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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.

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If you’ve canceled your travel plans due to COVID-19 with no travel insurance, you still could get refunds for your trip from travel service providers. Many airlines, hotels and tourist tickets are offering special refund policies so that customers can get their money back or enjoy a future trip.

Research your travel company’s coronavirus response

If you paid for your trip but decided not to go, you can contact your airline, bus or train carrier to see how it’s handling refunds. Carriers are helping customers in several ways:

Airlines

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, charge fees for canceling and changing routes 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, Greyhound is allowing customers to exchange tickets for a new bus route or voucher without change fees. This policy encourages customers to book a ticket during the coronavirus pandemic.

Cruises

You may receive future travel credit or a full refund for cruise travel, depending on the cruise line you’re sailing. Many canceled voyages are issuing future travel credits at a higher value than what you paid for, and you often can use the voucher during the next few years.

Travel agencies and online travel agencies (OTAs)

If you booked through a travel agency, you’re at the mercy of your agency’s refund policy, including OTA sites like Expedia and Booking.com. Some agencies offer refunds as part of the package, while others charge fees.

OTAs probably won’t refund nonrefundable tickets, especially since the refunds get approved and processed through the hotel or flight company. In many cases, you can change your booking or cancel before a certain date to avoid losing your money.

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. Common refund policies:

Hotels

Most hotel bookings may be refundable or rescheduled if you cancel within a certain time, like 24 hours before arrival. If you need to cancel because you got the coronavirus or because a government body issued a travel restriction, most hotels will consider a refund despite passing any cancellation timeframes.

You probably won’t get reimbursed for a nonrefundable booking. As a perk, some hotels are extending their elite status programs for a limited time.

Airbnbs

Bookings made on or before March 14, 2020 and arriving by October 31, 2020 can get a full refund or travel credit, unless you already checked in. Follow up with Airbnb customer service if your host refuses a refund that meets these requirements.

For new bookings, you can get a full refund if you or the host gets the coronavirus and provides proof. Otherwise, you’re subject to the host’s standard cancellation policy, ranging from free cancellations to partial refunds if you cancel within set timeframes.

Online travel agencies

Bookings through online travel sites like Expedia use the service provider’s cancellation policy. Check your booking to see whether you qualify for free changes or cancellations. You’ll cancel through the online travel site, but the refund gets processed through the hotel or flight company.

Attraction or event tickets

Most museums, theme parks, theaters like Six Flags and Walt Disnery World are offering to extend tickets to future dates. Many theme parks also are adding extra months to season passes so that customers can experience the pass’s full value. You can get a refund in many cases, though not always.

For concerts or one-time events, you may get refunds if the event is canceled. However, ou 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.

Most entertainment venues welcome customers to transfer their tickets as well. Plus, your travel insurance company can 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. 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. Also, check your credit card company’s policy before canceling since some companies exclude pandemics specifically.

Buy Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR) travel insurance

Planning to head overseas 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 exclude your cancellation. For example, with CFAR coverage, you could cancel if the coronavirus is found at your destination but travel isn’t restricted there.

CFAR insurance does have a few 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 at least 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, unless you buy a policy designed to cover coronavirus events. Some companies are covering medical expenses and medical transportation if you travel to an affected area and catch the illness.

Compare travel insurance policies

Name Product Trip Cancellation Emergency Medical Expenses Baggage Coverage Trip delay
Allianz Travel OneTrip Emergency Medical Plan
$50,000
$2,000
$1,000
Budget-friendly policy designed for international and domestic travelers who want medical protection. Trip cancellation and trip interruption not included.
Allianz Travel AllTrips Basic Plan
$20,000
$1,000
$600
Annual policy that offers affordable protection, but doesn't include trip cancellation or trip interruption.
Travelex Travel Basic
100%
$15,000
$500
$500
Essential travel coverage — with the option to customize — that can protect the cost of your trip.
Travelex Flight Insure
$10,000
$1,000
$100
Protect the cost of your flight and choose the coverage amount that meets your needs — trip delay protection included.
RoamRight Essential Travel Insurance Plan
100%
$15,000
$750
$500
Basic policy with coverage that includes trip cancellation insurance, tourist health insurance and baggage insurance.
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Compare up to 4 providers

Bottom line

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 curve.

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