How Chase Really Failed Me With My Travel Booking
Normally I’m a huge fan of Chase and their travel reward card stable. Don’t get me wrong – I still think they’re awesome, but a recent experience with Chase and their travel team left me deeply disappointed with their customer service.
How Chase disappointed me with the service
In January 2020 I booked a trip for my wife and daughters from Europe to the United States for last July (round trip) for a family event. I found the prices to be fairly reasonable for the summer travel and used 60,000 Chase Ultimate Reward points and cash to purchase the tickets. This is how I normally use my Ultimate Reward points since we have the Chase Sapphire Reserve menu. This makes those 60,000 points worth $ 900 when redeemed directly through Chase for travel.
Then we all know what happened – the coronavirus has spread around the world. The flight itself was with Austrian Airlines and in April they canceled and changed reservations. Then, in June, they canceled the trip altogether due to the suspension of their routes to the United States. This is an easy refund claim as they canceled the flights.
Start the process with Chase
Since I booked through Chase Travel (who uses Expedia for their backend travel engine), I had to contact them for the refund. Austrian agreed to give it, but the request had to be made through the booking agent. I’ve had fantastic experiences in the past with Chase so I didn’t think about it.
I made the request in early July and Chase told me it would take 8 to 10 weeks for any word of the refund or the refund itself Would appear. I was surprised and disappointed as I’m used to refunds much faster than this and needed the points for another trip.
I communicated with Chase via their chat every few weeks to check the status and stay informed that the request was pending with the airline and no refund had yet been issued.
A glimmer of hope
In October, three months after the refund request, I was told that the refund had been approved and that I would have the points and cash back in 1-2 billing statements. Again, I was disappointed as this is about Chase – the one who awarded the points in the first place and could easily return the points faster than that.
But at least I got them back! So I waited until December to get the points.
No – Start over
In December, I contacted Chase again as there had been no sign of points or money. Instead of having good news, I was instead told that the refund had not been issued and was still pending. I asked them why I had been told two months before that the refund had been made and they replied that it was a mistake.
So they elevated it to another department to better examine it, assuring me that the Reserve officers would take care of me (which is good since it is a card for which we pay an annual fee of $ 450, soon $ 550). I received an email with a case number and assurance that they were in contact with the airline and were trying to get the refund issued to me.
Try with the airline
Even though I knew the request had to be made through Chase, I still wanted to ask Austrian why they weren’t giving a refund on a flight they had canceled so many months before. They kept telling me that there was nothing they could do about it since it had been bought through Chase and I needed to contact them. I asked them for status and they said there was nothing they could do, I had to go through Chase.
Not once has an agent said anything about a refund being processed or its pending status. It is important.
Follow up with Chase – 7 months later
After months and hours of chatting with Chase with no hope of getting a refund so far, I continued to press Chase to tell me that they were still trying to get a refund from Austrian and that ‘they would let me know.
I told Chase that I would have filed a chargeback already, but I couldn’t do that as it was directly through Chase and done with partial points. I told them that I had hoped the customer service could have been a bit better with such a premium and high fee card, like advancing the points, at least, as they could see that the flights had been canceled and they kept assuring me that I would receive a refund. No, no help again.
Finally – the resolution
In the end, the complaint I filed with the Ministry of Transport yielded a response from the Lufthansa Group with the astonishing revelation – the refund was made in July, barely 3 days after the request!
I was shocked about this and asked for proof as their own agents kept telling me that there was nothing they could do, it was still on hold etc. I received copies of the refund documents from their internal systems, showing me the refunds and been made and the amount – even the card to which it is returned (who belongs to Chase).
The next day the extremely helpful Lufthansa agent sent me something called the Acquirer Reference Number (ARN) which helps track financial transactions through the various electronic systems. I sent this, with a very frustrated note, to Chase’s agents.
In the meantime, the Chase portal no longer allowed me to chat with agents, requesting a phone call instead. I wasn’t about to call when I had to show the documents I received from Lufthansa. I took to Twitter, answered Chase’s emails, and waited.
After only one day, I finally received the points and the cash back – 8 full months after Chase received money from Austrian.
That means it was either the utter incompetence of Chase’s agents or they outright lied to me – anyway, it’s unacceptable for this to happen when I’m a customer using my $ 450 annual fee card with them. There is no reason I should have done Chase’s job to get the answers I was looking for. This is something they should have done, both as a travel portal and as the one to provide assistance in such travel situations.
I’m still a Chase fan because I love the rewards and the win rates. I love the transfer partners, I love the perks I get – none of that has changed.
What has changed is my confidence in the agents in the Chase Travel department and this will definitely prevent me from redeeming my points directly through Chase in the future. They have been incompetent throughout this process and it is not acceptable that they charge what they do for the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the account of the card on which I had booked the trip.
Have you ever had a similar experience? If you are currently facing this problem, at least now you know why it can take a while – go through the airline for help!
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