The Olympics ticket shambles
London 2012 organisers will begin debiting accounts for Olympics tickets next week. But if you have applied for tickets, don't expect any warning before your card is charged....
If you’ve applied for Olympics tickets, you’ll soon have to pay up.
The London 2012 Organising committee (LOCOG) was due to start allocating tickets and debiting accounts this week. However, this start date has now been put back to Monday 16 May while LOCOG finishes the ballots for oversubscribed events.
But if you are among the 1.8 million people who applied for tickets, the first indication you’ll get of whether you’ve been successful or not could come as a bit of a surprise...
Around 20 million Olympics tickets have been applied for, yet only 6.6 million are available. So over the last month LOCOG has been carrying out a series of random ballots in order to allocate tickets for oversubscribed events. And from next Monday, it’ll start charging the credit and debit cards of applicants for the tickets they have been allotted.
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The problem is, if you have applied for tickets, you won’t get any warning whatsoever that your account is about to be debited. All LOCOG has said is that payment will be taken at some point between 16 May and 10 June. This means that you should ensure you have sufficient funds available between these dates or risk facing hefty default charges from your card provider.
In fact, it could be weeks until you are notified as to exactly what tickets you have been allocated, even though you will have already paid for them! LOCOG has said that a confirmation e-mail will be sent out by 24 June 2010.
This could cause you a major financial headache if you have over-applied for tickets in an attempt to guarantee seats at certain events, but are allotted all of them.
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Many people have been affected by this, including my aunt who booked over £1,000 worth of Olympics tickets earlier this year and found the ticket allocation process very unclear.
She said it was 'extremely reductionist' that her card would be charged before she was even told what tickets she had been allocated, pointing out that it would be far better to simply be able to accept or reject them, as is the case with Wimbledon tickets.
LOCOG’s restriction on only accepting Visa cards – an official sponsor of the games – has also caused problems as some people may be forced to use an expensive credit cards or a current account overdraft to pay for the tickets.
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Reports have emerged from across the country of families who will be forced into severe debt if they are allocated all of the tickets they applied for. One lady who contacted the BBC said she may have to shell out over £20,000 if LOCOG debit her account for every ticket she booked.
If you do find that there are not sufficient funds in your account when the debit is made, LOCOG has said it will contact you and give you a second chance to make the payment. But if you still can’t pay, you’ll lose the tickets.
What’s more, if you have paid by cheque you’ll have the full value of the original application cheque debited, regardless of how many tickets you have been allocated. From here, you’ll have to wait until the end of July to find out how and when LOCOG will refund you the cash.
LOCOG says that it made it very clear at the application stage that customers should only apply for events they wanted to watch. So it shouldn’t be any surprise when your card is charged for an amount equal to or lower than their original ticket application basket price.
It also says that it has outlined exactly when the monies will be taken from applicant’s accounts. But for many people, the three week charging window may not be exact enough.
If you do end up with unwanted tickets you will be able to sell them on, providing someone else wants them. But this resale period will only take place early next year, so until then you’ll be stuck with the tickets and the bill.
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So what options do you have if you find yourself stuck with Olympics ticket debt in the next few weeks?
How to clear Olympics debt
If you don't have the cash to hand, the best way to pay for Olympics tickets is by using a 0% purchase credit card. That way you can spread the repayments for the tickets over a number of months and not pay any interest on the debt.
However, for many people, it's too late for that, and unfortunately, the account you entered when initially applying for the tickets is the account that will be debited – you can no longer change it.
So if you used a regular credit card or current account, it’s essential that you make sure you have enough credit or funds available to cover the whole ticket bill. Any defaulted payments will usually incur large charges from your card provider. The easiest way to do this is by dipping into your savings and transferring some money across to your current account in preparation.
But there are still ways to spread out Olympic ticket debt without paying any interest.
If you’ve funded the ticket bill using a charging credit card you can avoid paying interest by shifting the debt onto a 0% balance transfer card. Barclaycard is currently offering 20 and 18 month 0% deals on its Platinum balance transfer cards. Just remember that card issuers will not allow you to shift debt between their own cards and you will have to pay a fee when you make the transfer.
If the money for the tickets will come out of your current account and is going to send you into an expensive overdraft, you could consider taking out a 0% balance transfer credit card that allows you to carry out money transfers as part of the deal. This will allow you to move funds directly over from the credit card to your current account and pay off the debt without accruing any interest.
However, you will have to pay a transfer fee for this - around 4% - and this will of course involve applying for another credit card. So you'd be much better off simply using your savings instead if you can.
Have you applied for tickets?
Are you waiting to find out if your Olympics application has been successful? Is this a fair way of distributing and charging for tickets? Should customers get some warning before their account is charged?
Let us know your thoughts in the comment box below.