How an Expired Credit Card Can Wreak Havoc on Your Holiday

Let me be completely transparent for a moment here — coming up with a quick tip to share on a weekly basis isn’t always easy. There have been more than a handful of Fridays where I find myself pacing my apartment trying to decide what little nugget of knowledge I can offer that has any value. Luckily, this was not the case this week as I came across an article on Monday that immediately grabbed my attention, quickly confirming in my mind that I was going to share it with all of you.

In a story posted on The Points Guy, one traveler recalled a nightmare scenario she encountered in which she arrived at a hotel only to learn that her reservation has been canceled. The culprit? An expired credit card. Making matters worse, the card had been valid at the time the reservation was made but a new card was issued before the travel date. As a result, when the hotel went to clear payment on the day of her arrival, the transaction was declined and, thus, reservation canceled. Ouch.

Honestly, what shook me the most about this story is how easily I could see myself falling into the same trap. While I — like I assume most of you do too — know that it’s often required to update payment info on various auto-pay accounts when you receive an updated card, I’m really not sure I would have thought to update something like this. After all, wouldn’t you assume you’d just be able to correct the issue when you arrived? Or, better still, they’d be able to circumvent the error since most updated cards don’t change numbers, just expiration dates?

For what it’s worth, the traveler went on to note that the hotel they had selected was also booked up for the night. In some cities, this could just be a minor setback that can be somewhat saved by pulling out your smartphone and choosing another hotel (although you may end up either spending more or settling for a less desirable room). However, in some domestic locales or in a country you’re not familiar with, this could escalate into a full-blown disaster.

Perhaps there’s actually a second lesson to be learned from this travel tale of terror as well: prepay for your hotel reservations. I’ve actually gotten into the habit of doing this not because I had any worries about a situation like the one described but merely because, in most cases, Expedia listings charge more for the option to pay at the hotel rather than to pay upfront. Of course, the downside here is that the option to pay later tends to be bundled with the ability to cancel in a timely manner without penalty, so there are definitely trade-offs.

Thanks to this eye-opening story, I will now be paying much more attention to my credit card expiration dates and keeping a better list of everything I’ll need to do when my replacement cards roll in. Meanwhile, unless I have good reason to believe my plans might change, I think I’ll continue my trend of paying in full upfront just to make extra sure I don’t wind up in a similar situation. Overall, I suppose the real moral of the story is that Murphy’s Law doesn’t take a holiday just because you do.


Kyle Burbank

Kyle is a freelance writer and author whose first book, "The E-Ticket Life" is now available on Amazon. In addition to his weekly "Money at 30" column on Dyer News, he is also the editorial director and a writer for the Disney fan site and the founder of

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