With coronavirus causing widespread event cancellations, here's how to get a ticket refund

Ticketmaster tickets and gift cards are shown at a box office in San Jose, California.
Paul Sakuma | AP

Event organizers are scrambling to modify, postpone, or cancel gatherings to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, based on strong recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control. There were over 1,200 confirmed cases of the virus in the United States as of March 12, according to NBC News. 

The NBA, NHL, and MLB all announced cancellations or postponements to their current or upcoming seasons. Festivals like Austin-based SXSW have been canceled, and concerts like Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival have been postponed. Broadway theaters in New York City have suspended shows through March 31. 

That leaves a lot of fans wondering what to do next. If you purchased tickets for an event that has been canceled or postponed, or one you don't feel comfortable attending, here's how experts suggest you get your money back. 

Begin with the vendor who sold you your ticket

"Start by going to the website where you bought the ticket," says Ted Rossman, industry analyst at Bankrate. "That might be a third party site like Ticketmaster or StubHub, or it might be a team, a theater, or some other event organizer. Most of the time, you will get your money back if you paid to attend an event that doesn't happen, and the ticket seller is the best place to begin."

StubHub, for example, has promised customers that all tickets for events affected by the coronavirus would be refunded.

It's generally not the ticket sites you have to worry about, says Rossman: "What can be really complicated is if you made other purchases connected to the event." If you booked tickets to a Broadway show as part of a weekend in New York City, for example, you may find yourself cancelling auxiliary purchases like flights or accommodations as well. 

Contact your credit card company

"If you don't get the response you want from the ticket seller, Airbnb or another organization, I recommend contacting the credit card company you used for the reservation. Hopefully, you used a credit card; it's worth trying with a debit card too, although I suspect you'll have more luck if you used a credit card," Rossman says. 

Trying to dispute a charge won't always work, though: "Your odds of success depend on your particular circumstances as well as the amount of the charge(s) and your relationship with the card issuer."

Your success also hinges, in part, on your credit history. If you pay your bills on time and in full, for example, and are using the card you've requested a refund on for all of your big purchases, you'll probably have more leverage with your credit card issuer. Even so, "be polite but persistent in making your case," Rossman suggests. 

Some credit cards will protect your purchases if they offer travel insurance. While travel insurance wouldn't apply to event tickets, it might help you get a refund for the costs associated with traveling to the event, says Jill Gonzalez, communications director and analyst at WalletHub: "For travel purchases made with a credit card with good travel insurance, you might be able to recover some of the money you spent."

For travel purchases made with a credit card with good travel insurance, you might be able to recover some of the money you spent.
Jill Gonzalez

Try live-chatting with customer service

Since cancellations will be increasingly widespread in the coming days and weeks, be prepared that calls could take a long time if you're trying to get your money back, says Rossman. "I'm seeing reports on social media about people waiting several hours on hold."

As an alternative to calling the ticket company or your credit card provider, try virtual communication, Rossman says. "See if it's possible to resolve your question in a different way — on the bank's website or app, or via live chat."

Another way to dodge a long wait is to call during off-peak hours. "If it's not urgent, call at an odd hour or even just wait a few days. Also, make sure you even need to be calling your credit card company. If it's a refund request and you haven't already tried the airline/hotel/ticket seller, start with them," says Rossman. 

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