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Travelers learning downside of prepaid hotel rooms

Many still waiting for refunds from COVID-canceled trips
Posted at 8:33 AM, Oct 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-07 08:33:33-04

Starting to think about traveling again, and maybe looking for a spring break destination for 2021?

With the pandemic unlikely to end anytime soon, you should be very careful choosing the lowest price you find on a particular hotel room.

If you need to change plans, you may not be able to get a refund.

Long fight for COVID refunds

Some people who booked nonrefundable hotel rooms this past spring are still fighting for their money back.

Sara Pruitt is among them. The Fairfield, Ohio woman and her best friend had planned a St. Patrick's day trip to Savannah, Georgia, back in March.

"We booked a hotel through Expedia," she said. "Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, our events got canceled."

Trying to get her $430 back turned into a nightmare.

"We attempted to cancel the room through Expedia, and we were on and off hold for eight hours to no avail," she said. "So so we decided to dispute the charge through the credit card company."

The company refused and told her that she had booked a nonrefundable room.

"So my credit card added it back to my account because the dispute was determined to be unfounded," she said.

These days, the lowest price on a hotel room is almost always a nonrefundable price, no matter where you book it. You can often save $20 or more a night if you pre-pay.

The downside is that if you have any issue or problem, it can be almost impossible to get your money back.

Expedia and other travel sites started refunding trips affected by the national shutdown in late March, but Pruitt's St. Patrick's Day trip was a week earlier.

She tried the hotel but had no luck there, either.

"The manager at the hotel stated they sold the room to Expedia, and Expedia owns the room for that night, so they could not help," she said.

Think twice before prepaying for a non-refundable room

Travel forums and the BBB have numerous complaints about people unable to get money back from prepaid discount rooms.

But nonrefundable means you lose what you paid if you cancel.

"I'm not buying nonrefundable again," Pruitt said. "I would not suggest them at all. They put a lot of loopholes on them where you cannot get your money back."

We've sent Pruitt's case back to Expedia, on the off chance they can give her a break. A spokesman said they will examine her claim.

But if you are starting to think about traveling next spring, this is a great reminder of the risk of grabbing the lowest price, especially during a pandemic, so you don't waste your money.
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