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Can You Buy a Plane Ticket with Cash?

June 21, 2021
Kenneth Holland

'If you want to buy a plane ticket with cash, whether at the airport or off site, be sure to know what you need...as it can be more difficult than it used to be.'

Believe it or not, there quite a few people out there who would rather use cash for their purchases than a credit card. For some it's for controlling their spending...while for others it's actually to avoid having purchases tracked (for whatever reason).

Similarly, the same desire still applies when buying airline tickets: Some would rather buy a plane ticket and use cash for the transaction. And some don't even want to use a debit card.

Let's go over the ins and outs of making this type of airline purchase, as it does have some hurdles. You of course, want to be prepared...

Can You Buy a Plane Ticket with Cash at the Airport?

American Airlines Counter (Ticket Purchases with Cash)

Let's start with the most common cash transaction for air tickets: Buying them at the airport ticket counter.

I've had people ask me if you can still buy plane tickets at the airport using cash?

Generally speaking, a plane ticket can still be bought in cash at most airports, but you'll have to show a government-issued photo ID and it must have been issued within six months prior to your travel date.

Keep in mind, you lose the ease and convenience of making your purchase online and/or over the phone. You'll have to physically go to the airport counter or your travel agent at one of their offices.

Also, most airlines recommend that you arrive earlier than normal to make a cash transaction.

Also, money orders are generally accepted as well, but all the pertinent information must be filled out correctly.

I would avoid personal checks. Some carriers do still take them, but not many. I would avoid that hassle.

Also, if you intend to buy a ticket for someone else, make sure you know the general requirements, international requirements and variables such as using a travel site or travel rewards.

Some Airlines Limit Cash Ticket Transactions to Only Certain Airports

While many airlines will still allow buying tickets for cash, they will only allow them at certain airports.

For example, airlines such as American Airlines and United Airlines allow cash purchases only at certain airports

Unfortunately, they aren't exactly all that clear on their website(s) which ones.

Your best bet is to call the carrier. Verbally confirm the airport with them and which counter(s) they use. They don't always process cash at every counter so you don't want to be running around trying to find the right one.

Where Can I Buy a Plane Ticket with Cash (other than the Airport)?

American Airlines Travel desk

Some airlines still have travel centers where you can make air ticket buys. 

American Airlines still has some offices (you can view them here).

However, with the advent of the internet, many carriers no longer have separate ticket offices (away from the airport).

Delta (for example) closed all their physical ticket offices years ago.

Again, call your airline and ask to get the latest information.

Buying Tickets Through a Travel Agent with Cash

You should visit your travel agent and discuss your plans to find the cheapest flight.

A good place to start is by researching different airlines, their prices, and then comparing them side-by-side for the best deal.

Now, this is assuming your travel agent even has an office anymore. Many do not. But if they do...they usually take cash.

Booking Using a Debit Card

You can (usually) book air tickets with your debit card, but there are disadvantages compared to a credit card.

One thing you must make sure of is that your debit card is affiliated with a major credit card. Otherwise, you may have trouble making the purchase.

Also, debit cards don't typically have buyer protection like credit cards do. So if there's a problem with your transaction, you could lose your money.

Buying Items on Board the Aircraft (Drinks, Food, Etc...) With Cash

An increasing number of airlines will not accept any form of currency on board for in-flight purchases such as food, drinks, movies and other items.

Something also to keep in mind regarding cash purchases on a flight: Airlines are not likely to go back to handling money due to Coronavirus...for obvious reasons.

If You're Going to Use Cash...Your Best Option? Go to the Airport

The airport is going to give you the least amount of friction overall in making a cash airline ticket purchase. And if you run in to issues, that's where all their customer agents are.

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