Beware Airbnb Service Fees: Refunds are Impossible


This isn’t terrible, but I feel like a lot of people are probably getting ripped off right now without realizing it. I booked a place that was covered under the 100% refundable policy. This policy clearly states service fees are refundable up to 24 hours before your trip, and the Airbnb refund policy in general says service fees are refundable for guests up to three times a year. See the attached pictures, screenshots from the Airbnb website. When I cancelled and requested a refund, it was not automatically given. After drilling down through multiple levels of their help center clearly intended to prevent you from talking to anyone, I finally go to chat with someone. He told me it was against Airbnb’s policy to refund service fees, but he would do me a ‘favor’ this once because I had booked another place. I thanked him for the refund, but afterwards I pointed out that it said in two places that the fee was refundable. He said, “That’s right, our service fees are not refundable” along with some other wholesome crap about Airbnb being a community. At that point, I moved from classifying customer service representatives as humans to examples of a failed Turing test, and I just hope their developers look at this and at the very least clarify their policy.

Posted in Airbnb Guest Stories and tagged , , , , , .


  1. My family is living in Vancouver, BC, Canada, and we had a airbnb booking from August 18th through 22nd in Penticton, BC, Canada for our vacation.

    But I had to cancel it two days before our booking because of wild fires and consequent air quality issue. Wild fires were literally burning one every routes from Vancouver to Penticton. If we were going on our vacation, we literally had to drive through the road wild fires are burning. Consequent air quality was also an issue. Wild fires were not burning in direct vicinity of Penticton, but multiple wire fires were buring within 1 hour drive range, and air quality in Penticton was extremely unhealthy. Please check out the attached capture images to verify what I said above.

    Airbnb implemented a new EXTENUATING CIRCUMSTANCES POLICY in January, 2021(Link here:, and this policy says as below.

    “When this Policy allows for cancellation, it controls and takes precedence over the reservation’s cancellation policy.”

    I believe my case was definitely an EXTENUATING CIRCUMSTANCE as no one would go on a vacation in such circumstance risking the health of my children as well as that of myself and my wife.

    I contacted Airbnb’s Online Support, but they rejected my refund request. They said my case was NOT AN EXTENUATING CIRCUMSTANCE.

    They didn’t consider my case as an EXTENUATING CIRCUMSTANCE, and that automatically means that they think I SHOULD HAVE RISKED MY FAMILY’S LIFE AND HEALTH TO HONOR MY AIRBNB BOOKING. They never said it directly, but what else could it mean?

    I asked them WOULD YOU GO ON A VACATION IN THAT KIND OF SITUATION? I asked multiple times, but they never answered to this question.

    I almost gave up on getting the refund, but I thought that I at least deserve an answer. So, I asked.


    They never answered to these questions, either.

    And they closed down my session. Now they are completely ignoring me.

  2. They’re still doing it. I had the same ‘overlapping stay’ refusal because I booked a new stay minutes before cancelling the first reservation within 48 hours of booking. The booking and the confirmation both stated ‘fully refundable within 48 hours of booking’. The do not refer to terms and conditions as they should to make consumers fully aware of the exceptions. Worked through Airbnb service and they basically said ‘that is policy and we always follow policy – no exceptions’. Last time for me with them.

    • Were you able to eventually get a refund? This is exact thing has happened to me. I tried to contacting someone seconds after booking, but I couldn’t even find a phone number, and no one responded to the online chat. Eventually I did find a contact number, but the representative said she would talk to a supervisor, and call me back. She sent a message saying they would not refund the $800.00 dollar service fee. I asked to speak to a supervisor, and was sent another message saying that they were standing by their decision. I called back in to talk to a supervisor and I have been told one will call in the next 24-48 hours. I am shocked at the customer service. If I am actually going to have to pay an 800.00 dollar service fee for 30 minute double booking, someone should at least call back and provide some service.

    • Just had the same thing happen for a 13 minute double booking, which happened because their website said that my dates were unavailable for the first place. I am apparently out $2k.

  3. I wished I’d seen this before booking recently. Trying get service fees refunded right now, getting the same treatment as mentioned. My main complaint is that they write FULL REFUND when it’s actually not. Why be deceptive, and tell me how charging $2k+ for a 24hr hold on bookings 6 months out is fair, no administrative fee for a website should cost that much.

  4. If you happen to have a place booked arlready, then book a better place for the same dates, Airbnb will charge you a $50 service fee unless you cancel the prior one first. This is not something that is clear unless you read the fine print, even then I find it confusing.

  5. We just had them refuse service fee refund for overlapping bookings and it took about 72 hours of back and forth but finally got our service fee refunded. Just be persistent and don’t back down / ask to talk to a supervisor and speak to how misleading the experience is, etc.

    Also, the phone representatives are no help so this has to be done through email / the app.

