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Event Cancellations Due to COVID-19: How to Get Your Money Back

You are most likely to succeed if you bought your tickets or booked travel with a credit card. Here are some tips.

The spread of the novel coronavirus has forced many event cancellations. This encompasses everything from major sporting events to music festivals to business conferences and Broadway shows. In these unprecedented times, how is a ticket holder supposed to get his or her money back?

First of all, there’s a bit of good news. You should get your money back, and hopefully, it won’t be too difficult. Many major sellers are promising automatic refunds for canceled events – including Ticketmaster, StubHub and Telecharge. Wait a week or two, and see if the charges have automatically been reversed on that card. If they have not been, contact the ticket seller.

If you paid with cash, you’ll need to deal with the box office directly (or whoever else you bought the tickets through).

How to get a refund if you paid with a credit or debit card

event cancellations

In general, credit cards usually have more generous fraud and dispute resolution protections than debit cards. It’s also worth noting that you need to have made the purchase in question with that particular card.

Part of that is because credit card charges are really the bank’s money. They are a line of credit, until you pay them back. Whereas with a debit card, it’s your money taken directly from your checking account.

Considering the numerous coronavirus-related event cancellations, most event ticketing providers and travel companies are being very forthcoming with refunds. However, if you don’t get an ideal outcome with the merchant, contact your card company.

Credit card disputes and chargeback requests can be subjective. Your success will vary depending on your individual circumstances, the amount of the charges, and your relationship with the card issuer.

Postponed vs. canceled events

A few other nuances here: One is the distinction between a postponed and a canceled event. If the event has been rescheduled and not completely called off, then you probably won’t get an automatic refund. Instead, your ticket will be valid for the new date.

If you’re no longer able or willing to attend, then you should be entitled to a refund. However, you’ll most likely have to ask for it. The same advice holds: Start with the ticket seller and consider a card company as a backup.

Event-related travel

There’s also a potential domino effect that extends well beyond the event ticket. Many festivals, such as South by Southwest and Coachella are good examples because many ticket holders also bought flights and lodging along with their tickets. Airlines and hotels have generally been forgiving, but Airbnb initially refused many refund requests

It seems like that’s changing with respect to Coachella; it now fits Airbnb’s extenuating circumstances policy after a public health emergency was declared in that part of Southern California.

But many prospective South by Southwest attendees don’t appear to be getting Airbnb refunds. This is a classic instance in which I’d advise polite but persistent action. Try asking the Airbnb host, Airbnb itself and then your card issuer for a refund.

For what it’s worth, SXSW is also refusing to issue ticket refunds after its event cancellations, instead deferring admission to one of the next three years with a 50% discount in one of the other two years; Coachella postponed its event until October and promises more details on refunds soon.

What to do if you encounter long wait times

People are reporting long wait times when they try to call ticket sellers, airlines and credit card companies. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Determine if you even need to resolve this right now. If you can wait a few days or weeks, the problem may take care of itself (the refund may be processed automatically, the postponement procedure may become clearer, etc.). Or at least the wait time to speak with someone will hopefully be shorter in the not-so-distant future.
  2. If you require an immediate response, try other channels in addition to the phone. If the company you’re trying to reach has an online chat function, try that. Same for email, Twitter, Facebook and so on.
  3. You can get really creative by trying to find an international customer service phone number. No guarantees this will work, but especially with airlines, it can. Foreign-language reps typically speak English and can assist you, potentially after a much shorter hold time.
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