Are Credit Card Disputes successful for CoVid19 travel cancellations?

I’ve been an advocate of credit card purchases for a very long time now, long before I started talking about them on livefromalounge.com. There are many reasons credit cards bring to the table over other modes of payments, including rewards and fraud protection. One of the biggest reasons to use credit cards, dispute protection.

What is a credit card dispute?

A credit card dispute occurs when a cardmember contacts their card-issuing bank to request a return of their money paid to a counterparty, in exchange for a product or a service. Cards on the Visa, MasterCard, Diners Club and American Express networks, amongst others, offer this feature in order to protect their credit cardholders from fraudulent activity on their cards.

Disputes can happen for multiple reasons, for instance, when a product is different from the description, for instance. Or when a purchase is made without their authorisation (fraud) and so on. In the case of travel,  a dispute could be raised for a cancelled flight, for instance, where the refund was not provided. For instance, we raised a dispute when Jet Airways went under in 2019, for an international ticket which was never refunded. Another time, back in 2016 or so, I was double-billed by British Airways for a ticket, and I had to go over to Citi to get it refunded by raising a dispute.

are credit card disputes successful?

When is a dispute the appropriate thing to do?

The rule of thumb to raise a dispute is when you think you’ve been wronged. For instance, you can dispute when you order a Pizza but get a Salad instead. Or when you pay for a product and got a defective one. But first, you need to reach out to the merchant and ask them to make it right or make a refund. If they don’t help you or don’t seem interested in helping you, then you head to the credit card firm to make a dispute.

Usually, the credit card company will apply a temporary credit to your account, while they investigate the claim you make. If your claim can be confirmed, the credit issued to you becomes permanent. If your claim can’t be confirmed, or if the merchant provides information contrary to your claim, the card issuer will reverse the claim and you will be liable to pay again. Merchants cooperate with card companies in this case because business is long term and they don’t want any strikes on their account with the banks.

Credit card companies usually become the mediator in such cases, or in some cases adjust against funds due to merchants. For instance, in the case of Jet Airways, money was being held back by Credit Card issuers, and this helped them refund disputed transactions.

Are credit card companies entertaining disputes due to CoVid-19?

CoVid-19 is a unique curveball in the history of our times. Travel companies are getting literally zero inflows at this point of time in terms of bookings for the future, but the people who want a refund are all piling up. Airlines, who have to pay their employees and leases during this time, are looking for a way out from their payments to customers. A unique strategy applied is to provide them with a credit shell, which allows for these airlines to hold on to the customer money in exchange for future travel. Not in the interest of the customer for sure.

Disputing the transaction, because the service was not provided to you, does check the boxes of a legit reason to file a credit card dispute. But will it work or not, is something up in the air at the moment. Thinking from the Bank’s perspective, if they approved all these transactions, well, they are definitely seeing these losses coming on their books, some of them at least.

I did not have any live bookings to do experiments with and report back, so I’ve been waiting for someone to raise a dispute and tell me how it worked out. I’ve heard from a couple of readers and it is a contrary output to each other,

Success with Amex

Meanwhile I contacted Amex through which I had paid for these tickets, I requested them to dispute the charges as due to a Pandemic the airline should refund the money instead of holding in a credit shell. Amex wanted some documents which I have submitted they are disputing the charge and have given a temporary credit for the amount to my credit card until a resolution is achieved.

Failure with HDFC Bank

We understand that your are expecting a refund from the aforesaid merchant establishment. In this regard, we would like to inform that travel companies / airlines have revised their refund policies in the form of Future Credit Vouchers (FCV), Wallet refunds, Credit Shells, etc. These modes of refund are beneficial for customers as these reduce cancellation penalties, handling fee etc from the travel companies/airlines and the transaction remains open for future utilization. Incase your still disputing the transactions , we would like inform you to contact the merchant directly and revert with recent dated refund proof from the merchant to take up the case with the concern merchant / merchant’s bank for resolution.

Why the difference of approach?

First, let’s appreciate the fact that some of these banks are also working under lockdown, so they are working with reduced staff strength. To top it off, they are going to have to reach out to travel companies which have overloaded call-centres at the moment and also a lot of employees working from home because they can’t be in an office.

Under the circumstances, banks, whose lap this dispute may land in, could contest that since airlines are providing vouchers, there is really no money lost in the process. Not just that, a situation may occur where banks issue you a refund and you already have a voucher from the airline. What then? It is very uncoordinated at the moment.

Also, we have seen abroad, in some cases banks also siding up with travel brands suo moto, so no may not be surprising at all.

What should you do?

If you make up your mind about filing a dispute, make sure to first have a firm no, perhaps twice over from the airline/OTA or whatever travel counterparty you have in writing. It is only then that you would be able to receive a complete chargeback if needed from the credit card issuer. Different banks will have a different process, so do expect pushback from the bank if they discourage you from a chargeback request as well.

Bottomline

There is no one way to say if your credit card dispute will go in your favour or against you. Those banks are overworked at the moment, and perhaps it would be easy for them to say no to you, but if you think you have a good case or an unsatisfactory resolution, by all means, go for it.

If anyone has filed for a chargeback, can you confirm “are credit card disputes successful” in the times of the coronavirus?

