Here’s why you always use a credit card when booking travel

By | December 3rd, 2008

Next time you’re tempted to pay for a trip by check — or God forbid, cash — think about Catherine MacLean.

A few months ago, she and her husband booked a cruise to Vietnam through Freighter World Cruises by way of a company called Value World. They paid a nonrefundable $1,000 deposit by credit card for the January cruise.

That is that last thing we ever heard from either company. We never received even an acknowledgment of our deposit, let alone a detailed description of the vacation, coordination in obtaining visas, a fiscal timeline, or a bill.

We never heard a thing. Not an email, not a phone call.

Efforts to reach the companies proved difficult. Her husband reached Freighter World Cruises by phone and was told it was not located in Pasadena, Calif., as they believed, but in Houston. He was also informed that reservation information had been lost “because of the hurricane.”

A Freighter World Cruises promised a refund, given the circumstances. But after months of waiting, they didn’t get one.

What now?

I suggested MacLean contact her credit card company immediately to dispute the charges. She did.

You were correct. I am pleased to let you know that Capital One credited my account within a week after receiving my letter.

If MacLean had paid for her cruise by check or cash, she’d probably be out of luck. Recovering cash is nearly impossible, unless you have the patience and resources to go to court.

So next time you’re thinking of pulling out the checkbook, think about MacLean. Don’t let anyone talk you into paying with anything other than a credit card. (Travel agents who demand cash payments are trouble, as I discussed in Monday’s controversial MSNBC column.)

Related story:   The reps said my cruise was refundable, but their website says it isn’t -- who's right?

In other words, just say “no” to cash.

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