So it’s happened: You bought an item, tickets or a hotel room that was clearly listed as nonrefundable. You knew there was some risk, but you didn’t expect anything to happen that would change your itinerary or your money situation. You thought you were golden. But now you need that money back. Is all hope lost?
Here’s some good news: Though it may be harder to get a refund on nonrefundable purchases and you might have to cut your losses, sometimes you can get your money back (although maybe not in the way you expect).
If You’re Trying To Get a Refund on a Hotel Room
Nonrefundable hotel rooms may seem like a good deal, but the small discount you get at checkout isn’t worth the headache and loss of money if you have to cancel. Even with advance notice, it’s within the hotel’s rights to collect your money and wish you well. So here’s the first rule of renting a hotel room: Don’t go for the nonrefundable rate! Especially during a pandemic.
If the savings were too alluring and you booked the nonrefundable rate anyway, all hope is not lost. The first thing you should do is try to speak with a customer service representative. Even if you don’t have a great excuse for canceling, sometimes the reservation gods will smile upon you and you’ll get your money back. You might also want to ask if the hotel might be open to charging you just the cleaning fee. Getting some of your money back is better than not getting anything back at all!
If you do have a valid reason for cancellation, such as a medical reason or a death in the family, the proper documentation can make a huge difference. Sometimes even offering to provide the documentation may be enough to get the most skeptical hotel manager to change their mind.
And if you’re a rewards member with the hotel chain, you should mention that when attempting to cancel. Some hotels may take that into account when deciding whether to offer you a refund.
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If You’re Trying To Get a Refund on a Flight
Getting a refund on a flight can be a hassle, so the first thing you should do is look for an airline that doesn’t charge change fees. So while you may not get your money back if you can’t travel, you can exchange the tickets for another date and only pay the fare difference — which can be fairly modest.
Outside of that, you should try speaking to a customer service representative about your concerns. Explain why you can’t travel and see if there’s something they can do. Even if they can’t refund your money, they might be able to offer you something like a credit for a future flight. You may also be able to get a refund if you have a valid and compelling reason, such as illness.
Your last resort is leaning into the rules. If your flight experiences a significant delay, for instance, you may be entitled to a refund even on a nonrefundable ticket. Some experts suggest waiting until the last minute to cancel your flight. If the airline notifies you of a change to schedule right before you’re set to take off, that may be reason enough for a refund or a travel voucher. You could also try to ask for a refund on the company’s website. It takes only a few minutes and there’s a chance that the person in charge of decisions may opt to give your money back.
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If You’re Trying To Get a Refund on Event Tickets
Unfortunately, the box office at most concert and event venues isn’t going to be sympathetic to your request to return a ticket. You could call and ask, sure, but prepare to be gently told to read the terms and conditions you signed off on when you purchased the tickets and then be wished a nice day.
Your best bet is to sell the tickets via Craigslist or social media. A quick “Does anyone need tickets?” blast to your friends group on Facebook and Twitter might yield some great results. And you never know, there might be people scouring the classifieds in hopes that they’ll find the last few tickets to a show they really wanted to see.
Just make sure to list your tickets at face value. Barring a few exceptions, even sold out events aren’t as in demand as they seem, so don’t try to turn getting your money back into a profit. In fact, you may want to price the tickets at a little bit below what you paid for them. Worst case scenario? You’re only out a few bucks. Best case? A bidding war erupts! (Don’t count on that, though!)
Of course, if the show was canceled due to the pandemic, you’ll likely be entitled to a full refund.
If You’re Trying To Get a Refund on Sale or Clearance Items
This one’s a bit tougher because the store knows you know what you signed up for when you bought something off the clearance rack. Still, not every store marks its clearance items as nonrefundable, so it’s always a good idea to check. Just remember to keep your receipt and all the packaging.
Even if the item doesn’t qualify for a refund, a polite tone and good attitude may convince whoever is handling returns to show you some kindness. You may not get your money back, but store credit can be just as good.
If you truly don’t want the item and can’t find any use for it, you might want to consider donating it. Another option? Put the item away and wait for the perfect opportunity to give it to someone as a present. No one has to know you bought it on clearance and at least now your money is not wasted.