Clark’s take: Why you should never buy an airline ticket with a debit card

Clark’s take: Why you should never buy an airline ticket with a debit card
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Travel season presents itself with lots of opportunities to snatch deals on airfares, but oftentimes you have to act quickly. Because finding cheap airline tickets has become a sport of timeliness, you can’t afford to dilly dally when find an affordable flight.

In your harried state, though, you may pull out your trusty debit card and proceed to enter the numbers to snare said tickets — but that could be a huge mistake.

Here’s why you should always buy an airline ticket with a credit card 

Now you may be saying, “But I pay for EVERYTHING with my debit card.” One of the major pluses of using a debit card over a credit card is that you don’t have to worry about interest charges — the payments come straight out of your bank account. But we’ve discussed before why that itself can be a mistake on multiple levels.

RELATED: Why you shouldn’t have a debit card for your primary checking account

Credit cards offer an added level of protection, especially when it comes to buying airline tickets.

Money expert Clark Howard says the primary reason why it’s best to purchase airline tickets with a credit card rather than a debit card is to protect yourself in case the carrier runs into financial trouble.

“The reason is that if the airline goes bust, you can get your money back,” he says. Not likely, you say? “We’ve had five airlines go bust in the last three months,” Clark adds, a sign of turbulence in the airline industry.

These airlines went bust in 2018

In August, Swiss airline Skyworks ceased operations and filed for bankruptcy. That same month, Belgian airline VLM, which declared bankruptcy two years ago, went into liquidation. Days later, Small Planet Airlines Germany, a subsidiary of Lithuania-based Small Planet Airlines, filed for insolvency.

Thousands of travelers in the United States and abroad were left stranded in early October when budget airline Primera Air abruptly suspended services at Newark Airport, ceasing all operations.

Later that month, Cypriot airline Cobalt Air canceled all of its flights indefinitely and advised its customers not to come to the airport.


As of late November, WOW Air, which shook up the industry with $99 trans-Atlantic flights, is bleeding money and struggling to stay afloat. The Iceland-based airline recently reduced its fleet to just 16 planes and cut routes, according to Conde Nast Traveler.

Clark says he’s seen air travelers get burned simply because of their payment method. “We went through this on the [radio] show when several airlines went bust in the 1990s. Back then, a lot of people bought airline tickets with checks.” Essentially, paying for your ticket with a debit card is the same as paying with a check.

Now that you know how to pay for your cheap flight, here’s what you need to know about big changes coming to your favorite airlines in 2019.

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