’Tis the season for refunds. If you bought tickets for travel or events taking place this year, there’s a good chance you’re getting back at least some of the money you spent.
If you used a credit card to make those purchases, getting that money returned may be a little more confusing than opening your debit account to see that your funds have magically returned.
If you have a credit card balance, a refund is a nice windfall. The refund wipes out that purchase that’s been languishing there, waiting for you to pay it off, get reimbursed by your employer, or whatever other reason. Your balance shrinks and you are pleased.
But what if your card balance is already at zero?
I hadn’t considered this much until an international trip I had been planning for months got canceled by the pandemic. I got to choose whether I wanted a travel credit or a refund, and I chose the latter because…well, have you looked outside lately? This thing isn’t over yet.
So any day now, that sizable refund is going to hit my account—an account that is thankfully, blissfully sitting at zero dollars already.
A refund of $50 or $100 could quickly be allocated for recurring purchases set to hit my credit card for the month. But international trip money? Yeah, I want to put that cash in my bank account, not have it lingering on my credit card account.
If this situation sounds familiar, it’s time to get on the horn to your credit card issuer. Because if you don’t explicitly ask for a refund, the Truth in Lending Act says card issuers have up to six months to make a “good faith effort” to give back your overpayment or negative balance.
If you request a refund, they have to respond within seven business days. Technically, that timeline is for requests made in writing. But you probably don’t need to send a formal request to your credit card company. A simple phone call will likely do.
To expedite your refund payment, call the number on the back of your card and ask for your credit to be refunded. You may also be able to do this online through your card issuer’s secure messaging service. All you have to do is ask for a refund for your credit balance.
Once your request is approved, it’s just a matter of keeping track of any documentation you receive confirming your refund and waiting for the mail to arrive. When the check arrives in one to two weeks, deposit it into your checking account—or even better, your savings account—and revel in your “extra” cash.