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How big financial institutions are responding to airline passengers seeking COVID-19 refunds

Airline chargeback tips for cancelled travel
Even are most flights and vacations have now been cancelled, a number Canadians say they're having a hard time getting their money refunded. Anne Drewa reports on what steps you can take to get your money back.

Airline passengers who are hoping for a refund for cancelled flights impacted by COVID-19 can request a chargeback on their credit card, but it may not be easy.

Consumer Matters reached out to three major credit card companies asking if impacted cardholders who do not wish to accept a travel voucher, could initiate a dispute/chargeback. Here are their responses:

American Express

“We are opening disputes with airlines and travel providers at the customer’s request. But we are not processing chargebacks if the airline is able to provide documentation that it is providing reparation to their customer through credits for future travel. This is in line with the guidance provided by the regulator, the Canadian Transportation Agency.”

Visa

“Visa recognizes the challenges that many industries are currently facing. Visa’s dispute resolution process between card issuers and merchant acquirers is governed by our network rules, which determine where a chargeback right may apply. This will depend on many factors including timing, context, documentation and local laws/regulations. Cardholders should initially attempt to resolve the issue with the relevant merchant.”

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Mastercard

“Mastercard continues to encourage all parties – cardholders, merchants, banks and acquirers (merchant banks) – to resolve disputes amicably and flexibly in order to minimize the potential impact on cardholders and merchants, particularly during this difficult time.

“A few tips can be found here for how consumers can streamline the process as much as possible.

“For additional background/context, Mastercard does not issue cards (the banks do). Mastercard is a technology company in the global payments industry – its global payments processing network connects consumers, financial institutions, merchants, governments and businesses around the world. As such, if cardholders haven’t been able to resolve a dispute with the merchant directly, they’ll want to get in touch with the bank that issued their card.”

Consumer Matters also reached out to three major banks and received the following responses.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: U.S. and EU give airline passengers refunds, but Canada sticks with vouchers

RBC

“We understand how much COVID-19 has impacted our clients as well as many businesses. For our clients, we know COVID-19 is creating uncertainty around their finances. While many clients have welcomed vouchers for future travel as an acceptable resolution, we know there are others who need a refund to help cover living expenses and meet other cash flow needs as they continue managing the fallout from COVID-19.

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“If clients booked on their credit card, they may be entitled to a refund, in accordance with the rules for disputing transactions set by Visa and MasterCard. These rules require that cardholders must first attempt to resolve their claim with the airline.

“If they have not been successful, clients should contact us and we will work with them to initiate a claim for a chargeback, in accordance with Visa or MasterCard rules. While the ultimate decision as to whether or not an airline may decline to issue a refund and provide a voucher instead is not ours to make, we are doing all we can to support our clients who are affected by COVID-19.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Airline customers struggle to get refunds amid pandemic

TD Canada Trust

“Our process for requesting chargebacks currently remains in accordance with the rules set by the payment networks. However, we are working on making the request process more simple for our customers. In the interim, we will be updating our COVID-19 web page to make information on disputing a transaction more straightforward.”

BMO

BMO did not respond to Consumer Matters’ request.