A September date night in New York nearly ended on a sour note when the president's credit card got rejected at trendy Estela on East Houston Street.
Obama was trying to get some respite from the madness of the UN General Assembly, but suffered a common embarrassment when he tried to settle up and plunk down his credit card — only to have it rejected.
"It turned out I guess I don't use it enough, so they thought there was some fraud going on," Obama revealed at the new Consumer Financial Protection Board in DC.
The first lady, who used to earn more than Obama when she was a high-priced hospital exec but doesn't currently draw a salary, came to the rescue.
"Fortunately, Michelle had hers," Obama said.
The anecdote was an effort to show that even presidents — who get free housing and transportation — can be inconvenienced by the financial system.
"I was trying to explain to the waitress, 'No, I really think that I've been paying my bills,'" Obama recalled. "See, even I'm affected by this."
Estela, which describes itself as having "American food (with) European influences," features such treats as fried arroz negro squid and romesco for $23, and lamb ribs with charmoula and honey for $21.
Zagat lists the average bill as "expensive."
Reviewers have praised the food, while pointing out that the bill can skyrocket, since half the bottles on the wine list are priced at $100 or more.
The president's credit card flub hadn't been disclosed previously, although the restaurant visit was hardly a secret.
Obama was trailed by a press pool, and groups of New Yorkers jammed street corners as his motorcade headed downtown.
Obama's run-in with the credit system came after ex-Fed chief Ben Bernanke revealed that he got turned down by a lender when he tried to refinance his pricey home in Washington.
During the meeting in DC, Obama announced a new plan to boost security for federal debit cards that allow people to get benefits like Social Security.