Prepaid Hotel Voucher: Claiming a Refund After Regular Services Can’t Be Provided Due To Covid-19

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Currently many hotels are selling (and have done so for a while) prepaid vouchers for various hotel services such as stay packages, spa services or food&beverage choices – but some facilities might not actually be available due to the pandemic.

Unfortunately I had bad luck with one such package I purchased for my birthday in early January as suddenly the government restricted what hotels were allowed to serve and suddenly the voucher became pretty much worthless to me.

I have purchased numerous Megatix vouchers in the last 8 months, probably close to US$7000 worth and most of them for Marriott properties all over Thailand.

In November there was one offer for the Kimpton Bangkok which I like a lot.

The offer was a 1 night staycation package for the price of 5000 Baht net and included

  • 1 overnight at the hotel
  • Upgrade to Premium Room
  • Breakfast
  • 2500 Baht F&B credit to be used at the hotels outlets -> The decisive reason why I thought this package was worth it.

Megatix sends you a voucher for the purchase that looks like this:

As mentioned I purchased this voucher to use it on my birthday on January 3rd as I was planning to go to the rooftop bar for some cocktails, dinner and then stay at the hotel as a bonus and have breakfast the next day.

I stayed at the Kimpton on three occasions before and always used points which is a good value here. The points reservations of course don’t include breakfast so I found this package made sense to purchase.

Unfortunately then Thailand got struck with a new outbreak of Covid-19 again and as so often the reaction of the Thai government (or in this case the Bangkok government) is to outlaw the serving of alcohol because… it’s evil! For some reason Thailand has this obsession with forbidding the sale or serving of alcohol whenever there is any problem in the country. Not just on religious holidays.

In any case I contacted the hotel and asked if that meant that the rooftop Bar.Yard wouldn’t be serving alcohol and as I assumed the answer to that was yes, there wouldn’t be any.

This essentially meant I would be spending my birthday having snacks and drinking milk shakes on the roof which I would have been thrilled about 30 years ago, not so much right now. Although the food they have there is really nice, especially their smoked meat such as pulled pork and ribs:

Spending close to $100 on small BBQ dishes and non-alc beverages wasn’t really what I had in mind so first I cancelled the reservation and then I took a flight to Phuket where I ended up staying at the Intercontinental instead. Mind you, life in Phuket is still business as usual including full operation of bars and restaurants. Cocktails included and I really enjoyed my stay there.

In the meanwhile I inquired with the hotel and Megatix about refunding the voucher as I couldn’t use it as anticipated. They offered to extend it beyond January 31st but since it was purposed for this specific date in mind I had no reason to randomly stay at the hotel at a later point. The refund request was getting nowhere with either contact. I decided to contact American Express and asked them for their opinion, the associate told me to do a chargeback of the transaction which they approved two weeks after.

I do realize that it’s not the hotels fault that the government has put out this alcohol ban but I think especially as a repeat customer at the property they should have offered the refund and made it easier for everyone. Anyone in fact, not just myself. In the end Amex came through for me once again.

It was especially confusing since Megatix told me they only act as the payment processor for the hotel and I’d have to claim it with them while the Marriott properties from previous stays said they won’t get paid from Megatix until the voucher gets scanned at the property. Whatever version might be correct I didn’t want to be in the middle of that. As mentioned in the beginning I’ve spent roughly $7k with them and never had an issue before.

The hotel did contact me a few days later (likely after Megatix got the Amex chargeback) saying they would refund me the charged amount in cash to my local bank account rather than just letting the chargeback go it’s course. I agreed to that and received the 5000 Baht within the next 48 hours after which I contacted Amex saying that the dispute was resolved by local refund. They recharged it to my card account which also earned me a few extra points that way.

Prepaid vouchers are always a complicated case when there are elementary changes to expectation and reality. My position is if I book a prepaid rate with a hotel then it’s my responsibility to turn up on the date I booked as per rate description. In return I get a very good deal compared to flexible rates.

Remember that travel companies often see it as like they are able to do any change even last minute while the customer always gets the short end of the stick. How many hotels have just closed most of their facilities or shut down altogether, just cancelling the guests reservation and say go elsewhere? Many! Here in Bangkok plenty of properties just converted to quarantine hotels and wrote me a quick mail to say “We’re closed – sorry, not sorry!”.

Conclusion

When there is a substantial change in what the property is able to offer then I think it’s not unreasonable to expect a refund of said reservation or voucher. Some hotels during this pandemic close their pools, gyms (spa & gym were also closed by government orders by the way) and their F&B outlets. While the outlets themselves were open in this case no alcohol was being sold and therefore unsuitable for a birthday party at a rooftop bar usually famous for it’s nice cocktails.

I’m glad this was eventually resolved but would have expected the hotel to be a bit more flexible with a Spire Elite guest that has stayed there before and will also come back when the situation has changed. I’ll probably use points again on my next stay there, at least those are flexible and don’t have any package inclusions.

It’s good to place certain purchases that have a potential of requiring a dispute resolution on a credit card that will come through for you. After some experience in the past I found only Amex is able to consistently provide this while other card products including Chase Sapphire Reserve ($550 per year) has been disappointing.

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