/ Money, Travel & Leisure

Sky’s the limit when it comes to flight card fees

Have you been caught out with charges for using your credit or debit card when booking flights? Not only is this an irritating practice, it’s a ‘rip-off’ when you consider how little it costs the airlines to process.

Like lots of people, I’ve found that I see a cheap flight and go through the booking process, only to be told at the end to pay a huge fee for using whatever card I have in my wallet.

Which? is going to make a super complaint about the amount of charges we face when trying to pay for things on our cards. I think this is a really irritating practice. But actually it’s much more than that – it’s a rip-off as the charges we’re asked to pay seem to bear no resemblance to the costs the airlines or retailers actually incur.

These charges are popping up everywhere, from buying tickets to using estate agents, cinemas and even the DVLA.

But low-cost airlines are among the worst offenders, with some charging a fee per passenger and per leg of the journey, in spite of the fact that they only have to process one transaction.

Low-cost airlines among the worst offenders

If I took my family – four of us – on a return flight with Ryanair, I’d be charged £40 to pay by card. If I flew with Flybe it would be £36 and £5.50 by Easyjet.

The cost to the airline? Around 20p to process a debit card payment and no more than 2% of the transaction value for a credit card.

Not only are the charges different between airlines, but you’re only told about them at the end of the booking process so it’s really hard to work out which airline is actually the cheapest when you’re shopping around.

Pennies – not pounds – to process

Our super complaint will highlight these problems and ask the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) to investigate. There are three main things we want, which would sort this problem out.

First we want retailers to tell us upfront if they have surcharges – and how much they are.

Second, we want fair credit card charges – the costs to the consumer should be the same as the cost to the retailer.

Finally, as the 20p cost to the retailer is so low when using a debit card, we think they should absorb the cost directly and not pass it on.

We need to show the OFT that consumers are suffering as a result, which is where you come in. You can help our campaign by pledging your support.

What’s the most you’ve paid to use your card for a flight booking? Do you agree with what we want or can you think of other ways to make card surcharges fairer?

Freddie says:
26 April 2011

I booked a holiday with Cottages4you and was told when paying the deposit that there would be a £2 surcharge for paying by credit card. I was asked if the final payment could be taken when due, from the credit card. I agreed assuming that there would be no additional surcharge. The booking confirmation dated 07 Feb showed the £2 surcharge and the outstanding balance with no extra surcharge. A second booking confirmation dated 02 March, after a change in our booking requirements, also showed only the £2 surcharge. When I checked my credit card account after the payment date I found I had been charged an additional £15.72. I complained – was told that the surcharge on credit card payments was 2%. I strongly objected and received a £15.72 “Goodwill” refund.

Paul says:
29 April 2011

I recently purchased three return tickets from Birmingham to Belfast with Flybe. I noted a Debit/Credit Charge surcharge but did not realise this would be added per person and per leg of the journey. This was a total of £27. I have since booked one return ticket costing over £2000 with BA, cost £4.50. If these airlines wish to add a transcation cost then how can it be calculated on the number of passengers and legs of the journey! In terms of payment processing there is one transaction, this is a misrepresentation and clearly as shown above some airlines are simply stretching the rules, it may not be unlawful but it is unethical. Given the savings these airlines make in terms of their costs (we book the tickets online, check in online and pay on line) it is questionable as to whether they shgould pass on the transaction cost in any case as they have stripped out all of their main costs in any case. This practice needs regulation, if banks are allowed to withdraw cheques, and increasingly we have to carry out transactions using cards what protection is their against other businesses doing the same thing? We now have the ludicrous situation where we are being charged a fee to spend our own money buying goods and services.

Susievintage says:
10 May 2011

I frequently fly to the Channel Islands with local airline Aurigny. I recently booked a return flight from Stansted to Jersey. Because of Aurigny’s peculiar timetable, my outward journey had to go via Guernsey. I was therefore charged three debit card fees of £2 each – one for each leg of the journey – even though I did not actually want to break my outward journey in Guernsey. Needless to say, despite the three charges to me, the whole fare appeared only once on my bank statement – so Aurigny processed only one payment, not three.

