This year we’ve been taking those birthday trips, honeymoons, summer getaways, and countless other vacations that had been put on hold for two years… Only the airlines, airports and travel industry as a whole just weren’t ready for so many people to take to the skies— especially after thousands of pilots, stewards and other essential air staff took early retirement during COVID, and still-frequent outbreaks mean airlines are left juggling schedules at the last minute, almost every day. (London’s Heathrow Airport made headlines when it instituted a controversial passenger cap, limiting the number of passengers who can land every day to 100,000 — more than a 50% reduction in capacity from its previous high. That cap has now been extended to October 29th.)
In other words, even as all our trips are finally being scheduled, there’s a lot still up in the air. That means that even our much-delayed trips may end up delayed or canceled again — and unless we’re ready to advocate for ourselves, we can lose a lot of money in the process, warns Julia Menez, points and miles personal finance coach, travel expert and founder of the Geobreeze Travel Podcast.
That’s why it’s important to know what resources are at your disposal, and what to ask for — before you fly. Here’s a look at how to get your money back or secure a credit when the worst happens.
Start out by making sure you have all the necessary tools and information as to how your credit card company or travel insurance provider can help you in case there’s a bump along the way. This includes understanding the surprising scenarios in which you may qualify for a reimbursement or credit.
“When it comes to travel insurance, I’ve been gravitating towards the more modern insurtech providers that have popped onto the scene rather than the legacy ones. The reason is simple: their coverage options tend to be more comprehensive and meet the needs of today’s travel like COVID-19 coverage — all with less hassle and no paperwork,” says Menez.
Menez says it’s possible to get her whole trip covered if you have travel insurance. “Faye travel insurance is one option – via the company’s app you can get covered, file claims, be reimbursed via the Wallet feature and speak to their support team 24/7 (real humans).” Of course, other policies may also offer this and other benefits but this is the one that Menez goes by.
Your Credit Card May Be Your Best Friend
Choosing the right credit card can make a big difference as far as the rewards, credits, and reimbursements you see as well. “Regardless of what part of your trip might have been disrupted, travelers should always remember to see if they can get reimbursed by a credit card,” says Melanie Lieberman, Managing Editor for Global Features at The Points Guy. “Many travel reward credit cards have built-in trip protections, so even if you’re struggling to get reimbursed by your airline or travel provider, you might be able to get refunded by your credit card.”
For example, many travelers know they can expect a refund for a canceled flight, but credit card trip protections can also cover you in the case of significant delays — including the meals you eat during that delay, or extra toiletries you need to buy — so long as they delay is caused by a covered reason (think: inclement weather), says Lieberman.
“The terms and conditions vary depending on the event and the credit card, but these built-in protections can be incredibly helpful when things go wrong on a trip. You can also always file a credit card dispute if you think you’re being unfairly charged for something,” says Lieberman.
Your credit card can also come in clutch when a missed flight also means you’re missing activities you’ve already paid for but can no longer attend. Yes, it’s awful when you want to see your favorite band or go to that festival but then miss your flight — but all is not lost. “If you’ve purchased show tickets, a tour, or pre-paid for wine-tasting but can no longer attend because you fall ill, contract COVID-19, or a travel provider goes bankrupt, you can be reimbursed for up to 100% of non-refundable trip costs, including tickets and activities,” says Menez. Check the fine print of your credit card agreement to make sure you know what you qualify for.
In cases such as weather issues, the airline is usually not required to give refunds or temporary compensation (meals, hotels, etc.),” says John Rose, Chief Risk & Security Officer at ALTOUR, a travel management company.
However, if your delay or cancellation is the airline’s fault, then you should be compensated. “If it is the airline’s fault, such as staffing or system issues, they usually will give meal vouchers (for delays over four hours) and hotel rooms for overnight delays. And on some occasions, future travel vouchers. It is not common to receive cash refunds, but it is possible in some circumstances for issues that were the airline’s fault,” says Rose.
With the travel insurance that Menez uses, she says she will usually receive $200 for common trip inconveniences and delays. This may include lost or delayed baggage and flight delays or canceled flights. “When it comes to trip delays, you can be covered for up to $300/day in additional expenses like food and hotels if your trip is delayed by six hours or more,” says Menez.
Speaking of lost baggage, your ability to claim credits or refunds does not depend on why your flight was delayed or canceled — whether it was weather, a mechanical error, or something else, if an airline misplaced your luggage on a domestic flight in the United States, you can claim up to $3,500, according to the Department of Transportation. “Remember that this is the maximum liability limit: the exact amount of compensation you can claim for your lost bag also depends on the bag’s contents and your ability to prove their value,” says Rose.
Vacation Rental Issues
We’ve all heard of nightmare travel scenarios where issues with a vacation rental property ruin your trip. Thankfully, on most vacation rental sites, “if the customer can prove they did not get what they paid for and agreed upon at the time of booking, you can get a refund,” says Rose. Of course, the vendor where you made the booking matters significantly as some rental sites are less than reputable, whereas others are powerful brands with solid reputations. When in doubt, go with the big guys (like Airbnb or VRBO) to ensure you have recourse via customer service channels that will get back to you in a timely manner.
Just make sure in all situations that you read the terms and conditions you’re signing closely. You might even discover a perk or benefit you didn’t know you had, enabling you to cash in on minor inconveniences. For example, on many rental sites, if there’s an issue with the keys to your vacation rental property, “resulting in you not being able to access the property for 3 hours or more, you can be reimbursed for $200,” says Menez.
So, what’s the moral of the story? Plan those much-delayed summer vacations. You’ve earned it. Just check your travel insurance and credit card fine print before making any bookings.
More On HerMoney:
- Are Travel Rewards Credit Cards Really Worth Having?
- 6 Strategic Ways To Save On Travel This Year
- Frequent Travelers On How They Save Money On Vacation
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