Please sign in to post.

SBB Swiss Rail rejects my credit card(s) ... I'm baffled

SBB Swiss Rail rejects my credit card - Same topic as posted several years ago. I'm baffled!

We only need Zürich to Zermatt, then Zermatt to Milan ... and there are some good rates I'd like to take advantage of.

I've now tried several different computers, and browsers on each computer, and credit and debit cards - nothing works.

Several years ago someone posted that American Express worked (alas, I don't have that card); on another forum someone said that Swiss Rail fixed the problem on their web site. I emailed Swiss Rail but other have said they're not very helpful.

Thought I might be able to book through a Swiss Rail office in the United States but can't seem to find one.

If I had hair, I'd be tearing it out ... but I'm bald.

Anyone have any ideas?

Ira Serkes

Posted by
8909 posts

The Swiss Rail office in the US would be Rail Europe. While they do tack on a service charge for their services they typically do offer they same discounted fares that you see on the nation rail sites, and you won't have any problems using your credit card. Something to consider.

Did you attempt to contact your credit car company??

Posted by
1169 posts

As per above, check with your credit card company. They may be rejecting the charge because it is out of your normal area (i.e. overseas). You may have to make a "travel notification" with them.

Posted by
1704 posts

When I had difficulty with Italian trains and the U.K., I called my credit card, Cap One. Both times they made the 3 way phonecall. With Trenitalia, the two worked it out and I just said thank you. Last month with tickets in the UK I just ended up telling the English agent which train, cc #, billing address, etc. Good luck.

Posted by
31173 posts

Ira,

You might try registering at www.trainline.eu and try to buy the tickets there. It will help if you have your credit cards set up on the "Verified by Visa", MasterCard "Securecode" or whatever.

I believe Trainline is now selling tickets for Swiss trains, so that should work.

Posted by
15690 posts

I've beating the drum on this issue. I have heard from others that only American Express cards have been working at European national rail sites lately. A little research showed that there was an EU regulation limiting the Interchange fees for credit cards in Europe to 0.3% and 0.2% for debit cards. Switzerland is not an EU member, but maybe that they installed credit card clearing software from a 3rd party European vendor that blocks transactions with a higher fee. Or they have decided to voluntarily comply with the regulation. This is such a back-office issue, that I doubt that anyone in SBB's customer service has a clue about it.

Everybody in the US seems to have high reward Visa and Mastercards these days. For some reason, American Express was exempted from these regulations, at least until 2019. So I am speculating that this lies at the bottom of the problem. Cards that offer 2% cash back can't live on a 0.3% Interchange fee.

Supporting document, (2 years old) from a British newsletter:
http://www.headforpoints.com/2015/04/14/why-we-really-dont-know-what-the-impact-of-credit-card-interchange-fee-capping-will-be/

I am not a banker, and would welcome anyone who really knows to chime in.

In the meantime, you might have to use Rail Europe to buy the tickets, as they are SBB's US agent.

Posted by
26 posts

Thanks all. Here’s a summary for you:

CREDIT CARD COMPANY
Good point about alerting them - I usually do, but hadn’t done so when I’d started the process

Chase is very good at fraud alerts - they didn’t give me one. When I called them, they said that they’d not seen any charge come through (I.e. didn’t get past the Swiss Rail credit card verification system)

Capital One did give me a fraud alert. I spoke to them, they lifted the freeze and told me to try again. I did, didn’t work. That also has a verification process

I also used a bank debit card linked to Master Card and went through the verification process

None worked

I don’t have American Express

SWISS RAIL
Have tried calling them (hard to find a number for them) but after hours and got a message in French

OTHER SITES
I went to trainline.eu and Rail Europe … they each have the full fare. The Swiss Rail site has a super saver at 50% off … saving several hundred $.

INTERCHANGE FEE
“I've beating the drum on this issue. I have heard from others that only American Express cards have been working at European national rail sites lately. A little research showed that there was an EU regulation limiting the Interchange fees for credit cards in Europe to 0.3% and 0.2% for debit cards. Switzerland is not an EU member, but maybe that they installed credit card clearing software from a 3rd party European vendor that blocks transactions with a higher fee. Or they have decided to voluntarily comply with the regulation. This is such a back-office issue, that I doubt that anyone in SBB's customer service has a clue about it.”

