How to Postpone, Suspend or Get a Refund for Almost Anything Canceled by Coronavirus
From freezing subscription services to rescheduling vacations, here's what you need to know to not lose your money
In much of the country, the coronavirus pandemic has caused daily life to grind to a halt and led to the cancellation of school classes, professional sports, special events and much more.
Government health officials first forbid large gatherings in order to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) — meaning expensive events like weddings, concerts, and broadway shows are postponed or on hold.
Now, with stay-at-home orders in place in 45 out of 50 states, theme parks have shut down indefinitely, airlines have canceled huge numbers of flights, and non-essential business have closed their doors.
Not getting to set off on a planned vacation or celebrate a special occasion is a huge disappointment, but the fear of losing money on the things you’ve already paid for can be an even bigger burden for many who are finding themselves in dire financial situations amid the ongoing crisis.
Here’s everything to know about how to get your money back when you can — and what your options are if you can’t.
Due to the rapid and widespread grounding of flights due to travel restrictions and government policies around COVID-19, the U.S. Department of Transportation just put a new policy into effect that states that airlines must refund passengers whose flights were canceled or significantly delayed due to the pandemic.
The DOT notes, that airlines have provided refunds during other periods when air travel was significantly disrupted, including following the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 and Hurricane Katrina. “Although the COVID-19 public health emergency has had an unprecedented impact on air travel, the airlines’ obligation to refund passengers for canceled or significantly delayed flights remains unchanged,” it states.
A United customer who was recently denied a refund for three canceled flights totally $1,500 is suing the airline, whose official cancellation policy states that customers who do not want to reschedule their flight or get credit for a future trip may “request a refund,” as of Tuesday, April 8.
On March 13, the Cruise Lines International Association, which represents 27 international cruise companies,, announced that their brands would be temporarily voluntarily suspending all sailings from U.S. ports of call for 30 days in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Many of those suspensions have already been extended.
While it varies by cruise line, many companies are now offering two options for those who have a cruise booked during the suspension: a 100 percent cash refund, or the option to put the value paid towards a future cruise, with added incentives in the form of on-board credits.
Norwegian Cruise Line, for example, is giving passengers up to 150 percent of the original cost of their trip in future cruise credits. Carnival Cruise Line is offering 100 percent of the original payment plus up to $600 in future cruise credit for those who don’t cancel.
For those who simply want their money back asap, check the newest cancellation policy in place on the cruise line’s website — many have been updating policies frequently amid the pandemic to make them more flexible.
For canceled sailings, most companies currently have a refund request form handy on their website.
Movie Theater Subscriptions
With movie theaters around the country currently closed, subscription services — wherein moviegoers pay a certain amount every month for a set number of tickets — are rendered useless.
Chief among these subscription offerings was AMC’s Stubs A-List which went for about $25 a month for up to three movies a week. AMC announced in March it would pause billing membership while the closures are in effect.
“Members will be notified prior to this pause expiring and will have the option to choose to extend the pause for another month if they so desire,” AMC said in a statement, according to Deadline. “Additionally, any A-List member who did not renew their membership any time so far in calendar year 2020 will not have to wait the customary 6 months to rejoin.”
Its rival, Regal Cinemas, followed suit saying it would suspend billing for its Unlimited customers.
“It’s our goal to provide a safe and healthy environment for our employees and guests,” Regal announced in a tweet. “We value your patronage and have no doubt we will be serving you again as soon as possible with a full slate of Hollywood blockbusters.”
The global pandemic is drastically affecting the music industry as well. Several artists like Cher, the Jonas Brothers, Dan + Shay, Elton John and the Foo Fighters have been forced to cancel their upcoming performances. Meanwhile, some like Slim Thug have tested positive for the virus and Kelly Clarkson temporarily pulled the plug on her talk show production and postponed her Las Vegas residency as safety protocol surrounding the virus tightened up last month.
Coachella, the Academy of Country Music Awards, the Billboard Music Awards and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony are among the major music events that have been rescheduled due to the virus. Seat fillers for these events and others should be on the lookout for information from their organizers regarding whether they will still be able to access the events on the later date or if they will need to re-apply for their credentials.
Fans with tickets to concerts and shows that were originally scheduled for dates that have been impacted by the pandemic should check the performer’s social media accounts and official website for direct information on whether the performance has been canceled altogether, which will require a refund. Fans should also see if they have the option to keep their stub and use it to attend a rescheduled show date.
Each entertainer and vending partner handles refunds differently, though generally if a show is canceled, a refund will be issued using the same method of purchase automatically.
For those who purchased stubs from Live Nation to shows that have been canceled, fans will be issued a refund automatically. The official Live Nation site says that if an event is canceled or postponed: “We will attempt to contact you to inform you of refund or exchange procedures for that event. For exact instructions on any canceled or postponed events, please check the event information online or contact us. If an event is canceled, and you purchased your ticket through Livenation.com, our phone center, or Fan-to-Fan, we will automatically issue you a refund to the credit card, debit card, gift card or the method of payment used to make your purchase.”
For those that purchased tickets from Ticketmaster, the vendor plans to keep in touch and released this update regarding cancellations and postponements: “As we receive updates from artists, teams and show organizers on their postponed and rescheduled events, as well as their individual refund policies, we will be providing fans with the latest news on their event status via this comprehensive information portal. For events in Canada, please click here.”
