The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we interact with the world, and it’s upending many people’s lives, finances and travel plans. Cruise ships are suspending sailings, airlines are offering reimbursements for canceled flights and credit card companies are allowing consumers to sign up for hardship programs — which, when combined with social distancing and shelter-in-place guidelines, suggest that many won’t be taking any big vacations any time soon.
Hotel chains have extended no-penalty cancellations and elite status, but if you prefer booking vacation stays through Airbnb, you might be wondering whether you can cancel an existing reservation, whether Airbnb will charge fees for canceled bookings and when it might be smart to begin planning your next trip.
Here’s what you need to know:
Can you get a refund after cancellation?
Generally, whether you can get a refund after canceling an Airbnb booking depends on the cancellation policy associated with your rental. Airbnb hosts can choose between six types of cancellation policies, ranging from a flexible policy that offers free cancellation until 14 days before check-in to a “super strict 60 days” policy that requires guests to cancel 60 days before check-in and only refunds 50 percent of the nightly rate and the cleaning fee.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, Airbnb created an extenuating circumstances policy that allows both guests and hosts to cancel Airbnb stays made on or before March 14, 2020 with a check-in date between March 14, 2020 and May 31, 2020. According to the policy on Airbnb’s website:
“Guests who cancel will have a variety of cancellation and refund options, and hosts can cancel without charge or impact to their Superhost status. Airbnb will either refund, or issue travel credit that includes, all service fees for covered cancellations.”
The policy does also stipulate that you must attest to or provide documentation of your extenuating circumstance.
To learn more about specific cancellation policies associated with your Airbnb bookings, log into your Airbnb account and visit your Trips Page to view each trip’s cancellation and refund options.
How to request a refund
Airbnb sends your refund the day your reservation is cancelled. In general, it takes 10 days for an Airbnb refund to get credited to your payment account — though the refund can take up to 15 days depending on your payment method. If you’re curious about the status of your refund, you can contact your payment provider, log into the Airbnb help center for personalized support or reach out to Airbnb customer service.
Due to the number of cancellations associated with the coronavirus pandemic, wait times for customer service requests may be longer than usual.
Can your credit card help?
Many credit cards reward Airbnb bookings, and the best travel credit cards generally offer multiple types of travel insurance, including trip cancellation/interruption insurance. However, not all policies cover pandemic-related cancellations. Read your credit card’s terms to determine whether you might be able to file a claim against a cancelled or interrupted Airbnb stay.
You can also call the number on the back of your card and request to speak to a customer service representative about your credit card’s travel insurance policies.
Fees and penalties
Airbnb charges a service fee for every reservation. These service fees vary depending on the type of Airbnb reservation and, in most cases, are shared between the guest and the host — which means that Airbnb guests pay each time they book a stay and Airbnb hosts pay every time one of their properties is booked.
If an Airbnb guest chooses to cancel a booking, the service fee may or may not be refunded, depending on the host’s cancellation policy. Guests who have received three service fee refunds in the past 12 months will not get a service fee refund.
If an Airbnb host chooses to cancel a booking, Airbnb will deduct either $50 or $100 from their next payout, depending on the timing of the cancellation. If hosts cancel more than three reservations per year, their listings may be deactivated.
For cancellations falling under Airbnb’s COVID-19 extenuating circumstances policy, Airbnb will either refund or issue travel credits for all service fees associated with the reservation. This applies whether you are a guest or a host.
Changing your reservations for future stays
If you’d like to change an Airbnb reservation for a future trip, you can submit a change request to your Airbnb host. Log into your Airbnb account, visit your Trips Page, select an upcoming stay and choose the “Change Reservation” option. You can change the date of your stay or adjust the number of guests.
Once you’ve made the changes you’d like to request, choose “Submit Alteration.” Your Airbnb host will be able to review the changes you are proposing and decide whether not to accept your request. If your request is accepted and the cost of the new stay differs from the cost of the original booking, your payment method will be charged or refunded accordingly.
If your host rejects your request, your reservation will remain unchanged — and you might have to consider canceling.
Should you book now for later this year?
While it might be tempting to book an Airbnb reservation for later this year, it is still unclear when shelter-in-place orders will be lifted — and people may be asked to continue practicing social distance, including limiting gatherings to small numbers of people, for even longer.
If you’d like to book an Airbnb reservation for a future stay, look for one that offers a flexible cancellation policy. That way, you can cancel the reservation for a full refund up to 14 days before check-in.
Relief for hosts
In addition to refunding costs associated with coronavirus-related cancellations, Airbnb is putting $250 million towards supporting Airbnb hosts who have lost money due to canceled bookings.
“When a guest cancels an accommodation reservation due to a COVID-19 related circumstance, with a check-in between March 14 and May 31, we will pay you 25 percent of what you would normally receive through your cancellation policy, said Airbnb founder Brian Chesky in a letter to hosts. “This applies retroactively to all COVID-19 related cancellations during this period. This cost will be covered entirely by Airbnb. These payments will begin to be issued in April.”
Airbnb is also creating a $10 million Superhost Fund to support Superhosts who rent out their own home and depend on Airbnb income to cover their rent or mortgage costs. Superhost Fund money will be distributed in grants of up to $5,000. If you are eligible to apply for a Superhost Fund grant, Airbnb will contact you directly — and if your application is accepted, funds will arrive in late April 2020.