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How to get your money back for travel during the coronavirus
Recover your travel costs with or without help from travel insurance.
Updated . What changed?
If your travel plans have been lost without travel insurance coverage, you may be able to do something about it. You could explore other options for refunding your trip, especially looking for refunds directly from travel services. Many airlines, hotels and tourist tickets alike are offering special refund policies so customers can get their money back or enjoy trip plans at a later date.
What's in this guide?
- Research your travel company's coronavirus response
- Refund your hotel and attraction bookings
- Reschedule your travel for a later date
- Contact your credit card provider
- Buy Cancellation for Any Reason (CFAR) travel insurance
- When does travel insurance cover my canceled trip costs?
- Compare travel insurance policies
- Bottom line
- Questions about recovering travel costs during the coronavirus
Research your travel company’s coronavirus response
If you already paid for your trip but decide not to go, you can contact your airline, bus or train carrier to see how it’s handling refunds during the coronavirus. Carriers are helping customers in several ways:
Many airlines are offering refunds or waiving fees if you booked within a specific time frame. You may qualify for a refund or travel voucher even if you booked a nonrefundable flight.
Buses or trains
Policies differ based on the carrier, but you typically get a full refund before your departure date if you buy a flexible, business or premium ticket.
Value tickets may allow free changes or cancellations until two weeks before departure, charge fees for canceling or changing or may not offer refunds at all. In some cases, you won’t pay fees if you get the coronavirus and show proof.
For example, Amtrak is pausing the expiration of any coupons and points through September 25, 2020. You can also cancel or change any Amtrak reservations made before May 31, 2020 without paying a fee by calling 800-872-7245 and speaking to a customer service rep.
You can receive a future travel credit or full refund for cruise travel, depending on the cruise line you’re sailing. With some cruises, you’ll have to meet guidelines to get a full refund, while others only offer travel credits. If your cruise is scheduled before June, cruise lines may let you cancel as little as 48 hours before departure. If you’re charged a cancellation fee, you might be able to apply it toward a future cruise.
Travel agencies and online travel agencies (OTAs)
If you booked through a travel agency, you’re at the mercy of your agent’s or their partner company’s refund policy. This includes OTA sites like Expedia and Booking.com. Some agents may offer refunds as part of the package, while others charge fees.
In addition, OTAs aren’t required to refund nonrefundable tickets. However, some sites like Expedia are offering blanket cancellations for hotel bookings if customers request it within specific dates. Other companies are processing refunds through the company directly, which may lead to refund delays.
Refund your hotel and attraction bookings
Most hotels and attraction tickets have flexible policies on cancellations, at least until several days before your scheduled arrival. You might see these common refund policies:
Some hotel bookings are refundable if you cancel within a certain time, like 48 hours before arrival. But you may not get reimbursed for a nonrefundable booking. In this case, you could try asking the hotel for an exception. A few hotel chains like Marriott are offering full refunds and free date changes for any rooms, as long as you change before the cutoff date and before 24 hours from arrival. Other hotels are extending their elite status programs for a limited time.
Bookings made on or before March 14, 2020 and arriving by April 14, 2020 can get a full refund. After that, you can get a full refund if you or the host gets diagnosed with the coronavirus. For other bookings, you’re subject to the host’s cancellation policy. That can range from free cancellations before 14 days from your arrival to partial refunds if canceled within seven days from arrival. Follow up with Airbnb customer service if your Airbnb host is refusing a refund that meets these requirements.
Online travel agencies
Travel packages or comparison sites like Expedia have different refund policies, but some third parties are relaxing on cancellations during the coronavirus. You could qualify for a full refund or get a voucher.
Attraction or event tickets
Most museums, theme parks, theaters and other attractions are offering to extend tickets to future dates, such as Walt Disney World. You can get a full refund in many cases, though not always.
For concerts or one-time events, you may get refunds if the event is canceled. However, you may not get a refund if the event is postponed, whether or not the new date is set. Your ticket may be allowed a refund once the new event date is set if that date doesn’t work for you.
Reschedule your travel for a later date
Another sure way to keep the full value of your tickets is to reschedule for a future date. Many airlines will change your flight without change fees, even with basic economy tickets. Other carriers offer ways to avoid their fees.
Most entertainment venues welcome customers to transfer their tickets as well. Plus, your travel insurance company may transfer your policy to the new dates, so you don’t lose out on coverage — a win-win for everyone.
However, the coronavirus is an evolving situation, making rescheduling a bit tricky. You might keep tabs on when health organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expect the virus to die down.
Contact your credit card provider
If you hold travel insurance through your credit card, you might be granted coverage for cancellations if you’re diagnosed with the coronavirus or have a doctor’s orders not to travel. Coverage only applies if you paid all or most of the trip’s cost with that credit card.
However, each credit card company has responded differently to help customers. Most companies encourage you to touch base with your airline, hotel or other bookings before canceling through your credit card. If you talked with these travel services and can’t get a refund, you can file a billing dispute with your credit card company.
Make sure to check your company’s policy before canceling a trip. Keep in mind some companies exclude pandemics specifically. If pandemics are excluded, you may only have a case if you paid for the trip before the coronavirus became a known event around January 2020.
Buy Cancellation for Any Reason (CFAR) travel insurance
Planning to head overseas in the next few months but worried about the coronavirus? You could buy cancel for any reason travel insurance, which allows refunds no matter the reason for canceling. This coverage helps when standard policies would exclude your cancellation. For example, with CFAR coverage, you could now cancel if the coronavirus is found at your destination but travel isn’t restricted there.
CFAR insurance does have a couple of catches, though:
- You may have to purchase CFAR coverage at the same time as paying for your trip or within a time limit.
- The coverage can cost a hefty amount more than standard policies.
- You may have to cancel before 48 hours from departure.
- You’ll only get a portion of your trip’s nonrefundable expenses back, up to 75%.
When does travel insurance cover my canceled trip costs?
Your travel insurance likely won’t cover coronavirus claims at this point. It may cover trip cancellations or interruptions if you bought the policy before the coronavirus became a known event around January 22, 2020 to January 24, 2020.
Otherwise, you’re unlikely to get coverage unless your company is making an exception. Some companies are covering medical expenses and medical transportation if you travel to an affected area and catch the illness.
Compare travel insurance policies
Travel insurance may not help if you’re canceling your trip due to the coronavirus except in special cases. But you can recover costs through your bookings directly, your credit card company or with flexible CFAR insurance. Your travel refunds and these coronavirus assistance programs can help you manage your finances until we’re on the other side of the pandemic’s curve.
Questions about recovering travel costs during the coronavirus
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