By Anita Dunham-Potter Travel columnist
updated 1/3/2007 2:10:23 PM ET 2007-01-03T19:10:23

Question: I put $875 down on a Queen Mary 2 cruise to St. Kitts, Barbados and St. Thomas. My travel agent at AAA then sent me papers stating that the company wanted me to sign a “limited power of attorney” for my credit card. Ever hear of such a thing?
— Lily Tan,San Francisco

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Answer: Yes, Lily there is such a thing, but it’s not standard procedure at most travel agencies. Basically, a limited power of attorney is used to protect the travel agency from credit card fraud. This notarized document allows the travel agent to process and sign future airline, cruise and hotel ticket transactions on behalf of the client who has submitted the power of attorney to the agency.

When I asked Cheryl Hudak, president and CEO of the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) about powers of attorney, she characterized the requirement as ”old school.”

“It used to be recommended by ASTA years ago; however, I don’t know of many travel agencies that do this anymore,” said Hudak, who is also the owner of a travel agency in Boardman, Ohio. “I know at my agency, we haven’t done it for some time.”

Hudak added that the practice is most common among agencies that feel a need to protect themselves from clients backing out of vacations when fees are involved. She suggested that travelers need not be concerned about signing such a document, provided it is truly a limited power of attorney.

“It should say specifically what the travel agency is allowed to charge for such-and-such trip at such-and-such date,” Hudak said. She added that travelers who have questions about any legal document should seek the counsel of an outside attorney.

Anita Dunham-Potter is a Pittsburgh-based travel journalist specializing in cruise travel. Anita's columns have appeared in major newspapers and many Internet outlets, and she is a contributor to Fodor's "Complete Guide to Caribbean Cruises 2006." E-mail Anita or visit her Web site anitavacation.com.

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