I contacted the airline, and received this verbose explanation:

“If you have to travel on days that we don’t have direct services our booking system will “build” connecting flights via Guernsey, this does result in double debit/credit card charges but the fares take this into account. We recognise this problem and to nullify it the “add on” for a Guernsey-Jersey sector following a Stansted to Jersey one is around £12-£20 (there are some exceptions when the interisland flights are very busy), plus the £2/£4 should you be paying by debit/credit card. These amounts are significantly lower than the cost of buying the Guernsey Jersey sector on a “stand alone” basis. I hope you will agree that we have addressed the issue of the double card charge, albeit in a way lacking elegance. We are working on a system development to overcome this problem and just apply a single card charge for the A to C via B journey, but it won’t actually change the cost, just the way it is presented. If you book sectors that are operated on the same aircraft (single flight number) only a single card charge is applied.”

It’s not my fault that they change the flight number when the plane in on the ground in Guernsey (we sit there – we don’t change planes), but apparently I have to pay for it!

Stuart Claughton says:
28 May 2011

Recently booked two return flignts( Leeds/Bradford to Barcelona) with Jet2.
Proudly promoted at £183.96 (inclusive of tax) no mention of extras.
After completing booking,was charged additional £7.10 for card fee and £6.86 booking fee and oh yes, if you would like to sit together, £11.96 to make sure.
Total £ 209.88

utscot says:
30 May 2011

My 70 year old cousin and I had just had the “royal” treatment from Ryanair….extra charges, cancelled flight and a refund well below what we paid out with no explanation and an email telling us to not reply but to send a fax with our complaint issue. I DO NOT understand why this company still continues in business. There must be a lot of unhappy customers who will not use their so called service any more….what in the world can we do as consumers to show them who is paying for their airline???? It sounds to me that there needs to be more monitoring done by a “watchdog” group which can enforce fines on companies who really do lie in their advertised prices. Yes, lie, omission of information is just as culpable as commission….

E-mail sent to Flybe today regarding card and other charges.
Good afternoon,
Was looking forward to taking the new flights from Inverness to Amsterdam only to find after I looked and started to book the price of the flight(very reasonable) all these other charges started to appear. Now I do know about budget carriers adding a baggage fee which is fair enough but when coming to the card transaction fee of £18 plus the £2 extra for that it just irks a little. It should be made absolutley clear that the flight charge is for getting on the plane only and highlight that other charges could apply for baggage, seat, insurance and card transactions, not when you are quite far into the booking process.
I know that you will come back saying that I could take a Electron card to save some of the charges but I do not want one and an ordinary debit card should suffice but no it incurrs excessive charges too. Strange that one as I don’t get charged when I use my debit card for any other transaction.
I am having serious doubts about flying now for these unreasonable fees which have been highlighted in the press with other flight carriers and hopefully the banks and even the Government will take action to stop these silly fees.
I am not adverse to paying a reasonable price but this is just profiteering on a grand scale and we are advised to pay by credit card as it has insurance with this type of card unlike debit cards.
Looking forward to your reply.


W.S.Becket says:
5 June 2011

If our MP’s and EEC suits had to pay for their own flights, this problem would be resolved in a week.

hansbfld says:
5 June 2011

Would like to share a very positive experience. Just booked tickets for a coffee concert in Oxford. The ticket office accepts credit and debit card payments and charges absolutely zero!

Tracy says:
20 June 2011

I have been stung 3 times by extra charges by paying for a holiday with my debit card 1) first deposit paid when booking extra £6 added to deposit for using my debit card 2) 2nd deposit paid and yet another surcharge on top an ectra £7 3) Yet another extra £31 surcharge on top of my remaining balnce i paid today YES A WHOPPING £31!!!!!!!!!!!! its a disgrace overall i have paid an extra £44 in surcharges just to pay money that has gone out of my own account

Reply today from e-mail sent on 5thJune.

Thank you for your email of the 5th June 2011, concerning our online booking system.

As an airline we do endeavour to operate a transparent pricing policy and for that reason we do supply passengers with a breakdown of the charges being applied to a ticket cost. As you are aware, when proceeding through the booking stages, passengers will be supplied a number of opportunities to select additional services such as pre-booking baggage, seats, travel insurance etc. These costs are not included in the ticket price and therefore are displayed separately so passengers can see what charges are being applied to the ticket cost.

Along with the additional charges applied to a ticket, Flybe also levy a charge for the use of a debit and credit card. These charges are not unique to Flybe, with other airlines charging similar fees. The charges are in place to cover the financial costs we incur from the financial industry for processing transactions and we are also requested to maintain a substantial cash reserves to cover their losses in case of claims against them, which we have to finance and is very significant in its scale.

