Just Because You Have A Ticket Doesn’t Mean Delta Will Let You Check In

It used to be common for airlines to insist on seeing the credit card used to purchase a ticket, to combat fraud. That’s one reason that online travel agencies used to be useful. When booking for someone else I wanted Expedia or Orbitz to do the ticketing. Then this wouldn’t be an issue.

Delta has been a stickler with this long after peers mostly stopped, especially for trips originating in countries they view as ‘high fraud’. For last minute award tickets they’ve imposed in-person ticketing and even forbid last minute award booking from some countries.

Last minute tickets are more likely to be fraudulent. But last minute tickets are also likely to be business travelers, or people on urgent business like attending a funeral.

A reader emailed me from the airport. He booked a last minute ticket on Delta using eCredits. Check-in was inhibited, so he had to visit the ticket counter. There they insisted on seeing the credit card used for purchase. But no credit card was used for purchase. Because he paid with Delta’s own currency, eCredits.

Normally that should be easily solved, but Delta agents couldn’t get anyone at their help desk to answer and override this. I’ve written that telephone hold times for Delta’s diamond elites have been as much as 41 hours. It’s not shocking their internal staff can’t get help right away either.

Eventually two things happened,

  • They told him if he didn’t pay for the ticket with a credit card then he needed to show the card saved in his account (not the card used to purchase the ticket, since there was one). That doesn’t seem right, and he didn’t have it with him in any case.

  • They exchanged his ticket for a new ticket purchased on the spot for $220 more. They wouldn’t let him check in with the ticket he’d purchased earlier, but could verify a credit card he physically had with him and wouldn’t honor the old price.

A weather delay meant that he made the flight, and now he’s out $220, all because Delta insisted on seeing the credit card used to purchase a ticket that wasn’t purchased with a credit card.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Based on my experience – on delta.com you are -required- to enter a credit card (or use a saved one) even if the 100% of the ticket is paid using ecredits.

  2. eCredits, issued as refunds, are tied to the original credit card. I ran into this recently when I paid partially with eCredits, and the remainder on a different card; I called-in to re-price the next day, and the Delta system insisted on refunding the price difference to the credit card associated with the eCredits. Eventually the agent was able to power through–and I don’t fault her personally that it took a bit over 45 min, given the mess.

    (I’ve been getting pretty consistent hold times of 45 minutes on the platinum line, for reference; sometimes without any hold music (yay!), but other times less annoying interruptions than I remember in the past; so I’ve been able to get stuff done while waiting–nothing time sensitive so far).

  3. Gary Leff is correct when he writes, “Last-minute tickets are more likely to be fraudulent.” First, Delta Airlines fraudulently used a clever anti-consumer scheme to make Delta Airlines e-credits worthless and collected $220 more for travel for this last-minute ticket. Next, Delta Airlines disabled eCheck-in to compel the passenger to see an agent. Finally, Delta added a $220 surcharge using the flimsy excuse that no one answered at the Delta Airlines help desk to help the Delta agent help their passenger.

    For truth in advertising, I think Delta should update their corporate slogan, from “Delta, We’re Ready When You Are!” to “Delta, We’re Ready When You Are providing you will pay us more for your flight!” Also, the Delta brand promise “to connect people all over the world to each other” should be changed to “Connecting people all over the world as long as they are willing to pay us more than our advertised price to travel.”

  4. I agree with skippy. Whenever I used my Delta ecredits I still had to input a credit card even though it was for $0.

  5. Have you contacted Delta about this? Maybe you get better results contacting their PR contacts as opposed to passengers having to go through the front line!

  6. Yet another reason to keep everything, print out everything, put it all in your carryon. Who knows what kind of insanity you’ll encounter when you travel? Delta will refund but it will take a concerted effort of polite emails, Delta has good customer service but ‘they’re short-staffed and swamped’. I think everyone is getting very tired of this excuse to torture the customers. It can’t be much fun to work for an airline these days.

  7. I had a very similar incident happen to me nearly twenty years ago. My employer at that time had an inhouse travel person who booked tickets with a corporate credit card.
    I would reserve the flight, get a record locator number and have the company employee pay for the flight, and issue the e ticket.
    When checking in for the flight at the United kiosk they insisted on see the credit card used to buy the ticket. Explaining the situation, presenting my employment ID, was to no avail.
    Eventually a supervisor was called his response, “Oh, he is a United premier member we do not have to see the credit card used to purchase the ticket”. Go figure!

  8. Thats why I have photos on my phone of all my cards, just on the off chance I lose them and have to call to cancel or for non-sense like this where it is required. Same thing with covid vaccine card, take a photo of it because if you lose it, not sure how you get a replacement.

  9. Is Tim Dunn off duty this weekend? I was soooooooo (h/t Rudi) looking forward to another of his verbose deflection posts pointing out how horrible every airline is except DL…

  10. asking for any type of personal ID is racist. credit cards are racist because of the racism in credit reporting. POC do not have access to credit like white people due to the built in racism that white people installed in every system of this country for the past 400 years

  11. @Gary – thank you for this blog post. I have an upcoming Delta reservation that I booked with miles and used an Amex card for the $5.60 fee that I don’t normally carry. I will make sure to have it in my wallet in case they need to see it. Never in a million years would that have occurred to me that I would have to have it on me.

  12. Mojo: give it a rest. Anyone anywhere can get a credit card these days. Asking for ID is racist because??? Duh, they’re looking right at you and can pretty much figure out what color you are. Stick to real issues of racism – these stupid whines are not helping your cause.

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