Martin Lewis gives advice to travellers as Thomas Cook stops trading with immediate effect

Holiday giant Thomas Cook has stopped trading with immediate effect and entered compulsory liquidation, prompting the Government to launch the biggest-ever peacetime repatriation, to bring more than 150,000 British holidaymakers home.

Martin Lewis, founder of MoneySavingExpert.com says: “This is a sad day for staff and customers of Thomas Cook. In general those abroad now will be brought home once their holidays have finished. Most who haven’t travelled will have a route to get their cash back, but this unprecedentedly large repatriation and refund operation will not be without problems. It’s going to be a stressful time for many people – MoneySavingExpert will be regularly updating our detailed help guide as we continue to learn more from officials and travellers.

“The Government has said all British travellers who were due to fly back within the next two weeks will be brought home free of charge. Those who’ve already paid for their hotels abroad as part of a Thomas Cook package shouldn’t pay again. Yet that won’t stop a few uncertain and scared hoteliers overseas wanting money directly from British travellers to be doubly sure. This could leave UK tourists in sticky situations. If so, the Civil Aviation Authority has a helpline which should sort it for you.

“For those who’d booked future trips, ATOL and ABTA schemes should mean full refunds, but some, especially those who booked flights only, may be unprotected. Travel insurance won’t help for most, as travel company failure cover is rarely included as standard – though check your policy or give them a call.

“If you did book without travel industry or insurance protection, the next route is your card provider. Those who paid more than £100 on a credit card get Section 75 legal protection – which means the card firm is jointly liable with the retailer, so you can get your money back from it. However this may not work if you booked via an agency, or via certain PayPal transactions, as that break in the direct transactional relationship can stop it working – we wait to see how widespread that problem will be.

“If that happens, or you paid by debit card, instead ask your bank to do a ‘chargeback’. This isn’t a legal protection – it is a Visa, Mastercard and Amex rule where your bank gets your money back from Thomas Cook’s bank as you didn’t receive what you paid for. It should work for most people. Those who paid by other methods such as cheques or cash have very little protection sadly.”