit card used for the purchase. This credit card holder must sign an “Indemnity of Payment” in front of a China Airlines staff.
(2) Process the verification at the airport during the check-in period for the first CI/AE flight on the itinerary. All necessary documents (please see B, Required Documents) must be prepared beforehand including the credit card used for the purchase. This credit card holder must sign an “Indemnity of Payment” in front of a China Airlines airport staff. (In view of the time limit during airport check-in, and because check-in may be handled by contracted airlines that may not be familiar with such practices, may we suggest that you contact China Airlines in advance to make sure someone is available to help at the airport.)
Delta's website does not mention it directly, but there have been multiple reports of a confirmation email that requires you to have your credit card with you at the airport to board the flight.
Egypt Air FAQ page says:
Can someone else purchase and pay for my ticket on line?
No, as the credit card holder must be one of the travelers in each online booking considering that if the customer failed to present the card used for purchasing the ticket(s) during check-in time, EgyptAir has the right to deny passenger boarding.
Emirates' Online booking payment options says:
In some countries, for security reasons, the holder of the credit card used to book a ticket or group of tickets must be one of the travellers on that itinerary, and will be required to show the credit card at the airport check-in counter prior to receiving boarding passes.
Since this does not apply to all countries, they also have a dedicated page about paying for someone else's ticket.
Can I make a booking online with my credit card if I am not travelling myself?
This will depend on the country of departure. In some countries, for security reasons, the holder of the credit card used to book a ticket or group of tickets must be one of the travellers on that itinerary or have the same family name. In some cases, you may be required to present the credit card used to pay for the tickets at the airport check-in counter prior to receiving your boarding pass.
On the Enter billing information page where the credit card details are entered, if the "Cardholder last name" can be typed in, you will be able to pay for the booking even if you are not travelling and do not hold the same family name as one of the travellers. If the "Cardholder last name" appears in a drop-down menu and cannot be changed from those of the travellers, you will unfortunately not be able to pay for the booking unless you are travelling or have the same family name.
As an alternative, you could select a different payment option where available, such as bank transfer, PayPal or simply to book online and make the payment at a local Emirates office. The options available will depend on the country of departure and how much time remains prior to your flight.
Please note that the fare quoted is only valid for payment in the country of departure. Due to ticketing regulations, a different fare may apply if you wish to pay for the tickets at an Emirates office in another country, or in some cases you may not be able to pay outside the country specified at the time of booking. After three days, the booking would be cancelled automatically if tickets have not been collected and paid for. Please contact your local Emirates office to confirm.
Emirates Skywards members may make a redemption booking for friends and family, and pay for the applicable taxes online with their own credit cards.
EasyJet does not require you to have the credit card when checking-in, however they might ask for information about the credit card holder. Here's what their Terms and Conditions say about the topic:
We reserve the right to cancel your flight or Bookings connected to you, deny you boarding or take other action to protect us and our systems, with or without prior notice to you, if:
EVA Air's Information for Reservation page clearly states:
You are required to present the credit card used to purchase the ticket during check-in at the airport. For identification at the check-in counter, you must use a credit card with the card number and name stamped into it. You are required to input your first name and last name exactly as displayed on the credit card. Passengers who fail to do so will be denied boarding unless they purchase a full-fare ticket at the airport ticket counter.
However, they seem to have a procedure for "non credit card holders", which is explained on this page:
If you used a credit card to purchase a ticket online for another passenger and you will not be traveling with that passenger, then you must complete our credit card verification procedure. If you cannot meet the requirements of our verification procedure, then you may have to buy another ticket.
Iberia's Purchase General Conditions say:
In order to correctly verify the identity of the card holder, the card used for payment must be presented at check-in on the day of travel. You will only be required to show the payment card once, at the beginning of your journey (not on the return or transit Avios.) NOT complying with this rule may mean that you are NOT ADMITTED on the flight, and you may only be admitted by the purchase of a new ticket at that time.
The IndiGo has a Travel Documents page that staes:
Do I need to carry a copy of my credit/ debit card or the original copy on the date of travel?
