A Tale of Two Trips: Vacation Nightmares and Credit Cards, Part One
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The summer travel season is nearly upon us. For many readers, that hopefully means a break from work and school to hit the beach, visit relatives or explore some other part of the world. Americans are expected to hit the road or take to the skies in record numbers over the next few months, and if you've already booked a trip, chances are you've spent countless hours planning it down to the last detail.
That being said, there's one aspect of travel that can't be included in your advance planning process: unexpected hiccups. What if your flight is cancelled? What if your bag is lost? What if a relative gets sick and you have to cut your trip short? Any of these occurrences create added stress to what should be a time for relaxation.
Fortunately, there are ways to safeguard against these issues from taking a toll on your family's stress level (and more importantly, your bank account), and it all comes down to one of our favorite topics here at The Points Guy: travel rewards credit cards. No, this isn't about a lucrative sign-up bonus or luxurious redemptions. Instead, it's about the valuable protections offered by certain cards.
Let me introduce you to a pair of families taking nearly identical trips this coming summer that eventually turn into absolute nightmares. The Allens have been reading The Points Guy for the last couple of years and just opened the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card last September, using it for the vast majority of their purchases. The Beck family, on the other hand, eschews credit cards for the simplicity and ease of using a debit card or paying with cash.
Both families live in the Midwest and have booked a trip to Orlando to take their two kids to Disney World. They decided to book connecting flights from their respective home airports to save money, and they also prepaid their five-night hotel stay at a rate of $200 per night. There's only one key difference: the Allens used the Sapphire Preferred for these purchases, while the Becks swiped a debit card.
Today and throughout this week, you'll see just how much this will come back to haunt the Becks.
Both families' trips start out uneventful — they arrive at the airport in plenty of time to check their two bags and grab a bite to eat before their first flight. Their layover en route to Orlando is around 90 minutes, which comes in handy when the pilots announce an air traffic control delay of roughly 40 minutes. After waiting for what seems like an eternity to deplane, both the Allens and Becks rush to their connecting flights and are among the last passengers to board.
Upon landing in Orlando and hiking to baggage claim, both families are crushed to see that neither of their suitcases made the connecting flight. Neither had thought to bring a carry-on with a set of clothes and toiletries in the event of their bags being delayed, and the airline can't promise delivery until the following day.
The families report the missing luggage to the airline before picking up their respective rental cars and declining the optional Collision Damage Waiver coverage of $19.95 per day. Both families then head to the closest Target and spend $78 per person on a change of clothes and essential toiletries to get them through until their bags arrive.
The following morning, the airline delivers each family's large checked bag, but the smaller one is still missing. Eventually it's declared lost by the airline.
Since both families immediately filed reports with the airline, they're eligible for reimbursement for both the essential items they had to purchase and the items in their lost bags. Unfortunately, the carrier caps their payments for delayed baggage at $50 per person, and each family eventually receives $950 for the contents of the lost bags.
Fortunately for the Allens, they don't need to stop there. The Chase Sapphire Preferred provides both baggage delay and lost luggage coverage since they charged the full cost of the flights to the card. Given that the bag was delayed by more than 6 hours, each traveler is eligible for up to $100 toward the purchase of essential items, less any reimbursement from the airline. They will thus get the remaining $28 per person ($112 total) back from Chase within 60 days of completing all required forms and submitting supporting documentation.
The Allens also submit a claim for lost luggage reimbursement, including detailed documentation of the lost items that show an actual cash value (replacement cost less depreciation) of $1,600, far less than what the airline paid. Like the baggage delay benefit, the remaining amount of $650 will be paid within 60 days of submitting everything to Chase.
Unfortunately, since the Becks chose to pay for their flights with a debit card, they're left with what the airline gave them!
Day One Scorecard
Allens: Reimbursed for $1,912 worth of purchases and lost items
Becks: Reimbursed for $1,150 worth of purchases and lost items
After just one day and a couple of issues, the Allens are already ahead by $762, just by using their Chase Sapphire Preferred for the flights.
Come back tomorrow to hear what happens next, as sadly the nightmare trip is just getting started!