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Travel company refusing you a cash refund? Check out your options

Many travel companies are refusing to return clients’ cash for holiday cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, trying to persuade them to re-book or accept credit notes or vouchers instead.

I wrote earlier about why you shouldn’t accept vouchers and the risks of accepting credit notes and ‘refund credits’ too.

If you’re happy to rebook your holiday, that seems like the best outcome, but make sure your holiday company issues you with a new ATOL certificate to show your money will continue to be protected by the ATOL scheme.

However, if you don’t want to rebook, maybe because you can no longer afford to go away or because you don’t want to commit to new holiday dates at this time, then what can you do to get your money back?

The following advice assumes that you’ve already tried to negotiate with your travel company and been through their complaints process and they’ve flatly refused you a cash refund. If they have said they’re prepared to give a refund but have asked you to wait a little longer, then I’d say that, given the circumstances, it might be best to be patient and hope that in doing so, you’re saving them from going bust.


Claim on your credit card

Under the terms of the Package Travel Directive, any company that sells a package holiday (that’s a flight plus one other element, such as a hotel or a tour) must refund a client’s money within 14 days of the cancellation and, if they don’t agree to give a refund within 14 days, they’re breaking the law.

If you paid with a credit card – even if you only paid your deposit with your card – the easiest and fastest way to get your money back is to claim from your credit card company. This is because under the Consumer Credit Act, your credit card issuer is equally responsible with the retailer for the satisfactory delivery of goods or services.

You might also be able to do a ‘chargeback’ if you paid with a Visa Debit card. Contact your bank to find out.

Complain to ABTA

If your travel company is adamant it won’t give you a refund, or it will only offer you time-limited vouchers or credit instead, you could raise a complaint with ABTA, assuming the travel company is a member.

ABTA has advised its members that they can issue ‘refund credits’ for customers to use either to rebook another holiday or, if they prefer, to swap for cash by July 31. This is to give those travel companies struggling to cope with the avalanche of refund requests longer to find the cash; the alternative is that many will go bust.

However, ABTA is not suggesting that members should issue time-limited vouchers or credit that must be used within a fixed period of time. Also, under the terms of the Package Travel Directive, customers have a right to insist on cash. If your travel company tells you ABTA has ‘changed the rules’ to remove your right to a cash refund, it’s lying so you can ask ABTA to intervene – although they seem particularly reluctant to assist customers claiming refunds at the moment and are likely to side with your travel company if it’s offered you vouchers.


Make a court claim

Assuming your holiday cost no more than £100,000, it’s fairly easy to make a court claim using the online Money Claim Online service. The cost varies from £25 to £455 depending on the amount you are claiming and whether you make an online or paper application. However, there is no need to use a solicitor, so you avoid legal fees, and you probably won’t need to make a court appearance.


Travel insurance

You might be able to make a claim on your travel insurance (many travel companies are telling their clients to do this) but it’s unlikely most policies will pay out for cancellations unless the travel company itself has gone out of business. Still, it’s worth checking your policy.



If you didn’t book a package you might find it harder to get a refund. Airlines which cancelled flights should give you your money back but many are offering vouchers instead. If they didn’t cancel but you chose not to travel due to the Foreign Office (FCO) advice against all but essential trips, you might be able to claim a refund on your travel insurance if it included cover for cancellations due to a change in FCO advice. The same goes for your accommodation and any tours or local transport you booked.





Linsey McNeill

A journalist and travel writer of 35 years' standing, a once-a-week yogi, terrible skier and out-of-order mum to 2 teens. Previously Editor of TravelMole.com, bylines also include The Telegraph, The Times, The Observer, the London Evening Standard, Which? and The South China Morning Post.

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  1. Agnieszka Holda says:

    Do you know how to claim from European (German) travel agent?

    1. Linsey says:

      If you booked online using a UK-registered credit or debit card you could submit a chargeback request to your card issuer (usually your bank). Some EU governments are backing the use of vouchers instead of cash refunds, but if this is no use to you you would still have the right to exchange this for cash.

  2. Alison says:

    My holiday has been cancelled and my travel agent has advised I am not eligible for a refund due to them being atol protected and not ABTA ? Is this correct

    1. Linsey says:

      Nonsense, you are legally entitled to a refund. Who is your travel agent?

      1. Alison says:

        Pillinger world travel

        1. Linsey says:

          Shocking. They’re a member of the Global Travel Group, which is part of dnata, which is owned by Emirates Group, they should be behaving better than this! If you paid by credit or debit card your best option is to try to get your money back from your card.

  3. Nurul says:

    Hi there,

    Bravofly, Tripair and Aunt Betty refused to refund my money, they insisted on travel voucher. All of this booking has been made in March. These are the purchase that been made attempted flying back to Australia before the travel ban. Why should I do now?

    1. Linsey says:

      I’m afraid I can only advise on bookings made in the UK with UK-based businesses or those with UK websites.

  4. Loveholiday saying they do not have my refund, but bank has. Bank is an old card from a closed account. The bank done full investigation, no trace of any money from loveholiday

  5. Aileen chalmers says:

    I booked holiday with teletext holidays in jan and was supposed to fly in june, holiday got cancelled am still getting no response about my refund. I have now been to the bank to see if they can help, i am now thinking about taking them to small claims court

  6. claire says:

    Love Holidays are refusing to refund my accommodation costs, even though all non essential travel to Spain was not allowed due to COVID. I have contacted them using several platforms but they just ignore me or say that I didn’t inform them that I did not intend to travel. I have proof of all the different ways I did inform them.

  7. mark says:

    Alpha rooms have told me my holiday is not going ahead at end of March, and that they will give me a credit note to use within a year.
    I have asked for a refund twice and been refused .
    We are very sorry for the inconvenience caused. As we have already informed you that we can not process the refund, we can only offer you with credit note voucher as of now.

    For further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.

    Kind Regards,

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