Local News

Debit Card Dilemma: Check Fine Print When Paying For Purchases Online

Posted January 12, 2004 2:14 a.m. EST

— Making airline, hotel, or a car rental reservations has never been easier thanks to the Internet. But an easy reservation turned into a difficult problem for a Robeson County woman

You can go directly to a company's Web site or any number of travel discounts site, but they all have rules and if you are not careful, one of them can catch you.

Needing a bigger vehicle for a trip to Virginia, Sue Locklear checked around to find out how much it would cost to rent a van. She signed up with Priceline.com.

"They came up with a good price," she said. "It was like a $100 cheaper than what I was getting quotes on the telephone for."

The deal was through National Car Rental and the total cost for four days was $294.94. Locklear paid with her Visa Check Card.

She ran into trouble when she went to pick up the van.

"They had the reservation. I had my confirmation number when I went there and they had the vehicle waiting for me, but they just wouldn't let me take it," Locklear said.

National would not let Locklear get the van because she did not have a major credit card -- even though she already paid for the rental.

Priceline posts a notice on its rental confirmation stating National "will require" a "major credit card." Locklear saw the notice when she signed up.

"I thought, well, I've got this card that says Visa. That's a major credit card to me, so I assumed that everything was fine," she said.

Locklear was upset about not getting the van, but it was what happened next that really made her angry.

She e-mailed Priceline and National to get a refund and both parties refused.

"It was nerve-racking, because it seemed like everybody was pointing the finger at the other person," she said.

After calling Priceline, spokesman Brian Ek called it a "miscommunication."

He said Priceline's records show Locklear "didn't follow through with the rental" which meant she was not entitled to a refund. He said since she tried to get the van, he sent her refund

"I wasn't willing to give up $295 for something I felt was wrong," she said.

National requires a major credit card, because the company believes it shows creditworthiness; a debit or check card does not show that. National said it does not want to risk putting a car in the hands of someone whose credit background they cannot confirm.