  6. I just changed my booking for a stay that had the same dates. The first location I had booked previously became to expensive for us and we found a different rental in a different city that was more affordable for our family. The first unit we booked, was 100% refundable up to24 hours before check in, the service fee was only charged after this point. So when I booked the new unit and canceled the first it charged me the service fee. I called Airbnb and they said its because I had double booked dates. I literally cancelled the first unit one minute after booking the second and they are keeping $300. I told them had that been posted anywhere I would have cancelled the original reservation first and then return to book the second, in addition to pointing out that the “policy” is not clearly listed on their website and my reservation states that it is 100% refundable. I have not cancelled any previous stays in the past, so its not like I’m a serial reservation hopper. Still waiting for them to let me know if they can refund it, however if they don’t I am going to seek legal action as this seems to be a problem for many. and complete fraud. Internal only policies on refunds are not legal if you are telling your customers something else.

  7. Airbnb are not for the customer. My holiday to Europe has been cancelled. I am getting refunds from airlines, hotels, train companies, car hire companies – but Irbnb are holding on desperately to their service fee for cancelled bookings that can’t go ahead due to global pandemic.

    I am extremely disappointed by their attitude and selfishness – stuff the customer!! I intend to write to local regional and national media to expose their practices.

  8. I am dealing with this right now. They want to retain a service fee of nearly $500 for a booking that clearly states is fully refundable (including service fee) if cancelled prior to 07/02 because I have cancelled 3 times in the prior 12 months. Note that 2 of the 3 times were for separate stays on a trip to Italy that I was supposed to be on right now. OBVIOUSLY, I did not cancel these by choice. The other was because I booked a stay for my adult son through my account then realized that it should have been booked through HIS account. On the host’s suggestion, I cancelled my booking and immediately re-booked the same stay through his account.
    The upcoming trip must be cancelled as 10 or the 12 guests are over 60 and several of them are immuno-compromised and would have to fly which they are not comfortable doing at this time.
    I have had the same response as most of you – “polite” pointing out that the service fee is only refunded 3 times per year out of the goodness of their hearts. I’m not going to back down on this.

    • good for you Melinda Don’t back down. I’m not either although it will be a long tough fight. In my case the fee amounts to $303 , The frustating thing is every time I point out that their policy clearly states that I’m entitled to a refund their reply says no and gives me some reason(s) which are patently false. When I compare the phraseology in different replies from allegedly different people they are so similiar that they are obviously either written by the same person or they use some kind of writing software that has pre concieved responses built in.

  9. I agree it is next to impossible to get a refund of service fees. dealing with customer “support” is frustrating at best. You will not ever talk to a person, and the text replies state things relating to their policies that are flat out false. Thinking of contacting Michale Finney of 7 on your side ( a San Francisco bay area news segment) which often gets results when other methods don’t.

  10. We have had the same experience. May 2020 . Air bnb system is totally unresponsive to the customer . Their goal is to frustrate you until you give up . You cannot talk to a human …just receive messages stating the service fee is non refundable . Write them off and tell everyone you know …buyer beware

  11. “The Airbnb service fee is refundable up to 3 times per year if the guest cancels at least 14 days before check-in. If booked less than 14 days before check-in, the service fee is only refundable up to 48 hours after booking AND at least 5 days before check-in. It isn’t refundable if the guest cancels a reservation that overlaps with any part of an existing reservation.”

    the above is the policy that states clearly it is refundable. But AirBnB does everything to prevent from paying. We booked 7 month early, we canceled 1 month early. Now they claime we should have canceled within 48 hours. But the above states clearly that the 48 hours do only apply to bookings within 14 dys of the stay. But AirBnB keeps ignoring this, they tell us the first part of the sentence does not matter. I wonder where they find the customer service people willing to be stupid or lie. I had 5 reps so far, in German and English and they all claim the same

  12. I booked an Airbnb on August 17th @ 2pm and cancelled in on August 17th @ 5pm for a reservation for that night and they took the whole amount of $366 because I didn’t give 48 hours cancellation notice?!! How can they let people book on the same date they are staying if they have to cancel 48 hours ahead of time, how is this even legal ??

  13. I made a reservation with wrong dates by mistake. (in Sept instead of Aug.)

    When I cancelled it, I lost the service fees.

    This is totally unfair. This type of mistake should be totally refundable.
    Anyone can make mistakes and it should be a lost of money everytime.

    What does it cost them? Everything is automated anyway….

  14. You know where they don’t keep your money? Hotels.
    I don’t see any valid reason why they need to keep that money. AirBnb is an autonomous service.there was no actual labor that took place. this is Corporate greed in the highest. If they knew it was wrong, which they do they will give you your money back when asked, like they do. They are praying on the individuals that won’t take a stand and demand there money back.

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