In this case, is a chargeback the only path to a VRBO resolution?

When a consumer has problems getting satisfaction from a travel provider, we suggest a credit card chargeback as a last resort. It’s shocking when the provider is the one to suggest it, and as the first option.

Question: I made a reservation on for a property in Charlotte, N.C. The owner’s policy is if you cancel 30 days or more prior to the reservation date you receive a 100 percent refund.

Since making the reservation, I have had the need arise to cancel this reservation. I have been unable to contact the owner via email, phone, or text. VRBO customer service says they cannot cancel the reservation. Only the owner can do that. VRBO customer service has been polite, but so far unhelpful.

Could you please help me cancel my reservation and get my 100 percent refund, even though it’s past the cancellation date. — Chris McMillan, Wade, N.C.

Answer: That’s absurd! What good is offering a cancellation policy when you’re not available to accept the cancellation?

This case is a reminder that while it’s nice to have a company like VRBO stand behind their service, it’s complicated to have to go through the owner to make the cancellation.

You were smart to post about your predicament to our forums. They are read by our advocates, as well as industry executives, who often can provide the help you need.

You also did the right thing by paying for the rental via VRBO’s secure payment platform, which protects both the renter and the owner. This guarantees that your payment is safe.

Our forum respondents suggested that you follow the process outlined on VRBO’s website. Nevertheless, you struck out getting your refund because of the lateness of your date, so you reached out to our advocates, who contacted VRBO on your behalf. A company representative contacted you, but you were not happy with the response. You told us:

Their advice to me was to go ahead and pursue denying the charge for the rental with my credit card carrier. They indicated they had sent a communication to the property owner with a deadline to respond. However, if no one is monitoring the phone number or email address the property owner provided to VRBO, how do they expect to receive a response?

I have always had the option of working back through my credit card carrier to cancel this reservation, so I really don’t see where VRBO is doing anything to assist me. They did indicate that, if the credit card company will not reverse the charge, that they would provide me a refund if I documented the credit card carrier’s refusal to them in writing.

Basically, all the work is on me to get my refund, and who knows how long that will take. This is poor customer service in my opinion. VRBO should refund my card and then work with the property owner to get their money back. That would be better customer service.

You’re right. VRBO’s response was quite surprising. Normally when we advocate cases, we suggest credit card chargeback requests as the last resort for consumers — not the first. Subsequent to VRBO’s unusual suggestion, we haven’t heard back from you, so perhaps their suggestion worked. We hope that the chargeback was successful and, if not, that VRBO stood by its promise to refund your money.

Related story:   Patience pays for flight gripes

For our readers who wish to use websites like VRBO for your upcoming rentals, this is a reminder to always use the company’s secure payment platforms and to not pay by check. It’s also important to remember that sometimes the responsibility to get your money back in these situations is on you, and that credit card chargebacks should be used only if all else fails.

Mark Pokedoff

Four-time Emmy-award-winning television sports production specialist and frequent traveler. Longtime freelance writer and travel blog enthusiast. Proud papa of four amazing kids who have been upgraded to first class more than all their friends combined.

  • sirwired

    That is strange; chargeback rates are part of credit card fee negotiations, so most businesses try to minimize them. It is truly bizarre that VRBO agrees the consumer is due a refund, but wants the consumer to get it through the chargeback process instead of VRBO issuing a credit. One way will be easy and free to VRBO, the other will involve a lot of time and hassle to everybody involved, VRBO included.

  • Rebecca

    If the bank comes back and denies the chargeback, the OP needs to provide the email VRBO sent as proof she was promised a refund. If she pushes it with her bank, that almost certainly will solve the issue.

    And how frustrating. I do think I have a possible answer as to why VRBO would suggest a chargeback. I’d guess the owner is on the hook for the fees associated with this – and VRBO possibly may even get to keep their fee to the owner. If VRBO just processes a refund, they’re out the processing fees. I can’t think of another plausible reason, especially since this wasn’t a rep on the phone, it’s in writing.

  • AAGK

    “Basically, the work is all on me to get my refund”. Of course.

  • AAGK

    Not bizarre. VBRO sets these up as arms length transactions where it puts 2 parties together. If I told you this happened to me, you would tell me to call my credit card. The owner has the money, not VBRO, rt?

  • AAGK

    So long as he has proof he sent his cancellation in time then his card will back him up. A sent email, proof of mailing…. then he is perfect. I wouldn’t have even bothered with VBRO.

  • sirwired

    Since VRBO’s payment system was used in this case, the credit card transaction is going to say “VRBO” not “Landlord Co”. If the dispute is successful, the money will be yanked from VRBO’s account.

  • AAGK

    Yes but VBRO doesn’t care bc then it yanks it from the owner. Then the owner is in debt to VBRO as opposed to the potential renter.
    If I send someone money with venmo or square, etc. with a credit card and I dispute the transaction for a permissible reason, the card dings the processor and the processor dings the recipient. I drop out of the equation bc my money has been credited to my card. That’s why folks have to link a bank account.

  • sirwired

    Chargeback statistics are part of how much VRBO is expected to pay in processing fees to their merchant bank. It’s very much in their interest to handle disputes internally instead of farming them out to the renter’s bank.

    (Square is different because they ARE a merchant bank.)

  • Rebecca

    That’s exactly what happens. VRBO has the upper hand, they’ll charge the owner for any fees. If the funds aren’t there, it’s likely processed as an ACH so the debt goes to collections. That owner isn’t going to able to accept a credit card through anyone until the debt is settled. All processors share this info. They also likely have their listing suspended until the debt is paid.

  • joycexyz

    The timing issue is unclear. His issue is an unresponsive owner and VRBO’s DIY “solution.” But you’re right about having the proof of emailing.

  • AAGK

    I haven’t read VBRO’s rules so I think of it as like a newspaper posting classifieds or real listings. It also provides a secure way to send the money. I may be wrong. So long as this guy used the VBRO payment system with his credit card then his card protects him. That’s what VBRO tried to explain. Had he not used VBRO and wrote a check directly to the bad owner, then he would really be out of luck. VBRO worked here bc its protections enable him to pursue the remedy directly, via his card issuer, against the guy with the money.

  • John McDonald

    what’s the difference if client pays VRBO property owner direct, with a credit card or with a credit card via Paypal for instance ?

  • sirwired

    If they pay outside VRBO, they are not covered by VRBO’s guarantees and will be subject to the dispute rules for their payment method, if any.

  • AAGK

    He will have the $ for the fees bc he took the OP’s $ too. That’s all VBRO cares about, its fee.

  • AAGK

    It depends….To handle every issue like this internally would require many expenditures that would be far greater than that fee, perhaps.

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