Everything you need to know about Amex’s baggage insurance plan
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Editor’s note: This post was originally published on June 9, 2016.
There’s plenty to love about travel, but one of the less appealing aspects is the risk of losing your baggage somewhere in your journeys. Fortunately, American Express offers insurance to cover you for loss or damage. TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Jason Steele shows you how to maximize this benefit.
Have you ever had your bag lost or damaged during travel? It’s probably inevitable for frequent travelers — most airlines have no idea where your bags are between scans. Some airlines like American have started offering live baggage tracking through an app, but others haven’t, so it’s important to have some sort of baggage insurance if and when your luggage doesn’t show up on the carousel. In today’s post, I’ll dive into the details of the American Express Baggage Insurance Plan.
The basics of Amex baggage insurance
The types of losses it covers: You’re covered for losses resulting from damaged, stolen or lost baggage, including both carry-on and checked bags.
When you’re covered: To be eligible for coverage, you have to travel on a common carrier, which Amex defines as any air, land or water vehicle (other than a personal or rental vehicle) that is licensed to carry passengers for hire and available to the public. Your rental car, as well as taxis and ride-share services such as Uber and Lyft, would be excluded.
To receive coverage, you also need to pay for the entire fare with an eligible American Express card or by using Membership Rewards points to book tickets through Amex Travel. Trips booked with miles from other sources — even the cobranded Delta SkyMiles cards from Amex — are excluded. Your trip also isn’t covered if you used a combination of miles and dollars, unless the miles came from a Membership Rewards transfer. This is a welcome change. A few years ago a TPG staffer found out the hard way that Amex’s policy didn’t cover frequent flyer mile awards.
Who is covered: This policy covers both primary and additional cardholders, as well as cardmembers’ spouses or domestic partners and any dependent children under 23 years old. In addition, travelers must be permanent residents of one of the 50 states or Washington, D.C. — although there are separate policies for residents of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
How much it covers: Most American Express credit cards will cover replacement costs for checked bags and their contents up to $500 per person, although so-called “high-risk items” are only covered for a maximum of $250. These items include jewelry, sporting equipment, photographic or electronic equipment, computers and audio/visual equipment. Carry-on bags are covered for up to $1,250, which is good to know since things can be stolen from the overhead bins.
You’ll enjoy additional coverage if you use The Platinum Card® from American Express, The Business Platinum® Card from American Express, the Platinum Card from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz and Morgan Stanley-branded Platinum Card (but not the Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express). These cards have higher limits on coverage, including $2,000 per person for checked bags and $3,000 per person for combined checked and carry-on baggage loss. However, the benefit for losses of high-risk items is still capped at $250.
Just keep in mind that coverage is secondary; Amex will only cover losses in excess of any reimbursement from the carrier.
Other important exclusions: There are many types of excluded items including cash, tickets, animals, motorized vehicles and anything shipped as freight. Losses resulting from acts of war, government confiscation and illegal acts are also excluded. Finally, you won’t be covered if your account is not in good standing, such as when you fail to make the minimum payment on time.
How to file a claim
If you’ve suffered a loss and you meet all of the above conditions, here’s what you need to do to get reimbursed. First, inform Amex of your loss by filing a Notice of Claim within 30 days of your loss. You can do so by calling Amex Assurance at (800) 645-9700 or (303) 273-6498 or by writing to Baggage Insurance Plan, PO Box 981553, El Paso, TX 79998.
You will then be instructed to complete Proof of Loss paperwork within 60 days. This paperwork can include a claim form, a charge receipt and a written report of loss for checked bags. If the loss was from a carry-on bag, you’ll have to provide a police report if you suspect theft. Once your claim is approved, you should expect a check to cover your losses, which may include the repair of a damaged bag.
How to maximize this benefit
Here are some tips for making sure you get the coverage you need.
1. Pick the right Amex card — The American Express baggage insurance benefit is a strong one, especially since it covers carry-on bags and trips booked with frequent flyer miles received through Membership Rewards point transfers. But when it comes to booking travel, not all Amex cards are created equal. One of the best options is The Platinum Card® from American Express ($550 annual fee – see rates & fees), which offers 5x points for flights when booked directly with the airline or through American Express Travel. The American Express® Gold Card ($250 annual fee – see rates & fees) offers 4x on airfare when booked directly with the airline or through American Express Travel.
2. Always file a claim — Amex’s baggage insurance covers some things that you might not expect, including lost carry-on bags, without specifying that the loss must be the result of theft. So if you happen to leave your glasses or a jacket on board a plane, you should be covered. It also doesn’t matter what form of transportation you use, so long as it meets Amex’s definition of a common carrier conveyance. Therefore, this benefit conceivably applies to losses incurred on subways, ferries, aerial trams and just about any other form of paid public transportation. So you might as well file a claim if something goes missing while you’re traveling.
3. File a claim with the transportation provider first — Even if your loss is covered by this policy, there are two reasons to file a claim with the airline or service provider. First, Amex will require you to submit a copy of the claim against the travel provider as part of its own claims process. In addition, Amex’s coverage is secondary. It will cover you in excess of whatever the transportation provider does. So while the airline’s and Amex’s coverage might both be individually inadequate, you can receive compensation from both.
Have you ever used the American Express Baggage Insurance Plan? What was your experience?
Additional reporting by Liz Hund.
Featured image by Jaromir Chalabala/EyeEm/Getty Images.