This seems to be the likely cause.

Will keep on working on this to keep on travelin’

Thanks for everyone’s help.

Ira

Posted by
15690 posts

Instead of calling, use the contact page at the website and you should receive a reply in English in 24 hours.

I had a similar situation a couple of months ago. I had to buy a block of 7-day lift passes for a group of 30 people at a ski resort in Italy. The transaction was in excess of $10,000. I pre-cleared the transaction with Capital One and used the lift company's payment credit card page, through a big Italian bank. 3 tries, each failed. I first emailed them and they had not seen the transaction on their end, and Capital One had not seen it on this end. I then called them (fortunately I had a name given to me by our hotel at the resort). The person was not comfortable speaking English on the phone, but gave me to an assistant who was. Result, they knew the issue was coming from their bank's payment website. If I gave them my credit information by email, they could get the transaction done manually. I did so, and the payment went through, and I got my lift passes.

So if there is a way to do this with SBB, it could happen for you, but you have to get to the right person. Obviously, SBB is a much bigger outfit than a ski lift company in Italy. So much more bureaucracy is involved.

Posted by
778 posts

What is the actual error message you get from the SBB?

Also what time in CET were you using the site?

The Swiss Rail site has a super saver at 50% off … saving several hundred $
Are you sure you are entitled to this offer.

I use the SBB site a lot as I live here! What I have found is:
- It can reject you at payment if you are not entitled to avail of the offer
- Sometimes out of Swiss office hours, it brings down various parts of the system including CC processing for maintenance

The best is to use the contact form on the SBB site, they will usually respond quickly to that.

Posted by
26 posts

I just was able to book my Swiss Rail Tickets using a brand new American Express Card - it was the only thing which worked!

I attempted the purchase at different times and dates - including business hours in Switzerland.

After trying numerous credit and debit cards from Visa & Master Card, I came to the conclusion that it was Swiss Rail which was rejecting the charges. The credit card companies confirmed there was no block on my account, I had sufficient credit available, and that they'd never received the inquiry from Swiss Rail.

Tried calling Swiss Rail on my international calling SIM card, and also on Skype - calls were rejected.

Plan B
I saw that American Express was an option, so went down to a local CVS and filled an American Express debit card with $500 cash ... alas, that didn't work.

Plan C
Went to the American Express web site, selected a card which didn't have an annual charge, and was approved earlier in the week. The card just came in, and after jumping through some flaming hoops, was able to book travel ... and got the super saver rates too!

So ... if you're unable to use your Visa or Master Card to purchase Swiss Rail tickets ... use your American Express or immediately apply for the least expensive card.

Ira

FROM SWISS RAIL
It is not possible to use your payment card for bookings on SBB.ch. We recommend that you use a different payment card or that you purchase your tickets at your nearest railway station ticket office.

We cannot determine the reason why your credit card was declined. It can happen that we reject credit card transactions for reasons of security. This action is primarily intended to protect the card holder.

If you received notice that your credit card was declined you must call your credit card company directly.

If you want to order your tickets by phone over the Rail Service, the number for foreign countries is +41 512 257 800 .

You have also other possibilitys to purchased tickets.
- for journeys within Switzerland: purchase the ticket using our app SBB Mobile for your smartphone (www.sbb.ch/en/mobile)
- purchase the tickets at a SBB railway station in Switzerland

Posted by
26 posts

I did go to the rail sites others recommended. As best I could tell, they charged full fare and not the special saver rates.

Ira

Posted by
8889 posts

Ira, If you are going to pay full fare, there is no advantage in buying in advance on the internet. Just buy on the day at the station, either at the manned desk or (quicker) use a ticket machine.
For Swiss internal trips, there is no reservation, and tickets are valid on any train, so just buy on the day, or whenever you are passing a Swiss station.

Posted by
26 posts

Thank you ... I was able to get a half-fare rate by making the advance purchase online - it saved about $225.

There definitely was extensive authentication between Swiss Rail and American Express and me when I used the American Express card to purchase the tickets.

In an earlier post I mentioned that I'd purchased an American Express card from CVS which I filled with cash. That temporary card didn't work. I registered the temporary card with American Express; I did receive a plastic card (different account number) in the mail a few days later. I didn't test that card out, so it's possible it would have worked.

