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Agents demand single standard for virtual payments

November 2, 2018 Headline News No Comments Email Email

The problem of mismatched credit card processes and technologies is bugging travel agents making hotel bookings and inconveniencing their clients – with demands growing for action.

The problem is big in the US – possibly less so in Australia, it depends where travellers are headed.

The issue, as outlined by the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA; which recently replaced the word “agents” with “advisors” in its name) is this:

  • A traveller makes a hotel booking through their travel advisor or travel management company (TMC) using either a virtual credit card or a corporate card not in the traveller’s possession.
  • Upon check-in, the hotel front desk expects the traveller to produce the card used to guarantee the booking and settle the bill at check-out. All too often, the traveller simply can’t do that, as the card – used for travel and other purchases by the company – resides with the company’s travel or finance department and sits in that office, not in the traveller’s wallet.

Another problem encountered by US agents, in the case of virtual card transactions, is that sometimes the overseas hotel will simply not accept them.

“If the virtual card transaction doesn’t go through or the traveller doesn’t have a personal card to use to pay the bill, he or she faces a real dilemma,” says Mark Meader at ASTA.

“Couple all this with being in a city far from home, perhaps even in a foreign land, and you have the makings of a dicey situation for the traveller.”

US agents apparently often use a faxed copy of the credit card and reservation detail to rectify the situation, though faxing is old technology, first commercialised in the early 1960s and long-since overtaken. Faxing is not the solution in today’s world given Payment Card Industry (PCI) data security compliance expectations and to some extent, the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requirements.

“The security of this unencrypted data – now sitting on a fax machine at a hotel’s front desk or elsewhere, often for long periods of time, is extraordinarily vulnerable,” Meader points out.

“And with a virtual credit card, the information submitted is dynamic, meaning every time that virtual card is used the verification data changes. Faxing simply can’t be the solution here!”

ASTA is pressing industry leaders – hotels, GDSs, credit card companies and others – to fix a situation “which has been afflicting the traveller for too long”.

Supporting the ASTA stance, Signature Travel Network’s senior vice president, hotel and resort program, Richard Lebowitz, said the hassle is “long overdue for a solution”.

“Signature supports ASTA’s call for the swift creation and adoption of an industry-wide solution, applied globally for all traveller and card types.”

Edited by Peter Needham

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