I canceled my hotel room. Why did Expedia deny the refund?

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By Christopher Elliott

After Carol McLaughlin cancels her stay at a hotel in Segovia, Spain, she’s sure Expedia will refund her money. But when the hotel claims it never received her cancellation request, who will Expedia believe?


On a recent visit to Porto, Portugal, I had an upper respiratory infection and canceled a planned stay in Segovia, Spain. Fortunately, I was within the 48-hour cancellation window, so when I contacted the Hotel Infanta Isabel, I was sure I would get my money back from Expedia.

Now the hotel is claiming that it didn’t receive my email and has refused to refund my stay. Expedia says it’s unable to help me. Apparently, Expedia believes the hotel over me.

I would like Expedia or the hotel to refund $174, the charge for two nights that I didn’t use. Can you help me? — Carol McLaughlin, San Francisco


Expedia should refund your hotel stay. I’m looking at an email from you to the Hotel Infanta Isabel that asked for a refund, sent within the 48-hour cancellation window. It appears the hotel claimed it never heard from you, even though you had evidence to the contrary — evidence that you shared with Expedia.

I’m not surprised that an online travel agency like Expedia would believe the hotel. After all, it’s getting far more money from the hotel than it is from you. But I a little troubled that it continued to believe the Hotel Infanta Isabel even after you showed it your email. (Related: Did Expedia make an error and leave this traveler stranded?)

Good thing you emailed the hotel rather than calling. Can you imagine what would happen if Expedia or the Hotel Infanta Isabel only had your word? That’s why I recommend always putting a request like this or any grievance in writing. It starts a paper trail which is critical to getting a case resolved. You can forward your email correspondence to an online agency, a supervisor — or a consumer advocate. (Here’s our guide to resolving your consumer problem.)

Cancel your hotel room? Get a written confirmation

If you ever need to cancel a hotel room again, make sure you get a response from the hotel or online travel agency. Most important, get a cancellation number. That’s the evidence of your cancellation. If you don’t have a cancellation number, you don’t have a cancellation.

Arch RoamRight is one of the fastest-growing, most-highly rated travel insurance companies in the United States. Travel advisors love working with us, and travelers feel protected with our trip cancellation and travel medical insurance coverage. We also make it easy to file a claim online with our fast, paperless claims website. Learn more about RoamRight travel insurance.

I think if you’d presented your email to one of the Expedia executive contacts listed on my consumer advocacy site, it might have changed its tune. A brief, polite email might have done the trick.

My advocacy team and I contacted Expedia on your behalf. It reviewed the correspondence between you and the Hotel Infanta Isabel. Expedia has issued you a full refund.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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