Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information and offers.
Many things can go wrong when you travel these days. Unfortunately, flight-related issues abound as carriers try to keep up with booming demand while dealing with staffing shortages and weather headaches.
However, if you’re facing a lengthy delay or a canceled flight, you may be eligible for reimbursement if you have used the right credit card for your trip.
We know there are travel credit cards that come with rewards-earning opportunities, such as the bonuses you can earn from various categories of purchases. But most cards include a number of decidedly less-glamorous perks, such as trip delay protection, that can be quite valuable to have in the current travel universe.
In short, trip delay protection can come to the rescue when things go wrong.
Below, we list which cards have this important benefit to help you navigate trip delays you might encounter during your current or upcoming trips.
The best trip delay protection credit cards
What is credit card trip delay protection?
Many of you have been there: You book a flight through an airline’s major hub, but your first segment is delayed and you miss your connecting flight, only to find that the next available flight isn’t for several hours or even until the next morning. And when things really go wrong, it could be days before you can reach your destination.
Many airlines will provide food vouchers and overnight accommodations if the delay is within their control (such as maintenance problems). Still, these vouchers may not always cover all the expenses you’ll incur during a delay.
And for weather-related delays and system outages, you’re almost always on your own.
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This is where the trip delay protection offered by select credit cards can help you keep money in your pocket. At its most basic level, this protection ensures that you won’t be responsible for additional (reasonable) expenses resulting from a lengthy trip delay. Although you’ll need to pay for the expenses upfront, you may be eligible for reimbursement afterward if you paid for your common carrier travel with an eligible card.
This benefit applies to reasonable expenses incurred during Your delay not otherwise covered by Your Common Carrier, another party, or Your primary personal insurance policy. You will be refunded the excess amount (up to the maximum) once all other reimbursement has been exhausted up to the limit of liability.
The key word is reasonable, as you won’t be able to book a room at the Four Seasons, then charge $500 worth of room service and expect to be reimbursed. In addition, all cards that offer this coverage do impose a limit per ticket, person or trip, so be sure to read the specifics of your card’s benefit.
Finally, this coverage is secondary — meaning it only kicks in after you receive compensation from the primary entity (in this case, the airline). As a result, if an airline provides food vouchers during a lengthy delay, you can’t request to be reimbursed for those items. However, if you’re forced to book a hotel room at your own expense (not covered by the airline), that should be eligible for trip delay reimbursement.
Comparison of the best cards with trip delay protection
*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.
As you can see, this is a pretty consistent benefit among the cards that offer it. Again, review the detailed policies for the card(s) in your wallet to ensure you understand what is – and is not – covered. Amex provides benefit guides on its website for all of its cards that provide trip delay protection, including some cards that aren’t included in this guide because they provide lesser coverage.
Common limitations of trip delay reimbursement
Although the trip delay protection offered by select credit cards can be extremely valuable, it may not cover you every time. Here are some important aspects to remember.
You must pay for at least part of the ticket using the card with coverage (but some have stricter requirements)
In theory, this means you could charge the taxes and fees on an award ticket and be eligible for coverage in some cases. However, other cards require you to pay for the full cost of the trip with the card (or with reward points from the program).
Chase cards with this benefit note that you must “charge all or a portion of a common carrier fare to your credit card account and/or rewards programs associated with your account.” But Amex cards with this benefit note that “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.”
Finally, Capital One indicates that you “need to purchase either a portion or the entire cost of your common carrier fare using your account.”
Your delay must exceed a set amount of time
Most cards require at least a six- or 12-hour delay to reimburse any expenses. Some cards will also allow for reimbursement of expenses during a forced overnight stay.
The delay must be for a covered reason
You aren’t eligible for reimbursement if you simply miss a flight due to things such as traffic or oversleeping.
The coverage may only cover particular family members
For example, Chase cards with this benefit generally cover you (as the cardholder), your spouse/domestic partner and your legally dependent children under the age of 26 when you purchase a portion of your common carrier fare with the required card.
But Amex cards with this benefit generally cover you (as the primary cardholder) as well as your spouse/domestic partner, unmarried dependent child up to age 19 (or under age 26 if a full-time student at an accredited college or university) and companions who are traveling with you or your family members.
Capital One offers the narrowest definition of covered travelers, as only you, your spouse and dependent children under the age of 22 are eligible for this protection.
There may be a maximum number of claims you can file per 12-month period
American Express restricts you to two claims per eligible card per 12-month period.
Round-trip travel may be required
Amex defines a covered trip as “round-trip travel to one or more destinations other than an eligible traveler’s city of residence at the time of departure.” However, a “round-trip travel may consist of roundtrip, one-way, or combinations of roundtrip and one-way tickets with common carrier(s).”
How to file a claim
If you have a delay resulting in unexpected expenses and think you qualify for reimbursement, the first step is to call and initiate the claim process.
For Chase, this typically means calling the customer service number on the back of your card. For Amex and Capital One, you’ll need to call a benefits administrator (Amex’s number is 1-844-933-0648, and Capital One’s number is 1-800-825-4062).
For both Chase and Amex, you must initiate the claim within 60 days of your delay. However, Capital One requires claims to be submitted within 30 days.
The exact requirements will vary slightly, depending on the card and your unique situation, but you’ll probably need to complete and/or provide the following:
- Completed and signed claim form, which will usually be provided by the benefits administrator when you initiate the claim.
- Original and updated travel itinerary and/or the common carrier ticket.
- Credit card account statement (showing the last four or five digits of the account number) reflecting the charge for the common carrier ticket (unless the travel itinerary reflects the last four digits of your account number as payment method).
- If more than one payment method was used, you must provide documentation as to the additional currency, voucher, rewards programs or other payment method used.
- Statement from the common carrier that the trip was delayed and explaining the reason for the delay.
- Copies of itemized receipts (Chase may only require itemized receipts for food expenses and expenses of $50 or more per eligible traveler).
Of course, the benefits administrator could ask for additional documentation related to the delay and expenses you incurred, so be prepared to gather anything and everything that could help your case.
Many of our articles here at TPG focus on the valuable rewards you can earn through credit cards, but some cards also offer benefits that can save the day when things go awry.
Trip delay reimbursement is only available with a handful of travel rewards credit cards, but if you’ve ever been the victim of a lengthy delay and subject to added expenses as a result, it can come in handy. You certainly hope to never have to utilize it, but hopefully, this post has given you some insight into what to expect when you do.
If you’re looking for more information on credit card travel protections, check out the following resources:
For Capital One products listed on this page, some of the above benefits are provided by Visa® or Mastercard® and may vary by product. See the respective Guide to Benefits for details, as terms and exclusions apply.
Additional reporting by Ryan Wilcox, Emily Thompson and Benét J. Wilson.