Booking and pre-paying for travel can be risky.  What happens when you find a great, limited time deal that’s too good to pass up or you want to book months in advance to receive a good rate? But when you pay ahead, you risk needing to cancel maybe because you’re experiencing buyer’s remorse (can’t afford the trip, there’s no one to travel with) or you are faced with a personal or family issue that makes travel during that time impractical. Is it possible to receive travel refunds with little or no penalty?

Refunds on non-refundable travel

To guard against high-pressure sales tactics, North American travelers are permitted to cancel non-refundable flights free of charge within 24 hours of the time they reserve.

In the U.S., The Department of Transportation states travelers are entitled to a full refund if booked within 24 hours on flights that depart 7 days or more out. In Canada, most airlines permit free cancellation within 24 hours, though Sunwing and Air Transat cancellations are not free.

One travel agent I know agrees that the 24-hour rule applies, but she suggests canceling the reservation before midnight on the day you booked. In instances when she’s waited until the next day (even within the 24-hour period), the cancellation process was more complicated or not possible.

Sometimes you can rebook your non-refundable fare at a later date. ‘Later date’ typically means it needs to be rebooked within one year.

Trip cancellation insurance may be included as a standard benefit on credit cards. To cancel a non-refundable ticket, just check the benefits on the card you used to book the travel. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Airlines may state tickets are non-refundable, however, sometimes airlines offer a gift card, refund, return or transfer. Simply contact their customer service department to discuss the situation. Again, you may be pleasantly surprised.

Yes, travel refunds are possible. So go ahead, book that great rate you just found. It’s likely you can change your mind without penalty – at least within 24 hours.

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