Pricewatch reader queries: debit card blocks and a flight-change fee

Transatlantic card transactions being declined appears to be commonplace; and a reader is unhappy about a fee charged for a change of flight

Using your debit card in the US? Better tell the bank

  • Last week we carried an item about AIB putting a block on someone's debit card because they had travelled to the United States and used it in a shop without first telling the bank of her travel plans. That reader is not alone. Henry Garland sends us a similar story. "I took out an EBS debit card and was using it okay until I went away to America," he writes. "During my first transaction the card was declined. No reason was given, but luckily I had a Visa card with me." He rang home and asked his wife, who is also named on the account, to ring EBS and ask what the problem was. "She was told that I would have to contact them myself, and they gave her a number to contact. The number was only valid during banking hours, Irish time, which proved inconvenient," he writes. He contacted EBS when he returned home, and was told the problem arose because he didn't inform it that he was going away. "However, as an after-note they did say that they were sorry that they didn't activate the card when my wife rang as this was a mistake on their part."
  • David Gallagher also got in touch after seeing the piece in last Monday's paper. "I had the exact same experience in 2004 with AIB while on a holiday in LA. The bank actually rang me to ask if I was there. The bank official was taken aback that I was so cross when she rang, as she thought she was doing me a service. I was upset because it was 5am in LA when she called. As far as I am aware, it is only Irish banks that request this notification before travel, as it is not just AIB."
  • Not everyone was cross, mind you. Anne Cleary has a Visa card with Tesco and has had it for over 10 years. She is "delighted" that they ring her to check if she is in possession of her Visa card "as it prevents fraudulent transactions being committed on my account". She says that as "a matter of course, I always notify them if I am travelling abroad prior to my trip."

Left up in the air over charge to change flight

In May, a reader booked a return flight with Aer Lingus from Dublin to San Francisco. It involved a layover of about seven hours in Chicago, which was later increased to 7½ hours.

“The outward flight was on September 18th. A week before this I rang Aer Lingus to see if I could get an earlier connection,” she writes. “The agent told me it would cost €100 to make the change (this corresponded with the fee quoted in the terms and conditions). I accepted the offer of an earlier flight and the agent said to me, ‘That will be €651.’ I assumed that this would be the total cost since I had paid in full for the flight in May. However, when I looked at my credit card account I discovered that I had been charged that amount. It was treated as a new booking and I was charged twice for the same flight. This had not been mentioned to me.”


She then contacted Aer Lingus customer service and was told there was nothing they could do because it involved “a different system”.

"I asked to speak to a supervisor but was told that was not possible. On arrival in California my son contacted Aer Lingus twice via their website but with no response other than an email acknowledgement. I contacted them again on my return on September 29th by the same route and by phone call, when I was told that it would take 30 days to sort it out."

She contacted the credit card company to dispute the charge and ask it to block the payment following a call to AIB's phone banking line on September 29th. "I received a request from the Chargeback department asking for documentary evidence that a different transaction amount had been agreed for the charge. Of course I did not have this for the second charge, but sent them a copy of the regulations with regard to changing a reservation, having already sent them evidence of my booking."

She then received a letter from the AIB Chargeback unit saying it was “taking up the matter with Aer Lingus’s merchant bank, which has 48 days to reply, and that they will be in contact again when they get a response.”

We contacted the airline, after which it retrieved a transcript of the call between our reader and its call-centre operative. A spokeswoman insisted that the terms and conditions were applied correctly and our reader “agreed to payment of the fare difference and change fee. This has been verified on review of our call centre records.”

Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor and cohost of the In the News podcast