By Christopher Elliott
When Warren Yue cancels a vacation rental for a church retreat before the pandemic, he initially gets a refund from his Chase Sapphire Reserve card. But then it backtracks, deducting half his money. What gives?
Q: I paid for a vacation rental in Oceanside, Calif., for our church fellowship group before the pandemic. I used my Chase Sapphire Reserve card, which has travel insurance.
We had to cancel the trip because of COVID. The vacation rental management company offered a full refund but then changed its offer to a credit. I wanted my money back because we were unlikely to take the trip. I disputed the charge on my Chase Sapphire Reserve card and received a full refund.
Now, Chase has taken half my refund back ($1,370). Chase says it has no choice because the merchant has sued it.
I told Chase the merchant kept changing its policy. First, it said my stay was 100 percent refundable. Then it only offered a credit. And then it was 50 percent refundable after 30 days. I am the victim since I did not choose to cancel. I was complying with a government order. Chase has been making big bucks for not paying the cardholder, which I think is unethical. Can you help? — Warren Yue, Monterey Park, Calif.
A: Your vacation rental manager should have refunded every last penny, as promised. But there’s a little more to your case.
First, you mention that Chase offers travel insurance coverage on its Sapphire Reserve card. Yes, it does. But you didn’t file a claim on your benefits. Instead, you filed a credit card dispute to get your refund. And Chase sided with you — at least initially.
Understanding the difference between a credit card dispute and an insurance claim is essential. The latter should happen any time you have to cancel a trip. The former is the last resort when the merchant refuses to deliver a promised refund.
Chase told you that the merchant sued it and then reversed its decision. That’s highly unusual. A credit card company’s relationship with a merchant is none of your concern. But it’s even stranger to have a dispute reversed this way. This is the first time I’ve seen a case like this. I have more information about chargebacks in my ultimate guide to credit card disputes.
I think this might have gone differently if you’d filed a claim under your Chase Sapphire Reserve card’s travel insurance benefits. It would have probably covered your cancellation as a trip interruption.
I list the names, numbers and email addresses of the Chase executives on my consumer advocacy site, Elliott.org. A brief, polite email to one of them might have yielded a more favorable outcome.
I contacted Chase on your behalf. The company refunded the $1,370 it had taken without offering an explanation.
Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy (elliottadvocacy.org), a nonprofit organization that helps consumers solve their problems. Email him at [email protected] or get help by contacting him at elliottadvocacy.org/help