Q – I have been a Mastercard holder for the past thirteen years. I have been waiting for a return of my deposit for eleven months. My travel agent says I am too late to get a refund through the credit card company and my calls to the service desk at MC have been more than a waste of time. I have already applied for a Visa card. This cruisetruth site has been so helpful – I wonder if you can help in this situation.
A – Your TA is correct – stopping payment on a credit card, any credit card, comes with time limitations. In order to protect your privacy, no credit card firm will speak directly to the agent handling your booking. But there are exceptions.
There has been so much misinformation online about this subject that we want to offer a recent piece by Travel Law expert Mark Pestronck. This article from Travel Weekly will help you understand how this all works:
TRAVEL WEEKLY COLUMN
BY MARK PESTRONK – Travel Law Columnist
Q One of my agency’s biggest headaches is the continuing failure of some suppliers, including at least one high-end cruise line, to provide refunds to clients who have chosen the refund option for their canceled cruises. Some of our clients are fairly desperate for the money, and they turn to us for assistance and advice. In your Aug. 10 column, “Don’t expect refund promises to be kept,” you wrote, “The surest route to getting a refund is to dispute the credit card charge. If the client does not know how to dispute the charge, you can advise him on how to do so.” However, isn’t it too late to dispute the charge for refunds that were promised about six months ago? What about the 60-day and 100-mile-radius rules that keep popping up whenever I Google the chargeback rules? Does it make any difference if the cardholder has already paid the bill and now wants a refund?
A: While the law imposes several limitations on a cardholder’s chargeback rights, my experience is that the card companies often waive those limitations. Although I cannot guarantee that your clients’ disputes will be successful, there is no harm in their trying.
Disputes and chargebacks are governed by Fair Credit Billing Act of 1974. That law requires cardholders to dispute “billing errors” within 60 days of the date of your credit card statement, but a merchant’s failure to provide a promised refund is not a “billing error,” according to the Federal Trade Commission, so the 60-day limit may not apply or may be waived by the card company.
The act also has a 100-mile rule, which states that you must have made the purchase in your home state or within 100 miles of your current billing address. If your agency is within the geographic boundary of the rule, the client should have no problem complying.
Even if your agency is outside the state and area, your client is probably not out of luck. As far as I know, the credit card companies do not enforce this limitation.
After a cardholder disputes a charge, the card company gives the merchant 30 days or so to reply. If the supplier admits that it owes the refund and that it will be providing a refund within X days, I do not know whether the card company will honor the dispute, but it really should do so in the case of a refund promised so many months ago.
If the merchant does not respond at all by the card company’s deadline, as has apparently happened in the case of at least one major cruise line, it is very likely that the card company will process the refund.
Finally, all the card company agreements state that, in addition to the 100-mile rule, there is another limitation on your rights: You must not have finished paying for the purchase. Here, again, as far as I know, the card companies do not enforce this rule in the case of travel purchases made months ago.