Normally, I am a huge fan of Chase and their stable of travel reward cards. Don’t get me wrong – I still think they are great but a recent experience with Chase and their travel team left me deeply disappointed in their customer support.
How Chase Disappointed Me with Service
In January of 2020, I booked a trip for my wife and daughters from Europe to the US for last July (roundtrip) for a family event. I found some fairly reasonable prices for summer travel and used 60,000 Chase Ultimate Reward points and some cash to buy the tickets. This is how I normally use my Ultimate Reward points since we have the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. It makes those 60,000 points worth $900 when redeemed directly through Chase for the trip.
Then, we all know what happened – the coronavirus spread around the world. The flight itself was with Austrian Airlines and in April, they canceled and rebooked. Then in June, they canceled the trip altogether due to their suspension of routes to the US. This is an easy refund request since they canceled the flights.
Starting the Process with Chase
Since I had booked through Chase Travel (which uses Expedia for their backend travel engine), I had to contact them for the refund. Austrian was fine with giving it but the request had to be made through the booking agent. I have had fantastic experiences in the past with Chase so I didn’t think anything of 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 with this since I am used to much quicker refunds than that and I needed the points for another trip.
I would communicate with Chase through their chat every few weeks to check on the status and kept being informed that the request was pending with the airline and no refund had been made yet.
A Glimmer of Hope
In October, three months following the refund request, I was told that the refund had been approved and I would have the points and cash back in 1 -2 billing statements. Again, I was disappointed in that since this is dealing with Chase – the one who issued the points in the first place and could easily give the points back quicker than that.
But, at least I was getting them back! So, I waited for December to roll around to get the points.
Nope – Starting Over
In December, I contacted Chase again since there had not been any sign of the points or money. Instead of getting any good news, I instead was told that the refund had not been issued and was still pending. I asked them why I was told two months before that the refund had been issued and they said this was a mistake.
So, they elevated it to another department to take a better look at it, assuring me that the Reserve agents would take care of me (which is good since this is a card we pay a $450 annual fee for, soon to be $550). I received an e-mail with a case number and an assurance that they were in contact with the airline and trying to get the refund issued for me.
Trying with the Airline
Even though I knew the request had to be done through Chase, I still wanted to ask Austrian why they weren’t issuing a refund on a flight they had canceled so many months before. They kept telling me they couldn’t do anything about it since it was bought through Chase and I had to contact them. I asked them for the status and they said there was nothing they could do, I had to go through Chase.
Not once did an agent say anything about a refund being processed or where it was in the pending status. This is important.
Following Up with Chase – 7 Months Later
After months and hours of chatting with Chase with no hope of getting a refund as of yet, I kept pushing with Chase only to be told 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 by now but I couldn’t do that since this was directly through Chase and done with partial points. I told them I had hoped that customer service could have been a little better on such a premium, high fee card like advancing me the points, at least, since they could see the flights had been canceled and they kept assuring me I would receive a refund. Nope – no help again.
Finally – the Resolution
In the end, the complaint I filed with the Department of Transportation yielded a response from the Lufthansa group with the astonishing revelation – the refund had been issued in July, a mere 3 days after the request had been made!
I was shocked about this and asked for some proof since their own agents kept telling me that there was nothing they could do, it was still pending, 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 it went back to (which belongs to Chase).
The next day, the extremely helpful Lufthansa agent sent me something called the Acquirer Reference Number (ARN) which allow for tracking of financial transactions through the various electronic systems. I sent this, along with a very frustrated note, to the Chase agents.
In the meantime, the Chase portal would no longer allow me to chat with agents, requesting a phone call instead. I was not about to call when I needed to show the documents I had received from Lufthansa. I went through Twitter as well as responding to the Chase e-mails and waited.
After just one day, I finally received the points and cash back – a full 8 months after Chase had received the money back from Austrian.
This means it was either total incompetence by the Chase agents or they were outright lying to me – either way, it is unacceptable to have this happen when I am a customer using my $450 annual fee card with them. There is no reason that I should have had to do Chase’s work to get the answers that I sought. This is something that they should have done, both as the travel portal and the one that was to provide help in such travel situations.
I am still a Chase fan because I like the rewards and the earning rates. I like the transfer partners, I like the perks I get – none of that has changed.
What has changed is my trust in the agents in the Chase Travel department and this definitely will turn me away from redeeming my points directly through Chase going forward. They were incompetent throughout this entire process and it is not acceptable when they charge what they do for the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the card’s account through which I had booked the travel.
Have you ever had a similar experience? If you are currently dealing with this, at least you know now why it may be taking a while – go through the airline to get help!