How to Buy Airline Tickets Without a Credit Card
If you're shopping for plane tickets but don't have a credit card, take hope: In spite of the trend toward "all plastic" money, most airlines will still let you buy tickets with cash or a few other noncredit payment methods. You'll usually have to make the transaction in person, pay an extra fee and maybe jump through a few additional hoops. But if you've ever tried to make other travel transactions – like hotel rooms or car rentals – without a credit card, you might be pleasantly surprised by how much easier it is to buy airline tickets.
Other Online Methods
Before you head for the airline ticket counter in person, you have a few online payment options that don't require an actual credit card. If you have a debit card with the Visa or MasterCard logo, you can use it for online purchases just like a credit card, although the cost of the purchase will come out of your account immediately. You can also purchase a prepaid debit card or, in some cases, an airline gift card and use either for online travel purchases. Finally, quite a few airlines accept PayPal as a payment method.
Nowadays, inflight purchases like snacks, drinks and entertainment can only be made with a credit card. So, unless you're prepared to rough it, get a modest prepaid card to use while in the air.
Cash in Person
If for any reason you can't or don't want to use any of those online payment methods, most airlines will still accept cash – you just have to go see them at the ticket counter to make the purchase. Most airlines usually let you call and book the seat over the phone, then hold it up to 24 hours so you can get to the ticket counter and make the purchase in person.
That said, you'll almost always have to pay an extra fee for using cash, and most airlines require a set amount of lead time between the cash purchase and travel. Depending on the airline, that lead time can range anywhere from a few hours to two weeks. Finally, pack some extra patience on the day of your flight: Paying with cash often leads to being flagged for extra security checks, especially if you're buying an expensive ticket.
Use a Travel Agent
If you don't want to use a credit card or pay in person, you can always hire a travel agent to do the booking for you. They accept credit cards, of course, but many travel agents will take payment in cash, check, money order or even online methods like PayPal too. And hey, by letting someone else do the searching and booking for your air travel, you'll save a little time.
There are still more options for buying your airline tickets, but they vary quite a bit between airlines, so you'll have to call and verify what's available. A few airlines will accept personal checks, money orders, Western Union or traveler's checks. And in a few rare cases, they'll also accept ACH bank transfers if you buy your tickets far enough in advance.
It may be tempting to have someone else book your flight on their credit card. That's not a bad idea, but double-check the fine print on your airline's terms and conditions first. When they see the difference between your name and that of the purchaser, quite a few airlines will require you to be in possession of the card used to book the flight, and some even require the person who booked the ticket to show up with you.