Credit card required for Office 365 – why?

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Why does Microsoft demand a credit/debit card for Office 365 plans when you’ve bought your annual plans elsewhere, and probably cheaper?

As Office Watch readers know, you don’t have to buy Office 365 Home or Personal direct from Microsoft. Microsoft is the worst place to buy or renew Microsoft Office because it’s always the highest price.

It’s usually cheaper to buy Microsoft Office elsewhere. Office 365 Home or Personal plans get started or renewed discounted from a retailer and applying the unique product key to your Office 365 account.

Sorry, unable to complete at this time

Microsoft demands a credit/debit card with Office 365 even though you’ve already paid.

Worse, there’s no clear error message to explain the problem.  When you try to apply an Office 365 product key the customer sees a message ‘Sorry, Unable to complete at this time’.  That implies there’s a temporary problem with Microsoft’s system but it’s misleading.

Office Watch reader and birthday boy, Brian takes up the story.  He’d tried to enter a product key one evening and got the unhelpful error message.  So he tried again the following day:

“Unfortunately the same thing happened – SORRY UNABLE TO COMPLETE AT THIS TIME. You also advised to contact support, which I did online.

The guy was very helpful but led me to a link that would resolve my problem.

Yep, you guessed it, after putting in the key it immediately went to their subscription page where reluctantly I had to give gave my credit card details to continue.

I have always resisted doing this, because as you say you can get better deals elsewhere. I thought OK, let’s see if this works particularly as the credit card in question expires soon. The site immediately accepted both product keys and I now have the option to switch off direct charging if I wish. “

Brian did the right thing, give Microsoft card details but use a card that will expire before his Office 365 plan ends.  Microsoft can’t use the card to auto-renew at top price but it satisfies their requirement to have a credit card recorded.

Kudos to Office 365 account support.  We’ve heard nothing but good things about the help given to people with O365 account troubles.

Why is a credit/debit card necessary?

Office 365 plans don’t need a debit/credit card to work because there are cheaper alternatives to buying or renewing direct from Microsoft.

But it’s in Microsoft’s interests to get card details from all customers.  There’s a lot of extra profit in renewing at top price so it’s pushed hard.  The bonus month offer for turning on auto-renewal is just one part of that strategy.

Compulsory card details might not be required in all regions but it’s certainly required in North America, Europe, UK, Australia and NZ.  There are plenty of people elsewhere who don’t have a debit or credit card.


Microsoft could fix their system to stop that misleading error message (which just wastes customer and support time). Either properly explain why a credit/debit card is needed or drop the requirement entirely.

Credit/debit card details saved with Microsoft should be safe.  Customers are entitled to a choice about what personal details are saved online.  Compulsory card details serves Microsoft’s interests, not customers.

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