If you have seen people at the airport sleeping on the floor, shaving in the restrooms, and generally looking as if they have spenT hours and hours at the airport, they probably have. Some of these situations might be due to long layovers, but some of them are caused by flight cancellations and lengthy delays. The US DOT Bureau of Transportation Statistics states that so far in 2016, almost 458,000 flights have been delayed, almost 35,000 flights have been canceled, and almost 7,000 flights have been diverted, and that only includes the data for the U.S.
Now, before everyone goes into the panic mode, let’s keep in mind that all these numbers are just a little percentage of actual flights taken place, and most delays are insignificant to the point that you won’t miss a connecting flight or stay at the airport for hours. However, when an IROP (Irregular Operation) strikes, things can get bad, and your airline may or may not have to help you out. That means that some of these people you see at the airport are in it for the long run.
It’s ironic that some of these folks might carry a solution in their wallet, but they simply don’t know about it. People rarely read credit cards T&C or don’t take them seriously. This is unfortunate, because many credit cards cover these situations, and you just need to know which ones will work for you and which won’t.
General Credit Card Coverage
Contrary to popular beliefs, neither Visa, Master, American Express nor Discover cover flight delays. World and WorldElite do cover flight cancellation due to illness, death or other covered events, but not delays. Besides, the benefits are quite weak, although having this coverage is still better than nothing.
Fortunately, some popular credit cards offer Trip Delay Reimbursement as part of their own protection package. Please note, the Trip Delay Reimbursement is not the same as Trip Cancellation/Interruption; the latter refers to a cancellation of the trip in its entirety before you embark on the first flight.
Chase Trip Delay Reimbursement
- Sapphire Preferred
- Sapphire Reserve (see the Sapphire Reserve and Ritz Carlton Exceptions)
- United MileagePlus (all cards)
- Ink Plus
- Marriott Rewards (all cards)
- Ritz Carlton (see the Sapphire Reserve and Ritz Carlton Exception)
Chase covers you and your immediate family (children up to 22), and it covers award flights as long as your roundtrip flight (or bus, train or cruise) in whole or in part is paid for by the card. That means you can only pay airport taxes and still be eligible for this benefit. You are covered for up to $500 if the delay is longer than 12 hours or requires an overnight stay.
Trip Delay Reimbursement covers up to a maximum of five hundred ($500.00) dollars for each purchased ticket for reasonable expenses, on a one-time-basis, incurred if your Covered Trip is delayed by a Covered Hazard for more than twelve (12) hours or requires an overnight stay. 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.
You are covered for reasonable additional expenses, including but not limited to meals, lodging, toiletries, medication and other personal use items that you encounter due to a Covered Hazard delay, as long as the services were not provided free of charge by the Common Carrier or any other party.
“Reasonable” is important. Chase might have an issue covering a dinner at an ultra-fancy restaurant or a stay at a 5-star property, as long as there was availability at an airport hotel.
Keep your boarding pass and all your receipts. Chase requires you to send them a statement from the airline with an explanation for the delay, so try to get it, although it may not be easy. If the airline refuse, try to contact them via email and get whatever documentation you can. There have been reports from people who have been unable to provide full required documentation yet still have been reimbursed. You must start your claim within 60 days of your delay and submit it within 100 days.
For more details check the Chase Guide to Benefits.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve and Ritz Carlton Exceptions
Both cards cover you after a six-hour delay rather than 12-hour.
If your common carrier travel is delayed more than 6 hours or requires an overnight stay, you and your family are covered for unreimbursed expenses, such as meals and lodging, up to $500 per ticket.
Citi Trip Delay Reimbursement
- City AAdvantage Cards
- Citi AAdvantage Executive (exception)
- Citi HHonors Reserve
- Citi ThankYou Prestige (exception)
Citi Trip Delay Coverage works a little differently, but the coverage terms are comparable with Chase cards in general, although there are some differences. For example, Citi, just like Chase, covers delays for up to $500; it also covers lodging, meals, ground transportation and toiletries; and it also covers delays over 12 hours for most cards. You must start your claim within 60 days from the day when the delay occurred, and return it within 180 days.
Citi AAdvantage Executive and ThankYou Prestige Exceptions
If you buy your ticket or part of it with an Executive or Prestige card, the coverage kicks in after a three-hour delay.
While Trip Delay coverage terms are pretty similar between Citi and Chase, there are some important differences.
- Citi covers your trip from “trip departure date to trip completion date”. Chase covers you when you are “away from your residence to a destination other than your city of residence.”
- Chase covers a roundtrip journey, although it doesn’t have to be bought on the same ticket, Citi doesn’t condition your journey to roundtrip: “Trip Completion Date means the date on which the Covered Traveler(s) are scheduled to return to their point of origin or to a different final destination.
- Most Citi and Chase cards cover trip delays longer than 12 hours, but Chase allows either a 12-hour delay or overnight stay, while Citi won’t pay unless the delay is actually longer than 12 hours. That’s a weak element in the Citi protection, as 12-hour delays don’t happen very often.
- Chase specifically excludes Commuter Trains from the list of Common Carriers, while Citi doesn’t. You probably won’t file a claim for the delay of a commuter train, but it’s an interesting distinction.
- Citi includes natural disasters among the Covered Conditions, while Chase doesn’t. In fact, there have been reports of Chase adjudicators refusing claims for delays that resulted from the 2010 Iceland volcano eruptions.
- Citi includes the following important provision among the Covered Conditions: “The Covered Traveler’s passport, money or other travel documents are lost or stolen.” Chase doesn’t. In fact, its Covered Hazard coverage is quite limited: “A Covered Hazard includes equipment failure, inclement weather, labor strikes, and hijacking or skyjacking”.
There are other minor differences in how Chase and Citi cards cover Trip Delays, but the ones we’ve listed above should help you make an informed decision. While we rarely choose a credit card based on auxiliary benefits, they shouldn’t be overlooked, especially that you might already have a solution in your wallet.