When A Travel Provider Keeps Your Money, Remember The Credit Card Chargeback

I’ve given the advice not to cancel airline travel yet even if you aren’t going to fly. You don’t really want a future travel credit from the airline. You want your money back. That’s not going to happen unless the airline cancels your flight. There’s an increasingly likely chance that happens. So wait until the last minute to cancel your plans, to see if it does.

This is doubly true if you booked your travel 11 months ahead of time, and the airline is going to give you a voucher when you decide to cancel. You’re out of luck because in most cases the voucher is only good for travel 12 months from the original date of purchase.

Hertz has been keeping most customers’ money who made prepaid reservations. There’s a hack to get some of the money back that works even better if you have a long or expensive booking.

United, for its part, says that if you have an international itinerary with a significant schedule change and want your money back they will make you wait a year. United is not honoring the policy that was published on its website at the time tickets were purchased. That’s a case where I believe you should consider filing a dispute with your credit card company. And there are no doubt plenty of others, as some travel providers fight to hold onto cash without delivering services.

  • Under the Fair Credit Billing Act you have 60 days to file a dispute from the statement date on which a charge appears. In practice banks generally extend longer timeframes as a courtesy.

  • Legal protections for the consumer only apply to disputes in writing. The informal process, whether online or over the phone, is probably more convenient but the card issuer isn’t held to the same requirements.

  • Generally a card issuer can push the charge back through Visa and onto the merchant for 18 months so may honor a dispute that long, though they do not have to do so.

  • In the federal 10th circuit a credit card company is not required to honor a dispute at all where you’ve already paid off the charges on your card! (The 10th Circuit is based in Denver and covers Colorado; Kansas; New Mexico; Oklahoma; Utah; and Wyoming.) As a general matter they still will do so however.

There seems to me little question, I think, that United’s failure to honor a published promise at the time of sale would warrant a chargeback. And if you’re being given a voucher you cannot practically use, because it will expire before you can reasonably travel again? You have materially fewer options to use the credits in the near-term than you did when you bought the ticket.

Even if you don’t win the dispute travel providers pulling what strike me as dishonest tactics ought to go through the paperwork to argue for their duplicity with card issuers.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. So to avoid the nutty 10th Circuit ruling, one can and should notify the credit card company before paying the disputed charge? Seems that would put the liability back on the credit card company, no?

  2. Many of us with upcoming award flights on United booked those flights last summer or early fall in order to get ahead of United’s switch from an award chart to “dynamicaward pricing” in November 2019, so of course we paid the charge (for taxes and fees) many, months ago. Are we hosed?

  3. Is there any legal advice for people who have booked concert or event tickets through big name ticket holders like TicketMaster? Shows are being postponed or cancelled through the promoters and they are saying contact the original ticket purchase location but Ticketmaster has not updated the event to reflect the new status and continues to sell tickets to the event. How do people get their money back or receive a credit for the future show when in most cases we have to travel to get to the main event from one state to another? (Ticketmaster Refund policy is no help because it clearly states that if Ticketmaster cancels or postpones the event, the refund will be automatic.) please inform a very interested but overlooked group of citizens. Thank you.

  4. Has anyone cancelled American Air Award tickets for travel toward the end of April (both domestic and international on British Air)? If so is American “re-banking” miles and waiving the fees (I hope!)?

  5. Yes . I had award travel book for India travelling on March 22nd. AA redeposited the miles without any charges. I think this because visa suspension by Indian govt

  6. Wife and I are in Uruguay trying to get home to Boston. Original Tix were MIA to Cordoba in discounted J, flight home March 28. I called AA last Thursday thinking we had best bail soon as we could.

    While we had to wait for call backs a couple times, we always connected with the Plat desk within an hour. Mostly it just rang thru to an agent. Every agent was patient and capable. They rescheduled us out of Montevideo for tonight.

    Now our flight is delayed 5 hours but the equipment is here as is the crew. We have had to shift the MIA to Boston flight and again the phone agents were excellent. I’m lifetime Plat and will stick with AA.

