An expensive United mistake

I want to share a newbie mistake I made which is now allowing United to hold $400 in ransom. Hopefully this helps others not make the same mistake.

* 8/25 — I ordered a refundable fare round-trip ticket on for $600 using my Visa credit card.

* 8/30 — I attempted to change the return flight on my existing ticket. Due to their “Change flight” form being confusing + me being a noob, I accidentally changed the fare type to non-refundable (this is so much easier than it should be). I got a $200 refund to my original form of payment, which I did not understand at the time.

* 8/30 — Minutes later, I realized my mistake. I attempted to cancel my existing ticket. The website offered a choice to refund $400 into my original form of payment vs United future travel credit, and I chose my Visa credit card. But the refund landed in United future travel credit instead.

I called their support line, and they could not help me refund the $400 into my Visa credit card. Because at the end of all this, my ticket was technically non-refundable and the original purchase date is more than 24 hours ago. I filed a request to the Refunds department and I’m waiting to hear back.

I call this a ransom because 1) booking another flight using this credit will charge a $200 change fee and 2) the results are somehow different from a “new reservation”. Wtf?

So the takeaways are:

* Do NOT accidentally change your ticket fare type from refundable to non-refundable.

* 24 flexible booking policy applies to the original purchase date, NOT the change date.

* Do NOT have more than 1 tab open when booking or modifying reservations. This is unrelated, but I’ve seen tickets booked under the wrong name, the wrong ticket being canceled, etc because presumably I had multiple United tabs open. I know this sounds like PEBCAK but I was pretty thorough and it happened multiple times.

Edit: Good news! My refund request has been accepted. I just received this curt response on Sept 3:

Thank you for contacting United Refunds.
Your refund has been processed today. If your ticket was purchased using a credit card please allow 4 to 7 business days for the credit to post to your account.

This feels like a close call. I’ve heard stories from readers in similar situations whose refunds were denied. One guy was even a 1k Premier member. United should really allow their customer service representatives to give refunds over the phone for extenuating circumstances like this.