Online booking to paradise a living hell

If planning a trip for March break isn’t frustrating enough, try finding a trip, booking it online and then having it cancelled, because your credit card company decided that it was likely fraudulent.

At 11 p.m. after three days of searching for deals, I found a reasonably priced resort and flight. I wanted to book both at once, so I was on the telephone with the resort while I typed in the flights on the website. After ironing out all of the resort details with the customer service representative, I was feeling confident that this was going to work swimmingly.

Perhaps this is where hubris or Murphy’s Law stepped in. I hit enter to process the flight transaction and received an error message that my address did not match my credit card information (yet I absolutely had the right information). I tried again, and got a different error message.

Then I had a flashback to this summer, when I was booking flights and hotels for a trip to Europe. It was also late at night when my transaction was declined. I tried both my Visa and my MasterCard and neither worked. The next day, I received calls from both saying that there may have been fraudulent activity on my cards and that they had decided to make my credit cards safer by declining my transactions. I was not amused. I had lost out on the deals, now costing me an additional $180, by the time my credit cards were unfrozen.

Now after midnight, before I hit the “buy now” button a third time, I called the Visa telephone number to pre-empt them from declining it. I was transferred to the security team. They asked me authenticating questions, which I answered waveringly, as I did not know the credit limit on my card (they keep increasing it — how would I know what it’s at?) and I was also asked what year I opened by bank account (who knows that?). Then I was told, by a shockingly patronizing representative, that I was not authenticated.

I asked him to simply give me another authenticating question, and he said that I had to go into the branch with two pieces of ID to prove who I was. I raised my voice and stated clearly that I wanted to speak to a manager, a request which he denied. Then I asked for his name, which he would not give me. Then I asked for this ID number or an interaction ID number. He said he didn’t have to give me that information. I may have cursed. He may have terminated the call.

My resort booking agent waited patiently on my house telephone line for this circus to end.

Now I moved on to my MasterCard. That card processed the booking fees for the resort, but not the room fees, probably due to the value of the transaction. I called MasterCard to ensure we did not have a repeat of the Visa, and they said they didn’t see the transaction come through. Then they said that their security team didn’t open until 8 a.m. I calmly thanked him, dumbfounded that this was not a 24-hour operation, and hung up. Luckily after trying one more time, the transactions did go through.

In the end, at 2 a.m., I had the flights and resort booked. Sadly, by then, my original flight deal had taken off and I was charged an additional $125 to book.

When the security team called my house the following day, I explained that I completely understood that it is in my best interest to have them hold potentially fraudulent credit card transactions, but that I was seriously inconvenienced. Especially after the same experience this summer, I was also super frustrated. I wasn’t able to charge my travel on the card that provides me certain travel benefits and points, and I missed out on the best deal because of an overzealous credit card chaperone. I asked Visa how to prevent this in the future and they had no answers.

Be warned the Ides of March … and any day you book travel online.

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