Best credit cards that offer trip delay reimbursement
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated to include eligible American Express cards and current information. It was originally published on Dec. 14, 2017.
We spend a lot of time discussing the best travel credit cards here at The Points Guy. A lot of coverage is devoted to rewards-earning opportunities, such as the bonuses you can earn from various categories of purchases. But most cards include a number of decidedly less glamorous perks that can nevertheless be quite valuable. Today I’ll highlight one such benefit that can come to the rescue when things go wrong: trip delay coverage.
The best trip delay protection credit cards of 2020
- Chase Sapphire Reserve: Best for overall travel protection
- Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: Best for overall travel protection with a sub-$100 annual fee
- U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card: Best protection from a non-Chase or Amex card
- The Platinum Card® from American Express: Best for earning and protection on round-trip flights
- Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express: Best for Delta loyalists who book round-trip travel
- Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express: Best for Hilton loyalists who book round-trip travel
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card: Best for Marriott loyalists who book round-trip travel
- The World of Hyatt Credit Card: Best for Hyatt loyalists
- Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card: Best for Marriott loyalists with a sub-$100 annual fee
- Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card: Best for trip delay protection with no annual fee
- United Club Card: Best for United loyalists who also want United Club access when flying United
- United Explorer Card: Best for United loyalists with a sub-$100 annual fee
- Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card: Best protection from a non-Chase or Amex card for a sub-$100 annual fee
What is credit card trip delay protection?
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 provide food vouchers and overnight accommodations if the delay is within their control (such as maintenance problems), but these vouchers may not cover all the expenses you’ll incur during a delay. And for weather-related delays and system outages, you’re almost always on your own.
This is where the trip delay protection offered by select credit cards can keep money in your pocket. At its most basic level, this protection ensures that you won’t be responsible for additional (reasonable) expenses that occur as a result of a lengthy trip delay. Although you’ll need to pay for the expenses up front, you may be eligible for reimbursement afterward if you paid for your common carrier travel with an eligible card. Here’s an example of what this includes on the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (according to the card’s benefits):
The trip delay reimbursement benefit will reimburse your reasonable additional expenses incurred during a covered trip delay, including meals, lodging, toiletries and medication.This benefit applies to reasonable expenses incurred during your delay not otherwise covered by your common carrier, another party, or your primary personal insurance policy. You will be refunded the excess amount (up to the maximum) once all other reimbursement has been exhausted up to the limit of liability.
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. In addition, all cards that offer this coverage do impose a limit per ticket, person or trip, so be sure to read the specifics of your card’s benefit.
Comparison of the best cards with trip delay protection
|Card||Required length of delay||Maximum coverage amount||Annual fee|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve||6 hours or overnight||$500 per ticket||$550|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred Card||12 hours or overnight||$500 per ticket||$95|
|US Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card||6 hours or overnight||$500 per ticket||$400|
|The Platinum Card from American Express||6 hours||$500 per covered trip||$550 (see rates & fees)|
|Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express||6 hours||$500 per covered trip||$450 ($550 if application is received on or after 1/30/2020, see rates & fees)|
|Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express||6 hours||$500 per covered trip||$450 (See Rates & Fees)|
|Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card||6 hours||$500 per covered trip||$450 (See Rates & Fees)|
|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|
|Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card||12 hours or overnight||$500 per ticket||$0|
|United 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|
|Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card||12 hours||$500 per ticket||$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. Amex provides benefit guides for all of its cards that provide trip delay protection on its website, including some cards that aren’t included in this guide because they provide lesser coverage.
Common limitations of trip delay reimbursement
Although the trip delay protection offered by select credit cards can be extremely valuable, it may not cover you every time. Here are some important aspects to remember.
You must pay for at least part of the ticket using the card with coverage (but some have stricter requirements)
In theory, this means that you could charge the taxes and fees on an award ticket and be eligible for coverage on some cards. However, coverage on some cards requires you to pay for the full cost of the trip with the card or reward points from the program.
Chase cards with this benefit note that you must “charge all or a portion of a common carrier fare to your credit card account and/or rewards programs associated with your account.” But Amex cards with this benefit note that “you must charge the full amount of a covered trip to your eligible card or in combination with your eligible card and accumulated points on your eligible card or redeemable certificates, vouchers, coupons, or discounts awarded from a frequent flyer program or similar program.”
Your delay must be longer than a set amount of time
Most cards require at least a six- or 12-hour delay in order to reimburse any expenses. But some cards will also allow for reimbursement of expenses during a forced overnight stay.
The delay must be for a covered reason
You aren’t eligible for reimbursement if you simply miss a flight due to traffic, oversleeping, etc.
The coverage may only cover particular family members
For example, Chase cards with this benefit generally cover you (as the cardholder), your spouse/domestic partner and your legally dependent children under the age of 26 when you purchase a portion of your common carrier fare with the required card.
But, Amex cards with this benefit generally cover you (as the primary cardholder) as well as your spouse/domestic partner, unmarried dependent child up to age 19 (or under age 26 if a full-time student at an accredited college or university) and companions who are traveling with you or your family members.
There may be a maximum number of claims you can file per 12-month period
Amex restricts you to two claims per eligible card per 12-month period.
Round-trip travel may be required
Amex defines a covered trip as “round-trip travel to one or more destinations other than an eligible traveler’s city of residence at the time of departure” although a “round-trip travel may consist of roundtrip, one-way, or combinations of roundtrip and one-way tickets with common carrier(s).”
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; for Amex you’ll need to call a benefits administrator at 1-844-933-0648. For both Chase and Amex, 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 you’ll likely need to complete and/or provide the following:
- Completed and signed claim form, which will usually be provided by the benefits administrator when you initiate the claim
- Original and updated travel itinerary and/or the common carrier ticket
- Credit card account statement (showing the last four digits of the account number) reflecting the charge for the common carrier ticket (unless the travel itinerary reflects the last four digits of your account number as payment method)
- If more than one method of payment was used, you must provide documentation as to additional currency, voucher, rewards programs or other payment method used.
- Statement from the common carrier that the trip was delayed and explaining the reason for the delay
- Copies of itemized receipts (Chase may only require itemized receipts for food expenses and expenses of $50 or more per eligible traveler)
Of course, the benefits administrator 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.
A lot of our articles here at TPG focus on the valuable rewards you can earn through credit cards, but some cards also offer 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. You certainly hope to never have to utilize it, but hopefully this post has given you some insight into what to expect when you do.
If you’re looking for more information on credit card travel protections, check out the following resources:
- Which credit cards cover baggage delays?
- Everything you need to know about Amex’s baggage insurance plan
- What you should know about the trip cancellation and interruption protection offered by select credit cards
- When to buy travel insurance versus when to rely on credit card protections
- Why you might want to get a premium credit card instead of purchasing travel insurance
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta Reserve, click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Aspire, click here.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant, click here.
Additional reporting by Katie Genter.
Featured photo by izusek/Getty Images.
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