Your Money, Your Future
Your Money, Your Future

Lost your summer getaway due to Covid-19? How to get your money back

Key Points
  • The coronavirus pandemic led to the cancelation or postponement of numerous events, including Coachella and the 2020 Summer Olympics. Vacations have also been scuttled.
  • Close to 3 in 10 purchasers of concert tickets received no refund, while a quarter of sports fans found themselves in a similar predicament, according to data from Bankrate.com
  • Trying to get your money back? Go to the merchant first. Try your credit card issuer or bank if that doesn’t work, said Ted Rossman, industry analyst at Bankrate.com.
Klaus Vedfelt | DigitalVision | Getty Images

If your long-anticipated summer vacation or event was canceled due to Covid-19, you have less than a 1 in 2 chance of getting back all your money.

Those are the findings from recent research by Bankrate.com. The personal finance site took an online poll of 2,624 adults in July.

Indeed, Broadway shows will remain closed for the remainder of 2020. The Summer Olympics have been bumped to next year. Taylor Swift has canceled her 2020 live performances and will reschedule her U.S. and Brazil shows for next year.

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More than half of the participants who bought tickets in advance for a trip or event that was ultimately called off due to the pandemic have lost money, Bankrate.com found.

Worse yet for some customers: Events were postponed, so they may have to wait for an official cancellation before getting their cash back.

Ticketmaster, for instance, is issuing refunds for canceled events, but tickets are still valid in the meantime if the event is merely postponed.

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"That was a pain point for many people — there were events postponed, but not canceled," said Ted Rossman, an industry analyst with Bankrate.com.

"Nobody thought we'd have thousands of events canceled at once."

While 57% of customers with scuttled plans were able to get a refund in about a month or less, nearly 2 in 10 were still waiting to get their money back, according to Bankrate.com

Here are three steps to take to move the process along.

1. Begin with the original seller

Getty Images

"Start with where you made the purchase," said Rossman. "Call the merchant or the provider."

Though the answer seems obvious, it means that if you bought your flight tickets through Expedia or booked a stay via Airbnb — that's where you turn first for the resolution.

Individuals who booked trips through online travel agencies, rather than booking directly through an airline or hotel, can run into trouble here.

They each have their own set of cancellation policies, and they may be waiting for cues from other parties — including the airline — before they allow you to change or cancel your reservation.

Knowing the rules can help.
Ted Rossman
industry analyst with Bankrate.com

People who made their plans through third parties are also more likely to end up unfulfilled, said Rossman.

"The most common complaints are with an intermediary, including a travel agency or a home rental site," he said. "Intermediaries complicate it."

Meanwhile, travel agencies have blasted providers that have changed the terms and conditions for refunds and cancellations amid the pandemic.

"Not only is this ethically unacceptable, with state and federal consumer protection laws generally prohibiting such acts, it is simply wrong in every way," the American Society of Travel Advisors said in a June statement.

2. Go to your credit card provider

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Your credit card company can help undo the transaction, said Rossman. This is known as a chargeback.

"They advocate on your behalf and follow up with the merchant to try getting the money back that way," he said.

Be careful with this move, as it can backfire.

For instance, StubHub deactivates the accounts of users who no longer want their tickets and file a dispute. In light of Covid-19, the ticket reseller is giving customers who bought tickets to now-canceled events a coupon worth 120% of the original order.

"From an ethical standpoint, you don't want to make chargeback requests willy-nilly," said Rossman. "It reflects poorly on you as a customer and it can hit the business with charges."

3. Try your airline or hotel

Klaus Vedfelt | DigitalVision | Getty Images

If your travel agency wasn't responsive and your credit card company didn't help, consider reaching out directly to the airline or hotel.

Make sure you read up on the policies these parties have in place due to coronavirus-related cancellations.

That's because if you call off the trip on your own, you might not be able to get your money back. You stand a better chance of a full refund if the airline winds up calling off the trip.

"If an airline cancels your flight, you're entitled to money back," said Rossman. "If you cancel, they can give you a waiver for future travel, but that isn't the same as getting your money back.

"Knowing the rules can help."