Ticketmaster will also issue refunds to individuals with tickets to canceled shows, but notes that return funds may take up to 30 days due to the unusually high volume of cancellations. “As always, canceled events are automatically refunded. If an event organizer is offering refunds for postponed or rescheduled events, a refund link will appear on your Ticketmaster account. Otherwise, you are encouraged to periodically check back online to see if the status of their event has changed.”
For individuals still waiting to learn of rescheduled dates, Ticketmaster is “working with the event organizer to identify new dates, and we will contact you as soon as we have confirmation.”
Ticketmaster recently updated the wording of its refund policy for postponed events.
According to an image captured by the The New York Times, a page on Ticketmaster’s website used to read that refunds “are available if your event is postponed, rescheduled or canceled.” Now, the page has been reworked to say that refunds “are available if your event is canceled.”
Ticketmaster’s Purchase Policy states that “the Event Provider may set refund limitations,” and in a statement to USA TODAY, the company said its policy on postponed events has been consistent, though its wording online has been edited for clarity.
The publication added that in the statement, Ticketmaster said that the refund policy for postponed events has always been set by event organizers — not by Ticketmaster.
When it comes to tuition, it seems the majority of colleges and universities aren’t offering full refunds. However, many of them are offering reimbursements to their students in other ways.
At Stanford University, for example, students have been offered a full refund on housing and dining charges for the spring semester. Stanford also covered airline tickets and travel expenses for students who receive financial aid, with an additional $2,000 allocated into their packages for at-home food, living and additional rent expenses.
Harvard University also established an emergency financial aid fund to pay for the travel arrangements of students who cannot afford to return home, and is offering prorated refunds for housing and dining plans.
Similarly, The Ohio State University, the University of California, San Diego, Florida State University, Columbia University and the University of Wisconsin are giving prorated refunds for housing and dining, with UCSD offering a 60 percent tuition refund to students who applied before March 22.
Northern Illinois University, Cornell University, and the University of Arizona are among the many institutions giving students credits for the spring semester room and board costs. For seniors who are not returning next year, schools like the University of Dayton, will offer a prorated housing and meal-plan credit — both of which can go toward any outstanding balance owed to the university or simply, a full refund.
Meanwhile, there are some schools, such as the University of California, Los Angeles, that are not offering any changes to their tuition and fees.
Daycares, nursery schools, and private schools have also instituted similar reimbursement practices. For example, the Montessori School in San Antonio is offering parents the option to appeal for relief of up to 50% of tuition for the closure period and giving refund checks for lunch and milk/juice orders.
Those who are interested in possible reimbursements can learn more information through the respective websites of their college, universities, and schools or contact their financial aid offices.
Weddings and Events
For those whose weddings or special events have been impacted by the coronavirus, the disappointment of not being able to celebrate as planned with loved ones compounds the potential financial loss. But there are several things would-be-newlyweds should know about postponing their event or getting refunds from vendors and venues.
“Depending on why an event is cancelled usually dictates how refunds are handled, along with the specific terms of the contract, which vary from venue to venue and vendor to vendor,” Leah Weinberg, owner of Color Pop Events and a former lawyer tells PEOPLE.
Events cancelled due to extreme extenuating circumstances like a natural disaster or pandemic — often called an “act of God” or “force majeure” — are more likely to lead to a forgiving scenario for the couple.
“Depending on the type of vendor and the specific contract terms, the client may be able to get all of their money back,” says Weinberg. “For many spring events, the coronavirus has triggered contract provisions related to force majeure-type events.”
Having event insurance also makes a big difference, according to Caroline Fox, an attorney who represents clients in the events industry.
“If you obtained event insurance before COVID, look at the refund policies. And push back if the insurance company denies you,” she says, noting that most insurance companies are now exempting COVID-related delays and cancellations for new policies.
Fox also points out that it maybe easier to get refunds from certain types of vendors.
A florist, for example, will have already put in plenty of work on your event beforehand and will definitely expect to be paid for that time. “Compare this to a transportation company, who may not have done any upfront work aside from performing the actual booking process,” she says. “A full refund is more likely in a situation where there has been no behind-the-scenes work.”
Both industry experts agree, the most important thing is to read the contacts you signed and know what you’re entitled to.
Beauty and Fashion Subscriptions
Clothing rental subscription service Rent the Runway is still providing its loyal customers with pieces to help them feel their best (and look polished during Zoom meetings) while social distancing at home.
The company closed down all retail locations on March 15, but is honoring all memberships and still shipping. Memberships are allowed to be canceled at any time with no extra fee.
RTR is also offering unlimited members the ability to keep their items at home while their memberships are paused.
“We know your needs are changing and want to give you another way to enjoy your rentals without swaps or returns,” the brand said in a release.
For $87.75/mo.+ tax, customers can keep up to nine items at home while their memberships are paused.
The company also shared a note with customers regarding cleaning of all clothes: “Our cleaning agents and practices are designed to kill viruses such as the common cold and flu. While scientific information is still developing, we have no reason to believe that our processes are ineffective against COVID-19.”
Popular blow-out salon DryBar, which has closed its locations across the country, has paused payments for its Barfly subscription service until they reopen. They explained their full terms in an Instragram post.
Many companies are updating their policies regularly in response to the the changing circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic. The information above is accurate as of the time of publishing.