I am from Europe, and I live in a country that is not listed on the United Airlines site as an option country to buy a ticket from, and I need a ticket from NY to SF (I will get to NY with a ticket I have already bought).

My best friend from USA could pay for it with his credit card, but I am worried if United will allow me to board if I don't have the card the purchase was made with or if I am not the card owner? How could they know I am really the guy who bought the ticket? The friend will only fill my name/birth date, and enter my email to get the reservation confirmation?

Is it possible for me to buy a ticket that way?

  • I've already seen this possible with another airline, there is usually no need to show a credit card at boarding. And there is usually a box to check saying "The payer is the traveler" or such thing. The payer("travel arranger") and the passenger don't need to be the same person. I don't know exactly how it works with United though.
    – Vince
    Commented Mar 18, 2013 at 15:50
  • This is a valid question as I once encountered the same problem in Europe (not sure which company) where they asked me to show the credit card with which I bought the ticket. My friend paid for it, so I didn't have it. It was also not something was stated clearly during the reservation of the ticket. In the end all turned out fine as I let them call my friend who confirmed my story to them. It was quite a hassle though. Best option is to contact United Airlines. Commented Mar 18, 2013 at 17:11
  • @BartArondson There must have been something about you or your ticket that required them to ask about the card. Consider the hassle this would create for a business traveler.
    – Karlson
    Commented Mar 18, 2013 at 18:24
  • United Airlines (along with numerous other airlines) technically requires the card used to purchase the tickets to be available during check-in in most cases. This is "clearly" stated during purchase - at least if you buy on their website (where "clearly" means that you have to read all of the fine print that you'd normally ignore - but it's there!)
    – Doc
    Commented Mar 18, 2013 at 19:19

3 Answers 3


There's really two answers to this question - the answer that normally applies, and the real answer that rarely applies...

Whenever you purchase a ticket with United, during the process it will often advise you that "The credit card used for this purchase must be available at check-in". In theory at least, if you are unable to provide the credit card then you will need to provide another means of payment, or you will not be able to fly.

This requirements exists as an anti-fraud mechanism, to stop you purchasing a ticket with (for example) a stolen credit card number.

In practice, this requirement is not normally enforced - but it does happen. If you search Google for the above phrase you'll find a number of forums discussing this requirement, and a number of reports of people being asked to show their card.

Presuming that you do have the means to pay for the ticket at the time you fly (eg, if you have a credit card - even a foreign one) then I would say it's worth the risk. In the unlikely event that they do ask to see the card and you can't provide it they will be able to refund the original card and charge the amount to the card you can provide.

I've just checked the confirmation email from a recent booking and it also includes a reference to this.

Airline tickets are nontransferable. The name on your ticket must match the name on your government-issued photo ID presented at time of check-in. You may also be asked during check-in to present the credit card used for purchase.

(Bolding mine - in the actual email the bolded text is shown in red!)


There is no issues with one person paying and another flying. That's how unaccompanied minors fly all the time.

If you look at required documents for international travel from United it will tell you what you need to get to your flight.

The only problem can arise if your friend dispute the charges before your flight registration, which will effectively void your reservation.

  • 1
    Despite what the rest of the US might tell you about California, NYC -> SF is still not considered an International flight. I'm also not sure where "accompanied" minors fit into a credit card question (even "unaccompanied" minors need to be checked-in by an adult if that's what you were referring to)
    – Doc
    Commented Mar 18, 2013 at 19:21
  • @Doc If they are under 16 an adult needs to be present. Older then that no. I've just had a daughter of a friend of ours travel. We have purchased the ticket and never did the question of a credit card come up.
    – Karlson
    Commented Mar 18, 2013 at 19:44
  • Grumble grumble spell checker grumble grumble
    – Karlson
    Commented Mar 18, 2013 at 22:28

Yes. This should be fine. The ticket must have your name and you should carry valid identification. Of course if there is a mis-understanding between the both of you and he files a formal complaint saying his card was stolen, then of course you will be welcomed by a different set of uniformed men/women at the airport ;)

  • But what is the valid identification in the case? There is no place to fill nothing but my name, gender, birth date and email on the web-page. There is a statement : 'To comply with the TSA Secure Flight program, the traveler information listed here must exactly match the information on the government-issued photo ID that the traveler presents at the airport', and I am not an American citizen, and I am not able to fill 'Known Traveler Number/Pass ID (optional)' that I see also below. Will the passport and ID issued in my country be enough?
    – mr02077
    Commented Mar 18, 2013 at 16:11
  • @mr02077 Ok. So if the information on the ticket doesn't match your passport or another government issued ID you can't fly. That doesn't have anything to do with country of your citizenship.
    – Karlson
    Commented Mar 18, 2013 at 16:43
  • 2
    Your name must match. Clients have bought me tickets without knowing my birthdate. Your valid, government-issued identification doesn't need to be issued by the US government, just some government (as opposed to say your employee ID or your student ID card) Use your passport from wherever you have a passport from. Commented Mar 18, 2013 at 18:54
  • 1
    Date of Birth (and gender) are now mandatory fields for all passengers within the US, as a part of the TSA "Secure Flight" program. Most airlines request these details at time of booking, although technically they are not mandated until check-in. As for ID, the only non-US issued ID that is valid is a Passport, although I've managed to get through more than once using my Australian drivers license!
    – Doc
    Commented Mar 18, 2013 at 21:53

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