Whether you’re a weekly flyer or a first-time traveler, delays can happen to anyone. From weather to mechanicals to strikes (oh my!) there are plenty of reasons why your best-laid plans may go awry, and I’ve certainly been no stranger to these delays as of late.
While airlines may offer compensation, particularly if the delay is not weather-related, meal vouchers are often paltry, and the comped hotels may not be the easiest to get to. Furthermore, if you’re stranded in the U.S. and your delay is weather-related, you may not get anything from the airline.
Luckily, there are a number of credit cards out there that are set up to cover you for precisely these types of situations.
Trip Delay Coverage: What you need to know
Most reimbursement policies offer to reimburse you for up to $500 per person, as long as the delay is greater than a certain amount of time (typically 12 hours, although some cards are more generous).
Here is a sample definition of the coverage, taken from my most recent guide to benefits on my Chase Ink Business Plus card (I received it two days ago, so I’m feeling pretty good that it’s up-to-date):
Trip Delay Reimbursement covers up to a maximum of five hundred ($500.00) dollars for each purchased ticket for reasonable expenses, on a one-time-basis, incurred if your Covered Trip is delayed by a Covered Hazard for more than twelve (12) hours or requires an overnight stay. To be eligible for this coverage, you need to purchase either a portion or the entire cost of your Common Carrier fare using your Account. Coverage is in excess of any expenses paid by any other party, including applicable insurance.
Here is what this means, in layman’s terms:
- “Reasonable expenses” are covered, and typically include things like “meals, lodging, toiletries, medication and other personal use items.”
- “One-time-basis” means that you can only use this perk once per trip.
- “Covered Trip” means that you have paid for all or a part of this trip with the card in question (more on that in a bit). The trip has to be under 365 days in length, and has to originate and eventually return to your primary residence.
- “Covered Hazard” refers to the cause of the delay, which in this case, may include “equipment failure, inclement weather, labor strikes, and hijacking or skyjacking.”
- “Common Carrier” refers to the form of public transportation that you are using, and may include “land, water, or air conveyance that operates under a valid license to transport passengers for hire and requires purchasing a ticket before travel begins.” So this means that you could conceivably be eligible for reimbursement if, say, your cruise ship is delayed getting back to port, or if there is an Amtrak closure.
- “Coverage is in excess of any expenses paid…” means that, if you purchase other trip insurance or receive reimbursement from the airline, you need to go through these services first. If you have additional expenses that are not covered by other means, then Chase will pick up the tab, up to $500.
What else do you need to do?
First and foremost, make sure that you save all of your receipts for expenses incurred. (If you need some tips on the best ways to store receipts electronically, you can check out this post and the follow-up comments for some different tools that are out there.)
You’ll also need to file the claim within the required time frame – most cards require 60 days, although I imagine that you’ll probably want to be reimbursed as soon as possible.
It’s likely that the third-party insurance provider will ask you to provide some sort of proof of the delay at hand, which may require contacting the airline or other mode of transportation. Asking the gate or ticket agent for a “Military Excuse” when you’re at the airport is the easiest way to secure this documentation ahead of time. You’ll also need to provide proof that the ticket in question was purchased with your card.
This list isn’t exhaustive, so make sure that you check your most recent guide to benefits to verify what you need – and what’s covered.
So, does your card offer this perk?
Tiffany did a great comprehensive roundup a few years ago, but as we know very well here, terms and conditions for various card benefits change all the time. Card issuers don’t necessarily broadcast their Guide to Benefits publicly, but here is our best roundup of some of our favorite cards – and the coverage that they offer:
- Chase Sapphire Reserve®
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
- The Platinum Card® from American Express
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card
- Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card
Some other questions that you may have
Like all things involving insurance, nothing is ever simple, and each claim will involve its own particular set of circumstances. Hopefully these questions can address at least some of the issues that you may run into:
Is the coverage just for me, or does it apply to travel companions?
Generally, the coverage is for you and for immediate family members traveling with you, and is good for $500 per ticketed passenger, based on the most recent Guides to Benefits that I’ve seen. Chase makes no such promises.
American Express explains that coverage applies to you and your family members (including domestic partners) and traveling companions who purchase a trip with your card.
Does this work for award travel?
Yes(ish). Chase requires that all or part of the travel be paid “using your Account,” so you should be able to get away with booking an award through the specified portal (Ultimate Rewards, MileagePlus, etc.) and covering the taxes and fees with your card in question.
American Express covers award travel, provided you pay the taxes on the award ticket with your card. In additional, using Amex Pay With Points feature to pay for your ticket would qualify.
Okay, I get that my original ticket needs to be on the card in question – what about my hotel room during my overnight delay?
While I haven’t had experience with this in practice (yet), I haven’t seen any terms that specify that reimbursable expenses need to be placed on the original card. I would still do so to be on the safe side though, and to hopefully streamline the claims process.
Do I need to clear this with my credit card in advance?
No – as long as you file your claim within the required time frame (again, typically 60 days) and save all of your receipts, you should be okay.
What if I accept a voucher from the airline in exchange for taking a later flight?
If you’re choosing to accept compensation, then you’re out of luck on this front.
How about if the airline offers meal vouchers and lodging during a delay?
Technically speaking, the coverage is secondary, which means that you will be covered in excess of whatever is already reimbursed. The insurance provider will require you to submit proof of whatever other reimbursement you received.
What if I have travel insurance already?
You’ll want to go through them first, but again, you’ll be covered if you incur any expenses in excess of what’s already being reimbursed.
I’m really mad that I’m delayed – can I just drink my sorrows away?
Technically, Chase doesn’t require itemized meal receipts for bills under $50. That said, you probably don’t want to submit five dinner receipts for a one-night delay.
So, how do I go about filing a claim?
If you’re filing with Chase, the easiest thing to do is to go to the Card Benefit Services website, or call 1-866-390-9735 to get the ball rolling. As you may recall from my rental car saga, the website itself is fairly straightforward.
You’ll need your credit card number and a bunch of supporting paperwork to get the claim finalized, but you don’t necessarily need every piece of paperwork in hand to get the claim started.
You’ve said “check your terms and conditions” about a million times. How do I do that?
So, to a certain extent, this is easier said than done – card issuers change their benefits all the time, and while there are plenty of versions circulating out there on the internet, many of them are dated at this point.
Viewing your most updated Guide to Benefits through Citi is easy – simply visit cardbenefits.citi.com and log into your account.
Things with Chase are a little bit trickier, since you can’t access your benefits guide via your online account. If you didn’t save your original copy when you received your credit card, the best thing to do is probably to start by calling the number on the back of your card, and request an updated copy of your benefit guide – which will need to be sent by the issuing bank (so I’m told).
There is one workaround that I know of – if you received any messages from Chase through their secure message center on an updated Guide to Benefits, you should be able to access it via a hyperlink directly in that message. This could potentially save you the headache of transferring to different phone reps.
And just for good measure, American Express publishes its most recent benefit guides in one central location on the website – something that I wish Chase and Citi would do. For example, here you will find their policies on travel accident insurance, rental car insurance, and baggage insurance.
If there is a better way, by all means, please share.
None of us want to invoke this type of insurance, but even the most elite of travelers can’t control the weather, mechanicals, or other issues that may cause delays. Hopefully by using the right card, you’ll be able to maximize the benefit – and take out some of the sting – next time you find yourself getting delayed.
Actually, I hope that this is a benefit that you never have to use. 🙂
Has anyone out there had recent experience with trip delay coverage? How did the claim process turn out?