I do apologise for your dissatisfaction felt with the charges and you may be assured that your comments have been forwarded to all those concerned for their information.

Thank you for taking the time and trouble to write to us allowing us an opportunity of response.

Yours Sincerely
Hayley Johnson

So if nothing goes wrong with my flight can I claim back the additional charges being levied to cover possible claims and losses by the airline??????????
Wonder if it would be worth trying that one with them?

This “cash reserve” thing is a smokescreen, designed to justify their unnecessary charges to customers, and for which there is no customer value. They are only REQUESTED to maintain this nepotistic fund – it is NOT MANDATED. What a con!

c cooper says:
25 August 2011

I agree totally with the complaints about low cost airlines charges for cards. It is especially galling when booking for 4 people but with 1 card transaction, to be charged 4 times; also to be charged for each flight on a return booking, though you have only made 1 payment.
I was also charged £ 32. 76 for a single booking by credit card for Centre Parcs. This was costed of 2% of the total price, but I think it is excessive.
I could not get a response for your e-mail address for Mark Hoban. is there something wrong with the address you published in September’s edition?

I’ve recently paid my annual Management Fees to a holiday company. They employ the services of the First National Trust Company (FNTC) to process their credit and debit card payments. FNTC has introduced a new admin fee of 2.5% this year for payments made using Debit Cards. (Previously this charge was only applied to credit cards payments.) For me this new charge increased my costs by just over £54! I consider this new ‘admin charge’ as blatant profiteering by FNTC. Will FNTC come under the same new legislation as airline companies and companies selling tickets for entertainment events as has recently been announced by the Government for introduction later this year?

Just been charged £95 (2.5%) credit card fee by Barrhead travel for 60th birthday Hawaii cruise holiday for my wife and I. I am not convinced Barrhead travel are charged this by credit card companies as British Airways LA flights part of package are only charged at £4.50 per booking according to their website. Isn’t there an element of illegal profiteering here? I despair!!!

reseller for voip says:
5 August 2012

Today, with all the fast life style that everyone is having, credit cards get this amazing demand throughout the market. Persons from every area of life are using credit card and people who aren’t using the credit card have prepared to apply for one. Thanks for giving your ideas on credit cards.

Be says:
1 March 2013

Just had to swallow hard and pay £120 charge to onthebeach for 2.95% credit card payment on a holiday for four.

I paid it only because they were still several hundred pound cheaper than other operators and I got 6% back through quidco but it’s really a bit unreasonable.

This seems to be cropping up with every company now with a minimum fee of 2% however we use Trailfinders whenever possible now, they can book almost anything other agents can at usually a better price BUT they charge nothing for use of credit cards. They say the cost is minimal to them so they do not want to profiteer at the expense of their customers maybe we should all just walk with our feet from the ones that do … a little more effort on our parts and they might sit up and take note!

L.Ellis says:
12 April 2013

I have just made a new comment about this company below before I saw your comment, it is a disgrace!

steve mitchinson says:
30 March 2013

this website does not charge you if you pay by credit card
i used it many times
good luck

L.Ellis says:
12 April 2013

I have just booked a holiday with ‘On the Beach’ website, I paid the deposit by debit card and was shocked to see that they had taken a fee of over £17.00!!
I’ve emailed them today to see if I can pay by cash, cheque or bank transfer as nowhere when I was booking did it tell me that I would be paying a percentage fee. I’ve worked it out and my total fee if I pay by debit card will be over £110. I think that this is absolutely disgusting and should not be allowed.
I am still waiting for a reply from the company!

L.Ellis says:
12 April 2013

I’ve tried but it won’t process, I will try again tomorrow.

L.Ellis says:
14 April 2013

This is the reply that I have just received from the company re. the astonishing debit card fees:
Dear Sir / Madam
Many thanks for your message.
I’m really sorry to read of your unhappiness with regards to the card surcharges however we do have to pass on the transaction fees from our merchant service and suppliers.
The surcharge amount will ultimately depend on the amount being paid; there is a minimum surcharge of £1.00 per person, or a 2.95% on both debit and credit cards (with a debit incurring a 1.95% fee for any payment made over the phone with the customer services team). Pre-paid mastercards are the only exception and can be processed free of charge.
Our terms of business do state that we can levy a surcharge fee with a minimum, and when making a payment on manage your booking we clearly state that a fee is applied.
I regret any confusion caused.
Kind Regards

I am now going to report them.