P.S. Chargebacks don’t work if you’ve paid using net banking, debit cards and so on, so please don’t make a comment if you haven’t made your purchase with a credit card. [Update: Check Comment 1 for the process with Debit and Forex Cards]


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Comments

  1. Due to Covid 19, All users are doing Money transaction online. I appreciate your article regarding this topic. Thank you so much for sharing.

  2. I was successful with chase 5 months after I bought tickets. I got acknowledgement email from travel agency that they will send me only half my refund. Why half ? I didn’t get anything from them . I showed bank the email and they reversed charges

  3. Won a chargeback against Cleartrip on a flight cancelled by airline. This was outside of the airline’s COVID window but it had been a month since I filed for refund. Amex card.

  4. It is really hopelessly optimistic for Supreme Court to step up in this matter. These are first world problems, although there is high probability someone who lost their job is now stuck with significant money trapped with AirLines. AirLines are taking shelter under the *force majeure* clause.

    Does anybody know if the hotels and travel agents can also avail the same for hotel reservations?

    • I had a trip planned to spain in sept.i recently try to cancel but was told I could not get a refund unless my flight is canceled. I disputed with my credit card and they gave me a credit to my account while they are investigating the dispute. I got the mo ey and then closed the account. I have not heard back what the outcome will be but am sure it will be interesting

  5. Hi,
    Can anyone who filed dispute with HDFC bank let me know how long did it take to get a reply from HDFC. It’s been 15 days and neither are they replying to emails or dispute logged through website. All we got was an automated reply that they will get back in 5 working days. Neither are we able to speak to anyone through the call centre.
    Thanks in advance.

  6. Now MMT is doing wallet refund for a high value hotel trip booked on April 2 for December 2020. Did the booking feeling the price was good and now cancelling under Free Cancellation window, have been given wallet refund. Raised a dispute with SBI Card. Will update the findings here.

      • As mentioned by Cheryl for HDFC Cards above, SBICard too is sending only auto responders. I did receive two reverts stating that the case is under investigation while my payment due date is reaching ever closer.

        Ajay, once a dispute is raised by the customer, are they still liable to pay unless the temp credit is provided by the bank.

  7. ICICI approved my chargeback requests against AirAsia and Vistara and have issued interim credit after submitting them the required documents.

  8. Hi,

    I want to get tickets refunded for travel in June booked through MMT. I’m ok with paying the cancellation fees. Still haven’t got a refund. Would a credit card (Amex) dispute be the way to go in this case? Thanks

    • @Aastha you first need to contact MMT and the airline and get communication that they are not willing to do it for you and your flight is cancelled.

  9. We should refrain raising disputes over Travel agents for flight who has provided credit shell. Big travel agents are over flooded with refund requests with same bandwidth. In this case they wont be able to reply to credit card companies and they looses the case.

    When Airlines have increased the settlement TAT from 15 days to 60 days & Airlines are not refunding to agents how they are supposed to refund.

    At end if agents or Airlines goes bankrupt, it will be our loss as there will be less competitors in the market. Remember, Airlines are the infrastructure of any country.

    However credit shell should have some extra benefits which is not provided as explained by Ajay

    https://livefromalounge.com/credit-shell-schemes/

    • Yes, it is not fair to raise claim on travel agents if the fault lies with the airlines claiming force majeure clauses. However for hotel reservations where the hotel responds with a confirmation that they have not charged the reservation, the sole duty of refund lies with the travel agent. Also there needs to be clarity regarding rules and regulations for such cases as a small set of customers have time and again borne the brunt of bankruptcy for airlines like KingFisher and Jet Airways.

  10. Wonder what HDFC Bank would do if i raised a dispute with them against HDFC Smartbuy which issued my tickets! LOL… Going to save myself the time and trouble and wait for the Supreme Court to figure this out first!

    • It is really hopelessly optimistic for Supreme Court to step up in this matter. These are first world problems, although there is high probability someone who lost their job is now stuck with significant money trapped with AirLines. AirLines are taking shelter under the *force majeure* clause.

      Does anybody know if the hotels and travel agents can also avail the same for hotel reservations?

  11. Does anyone have any successful experience disputing a charge with Chase that is over 60 days old? The option to do so from the app disappears. Wondering if it’s worth the long hold times.

    TIA

  12. Please let me guide through dispute process.

    The dispute can be raised on any card i.e Credit, Debit, Prepaid or Forex card.

    The customer can raises dispute on any merchant for X amount with proof. The Customer Bank reaches out to card issuer i.e Visa, Mastercard, Diners club or any other.
    Then issuer reaches out to Merchant acquirer bank with dispute. The Merchant need to respond that dispute/ chargeback within 50 days with proofs.

    “The Customer Bank” based on judgement decides the case in favour or if further documents required ask from Merchant or Customer.
    If in case Merchant does not respond then the case is in favour of customer. If the merchant provide proofs then favour vice versa.

    The merchant bank can impose a charge on merchant & customer bank can impose a charge on customer who ever looses case. This is usually waived off in case of premium customers.

    In credit card a temporary credit limit is provided while dispute is going. While in Debit, Prepaid & Forex card, dispute amount is provided by end of case or maximum 50 days.

    If dispute is raised in Paypal directly the timeline is small for merchant to respond which is 10 Days.

    In any case Customer bank does not reaches out to Merchant directly.

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