Covering $1,000 of luggage damage — reader success story

Oct 2, 2019

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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card

Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Ryan, who used one of his credit card benefits despite being unsure whether it would work:

Earlier this year, I decided to take advantage of a great sign-up offer for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card, which provided a Companion Pass for the rest of 2019 and 30,000 Rapid Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first three months (offer no longer available). My wife also signed up for the same card — with several trips planned this year for just the two of us or us plus our children, I knew the Companion Passes alone would be well worth it.

In July, we took a five-day vacation with our three children to Hilton Head, South Carolina. I booked my round-trip flight with points, and then switched my Companion Pass (which had previously been assigned to my wife) to one of my sons thanks to the ability to change the designated companion up to three times per year. My wife also booked her round-trip flight with points and switched her Companion Pass to one of our other sons. We both put the remaining taxes and fees on our Southwest credit cards.

Our outbound travel to Hilton Head went off without a hitch, and after a week of relaxation, we flew back home. Our return flight didn’t arrive until 9 p.m., so after waiting for our luggage and golf clubs, we didn’t get home until nearly 11 p.m. By that point, we were all exhausted and went straight to bed, leaving the unpacking for the next day.

The next morning, my son found extensive damage to his golf clubs as he unpacked them from the travel bag. One club was bent, several others were snapped in half, and his golf bag had been crushed and broken in several places. Unfortunately, we had used a soft-sided travel bag, which not only failed to protect the contents inside, but also meant Southwest had no liability for the damage (due to the waiver they make passengers sign at check-in). Luckily, I knew the Lost Luggage benefit on my Southwest card covered this type of damage.

As I researched how to file a claim, I learned we were supposed to have reported the damage to Southwest immediately, and that I had to prove I submitted a report to the airline. In our haste to get home, we hadn’t bothered to check our luggage for damage at the airport, so it wasn’t reported immediately. We decided to file a claim anyway and called Southwest to report the damage. After two days, we received a formal letter from Southwest stating they had no liability — we expected this due to the soft-sided travel bag, but needed the letter to show we had reported the loss to Southwest before we could file a claim with Chase.

After submitting the Southwest letter and photographs of the damage, we waited to hear back. I encountered some resistance from Chase due to the damage not being reported immediately with Southwest after landing, but after a month (yes, a month) of back and forth, we were eventually awarded slightly over $1,000. In total, our Southwest cards have saved us nearly $2,000 this year due to the Companion Pass and Lost Luggage benefits. This experience also taught me to check luggage for damage before leaving the airport, and convinced my son to buy a hard-sided travel bag for the new clubs he’ll be buying.

Travel protections like trip delay reimbursement and baggage insurance come with a lot of fine print, and failing to adhere to the terms and conditions gives benefit administrators leeway to deny your claim, but Ryan’s story shows that just because a claim could be denied doesn’t mean it necessarily will be. To paraphrase hockey avatar Wayne Gretzky, you miss out on 100% of the claims you don’t make, so if you feel like your case is strong but not airtight, filing a claim may still be worthwhile. In any event, you should get in the habit of looking over your checked luggage before leaving the airport, not only to make sure it’s undamaged, but also to verify it’s yours in the first place.

One rule working in Ryan’s favor is that travel protections generally still apply even on award tickets. You’re eligible for travel insurance and other coverage offered by your Chase card so long as you use it to pay for some portion of your fare, including award taxes and fees. American Express currently offers travel protections when you use an eligible card to pay for taxes and fees on an an award, or when using the Pay With Points option.

Related: What to do when your luggage is delayed or lost by the airline

I love this story and I want to hear more like it! In appreciation for sharing this experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending Ryan a gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own award travel success stories to info@thepointsguy.com; be sure to include details about how you earned and redeemed your rewards, and put “Reader Success Story” in the subject line. Feel free to also submit your most woeful travel mistakes. If your story is published, we’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. Due to the volume of submissions, we can’t respond to each story individually, but we’ll be in touch if yours is selected.

Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Featured photo by Jacob Wackerhausen/Getty Images.

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