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We spend a lot of time discussing travel rewards credit cards here at The Points Guy. However, a lot of coverage is devoted to rewards-earning opportunities, like the bonuses you can earn from various categories of purchases. Most cards include a number of decidedly less glamorous perks that can nevertheless be quite valuable, and today I’ll highlight one such benefit that can come to the rescue when things go wrong: trip delay coverage.

I’m sure many of you have been there. You book a flight through an airline’s major hub, but your first segment is delayed and you miss your connecting flight, only to find that the next available flight isn’t for several hours or even until the next day. Many airlines will only provide food vouchers and overnight accommodations if the delay is within their control (like maintenance problems), but even then the hotel voucher may be for a less-than-desirable airport property. In addition, for weather-related delays, you’re pretty much always on your own, to say nothing of the other strange reasons for delays we’ve seen before.

This is where trip delay coverage can keep money in your pocket. At its most basic level, this protection ensures that you wouldn’t be responsible for additional (reasonable) expenses that occur as a result of a lengthy trip delay. While you’ll need to pay for the expenses up front, you’d be eligible for reimbursement afterward. Here’s an example of what this includes on the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (according to the card’s benefits):

“You are covered for reasonable additional expenses, including but not limited to meals, lodging, toiletries, medication and other personal use items that you encounter due to a Covered Hazard delay, as long as the services were not provided free of charge by the Common Carrier or any other party.”

The key word there is reasonable, as you won’t be able to book a room at the Four Seasons and then charge $500 worth of room service and expect to be reimbursed. All cards that offer this coverage do impose a limit per ticket, so be sure to read the specifics of your card’s benefit.

Here are some other important aspects of trip delay reimbursement:

  • You must pay for at least part of the ticket using the card with coverage (though some require the entire fare to be paid with the card). In theory, this means that you could charge the taxes and fees on an award ticket to the card and be eligible for coverage. However, I’ve read conflicting reports on this; some have successfully utilized this benefit on award tickets, while others indicate that their claims have been denied. In addition, coverage on some cards requires you to pay for the full cost of the trip with the card or reward points from the program.
  • Your delay must be longer than a set amount of time or require an overnight stay.
  • You aren’t eligible for reimbursement if you simply miss a flight due to traffic, over-sleeping, etc.
  • The coverage is only for particular family members. Chase cards with this benefit generally cover you (as the primary cardholder), your spouse and your dependent children under 22 when you purchase a portion of you common carrier fare with the required card. Citi cards, on the other hand, cover a wider definition of family. Note that coverage excludes other travel companions, such as boyfriends/girlfriends and friends.

Just like any type of travel protection benefit on a credit card, there are a variety of other conditions that you’ll need to be aware of, so be sure to read the fine print to be sure you know what to expect.

Which Cards Have This Benefit?

While this benefit can be fantastic to have when you run into a lengthy delay, it’s not available with every credit card. At the time of this writing, just a handful of travel rewards cards offer the perk. Here’s a run-down of popular cards that do, including how long the delay has to be, the limit of the coverage and any other pertinent details:

Card Length of Delay Maximum Amount Additional Information Annual Fee
Chase Sapphire Reserve 6 hours or overnight $500 per ticket $450
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card 12 hours or overnight $500 per ticket $95
Citi Prestige Card 6 hours $500 per ticket Only expenses incurred while waiting out a delay are covered $450
Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard 12 hours $500 per ticket Only expenses incurred while waiting out a delay are covered $0 the first year, then $99
Citi Premier Card 12 hours $500 per ticket Only expenses incurred while waiting out a delay are covered $0 the first year, then $95
The World of Hyatt Credit Card 12 hours or overnight $500 per ticket $95
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card 12 hours or overnight
$500 per ticket $95
United MileagePlus Club Card 12 hours or overnight $500 per ticket $450
United Explorer Card 12 hours or overnight $500 per ticket $0 for the first year, the $95

As you can see, this is a pretty consistent benefit among the cards that offer it. Again, be sure to review the detailed policies for the card(s) in your wallet to make sure you understand what is and is not covered.

How to File a Claim

If you have a delay that resulted in unexpected expenses and you think you qualify for reimbursement, the first step is to call and initiate the claim process. For Chase, this typically means calling the customer service number on the back of your card, whereas for Citi-issued cards, you can simply call 1-866-918-4670 or the number listed in the card’s guide to benefits. Note that for Chase and Citi, you must initiate the claim within 60 days of your delay. The exact requirements will likely vary slightly, depending on the card and your unique situation, but here’s what you need to be prepared to complete and/or provide:

  • A claim form: When you call to start the process, the issuer will send you a claim form to fill out and return.
  • Receipt of original travel purchase: This is to prove you purchased the trip on the given card (a scan of the applicable credit card statement with the transaction may suffice).
  • Copy of the tickets: This would be the original itinerary, which could be the confirmation email, along with the new itinerary as a result of the delay.
  • Itemized receipts for expenses: All eligible purchases must be accounted for with original, itemized receipts.
  • Proof of delay: The travel operator will need to provide some type of written statement outlining the delay, the reason for the delay and the duration of the stay. You could try getting this at the airport when the delay initially happens (though you may need a supervisor), or you could request it after the fact.

Of course, the provider could ask for additional documentation related to the delay and expenses you incurred, so be prepared to gather anything and everything that could help your case.

Bottom Line

The Sheraton is one of the hotels in the airport.
An unexpected overnight at the airport could cost you nothing if you use the correct card to purchase the initial ticket. Image courtesy of the Sheraton Frankfurt Airport.

A lot of our articles here at TPG focus on the valuable rewards you can earn through credit cards, but some cards also offer additional benefits that can save the day when things go awry. Trip delay reimbursement is only available with a handful of travel rewards credit cards, but if you’ve ever been the victim of a lengthy delay and subject to added expenses as a result, it can come in handy. While you certainly don’t want to ever have to utilize it, hopefully this post has given you some insight into what to expect when you do.

Additional reporting by Katie Genter.

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