Having trouble getting a refund for canceled travel due to Coronavirus?

Were you looking forward to a special vacation each summer? Maybe you booked a cruise to Alaska or bought an all-inclusive family experience at Disneyland or even saved for a European destination. But then COVID-19 put all that on hold … and now your money is likely being held as well. Some airlines, hotels, and cruise lines are giving full refunds while others are offering credits toward future travel. And if your business travel has been canceled, it’s likely you just want your money back.

So what do you do next? How can you position yourself well to receive a refund?

Take a deep breath (we know it’s frustrating) and gather all your documents.

For canceled airline travel, you’re going to need flight numbers, confirmation numbers, ticket numbers, cities to/from, flight times, frequent flier numbers, all travelers’ names, and ticket numbers. For a hotel or vacation rentals, locate hotel/rental confirmation number, dates, city, hotel loyalty number, and name. Remember, you want to make it easy for the business to locate your reservation and you want to be fully prepared for the next step.

Insider’s Tip: If you have a loyalty number, have that handy because companies are more likely to help their best customers.

Call customer service and ask for a full refund over the phone.

Many businesses have made this process easy; others may only offer you a credit toward future travel. If the vendor has canceled the flight, closed the vacation rental, or delayed the cruise, you’re likely going to have a favorable result with a simple phone call. If the vendor is still offering what you paid for, you’re going to have to clearly state why you’ve canceled traveling. A few reasons that they are looking for include:

  • I wish to cancel my airline tickets to Florence, Italy, due to Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) health concerns and advisories. I am taking a precautionary measure.
  • I am 55+ years old and the CDC has advised that this age group avoid travel.
  • I am immunocompromised and the CDC has advised against travel.

A more complete list of reasons is included in the attachment below.

If the person who answers your call doesn’t give you what you want, ask to speak to a supervisor. If that doesn’t work, call back another day. Often if you start the process again with a different customer service rep, the outcome is completely different.

Insider’s tip: Mention to the vendor that you’re going to dispute the charge, and they’ll often miraculously find a way to help you.

Get a doctor’s note, if applicable.

Some vendors may require documentation. Ask your doctor to write you a note—on official letterhead—that clearly states why it is a risk to your personal health to travel due to COVID-19. This is extremely important!

Insider’s tip: Businesses are far more likely to honor your request in full if they are notified it’s due to the current health situation and restrictions that are beyond your control.

Call your credit card company to see if they offer cancellation coverage.

Some credit card companies—such as American Express—offer travel protection as part of your card services agreement. It may be as simple as alerting them to the fact that you cannot travel in order to receive a refund. If they don’t have this protection in place, you can always dispute any charge. The credit card company will suspend the charge from your account as they investigate its validity.

Insider’s tip: Dispute the charge as soon as possible. Some credit card companies have limits on when you can successfully reverse a charge.

Write a letter.

If you’ve called to request a refund and asked your credit card company to dispute the charge and still haven’t gotten your money back, it’s time to write a letter and include some legal phrasing that will set you up for your best chance for resolution.

Insider’s tip: We’ve included some templates below that you can customize to your situation.


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