This traveler’s costly night in Amsterdam is a good reminder to book with right card

Jul 2, 2022

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We’ve all been there.

You have the perfect setup on the couch with your laptop or tablet, and would like nothing more than to avoid getting up as you surf the web, perhaps doing some shopping … or booking a trip. Then a site asks for your credit card, but your wallet is across the room.

Michael Martin found a common solution, though: His browser had his PayPal information stored and available for auto-fill.

“Great!” he thought. He wanted to quickly lock in the deal he’d found as he booked a final portion of his family’s summer trip to Europe, a flight from Spain to Amsterdam on KLM, ahead of the family’s already-booked overseas portion of the trip.

Unfortunately, he now admits this may have prevented him from receiving reimbursement for hundreds of dollars in expenses incurred when his trip got interrupted.

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An epic trip through Europe

Like many U.S. tourists, Martin and his family were eager to get to Europe this summer. Along with his wife and daughter, their itinerary took them to Spain and on a river cruise through France, Germany and Switzerland.

The Martins’ trip back to the U.S. involved the aforementioned flight on KLM from Basel Airport (BSL) on the French border with Switzerland to Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS), followed by a transatlantic flight aboard United Airlines – Martin is a United Premier Platinum member. The flight from Amsterdam would go first to Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) and then on to their home airport in San Diego.

Because of the separate itineraries, the family would have to exit security in Amsterdam, re-check any bags and clear security again ahead of the United flight.

Martin figured, even with the operational issues at Schiphol Airport over the last few months, that the three-hour window between flights would be sufficient.

As is often the case during summer 2022 travel, though, that three-hour window quickly shrank.

Chaos at Amsterdam's Schipol International Airport. (Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)
Chaos last month at Amsterdam’s Schipol International Airport. (Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

Problem 1: Separate Itineraries meant no easy solutions

The Martins’ itinerary quickly unraveled while awaiting their KLM flight from Basel to Amsterdam. The flight got delayed by 2 1/2 hours, all but ensuring they’d have little hope of making their United flight back to the U.S.

Ultimately, their plane landed at Schiphol Airport just 35 minutes before they were supposed to take off on the next leg of their trip.

The family’s fears they’d miss their flight out of Amsterdam were confirmed when they saw the security line they’d have to stand in, a common sight at the airport recently.

“It went out the door and outside, and down the side of the terminal,” Martin told TPG. “There was no chance of making it.”

michael martin ams photo
Michael Martin snapped this photo as he tried to catch a flight at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. (Photo courtesy of Michael Martin)

Related: Chaos at Amsterdam mars and otherwise fantastic business-class flight

Because the initial delay was on a separate itinerary, airline and alliance, he didn’t have the easy and cost-free option for re-booking like someone would typically have if the first leg of their trip got significantly delayed.

Instead, he found he would have to pay a $125 fee to United in order to change the flights for each of the three members of his traveling party. Their flight back to the U.S. would now be the next day – which meant they’d have to spend the night in Amsterdam.

Martin booked a room for him and his wife, and another for his daughter, at a cost of $350 each.

Quickly, the costs they’d incurred from their flight disruptions totaled more than $1,000. Those expenses stung quite a bit more when Martin realized he might have been able to get a significant portion reimbursed had he approached booking differently.

Problem 2: Not booking with the right card

A frequent traveler and United elite member, Martin told TPG he carries two Chase credit cards: The United Explorer Card, and the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card. Each offers travel protections that may have been of assistance in Martin’s situation.

The United Explorer Card can cover up to $500 in expenses like lodging, ground transportation, meals and toiletries for travelers and their traveling companions who get delayed 12 hours or more.

The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card will reimburse you for select, otherwise unreimbursed expenses for up to $500 per ticket, when your trip is delayed by more than 12 hours or when it requires an overnight stay.

If you’ll recall, though, Martin booked the KLM flight – the one that got delayed, causing the problems – through PayPal, rather than using one of his travel credit cards.

When he went to look into reimbursement, he found out he likely would not be eligible for reimbursement for the expenses because he had not booked the flight directly with one of his credit cards offering the protection, Martin told TPG. Those protections likely would have covered the hotel rooms, as well as any transit and meals the family had during their unexpected stay in Amsterdam.

“I just wasn’t thinking when I booked the KLM flight,” he told TPG after arriving back in the U.S. “I was kind of in a hurry trying to plan the vacation.”

Related: Should you get travel insurance if you have credit card protection?

martins polaris lounge iad
A bright spot of the Martins’ air travel experience: Enjoying the United Polaris Lounge at Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD). (Photo courtesy of Michael Martin)

Lessons learned

Fortunately, after a night in Amsterdam, it was fairly smooth sailing for the rest of the Martins’ trip. Having seen the long security line the day prior, they arrived hours early to Schiphol – only to breeze through the checkpoint with little wait.

Still, among the “several lessons learned,” Martin said, is: Leave more time than you think you’ll need this summer when changing planes in Amsterdam. He now suggests planning for an overnight stop.

Regardless of where you’re traveling, though, take it from him: Be careful about booking a trip with separate itineraries, and make sure you’re booking with the right card. While there are cases where using a third party app like PayPal, linked to your credit card, can still earn you the points you’re expecting for a purchase, it’s a good idea to just read the terms of your credit card closely to see whether benefits like travel protections still would apply under the particular circumstances.

In Martin’s case, it may have eliminated quite a few of his expenses.

“It was, like they say, the perfect storm,” he said. “All those things came together to [mess] up our return and cost me a bunch of money.”

Featured photo by Nisangha/Getty Images.

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