Ira

Posted by
1 posts

I was running into the same issue, and I've seen numerous blogs about this now.. but none of the solutions seemed to work for me. I tried with Visa and Amex with no luck, I even tried waiting for regular business hours. Both banks were saying the charges were not even reaching them, even though the SBB site said payment had failed.

BUT I was finally able to find a solution. I downloaded the SBB app, and the Visa CC worked without any issues! I was able to get the super saver price I had seen yesterday without the hassle of failed payments.

I hope this helps, not just for you but for others with the issue (this was the first thread that appeared when I googled the issue).

Posted by
1 posts

I met the same problem. I couldn't use my US credit cards to buy Swiss Rail transfer tickets on sbb.ch website. Neither my Visa cards or American express card worked. But I found another website which has the same ticket in USD pricing and accepted my Visa card for ordering. The website is operated by a company of the Swiss Railways SBB. Hope it helps.
https://www.swissrailways.com/

best,
Yuan

Posted by
1 posts

I too had the same problem and wanted the super saver fare with the half fare card! I figured out like others how to finally make a purchase. I first created an account with a user name and password through my computer online. I filled out all the information, name, dob, added credit card info also. I then went to the app store and downloaded their app. On the app I logged into my account and made the purchase on my phone. No problems at all. The ticket is on my phone in the SBB app (and you can add it to your wallet on your phone for quick access). I then went back to my computer, logged in and had the option to print the ticket as a pdf-which I did as a backup in case my phone battery dies. Hope this helps but SBB does have a problem (it was not my cc company confirmed by my bank) and I did send a note about this to SBB and have not heard back. This was as of May 31, 2017

Posted by
3 posts

SBB Rejects my credit card (visa) for simple ticket from Basel to Interlaken. No issues with credit card - I called the company. IF I go to Raileurope.com, the exact same ticket is $79 instead of $61. That's a hell of a rip off for the service.

Posted by
3 posts

Visa work ok in train station on day of? Trainline fails also for swiss part of journey. Fine in France. They know it and suggest using sbb

Posted by
3 posts

SOLUTION: After MANY tries, I downloaded the app on the Iphone. Tried and failed. BUT, my VISA card company sent me an email to ask if the vendor (SBB) was ok. I said yes. Tried again on PC and it failed again. Tried again on the Iphone app, and it worked. SBB clearly need some serious reconsideration of their web interface for ticket purchases. I guess there is no real competition (except the 25% more costly raileurope.com for the same tickets)

Posted by
15690 posts

I don't think the problem is coming from the web interface but with their bank. On going issue with new EU banking regulations as to limiting credit card fees. So until SBB can get their bank's attention on this, I don't see anything happening. Plus, on-line sales from USA are a tiny part of their business.

Posted by
6494 posts

The above solution confirmed: Yay! . I was able to buy a ticket (using Expedia Mastercard) SuperSaver for 18CHF Zurich airport to Luzern after I downloaded the ap on my android tablet

Posted by
654 posts

Same problem as described above. Tried 2 "reward" credit cards which I had already reported as "will travel to Switz.". Both failed.
Then I opted for "another card" and used my debit card. Success!

Posted by
114 posts

I am facing the same issue .I have tried all of my credit and debit cards and it doesnt work (I dont have an AMEX card ) . I tried installing the SBB app to book the ticket , but it says that I cant book international tickets via the app and that I should book through the site only. So frustrating .

Posted by
26 posts

I didn't have an Amex Card either - I opted for the least expensive card, was approved, received it in a few days, and was able to order the tickets.

Good luck!

Ira

PS - Would be great if Swiss Rail changed their web site to let people know which cards they accept ... and don't

Posted by
4637 posts

The same happened to me, too and I was baffled, too. It happened in Hauptbahnhof Zurich. I used cash.

Posted by
109 posts

If you use a card that offers the Verified by Visa service, it should work. I had the same problems described above, and was not able to purchase on either the app or the actual website, but finally managed to get it to work by going through the second step of Verified by Visa on my visa.

Posted by
1 posts

I downloaded the SBB app, and the Visa CC worked without any issues!!!

I was able to get the super saver price I had seen yesterday without the hassle of failed payments. Thank you to this website for solving this problem.

SBB should fix their credit card processing on PC browsers.