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Points of View: Does paying the taxes and fees on award flights trigger trip protections?

Aug. 01, 2022
6 min read
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Credit card perks like trip delay reimbursement and trip cancellation insurance can be invaluable when something goes wrong. So can perks like delayed and lost luggage reimbursement.

But what happens when you're only paying the minimal taxes and fees on an award flight using your credit card? Will paying just a few dollars with your airline miles trigger your credit card's travel protections? The answer is "sometimes."

Let's investigate to see if four popular travel rewards cards offer trip protections even when all you pay is the taxes and fees on an award ticket.

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Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred

Two cards stand head and shoulders above the rest in this arena: the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. Both cards offer excellent travel protections like trip cancellation and delay coverage and delayed and lost luggage reimbursement.

With these two cards, paying the full fare with cash, paying a portion of the trip — such as taxes and fees for an award flight — or using Ultimate Rewards points as part of your payment will invoke your benefits.

Chase includes an online benefits summary for both cards. You'll see this for trip delay/cancellation in the Sapphire Reserve's benefits guide:

"The Cardholder and Immediate Family Members are covered when .. the Cardholder charges all or a portion of a Trip to his or her Credit Card Account and/or Rewards programs associated with the Account."

For baggage delay insurance on the Sapphire Preferred, you'll see this in the benefits guide's terms:

"...charges all or a portion of the fare to his or her credit card Account and/or Rewards programs associated with the Account"

Related: Chase Sapphire showdown: Sapphire Preferred vs. Sapphire Reserve

(Photo by Zia Soleil/Getty Images)

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Let's also look at the trip cancellation and interruption insurance offered by The Platinum Card® from American Express*. The terms of the benefits guide state:

"To get coverage: 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."

*Eligibility and benefit level varies by card. Terms, conditions and limitations apply. Visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for details. Policies are underwritten by New Hampshire Insurance Company, an AIG Company.

That means that booking a flight using points and miles and then simply using your Platinum Card to pay the taxes and fees should provide trip cancellation and interruption benefits.

Unfortunately, the same isn't true for the card's baggage delay reimbursement coverage.** The benefit guide's terms state:

"An Eligible Payment is made to pay for the entire Fare of a Common Carrier Vehicle ticket to the Eligible Card."

For this benefit, you need to pay for the entire ticket on your Platinum Card. Using airline miles and then only paying the taxes and fees with your card won't confer this benefit.

**Eligibility and benefit level varies by card. Terms, conditions and limitations apply. Visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for details. Policies are underwritten by AMEX Assurance Company.

If you look at the fine print above, you may note that these two policies are written by two separate underwriters, which could be a potential explanation for their inconsistency.

Related: How to maximize benefits with the Amex Platinum Card

The Amex Platinum may not offer as many travel protections as you would expect. (Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

Similar to the Platinum Card, the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card provides some benefits when paying just taxes and fees on the card but doesn't provide others.

The Venture X card does offer trip delay reimbursement when paying just taxes and fees. As stated in the benefits guide:

"To be eligible for this coverage, You need to purchase either a portion or the entire cost of Your Common Carrier fare using Your Account."

Thus, you can pay for part of your trip with your Capital One miles (such as booking through Capital One Travel) or other frequent flyer miles or points.

However, you won't enjoy trip cancellation benefits when paying just taxes and fees on award flights. The terms of the benefits guide state:

"You, Your spouse (or Domestic Partner) and Your Dependent Children are eligible for coverage if You charge the entire cost of the Trip using Your Account, less redeemable certificates, vouchers, or coupons, or rewards program associated with Your covered Account."

In short, Venture X cardholders can enjoy trip delay benefits but not trip cancellation benefits when paying just taxes and fees on award tickets. (This card does not offer delayed baggage coverage at all.)

Related: Credit card showdown: Capital One Venture vs. Capital One Venture X

Bottom line

Travel protections are very important. You never know when something might go wrong — a canceled flight, delays or even needing to cancel your trip because of a family emergency. Enjoying built-in travel insurance from your credit card could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars in these situations. Unfortunately, these perks don't always kick in just because you paid for a part of your trip on a certain credit card.

In order to enjoy travel protections when paying just the taxes and fees on award flights, the best premium credit cards to use will have "Sapphire" in the name.

Editor's note: Points of View is a new series evaluating decisions on which credit card to use. If you’re facing a dilemma about which card is best for an upcoming payment, email us at tips@thepointsguy.com.

Also in this series:

Featured image by Getty Images/iStockphoto
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
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  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
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Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

    Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points
    60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent, Good

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases