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4 times your credit card's travel insurance can help with summer travel woes, and 7 times it won't

June 24, 2022
12 min read
Greece, Mykonos, back view of tourist looking to Little Venice
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Travel is more unpredictable than ever this summer. I've been lucky that none of my summer trips so far have been incredibly affected by delays or cancellations. But, air travel is a total nightmare right now, and staffing is still an issue for many travel providers — so it's likely only a matter of time.

Other TPG staffers have recently experienced issues. For example, TPG's Sean Cudahy got caught in last week's travel mess, while TPG's Nick Ewen spent time in New Jersey instead of Greece due to weather-related delays.

If you've been reading TPG for a while, you may already know that some credit cards provide travel insurance when you use your card to book your flights (or pay the taxes and fees on award flights). And you may even be using one of these cards to book your trips. But you may not know what is and isn't covered by these benefits when your travel doesn't go smoothly.

In this guide, I'll give a high-level overview of some scenarios where you can — and can't — expect your credit card's travel insurance benefits to assist.

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Credit card travel insurance

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We've written entire articles about credit cards that provide travel insurance. So, I recommend checking out the following stories to learn more about the travel insurance provided by top travel rewards cards:

But, the protections provided by each card are different. So I recommend reading — or at least skimming — your card's guide to benefits before your next trip to familiarize yourself with those specifics. You can call the number on the back of your card for a physical copy or link if needed.

Cards like the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card, Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, Ink Business Preferred Credit Card and The Platinum Card® from American Express provide excellent travel protections. But, I believe the Chase Sapphire Reserve provides the best travel insurance overall.

In this guide, I'll discuss how the benefits offered to Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders (see the Chase Sapphire Reserve guide to benefits here) would help (or not) in several scenarios. If you generally pay for your travel with a different card, consider how the benefits on your card may differ.

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Related: Travel is tricky right now — here are 7 mistakes to avoid on your next trip

4 times when your credit card's travel insurance can help

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If your travel doesn't go smoothly this summer, benefits from your travel rewards credit card may offer reimbursement or other help. Here are four real-life scenarios where your credit card's travel insurance may come in handy.

Your flight is significantly delayed or canceled

First, the bad news: You'll need to work with your airline to get rebooked if your flight is canceled. And if your flight is significantly delayed, you'll need to either wait out the delay or work with your airline to get rebooked on a different flight.

But, the good news is that some cards offer trip delay reimbursement when you use your card to pay for your flight (or the taxes and fees on an award ticket). And this benefit can help as you wait for your delayed or rebooked flight.

For example, if you used the Chase Sapphire Reserve to book your original flight, Chase may reimburse you for "reasonable expenses incurred during the delay." In particular, you can get up to $500 per ticket when you're delayed for more than six hours or your delay forces you into an overnight stay. Chase says reasonable expenses include "meals, lodging, toiletries and medication."

But, you'll only be covered if you are delayed due to "equipment failure, inclement weather, strike [or] hijacking/skyjacking." So, if you're delayed due to the crew timing out during inclement weather, you'll be covered. But if the airline simply can't find any crew to operate your flight and doesn't provide you documentation stating the delay or cancellation is due to one of the aforementioned eligible reasons, you won't be covered.

Related: Chase paid for my $1,100-per-night hotel room thanks to built-in trip delay coverage

Your baggage is significantly delayed

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Once again, let's discuss the bad news first: You must report your delayed baggage to the travel supplier. For example, if your checked baggage doesn't appear on the belt after your flight, you'll need to go to the airline's baggage office and fill out a report.

Usually, the airline will start trying to locate your baggage at this point. But often, the airline won't offer to reimburse you for any essentials you might need while you're separated from your baggage.

Luckily, some credit cards cover baggage delays. For example, if you used the Chase Sapphire Reserve to book your flight, Chase may reimburse you "for the emergency purchase of essential items, such as toiletries, clothing, and chargers for electronic devices (limit one per device)."

In particular, Chase may reimburse you up to $100 per day for up to five days. To qualify for this coverage, your baggage must be "delayed or misdirected" for at least six hours.

The items you purchase and include for reimbursement should be "essential." But, Chase excludes some items from reimbursement, including hearing aids, artificial teeth, prosthetic devices, tickets, jewelry, electronics and recreational equipment.

Related: What to do when your luggage is delayed or lost by an airline

You must cancel or interrupt a trip

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First things first: No credit card offers "cancel for any reason" trip insurance as a complimentary benefit. But, if you must cancel or interrupt your trip for specific reasons, Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders might be eligible for reimbursement of "nonrefundable prepaid travel expenses charged by a travel supplier" and "redeposit fees imposed by a rewards program administrator." And in the case of trip interruption, cardholders can be reimbursed change fees and costs to return a vehicle to their residence or the closest rental agency.

