Holiday booking hell: how you can be thousands of pounds down

Like most people, I love going on holiday to relax and get away from everything, but when you end up thousands of pounds out of pocket booking that trip, the experience (hopefully temporarily) turns sour.

Thanks to a mixture of, diplomatically speaking, an archaic booking system used by my chosen (but never again!) travel firm and the inflexibility of the credit card system I find myself significantly out of pocket (see the Cheap Flights and Cheap Hotels guides).

Sadly, I’m not alone as I was told by Youtravel.com, who I tried to book with, that others who used its systems complained of similar problems this week.

The issue (I discovered after the event) was that when I attempted the booking online it was authorised by my card company but not by the merchant’s bank. Apparently it suspected fraud (so I’m told) but isn’t that down to my bank to make that judgment?

So my card firm thought the money had gone but the merchant has no booking, and I’m told on my computer screen in big, bold letters: "DECLINED!"

I assumed I’d inputted the wrong number so I tried a few seconds later and it was declined again; this time because my card company thought I’d exceed my credit limit if it authorised the booking as it thought the first attempt was successful.

When I discovered this, I asked for a credit limit increase to try again. My card company said "yes", but that’s where the good news ended.

Again (so I discovered later) when I tried to book my bank said "yes"  but the merchant’s bank said "no", yet all I saw was "DECLINED!", at which point I was holding back my fist from thumping the screen (not a good idea, I know).

I tried again and it was declined because, again, I’d have gone over my recently-extended credit limit in my bank’s eyes (see the 0% credit card guide).

Technically, I’ve not been charged but as my card company thinks I’ve made two successful bookings my available credit has shrunk accordingly yet I have to wait up to ten days for the transactions to drop off the system before it returns to normal, restricting my card use.

I won’t give the figure of how much I’m down but it’s got four numbers and doesn’t start with a one (as I was booking for four people) so you can understand my anger.

My card company now won’t help saying it’s up to the merchant’s bank. Youtravel.com won’t help, saying it’s up to my card company. Huh?

It all goes to show that while online bookings are fantastically convenient and can save you bundles of cash, when the computer says "no", or whatever convoluted rubbish it said in this case, you’re stuffed – and no-one seems to care.

Has this happened to you?

Please feedback in the Holiday booking hell discussion