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Are you missing money? Don't forget to ask for refunds


CNBC Make It is posting a new financial task to tackle each day for a month. These are all meant to be simple, time-sensitive activities to take your mind off of the news for a moment and, hopefully, put you on sturdier financial footing. This is day 17 of 30.

Pre-Covid-19, millions made plans for the spring and coming summer months, from concerts in the park to trips abroad to kids' summer camp. Now, most major events in the coming months have been canceled, camps have closed and families are being told to stay home for the foreseeable future.

Unfortunately, many Americans paid in advance for these services and events that they will never get to enjoy. Today, take some time to recoup some of that money. Begin by writing down a list of the products, services and/or events that you pre-paid for. They might include:

  • Travel agencies, including airlines, cruise lines, rental car companies, hotels and Airbnbs, etc.
  • Entertainment venues, including ticket sites like Ticketmaster
  • Children's activities, such as summer camp deposits or dance class fees
  • Gyms, fitness studios, race entry fees, etc.
  • One time event expenses, like vendors for a wedding

Comb through the past few months' worth of credit card statements to find expenses you may have forgotten about and ask your partner or other members of your households if they can think of anything you might have missed.

After you have your list, make a plan for contacting each company for a refund. Note that there will be different protocol for each company or organization, and a different timeline for getting your money back.

It will likely take some time to receive your refund — every industry is slammed with requests right now, and each business is handling these requests differently. In a Google doc or journal, record when you asked for a refund, who you spoke to and what was said about the status of your claim. This will help you keep track of everything.

If you cannot get through to the original merchant, then you may be able to contact your credit card or debit card company and dispute the payment as a last resort.

Many companies are offering alternatives to refunds, like credits or discounts for future events. Keep track of any credits you receive in the same place where you're tracking refunds, and include any rescheduled events in your calendar reminders. 

If you tried to get a refund at the beginning of the stay-at-home orders and were unable to receive one, try again now. Many companies have updated their refund guidelines and technical capabilities in the past few weeks.

Finally, if you are financially able to, consider which organizations you won't ask for a refund from, because you believe in their mission or because you want the organization to exist in some form months and years from now. The YMCA, for example, is reportedly using funds from gym memberships to provide remote support services for community members and virtual learning for kids. That said, there are no easy decisions right now. You have to make the best decision for your personal finances. Just be sure to be courteous and patient when going through the refund process. 

Don't miss the last five days: 

Check out: The best credit cards of 2020 could earn you over $1,000 in 5 years

How a 31-year-old making $118,000 in Philadelphia spends his money
How a 31-year-old making $118,000 in Philadelphia spends his money