What Card Should I Use During a Trip Delay, Cancellation or Interruption?
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"Reader Questions" are answered twice a week by TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Ethan Steinberg.
Many of the top travel rewards credit cards offer some form of trip delay or trip cancellation/interruption coverage. However, it's helpful to understand how these policies work before you travel, because the decisions you make in the midst of a chaotic flight cancellation might smooth your day out or preclude your from receiving insurance reimbursement. TPG reader Emily wants to know what card she should use for purchases that are covered by her card's travel insurance ...
[pullquote source="TPG READER EMILY"]When you submit a claim for trip insurance, do the claimed expenses all have to be on the card that provides the insurance benefit?[/pullquote]
Simply holding the right credit cards is not enough to receive travel insurance coverage; you need to use that card to purchase either a part of all of your trip (the exact terms vary by card). The logic would hold that you also need to use that card to purchase your eligible reimbursement expenses — such as an extra hotel night if your flight is cancelled — but in reality that's not the case.
Let's take a look at one of the most rewarding cards for booking travel and see what it has to say. The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers up to $500 for reasonable expenses if your flight is delayed more than 6 hours or requires an overnight stay. If you go to the benefits guide, you'll see a list of required documents needed to submit a claim for reimbursement, including the following:
- A copy of your monthly billing statement (showing the last four  digits of the Account number) confirming the Common Carrier ticket was charged to the covered account. (Only applicable if the travel itinerary does not reflect the last 4 digits of the Account number)
- Copies of itemized receipts for your claimed expenses. For food expenses, receipts are required; however, itemized receipts are only required for bills of fifty ($50.00) dollars or more per covered traveler.
Now these terms are written very carefully by a team of legal experts, so we can learn as much from the words they do use as the ones they don't. You're required to submit proof that your common carrier ticket was charged to your eligible card (in this case the Sapphire Reserve), but when you're claiming expenses for reimbursement you simply need "copies of itemized receipts," with no mention of proof of payment. This means you can use any credit card to pay for these expenses, or even local currency as long as you make sure to get an itemized receipt.
I've tested this out myself before using trip delay insurance to cover an extra (forced) hotel night in Bangkok and Hong Kong. In each case, I paid for the hotel with one of my Marriott Bonvoy credit cards to earn bonus points. While the claims processes didn't always go smoothly, I never ran into any problems claiming expenses that were paid for with a different card.
Now the trip cancellation/interruption benefit is a bit different, as this allows you to be reimbursed for prepaid, nonrefundable expenses charged to the Sapphire Reserve when you have to cancel a trip before departure. If you need to interrupt a trip, you can get reimbursed for the forfeited prepaid expenses you miss, though those must be charged to the card for reimbursement to apply. However, if you do need to incur additional expenses as a result of the trip interruption, you should be able to get reimbursed for those costs, regardless of which card you used for them.
Just bear in mind that these policies do differ from card to card, so be sure to review your specific card's benefits guide to know what to expect. Any be sure to keep every receipt for additional expenses, as documentation is key for getting these claims processed successfully.
When things go wrong and flights get cancelled, the last thing you want to worry about is using the right credit card to avoid triggering an exclusion in your coverage. The good news is that, as long as the original trip purchase was charged to the right card, you're generally free to pay for eligible expenses with whatever card you want in order to best maximize your bonus points or other perks.
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