Yes, passengers should carry their card at the time of check-in for verification purpose. In case, they have used someone else’s card to book ticket than we recommend our passengers to carry the copy of the credit/ debit card. Alternatively, in the absence of original card or card copy passenger may carry the statement of the card reflecting the transaction done for said IndiGo reservations.
Passengers may be denied boarding in case the card verification process is not complete.
Customers who have used cards issued out of Indian Boundaries must carry the card or a photo copy of the card at the time of Check-in. Customers who have used such cards for making a Booking may receive a verification call. If the transaction remains unverified, the amount will be refunded and an email notification will be sent to make the payment towards such Booking through the prescribed alternate modes within the stipulated time, failing which the reservation may be cancelled. We strongly recommend that the Customers check the status of their Booking on the Website before travel.
The Korean Air website has a document that says:
The cardholder will be required to present the original credit/debit card used for purchase, along with valid photo identification, as well as sign the ‘Credit/Debit Card Verification Form’ at the time of check-in.
They seem to have a procedure to verify credit cards prior to the flight:
Prior to boarding the initial departing flight or on the date of boarding, the credit card holder is required to visit a Korean Air Branch office located in the city or at the airport with a photo ID and the credit card used to purchase the ticket in order to verify the credit card payment. Failure to carry out this procedure will result in the cancellation of your purchased ticket. It will be processed for a refund and you must purchase a new ticket. Confirmation of credit card payment is included in the e-Ticket ITR and sent to passengers required to undergo the credit card payment verification procedure.
Lufthansa's General Terms & Conditions say:
In the case of an Electronic Ticket, you shall not be entitled to be carried on a flight unless you provide positive identification and a valid Electronic Ticket has been duly issued in your name. A flight booking in the electronic reservation system of Deutsche Lufthansa AG is only made a) on request of the passenger by billing his card number (LH Customer Card, Credit Card) and b) by presenting his card at check-in.
This Qatar Airways FAQ page says:
What happens if I cannot present the credit card upon check-in?
If your booking requires a payment verification and the credit card or debit card used for the booking is not presented for verification at the airport at the time of check-in, passengers may not be allowed to check in and you will be asked to purchase a new ticket using a different credit/debit card. You may apply for a refund of the original ticket.
Ryanair's General terms & conditions consider suspicious not being able to show the credit card used to book the tickets:
We withhold the right to cancel your booking without prior notice if we reasonably suspect that you or the cardholder are associated with any kind of fraudulent activity in respect of any flights operated by any airline of the Ryanair Group (Ryanair DAC, Buzz, Ryanair UK, Laudamotion and Malta Air). Such suspicion may be based on the following activities: [...] You cannot present the card used to make the booking at the airport, if asked to do so.
Royal Jordania has an Online Booking & Payment Information page that states:
Check-in Without the Credit Card Used to Pay Online:
If your credit card has expired since payment was made, you have a new credit card, or you do not have the original credit card used for payment, you will not be able to use the check-in kiosks or check-in desks. In this instance, please go to the ticket desk, where an agent will be able to validate your booking for check- in according to procedure.
Singapore Airlines has different policies depending on the country. The website isn't very clear but this page (which seems to be for Germany) states:
If you book a flight for a passenger who isn’t travelling with you, you may need to meet certain requirements before that passenger will be allowed to board. If you made the booking with a debit or credit card that is not registered under the “Verified by Visa” or “MasterCard SecureCode Programme”, you will need to be present at the airport check-in counter for verification.
Thai Airways' Terms and Conditions say:
Thai Airways reserves the right to request for the physical credit card to be presented at Thai Airways ticketing office or during check in at the airport for your transaction which is flagged out by our tool. If such a requirement is needed, you will be given the option to collect by another card or payment method when credit card verification fails.
Turkish Airlines answer this question on one of their FAQ pages:
Is it a problem if I am unable to present the same credit card at a sales office that I used to purchase my award ticket online?
If you did not receive an alert asking you to present the credit card to a Sales Office while paying the VAT online and your ticket sale was approved by 3D Secure, then you will not be requested to present the card at a later date. However, if you received an alert during the payment process, the card owner must present the credit card and a valid piece of ID at one of our sales offices or the check-in desk.
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