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I've found the Spanish train website renfe.com cannot complete credit card transactions. I've attempted with several different bank and credit cards from several different countries, verified the cards worked with the issuers, etc. It appears many others encounter the same difficulties. Any suggestions?

There are tickets available through raileurope-world.com, who charge an extra 8 euros per trip, but they do not offer the majority of RENFE's discounted AVE tickets, don't sell non-AVE tickets, and apparently RENFE loves screwing with RailEurope buyers.

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Did you try following the Seat61.com instructions for how to use RENFE's site? If not, I'll promote that to an answer! –  Gagravarr Jun 7 '12 at 21:18
    
I tried all their listed suggestions, including using several cards that support Verified by Visa. Seat61 has a nicely concise presentation for all the failed approaches though. :) –  Jeff Burdges Jun 7 '12 at 22:21
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2 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

RENFE has one of the most frustrating sites in the world. Don't panic, you are not the only one who has these problems. If you cannot buy the tickets directly going to a railway station, if you are unable to get to work their website (have you tried with another browser, FF, Chrome, IE?), then you have an option: RUMBO train reservation system. Perhaps you cannot find all discounts, but at least it has some.. Good luck.

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I don't know if Rumbo customers suffer the same issues with RENFE not viewing buyers like customers as RailEurope. I found Rumbo's pricing structure bizarre though, arbitrary 11 euro discount followed by a 21 euro surcharge, very strange. –  Jeff Burdges Jun 7 '12 at 18:05
    
Well, I cannot talk about Rumbo railway reservations because I haven't tested, but in the case of air travel it usually adds 3-5 euros of surcharge.. I imagine the best is make the same search with Rumbo and Renfe and compare. –  Ivan Jun 7 '12 at 18:43
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It apparently just depends upon what your buying, some are cheaper through RailEurope, some are cheaper through Rumbo, just depends how they fiddle with the price according to the route. Renfe would be the cheapest if it worked. Thanks! –  Jeff Burdges Jun 7 '12 at 19:04
    
It appears the Renfe Express trains that RailEurope cannot book shouldn't increase in Price anyways, so I bought my AVE tickets there, and I'll buy the Renfe tickets in Spain. Rumbo was ultimately more expensive once I took train type into account properly. Thanks again. –  Jeff Burdges Jun 7 '12 at 20:43
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I believe I know the cause of the problem on the Renfe site because I recently attempted a purchase that failed, and I also run a European train booking website, so I am familiar with the problems that can occur at the point of purchase.

Renfe seems to use the 3D Secure/Verified by Visa security measure for card payments (very sensible, because there is a lot of online fraud for online train bookings). When a "merchant" (in this case Renfe) integrates with a payment gateway they can choose to refuse or accept bookings on the basis of whether the customer passes the 3D Secure test. If the customer fails the test, then it is obviously a good idea to fail the transaction.

However, sometimes the card-issuing bank (or Visa/Mastercard, I'm not sure which) can choose to allow the customer to proceed without entering their password, because they have other ways of checking the payment is genuine. The requirement to enter a password is becoming less common. In this situation, the customer's payment should still be allowed to proceed, even if they haven't entered a password, because the bank (or Visa/Mastercard) has said it's OK (and they take responsibility for any fraud, should it occur).

What seems to be happening with Renfe, is that they are treating payments where the password has not been entered as the same as when the password has been entered incorrectly, and refusing all payments. They need to change it so they only reject payments where the customer is required to enter their password, but they get it wrong.

Anyway, I guess that doesn't really help answer the question, but it may help with the frustration :) Also, someone at Renfe could read this post and fix the problem! I would love it if my site loco2.com could sell all Renfe tickets (since we can accept all credit cards without problems), but currently we can only sell some (e.g. Barcelona to Granada), and they can often be more expensive than the Renfe ones (this is because we currently use the Rail Europe booking system).

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Interesting but I'm dubious since they failed with cards that almost always require the password as well. –  Jeff Burdges Aug 13 '12 at 12:04
    
So they definitely fail when the password is required and correct? (I mean there are instances of failure in this case, not that it fails all the time?). The other thing could be some rules set up on the basis of IP address (e.g. Nigerian IP addresses are often blocked because of high fraud from that country). If they have a poor payment gateway this IP blocking could be unreliable (or they could be changing which IPs are blocked very regularly). –  Jamie Aug 15 '12 at 8:54
    
I believe so, maybe my European card dropped the password for a national train service though. I tried with US and UK cards as well, but the US one doesn't always ask for a password. I tried with both UK and US IPs via a VPN, but never tried using a European IP. –  Jeff Burdges Aug 16 '12 at 9:05
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