Chase paid for my $1,100-per-night hotel room thanks to built-in trip delay coverage
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It all started so well. It was the winter holidays, we were skiing, the snow was falling and then ... we were stuck in Colorado. It doesn't take much for flights out of the Aspen-Pitkin Airport (ASE) to screech to a halt during the winter and that's exactly what happened to us. Well, there were a few more things that happened as we were ultimately stranded on the side of the road and then at the Vail police station.
But today's story is about what happened when we were stuck an extra night in pricey ski territory during the peak holiday season because of flight cancellations. Luckily, I had charged our round-trip airfare into Aspen to my Chase Sapphire Reserve, so we had some automatic built-in travel protections. If our flights were canceled or delayed by six hours or more (or overnight), the card would theoretically reimburse reasonable expenses related to the delay of up to $500 per ticket.
In our case, we charged four tickets for our family to the card, so we had up to $2,000 in coverage to work with during the delay. The airline wasn't going to cover our expenses since it was a weather-related situation.
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But it was also New Year's Day and we were in the Aspen/Vail area of Colorado when the planes stopped flying. That's extreme peak season in ski towns. Hardly any lodging was available and nothing available last-minute was remotely affordable. We made it as far as Vail when we couldn't get any farther and booked one of the last rooms for four in the area at the Vail Marriott Mountain Resort. We just needed a place to stay, but it wasn't going to come cheap.
The basic room for the night was an astonishing $1,100 with taxes and fees.
On top of that massive, unplanned expense (we had been staying on Marriott points at the Westin Snowmass, which had no additional availability), we had a couple of relatively modest meals during the delay and a $200 car transfer to the Vail-Eagle (EGE) airport. In total, we submitted $1,401.74 for our overnight delay expenses for four people. I'd never spent $1,000 for one night in a hotel in my life, so I was just praying that the card's benefit services team would deem those expenses not only covered but also "reasonable."
Related: Best credit cards for booking airfare
How to make a Chase trip delay claim
First things first -- if you experience a delay of six hours or more, start saving receipts of your expenses immediately. You'll also want to take screenshots of your flight delay or cancellation because you're going to need proof of everything. You can ask the airline for a statement, but I didn't go that far. For me, screenshots of the cancellation status screen from the airline's site worked just fine.
The Sapphire Reserve covers: "Reasonable additional expenses incurred for meals, lodging, toiletries, medication and other personal use items due to the covered delay." It does not cover a whole new ticket home, so keep that mind when deciding how to manage your own airline delay. Also know that you don't have to charge your additional expenses to the Chase card you used to book the trip for them to be reimbursed.
What matters for coverage, in this case, is simply what card you used to book the airline tickets. To make the actual Chase trip delay claim, head to the Card Benefit Services website. You'll enter your name and your credit card number to get started with a new claim.
As part of the claim, you'll type out what happened and upload documents to support the claim. For example, you'll provide proof of the delay, proof you charged the original tickets to this credit card (screenshot an electronic copy of that statement) and upload receipts for expenses.
It didn't take more than 20 minutes to complete the claim online, including necessary uploads. After that, I waited and hoped that a $1,000-per-night hotel was considered "reasonable."
Related: What to do when your flight is delayed or canceled
Getting paid out by a Chase trip claim
A few days later, I was called by a representative of the company that processes these claims. She needed a different version of one receipt and left her direct work email address for me to use. I sent over the full receipt the next day and heard nothing further until I received an email a few days later.
Exactly 26 days after I made my initial claim, and less than a week after I provided the last piece of requested information, the Chase trip delay claim was approved for the full amount of $1,401.74!
Other than providing an additional view of the car service receipt, there were no questions asked and no problems with reimbursing the sky-high rates we paid to stay in the area an extra night after all of the flights were canceled.
Does paying $550 per year to keep my Chase Sapphire Reserve sting a bit? Yes. But the card just paid for itself several times over with a hassle-free successful claim from what was otherwise a very stressful and expensive experience. There's no way that card is leaving my wallet anytime soon.
The delay was long enough that even the trip delay protections on the $95-per-year Chase Sapphire Preferred Card would've likely been sufficient since the only material difference is that it takes 12 hours of delays for the Preferred's version of coverage to kick in, versus six hours for the Reserve.
Related: Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred
I'm very grateful things worked out the way they did and for those curious ... yes, I kept both the Marriott Bonvoy points and credit card points earned on that $1,100 one-night Marriott stay.