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SNCF train ticket online booking payment difficulty?

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Jun 12th, 2011, 07:12 PM
  #1
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SNCF train ticket online booking payment difficulty?

For years I have booked train tickets on www.voyage-sncf.com site, printed my own tickets or retrieved from train station in France, paid with credit cards issued in Canada with no problem.

Today I tried to book tickets for July from Paris to Amsterdam , no problem each step till I filled up credit card info, then it said the payment is refused, I checked with card company, they said no transaction was asked. No luck with other cards, non with www.thalys.com either.

Is anyone with the same difficulty? Anyway to get around it?
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Jun 12th, 2011, 07:24 PM
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Is a puzzlement. I did it quite successfully with my Capitol One card just the other month. Perhaps you chose an hour when some link in the internet chain was down for maintenance? You might try another time of day.
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Jun 12th, 2011, 07:25 PM
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Would you mind posting how much in Euro was the transaction for?
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Jun 12th, 2011, 07:38 PM
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210 Euro for 3 one way first class from Paris to Amsterdam.

I have tried several times on and off whole day, will try again tomorrow.
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Jun 12th, 2011, 07:53 PM
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Here is a related thread with my experience:

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...ed-at-sncf.cfm

Here is my experience at www.voyages-sncf.com. I would hope others with post with purchase experience facts to get better idea of what is going on:

5/30 1st class PREM for €68 - Success
6/1 1st class Thalys SMOOVE for €158 - CC refused
6/2 (24hrs later) 1st class SMOOVE for €158 - CC refused
6/3 (24hrs later) 1st class SMOOVE for €158 - CC refused
6/6 (3 days later) 1st class SMOOVE for €158 - CC refused
then immediately without changing computer, nor clearing cookies or histories, or getting away from www.voyages-sncf.com I immediately retried:

6/6 (1 min later) 2st class Thalys SMOOVE for €90 - success.

It is difficult to draw a clear conclusion based on mine or your data alone. But either 1st class Thalys tickets are not available to U.S. or Canadian CC holders -- odd restriction, or there is some kind of cc threshold between €90 and €158 above which the cc transactions, at least to U.S. and Canadian CC holders, get rejected. They are not even bothering to perform a transaction.

I hope others will chime in with actual recent success/failure data.
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Jun 12th, 2011, 08:14 PM
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Greg, many thanks for the info. I will try again for other routes tomorrow.
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Jun 12th, 2011, 09:15 PM
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Perhaps they have changed to the same system that Renfe is using, verification by VISA and MC.
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Jun 12th, 2011, 09:18 PM
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I am not quite sure, as no verification window coming up.
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Jun 12th, 2011, 09:34 PM
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I got no verification window, either.
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Jun 12th, 2011, 10:45 PM
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Are you trying to do the transaction in English or French? It seems to make a difference. The last tickets we purchased we did in French because the page kept directing us to Rail Europe, which I will not deal with.
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Jun 12th, 2011, 11:00 PM
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Maybe if we all make a point of giving our local official French Tourist Office a return serve when we receive their next promo email someone may get around to getting to the bottom of this. Or maybe not.
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Jun 12th, 2011, 11:05 PM
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Maybe not!
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Jun 12th, 2011, 11:07 PM
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Alternatives for booking Paris-Amsterdam:

Try www.thalys.com (if you select France, you may end up with the same payment sytsem, or they may have their own, I can't be sure)

Try www.nshispeed.nl making sure you get the self-print/e-ticket option, as being the Dutch railways you won't be able to collect from the station at the Paris end.

Voyages-sncf has always been good for credit card acceptance, I've had no reports about non-acceptance, but ater 10 years of running seat61.com, I know that credit cards aren't as international as we all think they are, glitches often arise. Always good to own several!
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Jun 12th, 2011, 11:13 PM
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"The last tickets we purchased we did in French because the page kept directing us to Rail Europe, which I will not deal with."

That because either

(a) you're from the USA, and admitted this, as the search results then open automatically on Rail Europe, anyone from the US can book in English at www.tgv-europe.com but MUST select 'Canada' or 'Great Britain' or (my favourote) 'Afghanistan' as your country.

or

(b) You're from Canada, Australia, etc., and didn't click the 'Continue to tgv-europe.com' link in the pop up box that says 'we'd like to divert you to out local website' ('local' meaning Rail Europe).

For anyone who doesn't understand the importance of booking with tgv-europe.com not raileurope.com, I've seen Paris-Nice 35 euros ($50) on tgv-europe.com (the correct official French Railways price), $110 plus $7 fees at raileurope.com.

They have made a 'commercial' decision to suppress the cheapest fare levels.
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Jun 13th, 2011, 07:57 AM
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I used www.voyages-sncf.com in French. Successes/failures noted used this setting using the same credit card. www.thalys.com also refused my card. This was not surprising since the last payment page is similar the www.voyages-sncf.com with different color scheme. The merchant code at Thalys site is identical to the SNCF site.

After observing that lower priced transactions seemed to be acceptable, I did an experiment if I could buy one ticket at a time. The seat assignment process would not allow me to have a good control on seating.
1. From my failed transaction, I knew certain "cote a cote" seats were available.
2. I requested "near" option specifying that particular "cote a cote" seat I knew was available using iExplorer. It gave me a "solo" seat instead so no chance of specifying an adjacent seat.

The acceptance/refusals, at least from a U.S. card holder, has nothing to do with the card itself, the cookies setting, or the time/day of transaction. The difference between success and failure seems to the amount of transaction in question. However, we need more data points.
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Jun 13th, 2011, 09:24 AM
  #16
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Many thanks for all the info.

On sncf site and Thalys site, I always stay at french pages, never had any problem (last booking in February) till now.

I didn't go into tgv-europe site, thought it would be the same as raileurope.ca

I will try again tonight after over 24 hours as sugggested by Greg.
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Jun 13th, 2011, 12:06 PM
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There is no purpose to using tgv-europe.com, I think the main (or only) reason people do is that they can't read French. It isn't raileurope, though, although it may refer you to it if you say you are in Canada.

If you stay on voyages-sncf, there isn't any chance to "admit" to being in the US as it never asks you where you are from when you are searching. So I dont understand the statement about being switched to Raileuope, it must have been the tgv-europe website. I don't really understand how people get on that website as the voyages-sncf website doesn't even mention it as far as I can see. I think it used to send you somewhere if you clicked on the English flag but now it doesn't even have one.
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Jun 13th, 2011, 01:16 PM
  #18
 
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Have you checked with your credit card company?

It's possible internet/international transactions (or any over €100) are automatically fraud protected/blocked unless you phone them first to alert them.
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Jun 13th, 2011, 02:36 PM
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Christina, the information from Seat 61 is correct (no surprise when you see his stunningly thorough website). A year or two ago Canada escaped the automatic Rail Euurope bump so any American can now choose Canada and avoid it too. Why? Better choices, lower prices than Rail Europe. And why use tgv-europe rather than its sister site from SNCF? Precisely because it is in English. I've bought tickets in French too, but the rail system is complicated enough that I can work more efficiently in English.
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Jun 13th, 2011, 08:03 PM
  #20
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The amount of transaction (such as over Euro100) on credit cards isn't an issue, as prior to try to book train tickets, I have prepaid thousands euro on hotel reservations in France.

As mentioned before, I have booked many times in French without any problem, never used English site yet.

Again, thanks for all the input.
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