Making the Most of an Overnight Delay — Reader Success Story
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Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Michael, who used premium card benefits to keep a recent trip reasonably on track:
A little less than one year ago, I took a new job that requires me to fly two or three times a month, with each trip averaging about three days. Thinking that better rewards and protections might come in handy with the increased amount of travel, I studied up on which travel rewards cards might be best for my situation. I ultimately decided on two: I got The Platinum Card® from American Express for Sky Club access (because my company always flies Delta) and status with Hilton, Marriott and rental car companies. I also upgraded my Chase Sapphire Preferred Card to the Chase Sapphire Reserve for the trip delay coverage and 3x points on travel and dining.
In early June, my wife and I took a five-day vacation to Charleston, South Carolina. We live in the Northeast and were flying from a mid-sized regional airport through Atlanta. I booked our flights for just over 20,000 points each round-trip by transferring Membership Rewards points to my Delta SkyMiles account, and I put the taxes and fees on my Sapphire Reserve. We booked our hotel through the Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal and got a great deal at a boutique hotel in downtown Charleston — we covered four nights with points, and I paid for the last night in cash (again using my Sapphire Reserve).
On the day we flew to Charleston, the weather forecast called for storms. When we arrived in Atlanta around 8:30 am, our flight was one of the last allowed to land before lightning and torrential rain set in. We were told that for about an hour, every flight that was supposed to land in Atlanta was diverted. This meant no crews and planes around for connecting flights. Thinking we might have a bit of a wait, my wife and I settled in at a Delta Sky Club soon after our arrival — I was able to enter for free thanks to my Platinum card, and my wife got a day pass for $29 because of the discount for guests.
The airport became an absolute mess within a couple hours. Spending what became an all-day delay in the lounge (which was nearly empty when we arrived, but full within an hour and a half) was much lower stress than trying to hunker down someplace in the terminal. Also, I did not know this until that day, but Delta Sky Clubs have agents that can help you rebook when your flight is canceled. This was a huge benefit to us, since our flight was canceled and rebooked multiple times, and the lines for agents in the terminal were hundreds of people long.
At about 5:00 pm, a gate agent candidly told us he did not know when we would realistically get to Charleston. I looked into renting a car, but we didn’t want to drive in the dark on unfamiliar roads, so I called the Amex Platinum concierge. The agent I spoke with found us a room at the Loews in downtown Atlanta, which came with a $100 property credit. This meant we could get some rest and a good meal, and drive to Charleston in the morning. Amex also reserved an Avis rental for me, which helped because hundreds of other people had decided to rent a car and leave the airport. I paid with my Sapphire Reserve to get the primary insurance, which saved me around $40.
I called the hotel in Charleston to let them know we were delayed and to ask that our reservation not be canceled. I also wanted to see if we could get some sort of break on the first night, since we were missing it only because of a weather delay. After a few calls to Chase, the hotel agreed to keep our reservation on the books, and Chase refunded one night worth of points to my account. To make up for the lost day, we used those points to extend our trip by booking another hotel nearby (since the first one was full). Delta moved our return flight out one day at no cost.
Finally, our Sapphire Reserve travel insurance was a huge benefit. Because our flight was canceled due to weather, we qualified for trip delay reimbursement. Although getting the information needed to file the claim took a few calls to Delta and about ten days, Chase ultimately reimbursed me for the cost of the hotel in Atlanta, the rental car to drive from Atlanta to Charleston and another meal. That reimbursement saved me what would have been $500 out of pocket.
In short, the combination of Amex Platinum and Sapphire Reserve cards made our long delay much more tolerable, got us a hotel and rental car to escape the airport chaos, rearranged our existing reservations at basically no cost, and refunded our delay-related expenses. Had we not had these benefits available to us, the trip might have really spiraled into a disaster.
Michael got a lot of value from his card benefits in a pinch, and it wasn’t happenstance that he had those benefits in the first place. No matter how many credit cards you have, I recommend periodically taking inventory to assess where you could make improvements. Reviewing your portfolio is especially important when your travel patterns change, since your credit card needs are bound to change with them. Michael recognized his new schedule called for better lounge access and travel protections, and found cards to meet his needs. That foresight paid off in a variety of ways on his trip to Charleston.
There’s an ongoing debate about which premium credit card is best, and readers often ask whether it makes sense to have more than one. The answer in either case depends on your individual circumstances — you should evaluate each card on its own merits, but do so in the context of the cards you already have. I’ve had both the Sapphire Reserve and Amex Platinum cards for years and found they suit my needs well in tandem, but some benefits (like baggage insurance or the ubiquitous Priority Pass lounge access) offer little in duplicate. Ideally, you should avoid stacking cards that are overly similar regardless of whether they’re considered “premium.”
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 Michael 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 firstname.lastname@example.org; 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 Jessica McGowan / Getty Images.
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