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There are two types of travelers: those who carry on all their baggage and those who prefer to check a bag. If you check a bag, you’re familiar with the downside: Sometimes your luggage isn’t there when you reach your destination. Even if the airline can tell you the location of your baggage, it still may take a while to be reunited with your bag. So, in the meantime you’ll be left without essential items like a change of clothing and toiletries.

Some airlines have policies for reimbursing travelers for essential items when a bag is delayed — but this reimbursement is often limited and can be difficult to obtain. Travel insurance is another option for getting reimbursement. But there’s also the option I rely on and have utilized multiple times: the baggage delay protection that is included on select credit cards simply by paying for the flight with the credit card. This guide examines this coverage and some of the credit cards that offer this coverage.

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What Is Baggage Delay Protection?

The baggage delay protection offered by select credit cards can reimburse you for the cost of necessary personal and business items while you wait for your checked bag when it’s delayed by a common carrier. A common carrier is a company that transports any public passenger who pays a fare or buys a ticket and provides service on a regular schedule; common example include planes, trains, ferries and cruise ships.

What’s Covered by Baggage Delay Protection?

Generally, baggage delay protection covers the necessities that you need while your bag is delayed. Think a change of clothes and toiletries — but depending on your situation, other items might be allowable. Maximums and restrictions vary across credit cards.

Most Citi cards that provide baggage delay protection don’t have many restrictions. Generally, they only exclude any items not contained in the checked baggage and items that you probably should have carried on board with you such as traveler’s checks, tickets of any kind, passport, visas, negotiable instruments, bullion, rare or precious metals, stamps and coins, currency or its equivalent.

Chase cards that offer baggage delay protection usually have more restrictions. Under the protection provided by some Chase cards, usually only one cell phone charging cable may be purchased and the following items are excluded:

  • Contact lenses, eyeglasses or hearing aids
  • Artificial teeth, dental bridges or prosthetic devices
  • Tickets, documents, money, securities, checks, travelers checks and valuable papers
  • Business samples
  • Jewelry and watches
  • Cameras, video recorders, cellular telephones and other electronic equipment and their accessories other than charging cables for cellular telephones

How Do I Get Coverage?

The eligibility requirements differ from card to card, so check your guide to benefits to be sure. But most of the cards discussed in this guide provide coverage as long as some part of the common carrier fare is paid for using the card or use points associated with card. For example, to get coverage through the Citi ThankYou Premier Card, your ThankYou Premier Card and/or ThankYou points must be used to purchase at least a portion of the Common Carrier fare. The one notable exception is the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard, which requires that the trip be paid for completely with the card.

If you transfer your points to another program (such as transferring Citi ThankYou Rewards Points to JetBlue TrueBlue), the travel insurance benefits of your Citi card no longer apply when you use the transferred miles. Luckily, paying the taxes and fees on an award ticket counts as paying for part of the flight with the card for most cards discussed in this guide — so when booking an award ticket, you’ll want to use a credit card that provides benefits even when you only pay the taxes and fees on the award using the card.

One final restriction to note: None of the cards mentioned in this guide provide baggage delay protection if the bag is delayed when you’re returning home to your primary residence.

Credit Cards That Offer Coverage

Card Length of Delay Maximum Amount Who Does It Cover?
Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard 3 hours or more $500 You, your immediate family and authorized users of your card when on a trip of less than 60 days
Citi Prestige Card 6 hours or more $500 You and your immediate family
Chase Sapphire Preferred 6 hours or more $100 per day for up to five days You and your immediate family
Chase Sapphire Reserve 6 hours or more $100 per day for up to five days You and your immediate family
United Explorer Credit Card 6 hours or more $100 per day for up to three days You and your immediate family
Citi ThankYou Premier Card 6 hours or more $100 You and your immediate family
Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard 6 hours or more $100 You and your immediate family

Note that for all the cards listed in the table above:

  • Coverage is secondary, so you’ll need to file claims with the airline and any other sources (like travel insurance) first
  • Immediate family is covered even if you book a ticket for them with your card but aren’t traveling with them
  • Coverage isn’t provided when your destination is your permanent residence

The Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard only provides coverage if the trip was paid for completely using the card. The card doesn’t cover travel awards and travel booked using American Airlines AAdvantage miles.

How to File a Claim

Before filing a claim with your credit card benefits department, you’ll need to:

  • Notify the airline about the delayed or lost luggage. Generally this is done by filing a report at the airline’s baggage services desk before leaving the airport. Get a copy of this report, as you’ll likely need to submit it with your claim.
  • Get documentation from the airline regarding the delayed baggage and the actions the airline is taking to locate and return the luggage. If the airline offers any reimbursement for items you need while your bag is delayed, get information on how to file this claim.
  • Keep original, itemized receipts of all necessary items you purchased while your baggage was delayed.
  • Keep any documentation that is provided when your delayed bag is delivered. This will prove the time at which the baggage was delivered.

Take a look at your credit card’s guide to benefits to determine the next steps or call the number on the back of your card if you don’t have your benefits guide or have questions. But don’t delay, as you’ll need to start the claim process relatively quickly.

If you purchased the trip with an eligible Chase credit card, you’ll usually have 20 days from when your bag was delayed to file a claim notice. Then, you’ll be sent a Proof of Loss form. You’ll need to return the Proof of Loss form, receipts and other documentation within 90 days from when your bag was delayed. From there, approved claims can take up to 60 days to be paid.

If you purchased the trip with an eligible Citi credit card, you’ll need to call 1-866-506-5222 or download a claim form submission at within 60 days of when your bag was delayed. If you call, a representative will ask a few questions about your loss and walk you through what documentation might be required for a successful claim. The claim form and supporting documentation must be returned within 180 days of the bags being delayed.

Bottom Line

Delayed baggage is relatively rare. Despite traveling full-time as location-independent digital nomads, our checked baggage has only been delayed twice in the 147 flights we’ve taken in the last fifteen months.

But, in the rare case when a bag is delayed, you’ll be glad you booked your flight with a credit card that offers a delayed baggage benefit. The details of this benefit differ from card to card, so be sure to check your guide to benefits for the exact details on the credit card you usually use to book flights — this way you’ll know your benefits if your luggage becomes delayed.

Featured image by Chalabala via Getty Images

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