Many credit cards offer trip cancellation and interruption insurance. But, you'll only be eligible for reimbursement if you must cancel or interrupt your trip for specific reasons listed in the guide to benefits. For example, you may be eligible for reimbursement if you can't postpone or waive a call to jury duty or subpoena from the courts, and you prepaid for nonrefundable travel expenses with your Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Related: American Express adds new 'cancel for any reason' coverage option on flights

Your luggage is lost or damaged

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Earlier, I discussed a scenario where your baggage is delayed. But, it's also possible that your luggage becomes lost, stolen or damaged. As with delayed baggage, you'll need to file a claim with the travel provider once you discover the issue.

Some travel providers will provide reimbursement to repair or replace your luggage. But, if the reimbursement isn't enough, you can also seek additional reimbursement via the baggage insurance offered by your credit card. If you booked your travel with your Chase Sapphire Reserve, you could get up to $3,000 per traveler per trip.

Related: The airline couldn't find my luggage — luckily I had Apple AirTags

7 times your credit card's travel insurance won't help

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Of course, your credit card's travel insurance won't help you in every situation. Although you may still find relief through your travel provider or individual travel insurance, here are some real-world scenarios where you wouldn't be covered by the Chase Sapphire Reserve's travel protections:

  • You want to be on a different flight: Flight delays and cancellations are frustrating. But, you'll need to work with your airline to get on a different flight. None of the trip delay insurance offered by credit cards will let you buy a new flight and then reimburse it.
  • Staffing issues lead the airline to delay or cancel your flight: According to the Chase Sapphire Reserve's guide to benefits, only delays to your trip that are caused by "equipment failure, inclement weather, strike [or] hijacking/skyjacking" are eligible for trip delay reimbursement. So, if the airline can't find crew for your flight due to its employees being sick, for example, you won't be covered.
  • Your lodging canceled on you: It's frustrating to be walked from a hotel or have your lodging canceled on you. After all, you may face much higher prices if you need to book a new stay. But, except in specific cases covered by trip cancellation and interruption insurance — such as if your lodging at your trip's destination is "made uninhabitable" — your credit card benefits aren't going to help.
  • Your common carrier or travel insurance policy already provides what you need: As an example, if you are delayed overnight and the airline provides you with hotel and meal vouchers, you can't claim reimbursement for these same expenses through your credit card's trip delay benefit. The Chase Sapphire Reserve's guide to benefits states the trip delay benefit "applies to reasonable expenses incurred during your delay not otherwise covered by your common carrier, another party or your primary personal insurance policy."
  • Your delay caused you to miss things you already paid for: Trip delays may cause you to miss shows, activities, separately booked flights, hotel nights and more. But, the Chase Sapphire Reserve's trip delay benefit is only for reasonable expenses you incur during your delay. As such, any prepaid trip expenses won't be covered.
  • You have to cancel or interrupt your trip for a noncovered reason: As discussed above, the trip cancellation and interruption insurance offered by credit cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve only covers you if you need to cancel or interrupt your trip for select reasons. So, if you need to cancel or interrupt your trip for other reasons, your credit card's travel insurance won't help. For example, you wouldn't be covered by the Chase Sapphire Reserve's insurance if you didn't obtain a necessary visa or your airline became financially insolvent.
  • You left an item or bag behind on the train, airplane or boat: Although some Amex cards include recently purchased items you lose under purchase protection insurance, most travel insurance offered by credit cards won't reimburse you for items you inadvertently left behind.

Travel insurance benefits vary from card to card, though. And, only select family members may be covered along with you for some benefits. So take a look at your card's guide to benefits or call the number on the back of your credit card to learn whether your specific scenario will be covered.

Related: 8 times your credit card's travel insurance might not cover you

Bottom line

Of course, this article assumes you used a credit card with travel insurance to pay for your trip, and the exact protections vary from card to card. But hopefully, this guide gave you an idea of the types of help you may get from your credit card's travel insurance if things go wrong with a trip this summer or beyond.

Finally, some premium travel cards offer an additional perk that may help if you face troubles this summer: lounge access. It can be much more relaxing to wait out a delay in the comfort of a lounge. Plus, you may gain access to agents that can help you rebook or handle complicated bookings if you have access to your airline's lounge.

For Capital One products listed on this page, some of the above benefits are provided by Visa® or Mastercard® and may vary by product. See the respective Guide to Benefits for details, as terms and exclusions apply

Featured image by Getty Images/Westend61
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.