These travelers have filed a successful credit card dispute. Here’s How They Did It


If you’re considering submitting a credit card chargeback for an airline ticket, cruise fare, hotel room booking, or rental car, you’re not alone.

Your fellow travelers have the same idea. The financial services industry has coined a phrase for it: The Great Chargeback Surge of 2022.

A quarter of all online shoppers in the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom have filed a dispute against a merchant in the past 12 months, according to Aurora Payments, a payment systems provider. More than one in ten make a chargeback at least once a month.

Correct, monthly.

This is part two of a series on credit card disputes in the travel industry. In part One, we reviewed the expert advice on filing a chargeback. Today we present customers who have successfully filed credit card disputes.

Credit card disputes may seem like a quick fix — and an easy way to get revenge on a company that did you wrong.

“It can be really hard to control your emotions when things go wrong when you’re traveling,” said Matt Schulz, chief credit analyst at LendingTree. It’s so easy to hit the “Dispute” button in your banking app and get a full refund for that substandard hotel stay or flight from hell.

But Schulz and other experts warn that the key to a successful credit card dispute is staying cool.

“The more you can resist taking all your frustrations out on the person on the other end of the line, the more likely your problem will be resolved to your liking,” he says.

As I noted in part one of this series on credit card chargebacks, make a strong case and allow the tour company to respond before proceeding. If you are filing a chargeback, you should carefully examine your card dispute and keep an eye on the clock. Also, use this tool sparingly, as repeat offenders are less successful and may end up losing their credit card.

Winning a card dispute starts before there is a dispute

Alec Pow recently rented a car in Rome. He’s never had much luck renting abroad, so he says he’s always “prepared for the worst.”

How do you prepare? You read the fine print. Everything. And when Pow revised his contract, he discovered an unusually high fee — $50 — for a car returned with less than a full tank of gas. Typically, car rental companies will charge you an inflated price for refueling, but no fees.

Before returning the car, he found the nearest gas station and filled the tank.

“I decided to take pictures of the GPS just to be safe. The picture clearly showed that there was no other gas station between it and the rental office,” recalls Pow, the CEO of a financial site.

Of course, the car rental company charged him the $50 fee.

“When I got home, I tried to talk to them, but without success,” he says. So he filed a credit card dispute.

“In the end I won the dispute, got my money back and was told that the photos I sent weighed very heavily in my decision to get my money back,” he recalls.

Be patient if you want to win your credit card dispute

Chargebacks can drag on – and continue. While some credit card vendor agreements require companies to resolve disputes quickly and resolve them within a month, the reality is that complicated cases can take time. That happened to Rebecca Engelmann when she canceled her tickets for Singapore Airlines due to the pandemic. An airline representative told her she had to wait 16 weeks for a refund, so she filed a credit card dispute.

“Our credit card company refunded the money out of courtesy,” said Engelmann, a teacher from White Plains, NY. But the airline fought the dispute and its bank took the money back.

Most travelers are not aware that there is an appeals process that can extend a chargeback for months. You may have to go to arbitration if there is still no solution.

In the end, her airline dropped the claim and refunded her $3,050. She probably should have given Singapore the 16 weeks it wanted. (Remember, with most credit cards, a dispute can take a minimum of 120 days.)

Know the loopholes

I’ve filed credit card disputes and I’ve mediated thousands of credit card dispute cases. And believe me, there are loopholes.

For example, I filed a chargeback against a pet store in Florida many years ago. I had bought a parrot that died within 24 hours. Loophole 1: My bank did not accept live animal disputes. I got around that by pointing out that the Fair Credit Billing Act, which allows for credit card disputes, doesn’t allow banks to limit the types of disputes they accept. And by the way, the bird was dead.

And loophole two: The company sent me a letter agreeing to refund the purchase, but later withdrew it. My bank’s credit card litigation department considered that a credit note and sided with me.

But loopholes in the law can also work to the benefit of companies. Dennis Shirshikov, a real estate investment strategist, says most credit card companies don’t refund fees from companies that traditionally have responsive refund teams, such as Amazon.

“Instead, they will help mediate a request and arrange it directly for you,” he says. “This started before the pandemic, but the trend has really accelerated since then.”

So there you have it. Preparation, patience, and knowing the exceptions can increase your chances of a successful credit card dispute.