Does my credit card travel insurance cover transfers in the Maldives?
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.
Editor's note: This post was originally published on Feb 26, 2019.
"Reader Questions" are answered twice a week by TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Ethan Steinberg.
No matter where you start your trip, getting to the Maldives requires stringing together a few different modes of transportation. After your flight lands in Malé (MLE), you'll need to take either a seaplane or speedboat to reach your final destination, depending on which hotel you've booked.
Ready to plan that bucket-list trip to the Maldives? Visit TPG’s Maldives destination hub for more stories about traveling to the region on points and miles, where to stay and what to do while you’re there.
TPG reader Jae wants to know if these hotel transfers are covered by his credit card's travel insurance ...
[pullquote source="TPG READER JAE"]If I book a hotel in the Maldives with my Chase Sapphire Reserve, will the travel insurance cover my seaplane/speedboat transfer even though I'm not booking it myself (the hotel books it and then charges me)?[/pullquote]
For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
First of all, Jae has the right idea using a Chase Sapphire Reserve here, as it offers one of the most comprehensive travel insurance packages of any travel rewards credit card. Since you usually won't earn hotel points on these transfers, you should instead opt for a card with a great travel bonus category and strong insurance benefits, and no card does that better than the Sapphire Reserve. The ultimate answer to this question will depend on a lot of variables, but there's one important thing to keep in mind: In order to submit a travel insurance claim with Chase, you'll need a bill or statement showing that you paid for the transfer from Malé.
It doesn't matter that the hotel booked it and charged you, but you will need an itemized receipt showing the amount you paid for the transfer. When I stayed at the St. Regis Maldives, the cost of the seaplane transfer was included as a line item on my final bill, so make sure to hold on to that document. Without the hotel bill and corresponding credit card statement, even if your circumstances are covered by insurance, you'll have a lot of trouble submitting a claim. If you're worried about your outbound flight from Malé to the hotel, you could even reach out to your hotel to prepay your seaplane transfer cost a few days before you arrive. That way, you'll already be covered from the moment your trip starts, instead of paying the bill at checkout like most guests do.
Related: Where to stay in the Maldives using points and miles
Seaplane versus speedboat
Depending on how far your hotel is from Malé, you might be transferred in a seaplane or a speedboat. Seaplane rides are almost always operated by Trans Maldivian Airways, while speedboats are often private transfers operated by the hotels. This is important because credit card travel protection typically only applies to travel operated by a "common carrier" (a licensed organization operating regularly scheduled transportation). Trans Maldivian Airways, the world's largest seaplane operator, should absolutely meet this definition.
If your hotel uses speedboat transfers instead, it might get trickier. You may want to reach out to the property before you book to ask who operates the speedboats so you can determine if the company is (or is not) a common carrier. When in doubt, you can always call Chase and speak to a benefits administrator for more clarification, though a phone call can't guarantee that you'd be covered.
Related: Your ultimate guide to hotel and resort transfer fees in the Maldives
Trip delay versus trip cancellation insurance
The list of Sapphire Reserve protections stretches on for a long time, but there are two that are likely to be relevant here: Trip Delay Reimbursement and Trip Cancellation / Trip Interruption Insurance.
Many of the flights operated by Trans Maldivian Airways on behalf of nearby hotels aren't regularly scheduled flights — the hotel organizes them on a case-by-case basis based on the number of guests they have arriving and departing. We weren't told of our seaplane departure time until we landed in Malé and were never given any documentation listing a scheduled departure time. As such, proving a trip delay case might be very difficult. If you find yourself delayed on Malé for more than six hours after your scheduled departure (the time at which trip delay coverage on the Sapphire Reserve kicks in), and you incur expenses for which you'd like to seek reimbursement, you should work with your hotel as soon as possible to provide documentation of the delay.
The same applies for trip cancellation/interruption insurance, and you'll need to coordinate with your hotel and the transfer-operator to produce the necessary documentation. I would strongly suggest digging through the fine print of your insurance benefits to see a list of what documents you might be asked to submit with your claim.
Related: What you should know about trip cancellation and interruption protection offered by select credit cards
There is one other important exclusion that applies to trip interruption coverage: it only applies to prepaid travel arrangements. Here's how Chase defines reimbursable expenses under this benefit:
"The forfeited, non-refundable pre-paid land, air and/or sea transportation arrangements that were missed."
This means if your stay in the Maldives was booked using hotel points or a cash rate that wasn't prepaid, you likely won't be covered.
For many people, the Maldives is a once-in-a-lifetime, bucket list trip. It would be very unfortunate to get all the way to Malé only to find out that extreme circumstances are going to stop (or delay) you from officially starting your vacation. Before a trip like this, you should study the terms and conditions of your insurance benefits, especially in terms of what documents are needed to file a claim. Trans Maldivian Airways is a unique case in that it meets Chase's definition of a common carrier, but most passengers aren't provided written information about their flights.
Thanks for the question, Jae, and if you’re a TPG reader who’d like us to answer a question of your own, tweet us at @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.