Simon Calder's Holiday Helpdesk: I was hit with a Visa debit card fee
Every day our travel guru answers your travel questions
Simon Calder’s career in travel started at Gatwick Airport, where he cleaned aircraft for Laker Airways and later worked as a security officer. He became The Independent’s Travel Correspondent in 1994, and is known as “the Man Who Pays His Way” because he does not accept free travel facilities. He writes across the Independent titles, as well as for the Evening Standard.
Tuesday 08 January 2013
Q I used my Visa debit card for booking a flight online with Travel Republic and was charged £2.30 for its use. I have never paid a Visa debit card fee before. Is this right and what can I do for a refund?
T S Mahabir
A The Office of Fair Trading demanded that airlines remove fees for paying with a debit card by late last year, and most of them have complied. Agents are not yet covered, and Travel Republic adds – at the very last stage of the transaction – a 1.25 per cent debit-card charge that it describes as an “Additional Card Handling Fee”. It bears no relation to the actual cost of the transaction, which is around 20p. You will not be able to claim a refund, because when you bought the flight you agreed to the terms and conditions, buried deep in which is the firm's terms and conditions. (Incidentally, when I tried several times to download them from travelrepublic.co.uk, the terms were not available. Instead I got the message: “Oops! There was a problem with our website. We are sorry but we have not been able to process your request due to a technical problem.”)
Another reason to avoid online agents such as Travel Republic when booking flights is that, even without the card charge, you are likely to pay more than you would if you bought direct. I checked out a Gatwick-Malaga flight on easyJet for February. The airline is selling direct for £68, while Travel Republic is £5 more expensive – plus an extra £1 for paying with a debit card.
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