Warning: Book carefully if you have multiple Amex cards that offer travel protections

Jan 29, 2020

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When American Express announced that it would be adding trip delay and trip cancellation and interruption insurance to select cards effective Jan 1, 2020, many cardholders were thrilled. Finally, select Amex cards would offer travel protections that might sway cardholders to use an Amex card instead of other cards with extensive travel protections, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Related reading: Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. Amex Platinum: Which is better for airfare purchases?

As a reminder, the following Amex cards now offer trip cancellation and interruption insurance as well as trip delay insurance when you’re delayed by a covered reason for six hours or more:

And the following cards offer trip delay insurance when you’re delayed by a covered reason for more than 12 hours:

Related reading: What you should know about the trip cancellation and interruption protection offered by select credit cards

As with any credit card benefit, it’s important to read the guide to benefits for your card so you know the details of the benefits offered. Luckily, American Express conveniently provides links to the guide to benefits for all eligible cards online. In these guides, Amex defines a covered trip as:

A period of round-trip travel to one or more destinations other than an Eligible Traveler’s city of residence at the time of departure where: (1) The Eligible Traveler departs by Common Carrier to begin the period of round-trip travel; (2) the period of round-trip travel ends when the Eligible Traveler returns by Common Carrier to the city of departure; (3) the period of round-trip travel does not exceed three hundred sixty-five (365) days away from the Eligible Traveler’s city of residence at the time of departure; and (4) the Eligible Traveler charges the full amount of the cost of transportation by Common Carrier(s) to your Eligible Card. The period of round-trip travel may consist of roundtrip, one-way, or combinations of roundtrip and one-way tickets with Common Carrier(s)

You may be eligible for select travel protections when you book round-trip common carrier travel with your Amex Platinum Card. (Photo by The Points Guy)

However, in studying the guide to benefits, some cardholders noticed potential limitations. For example, the guide to benefits requires that “the full amount of the Eligible Traveler’s cost of transportation by Common Carrier(s) is charged to your Eligible Card.” Luckily, the guide to benefits further specifies:

You must charge the full amount of a Covered Trip to your Eligible Card or in combination with your Eligible Card and accumulated points on your Eligible Card or redeemable certificates, vouchers, coupons, or discounts awarded from a frequent flyer program or similar program.

A few cardholders — myself included — also wondered how Amex’s new travel protections would work when paying for travel with multiple eligible Amex cards. For example, you may want to use The Platinum Card from American Express to earn five Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on airfare booked directly with the airline or through Amex Travel, and then use the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express to earn 14 Hilton points per dollar spent on an eligible Hilton stay.

Related reading: Why you might want to get a premium credit card instead of purchasing travel insurance

My initial reading of the guide to benefits — which is the same for both cards — was that trip cancellation and interruption insurance would cover the Hilton stay in the case of an eligible event that canceled or interrupted your trip. After all, coverage is provided when you “charge the full amount of a Covered Trip to your Eligible Card or in combination with your Eligible Card and accumulated points on your Eligible Card or redeemable certificates, vouchers, coupons, or discounts awarded from a frequent flyer program or similar program” and an eligible card is defined as “a U.S. issued American Express Card that is eligible for coverage under the Group Policy.”

However, to be sure my reading of the guide to benefits was correct while writing this piece, I reached out to Amex. I was disappointed when a spokeswoman informed me that only expenses on the card used for common carrier travel would be eligible:

Although both cards may be eligible for the benefit, coverage is only activated on the card that was used to purchase the Covered Trip. Any subsequent purchases to a different card would not be covered.

So, if you want to be protected by Amex’s trip delay protection, make sure to charge all of your common carrier fares to a single eligible card. And, if you’re looking to be protected by Amex’s trip interruption and cancellation insurance, make sure you use one eligible card for your common carrier fares and any non-refundable travel expenses with tour operators, innkeepers and resorts.

Of course, you can use a card with higher earnings to book refundable travel expenses or those that you are okay forfeiting — but you’ll likely want to put most non-refundable expenses on the eligible Amex card that you used for your round-trip common carrier fares.

Related reading:

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Featured photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy.

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