Try these expert tips for winning a credit card chargeback

Yes, you can win a credit card chargeback. Even now, during the darkest days of the coronavirus pandemic. And yes, even when your travel company says “no.”

Asking a bank to force a merchant to return your money is typically a last resort. But that’s where we are now. A lot of my readers don’t have anywhere to go.

Some travel companies have quietly changed their refund rules in the past few weeks, demanding that consumers accept a credit voucher that expires after a year or two. They’ve violated federal laws or the terms of their contracts, citing “extraordinary” circumstances.

But what about your extraordinary circumstances?

An “explosion” in credit card chargebacks

“Since the pandemic, there’s been an explosion in credit card disputes,” says Monica Eaton-Cardone, co-founder of Chargebacks911, a company that specializes in credit card disputes. “The major problem is, people are filing disputes the wrong way. It’s adding additional hardships on businesses that are already struggling with disruptions, loss of income and sick employees.”

Already, more travelers had been turning to disputes to resolve their problems. But the coronavirus crisis could make a credit card dispute the first option, as opposed to the last, in some cases. And that might be a mistake.

When do you file a credit card chargeback?

Only under certain conditions. When the company disregards its own contract or federal laws. For example, if an airline cancels your flight, the Transportation Department says it must offer a refund within seven days if you paid by credit card. You need to meet some requirements, but if you can’t negotiate a refund, your bank can help.

Christopher Keaton is one of thousands of travelers mulling over a credit card dispute. Sandals, a resorts company, recently canceled his five-night stay at the Royal Caribbean, an all-inclusive resort in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Instead of refunding his $11,515, Sandals offered him a voucher for a future stay. He says company representatives phoned him repeatedly, pressuring him to accept the voucher. (Never try to resolve a consumer problem by phone.)

“I have no idea when I will be able to travel again,” says Keaton, a police officer from Boston, “and, personally, after dealing with Sandals, I have no desire to go there.”

The Sandals contract permits refunds requested 30 days before check-in, but Keaton’s agreement doesn’t address a Sandals-initiated cancellation. A Sandals representative said the company is offering guests like Keaton an extended credit for 18 months. That’s in line with other hospitality companies.

“To date, the feedback from our guests has been overwhelmingly positive about the revisions to our policies and the lengths we are going to accommodate their future travel plans,” says Maggie Rivera, a spokeswoman for Sandals.

How would a credit card dispute work?

Keaton could ask the bank that issued the card to take action on his behalf. This is allowed under the federal Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA), which protects consumers against charges for goods and services they didn’t accept or that weren’t delivered. He’d tell the bank that Sandals sold him a resort stay in April, then canceled it and kept his money.

The bank would contact Sandals and ask it to produce documentation of the charge. If Sandals was unable to prove that Keaton agreed to terms that allowed the company to offer a voucher instead of a refund, he should get his money back.

How much time do you have to file a credit card dispute? Although the FCBA says you have 60 days to dispute a charge, banks are sometimes more flexible when dealing with travel that’s booked in advance. In other words, don’t let a travel merchant talk you out of a dispute just because it’s been more than two months since your purchase.

Before you file a credit card dispute, make sure the travel company failed to live up to its promises.

“When you book travel, you’re likely to be presented with the terms of your purchase, much the same way retail stores have a return policy published at the checkout and on the receipt,” says Greg Mahnken, an analyst for Credit Card Insider. “Read the terms.”

How to win a credit card chargeback

Don’t call your bank immediately. Try to negotiate a refund first, advises Zaky Prabowo, the co-founder of WeTravel, a San Francisco-based payment and booking platform for group and multiday tour operators. Under the FCBA, you’re not required to contact a merchant first about a billing error, but you may be able to resolve the problem without a dispute.

“The owners of these companies value their reputation and their customers above anything else,” Prabowo says. “They want to refund you or find a solution that satisfies you. But due to the crisis and their cash flow situation, they might not be able to do that as fast as you’d expect.”

There are limits to what a credit card dispute can do for you. First, don’t expect too much from your bank in a post-coronavirus world. “The truth is that in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, a flood of these credit card disputes are going to come in. Issuers may not be as generous as they’ve been in the past,” says Matt Schulz, chief industry analyst for CompareCards, a credit card site.

And even if you’re successful, a travel company might try to send a collection agency after you. It could even blacklist you, although that is illegal. Car rental companies are notorious for adding customers to “do not rent” lists if they file successful chargebacks.

Finally, there’s the danger that your chargeback may hit the wrong target and destroy it. That would be the small travel agency you used to make the reservation. If it took your money, it could be on the line for the full amount. A few chargebacks like that are enough to put a small travel agency out of business. And haven’t we already seen enough destruction?

Posted in The Navigator Tagged , , ,

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can’t. He’s the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes weekly columns for King Features Syndicate, USA Today, and the Washington Post. If you have a consumer problem you can’t solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

Underwritten by

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirportParkingReservations.com

With nearly 20 years in the industry, over 128 airport covered in the U.S. and Canada, and over 1,000 Hotel and Parking Partners-we provide travelers the best options on how to get to the airport when flying. Whether you want to; drive yourself and park near an Airport (Airport Parking), stay the night before your flight at an airport hotel and leave your car (Hotel and Parking Package), or take a shared Shuttle/Private Car/Limo to the Airport- we got you covered. The best deals can be found online, and booking a reservation has never been easier. You can explore all of our options by visiting us at AirportParkingReservations.com, ParkSleepFly.com, AirportParking.com, and ShuttleFinder.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Global Rescue

Global Rescue is the world’s leading provider of medical, security, evacuation and travel risk management services. Founded in 2004, Global Rescue has exclusive relationships with the Johns Hopkins Emergency Medicine Division of Special Operations and Elite Medical Group. Global Rescue provides best-in-class services that identify, monitor and respond to client medical and security crises. Learn more about Global Rescue.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Generali Global Assistance

Generali Global Assistance has been a leading provider of travel insurance and other assistance services for more than 25 years. We offer a full suite of innovative, vertically integrated travel insurance and emergency services. Generali Global Assistance is part of The Europ Assistance (EA) Group, who pioneered the travel assistance industry in 1963 and continues to be the leader in providing real-time assistance anywhere in the world, delivering on our motto – You Live, We Care.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Seven Corners

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at Sodexoinsights.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at Travelexinsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Insuremyrentalcar.com

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at  Mediacomcable.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Arch RoamRight

Arch RoamRight is one of the fastest growing, most-highly rated travel insurance companies in the United States. Travel advisors love working with us, and travelers feel protected with our trip cancellation and travel medical insurance coverage. We also make it easy to file a claim online with our fast, paperless claims website. Learn more about RoamRight travel insurance.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

VisitorsCoverage is one of the world’s most trusted providers of travel insurance for millions of global travelers in over 175 countries. Working with top-rated travel insurance partner providers, VisitorsCoverage’s award-winning search, compare and purchase technology simplifies the travel insurance process and finds the best deals for the coverage you need to explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at VisitorsCoverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. Elliott.org readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by TravelInsurance.com

TravelInsurance.com makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at  TravelInsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on  Squaremouth.com to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International, SinglesCruise.com, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Generali Global Assistance

Generali Global Assistance has been a leading provider of travel insurance and other assistance services for more than 25 years. We offer a full suite of innovative, vertically integrated travel insurance and emergency services. Generali Global Assistance is part of The Europ Assistance (EA) Group, who pioneered the travel assistance industry in 1963 and continues to be the leader in providing real-time assistance anywhere in the world, delivering on our motto – You Live, We Care.

%d bloggers like this: