COVID-19 has forced the cancellation of a number of upcoming events. You stand the highest chance of getting a refund if you paid for your tickets or booked travel with a credit card, though that might lead to consequences from the ticket seller. Here are some tips.
The spread of COVID-19 has forced the cancellation of a tremendous number of upcoming events.
This encompasses everything from major sports 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?
Many major sellers are promising automatic refunds for canceled events – including Ticketmaster, StubHub and Telecharge. You should wait a billing cycle or two, and if you still haven’t seen the charges reversed on whichever card you used, I recommend contacting the ticket seller at that point.
If you paid with cash, I expect you’ll need to deal with the box office directly (or wherever else you bought the tickets).
Coronavirus effect: postponed vs. canceled event
There’s a big distinction, however, 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 and when there is one.
I have been getting a lot of complaints about this. Because there’s so much uncertainty right now, many events are in limbo. This includes thousands of NBA, NHL and MLB games scheduled for March, April and May.
They didn’t happen as planned and we don’t know if they will ever be made up, but because an official decision hasn’t been made yet, ticketholders are stuck waiting. I recently wrote about one such example, a hockey fan who got tired of waiting, filed a dispute with his credit card issuer and was banned from StubHub as a result.
There’s also a potential domino effect that extends well beyond the event ticket. Festivals such as South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, and Coachella in Southern California are good examples because many ticket holders also bought flights to get them to the event and lodging to house them throughout their stay. Airlines and hotels have generally been forgiving, but Airbnb initially refused many refund requests.
It seems like that changed with respect to Coachella; it fit 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 didn’t appear to get 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 also refused to issue ticket refunds after its cancellation, 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 is offering refunds for ticket holders who are unable or unwilling to attend on the new dates.
That’s a generous policy that Live Nation, Ticketmaster’s parent company, also adopted after numerous complaints. It helps when there’s a new date on the calendar, but not when the event’s fate is undecided.
How to get a refund if you paid with a credit card
This is a good reminder, for current and future reference, that credit cards usually have more generous fraud and dispute resolution protections than debit cards.
Part of that is because credit card charges are really the bank’s money – a line of credit – until you pay them back. Whereas with a debit card, it’s your money taken directly from your checking account. So pick your metaphor with a debit card (it’s hard to get that toothpaste back into the tube, the horse back into the barn … you get the idea).
Normally, the best advice with a billing problem is to start with the merchant and file a dispute with your credit or debit card issuer if you’re still not satisfied. With event tickets, however, you should know that StubHub and Ticketmaster can ban you from their platforms if you file a chargeback. If you can afford to wait until the event organizer makes a decision, you’re better off waiting than filing a chargeback.
See related: Best credit cards for entertainment spending
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Have a question about credit cards? Email me at email@example.com and I’d be happy to help.