Everything You Need to Know About Amex’s Baggage Insurance Plan

Jun 9, 2016

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There’s plenty to love about travel, but one of the less appealing aspects is the risk of losing your baggage somewhere along the journey from departure city to your destination. Fortunately, credit card issuer American Express offers insurance to cover you in the event of loss or damage. TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Jason Steele shows you how to maximize this benefit below.

Have you ever had your bag lost or damaged during travel? It’s inevitable for many travelers, as most airlines have no idea where your bags are between scans. Considering this, it’s important to have some sort of baggage insurance, so you can have additional coverage if and when it happens to you. In today’s post, I’ll dive into the details of the American Express Baggage Insurance Plan.

The Basics of American Express Baggage Insurance

The types of losses it covers: You’re covered for losses resulting from damaged, stolen or lost baggage including both carry-on and checked bags.

When you’re covered: To be eligible for coverage, you have to travel on a common carrier, which Amex defines as any air, land or water vehicle (other than a personal or rental vehicle) that’s licensed to carry passengers for hire and available to the public. So your personal rental car as well as taxis and ride-share services such as Uber and Lyft would be excluded.

To receive coverage, you also need to pay for the entire fare with an eligible American Express card or by using Membership Rewards points to book tickets through Amex Travel. Trips booked with miles from other sources — even the Delta SkyMiles cards from American Express — are excluded. Also, your trip isn’t covered if you used a combination of miles and dollars, unless the miles came from a Membership Rewards transfer. This is a welcome change, since a few years ago TPG staff found out the hard way that Amex’s policy didn’t cover frequent flyer mile awards.

Who is covered: This policy covers both primary and additional cardholders, as well as cardmembers spouses or domestic partners, and any dependent children under 23 years old. In addition, travelers must be permanent residents of one of the 50 states or Washington, D.C. — although there are separate policies for residents of Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

How much it covers: Most American Express credit cards will cover checked bags and their contents for replacement cost at up to $500 per person, however, so-called “high-risk items” are only covered for a maximum of $250. These items include jewelry, sporting equipment, photographic or electronic equipment, computers and audio/visual equipment. Carry-on bags are covered for up to $1,250, which is good to know as unfortunately things can be stolen from the overhead bins.

You’ll enjoy additional coverage if you use The Platinum Card® from American Express, The Business Platinum® Card from American Express, the Platinum Card from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz and Morgan Stanley-branded Platinum Card (but not the Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express). These cards have higher limits on coverage, including $2,000 per person for checked bags and $3,000 per person for combined checked and carry-on baggage loss, however the benefit for losses of high-risk items is still capped at $250.

Just keep in mind that coverage is secondary, meaning that Amex will only cover losses in excess of what the carrier might reimburse you for.

Other important exclusions: There are many types of excluded items including cash, tickets, animals, motorized vehicles and anything shipped as freight. Other types of exclusions include losses resulting from acts of war, government confiscation and illegal acts. Finally, you won’t be covered if your account is not in good standing, such as when you fail to make the minimum payment on time.

How to File a Claim

If you’ve suffered a loss and you meet all of the above conditions, here’s what you need to do to get reimbursed. First, you need to inform Amex of your loss by filing what’s called a Notice of Claim within 30 days of your loss. You can do so by calling Amex Assurance at (800) 645-9700 or (303) 273-6498, or by writing to Baggage Insurance Plan, PO Box 683, Golden CO 80401.

You will then be instructed to complete Proof of Loss paperwork within 30 days (60 days for North Dakota residents and 90 days for Oregon residents). This paperwork can include a claim form, a charge receipt and a written report of loss for checked bags. If the loss was from a carry-on bag, you’ll have to provide a police report if you suspect theft. Once your claim is approved, you should expect a check to cover your losses, which may include the repair of a damaged bag.

How to Maximize This Benefit

Protect yourself in the event that your checked baggage is lost. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

In a perfect world, no one would need to even worry about baggage insurance, but since lost or damaged luggage is unfortunately a reality, here are some tips for making sure you get the coverage you deserve.

1. Pick the right Amex card — The American Express baggage insurance benefit is a strong one, especially since it covers carry-on bags and trips booked with frequent flyer miles received through Membership Rewards point transfers. But when it comes to booking travel, not all Amex cards are equal. One of the best options is the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, which offers 3x points for flights booked directly with airlines. In addition, the Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN offers 3x points on a category of your choosing, one of which is airfare purchased directly from the airline.

2. Always file a claim — This broad policy covers some things that you might not expect, including lost carry-on bags, without specifying that the loss must be the result of theft. So if you happen to leave your glasses or a jacket on board, you should be covered. It also doesn’t matter what form of transportation you use, so long as it meets Amex’s definition of a common carrier conveyance. Therefore, this benefit conceivably applies to losses incurred on subways, ferries, aerial trams and just about any other form of transportation that the public can buy a ticket for. So you might as well file a claim if something goes missing while you’re traveling.

3. File a claim with the transportation provider first — Even if your loss is covered by this policy, there are two reasons to file a claim with the airline or service provider. First, Amex will require you to submit a copy of the claim against the travel provider as part of its own claims process. In addition, Amex’s coverage is secondary, so it will cover you in excess of whatever the transportation provider does. So while the airline’s and Amex’s coverage might both be individually inadequate, you can receive compensation from both.

Have you ever used the American Express Baggage Insurance Plan? What was your experience?

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