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Events canceled due to coronavirus: How to get your money back

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

Summary

The spread of the novel coronavirus has forced the cancellation of a tremendous 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. Here are some tips.

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The spread of the novel coronavirus (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?

First of all, there’s a bit of good news in that you should get your money back, and hopefully it won’t be too difficult. (We all need some good news these days, don’t we?)

Many major sellers are promising automatic refunds for canceled events – including Ticketmaster, StubHub and Telecharge. You should wait a week 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).

See related: Credit card issuers offer cardholders relief amid coronavirus fears

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).

Based upon what I’m seeing with coronavirus-related cancellations, most event ticketing providers (and travel companies) are being very forthcoming with refunds. But if you don’t get the resolution you want, then I recommend contacting your card company to see if they can help.

Again, you’re more likely to succeed if you paid with credit rather than debit. And while it seems obvious, it’s worth noting that you need to have made the purchase in question with that particular card.

Credit card disputes and chargeback requests can be subjective. Your mileage will vary depending on your individual circumstances, the amount of the charge(s) and your relationship with the card issuer.

Coronavirus effect: postponed vs. canceled event

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, but you’ll likely have to ask for it. The same advice holds: Start with the ticket seller and consider a card company as a backup.

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’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 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 promises more details on refunds soon.)

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:

  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.

Have a question about credit cards? Email me at ted.rossman@creditcards.com and I’d be happy to help.

Editorial Disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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