    Now we just need to get past the chuckle f#$_&s at the border, from what I see CBP has made it a total circular firing squad. Wish us luck.

    PS we have been down here since late Jan. It was not so grim when we left.

  7. @TMBraxton. Ticketmaster has different policies regarding postponement vs cancellation. If any event is postponed, you won’t get a refund until it has cancelled. Postponed indicates they intend to reschedule at a later date, making your ticket still usable. Only in the event of a cancellation, will you get a refund. If you go to your account, all events are marked either postponed or cancelled, in those cases.


    I can shed some light on this as we do book a bunch of concerts and do get postponements (for this and other reasons). IME, during the time that the new show date is in limbo, i.e. TBA, they do not continue to sell tickets (I’m sure there are exceptions, but I’ve not seen it). Also, IME, there is a Request Refund link on many tickets where there is a postponement/reschedule. Not sure if it’s always on the app, but it is on the website, IME. Sometimes it’s available as soon as the show is postponed, even before there’s a new date (I have one like that right now, but waiting on the new date first). There may be cases where the option is not available until the new data is announced.

    To be clear, my experience with this is not extensive (a handful of cases), but TM have done the right thing in those cases at least.


  9. &Sue,

    That is *Not* Universally correct. I have always been offered refunds for postponed/rescheduled shows including one right now. Reschedule can definitely get refunds.


  10. Quote from above:
    You don’t really want a future travel credit from the airline. You want your money back. That’s not going to happen unless the airline cancels your flight.”
    OK, but what happens if they DON’T cancel the flight and it takes off? (and can they actually NOT operate a flight, but at the same time NOT cancel it?) I have read a number of (unverified) reports, that the flights were not cancelled, yet the passengers were unable to take them, e.g. because the incoming country only accepts its own citizens? Is it possible to get some record online, if a flight is actually happening (or cancelled) to quote it later, when trying to get money back?

  11. I work in the travel industry, at a company that sells airfare. As a consumer, a chargeback seems logical, especially when the airline is not honoring their normal schedule change and flight cancellation policies. However, I don’t think many customers realize that when you chargeback an airline ticket that was purchased through a travel agency or travel company that the airline is NOT responsible for covering that chargeback. Instead, they pass that chargeback to the merchant. IF the small travel company I work for can survive this first round of economic turbulence, it’s very likely that it will not survive the additional chargebacks that we are already receiving. The airline gets a bailout from the government and my company will not. Before charging back, please consider who will be responsible for paying the chargeback (i.e is it really the airline or is it a another company).

  12. Has anyone had any luck with cancelled or “postponed” vacation travel disputes (due to covid) with CITI Advantage Card? Both me and the merchant have provided support and they’ve requested another response to the merchant based on the support I submitted in my appeal. Is this normal? How much more back and forth will there be?

  13. @profan – the document is explicit that when an airline chooses to cancel a flight [as opposed to being ordered to cancel a flight] that a dispute is valid, and existing rules apply like a consumer should try to get a refund from the airline first. there are very few cases where airlines have been ordered to cancel flights, though a handful of international destinations this does apply

  14. I started looking into this because I have a ticket (bought in April) JFK to Tashkent on Uzbekistan Airways for August which has now been cancelled. The airline refused to refund me and is offering a voucher. On their website they say:

    “The application of deposit vouchers is introduced on the basis decision at the meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Uzbekistan chaired by the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan dated May 25, 2020 on ensuring stability of the transport system during the quarantine period.”

    I filed a chargeback with Citi which is pending for now. But I wonder if this (the reference to the decision by the government) is sufficient grounds for them to deny me. I don’t know whether the ticket was formally cancelled because there is no demand, or because no international flights are allowed into Uzbekistan for now. It seems that the decision to only offer vouchers instead of refunds is a blanket and all-encompassing one, so that even if some flights were allowed to operate, perhaps later, and some were canceled, all cancellations could only expect a voucher or rebooking to a different date, but no refund.

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