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What your credit card's trip protection covers — and what it doesn't

Aug. 07, 2021
5 min read
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When things go awry, you'll thank yourself later when you have travel insurance. Thankfully, many rewards credit cards offer complimentary protections as long as you pay for prepaid, nonrefundable travel expenses with the card, giving you peace of mind when you embark on your journey.

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Let's take for example the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, a popular travel rewards card with a reasonable $95 annual fee. Among all of its great travel benefits, it also comes with trip cancellation and interruption insurance, along with trip delay reimbursement, with a substantial level of coverage that may prevent the need for you to buy separate travel insurance.

We're often asked if these credit card trip protections will cover the price of a new flight in the event of a delay or cancellation. More broadly, we'll discuss what's covered (and isn't covered) so that you can manage your expectations on your upcoming trip. For the purposes of this guide, I'll continue to use the Chase Sapphire Preferred as the example, but be sure to read the fine print for your credit card's specific terms on trip insurance.

Trip cancellation and interruption insurance

(Photo by Alex Kraus/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

First, let's quickly go over trip cancellation and interruption insurance, as outlined by Chase:

"If your trip is cancelled or cut short by sickness, severe weather and other covered situations, you can be reimbursed up to $10,000 per person and $20,000 per trip for your pre-paid, non-refundable travel expenses, including passenger fares, tours, and hotels."

At first, that $10,000 limit per person (or $20,000 per trip) seems quite high, but in reality, it's unlikely that you'll max out — or even get close to maxing out — this benefit.

Then, it goes on to state that "reimbursement can be provided for prepaid, non-refundable travel expenses including passenger fares, tours and hotels." If the airline, hotel or tour operator does not refund you for your prepaid travel expenses, that's when you can file a claim under trip cancellation and interruption insurance to get reimbursed for these costs.

The key words here are prepaid and non-refundable, meaning you won't get reimbursed for any new travel accommodations made because of the cancellation or interruption.

Related: How I used Chase’s trip cancellation coverage to recoup $800 in non-refundable airfare

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Trip delay reimbursement

(Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

The terms are similar for trip delay reimbursement on the Chase Sapphire Preferred:

"If your common carrier travel is delayed more than 12 hours or requires an overnight stay, you and your family are covered for unreimbursed expenses, such as meals and lodging, up to $500 per ticket."

As with the trip cancellation and interruption insurance, the trip delay policy only offers reimbursement for specific expenses, which are outlined as "reasonable additional expenses incurred for meals, lodging, toiletries, medication and other personal use items due to the covered delay." Therefore, you can expect to get reimbursement for essential items that you have to purchase as a result of the delay, such as meals or an overnight hotel stay.

However, this does not mean you can buy a new flight on a different carrier and get reimbursed.

Related: Here’s what to do if your flight is delayed or canceled

Will trip insurance cover the cost of the new flight?

(Image by Caiaimage/Chris Ryan / Getty Images)

If you've made it this far, you probably can infer the answer to this question. In short, the answer is no. Whether you file a claim under trip cancellation and interruption insurance or trip delay reimbursement, you will not get reimbursed for new airfare. That means, if you buy a $100 United flight that gets canceled (or delayed), and you end up purchasing another $300 flight on Delta instead, neither card protections will cover the cost of new airfare.

I recently learned this the hard way on my solo trip to Europe. I'll save you the long story, but my flight from Italy to Greece was canceled, forcing me to rebook and thus reroute myself through an airport two hours away. After buying a new flight, hopping on a bus and waiting patiently in the terminal for the next flight, I tried filing a claim with with my Chase Sapphire Preferred.

(Screenshot courtesy of Eclaimsline)

This may seem frustrating, but you'll still get reimbursed for prepaid, nonrefundable expenses with trip cancellation and interruption insurance.

Bottom line

It's great that many travel credit cards come with benefits such as trip cancellation and interruption insurance and trip delay reimbursement, but it's important to read the terms to see what exactly these benefits will cover. While these protections may be sufficient for most travelers, those who want higher coverages should seriously consider buying travel insurance that offers more protection or "cancel for any reason" coverage.

Featured image by Getty Images/iStockphoto
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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TPG featured card

Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 10X points
10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

80,000 bonus points
Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

Annual Fee

$550

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more
Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

    80,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $550
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more