The Name Game: How to Book Flights When You're Legally Changing Your Name

Monday, August 4, 2014

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I got married in November 2012 and I'm STILL working on changing my name on everything. Anyone else annoyed by the process? I never thought I had so many accounts & documents to change! Your Social Security Card, Driver's License (or State ID), Passport & Credit Cards all need to change - barely scratching the surface!

Marriage, divorce, adoption or any other reason - traveling after a name change can be a bit of a hassle. Here's how to book flights & travel even when you're half way through the process.

If you can, change one ID at a time (passport & license). That way, you'll have one ID with your old name & one with your new name until you can get everything changed. When I changed my license in April, I still hadn't changed my passport. It came in handy as I had already booked a flight under my maiden name. I traveled through security with my passport as my photo ID and there was no problem.

If you book a domestic flight (or a cruise) under your former name and change all of your identification, it should be fine - you'll just need a little extra paperwork to get through. Call the airline/cruise line to see what their policy is, but a certified copy of your marriage certificate should be proof enough. It ties your old name to your new name.

Cruises leaving from/returning to the US don't require a passport, but they certainly make it easier. You can bring alternative documents. Learn more about that here.

Please note that there is no "quick fix" for traveling internationally on a passport that doesn't match your flight reservation.  This includes Mexico & Canada! [The only exception may be a cruise of US origin/return, see above]. If this is the case for you, you'll need to expedite your passport renewal. Here are the guidelines to expediting your passport. Take care of this as soon as possible!


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Depending on where you're visiting, your credit card will need to match your ID. Many places in the US ask to see ID, but some countries have more strict policies. In the UK, if you present a credit card without a matching ID, many shop keepers will take it away from you (to prevent fraud). It's always best to have a matching ID with your credit cards so you don't run into a sketchy situation. In my experience, even an expired ID works - just your name next to your picture so they can verify you're not a thief. 

Don't book flights with your new name until you have an ID in hand! This is a huge mistake, because you never know what will happen. For example, a honeymoon should NEVER be booked under your married name! You won't even have a copy of a marriage certificate to tie these together yet and could end up being a disaster. Most flights are non-transferable, so you might end up with a useless flight. Error on the side of caution. 

You can transfer Frequent Flyer accounts to your new name so your miles aren't lost! It's best to wait on changing these until all documentation (passport & license) are changed, so you can take care of it all at once. If you book with your married name BEFORE your FF# transfers, don't worry. Book without your FF#, and once you change your FF# to your new name, request miles for a previous flight. Every airline can do this simply. Keep the confirmation number for any flights taken while you're in name change limbo. I'll share more about how to make this transition in a future blog.

Keep in mind the random accounts you might need to change; travel insurance (and all kinds of insurance, for that matter!) any loyalty programs (car rental, airport lounge, hotel), etc. Go through your wallet and see what cards are tied specifically to your name, then work on changing them as quickly as possible.

Changing your name (on everything!!!!!!!) can be such a pain, but having a plan will make it easier. I recently received my new passport, so I've almost fully transitioned. Can't wait until it's over! Are you in the process of changing your name?

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