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Credit Cards That Reimburse You for Delayed Flights

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We’ve all experienced flight delays. While it’s never fun, you can have some control over the situation if you’ve paid for your ticket with the right credit card. Some cards will reimburse you for expenses incurred because of the delay giving you plenty of options including taking a different flight, renting a car or staying at a hotel. Let’s take a look at which cards offer what.

Delay coverage is available with many cards, though some require you to pay a little extra to enroll.  The coverage kicks in after a delay of anywhere from three to 12 hours, depending on the card. After that, you’ll typically be reimbursed for up to $500, though some cards provide only $250 per person so check with the issuer before you overbook your alternative arrangements.

Ways to Use the Reimbursement

With the coverage, you could ditch the flight altogether and get a one-way car rental to drive to your destination. If the drive is too far, consider looking for an alternative flight on a different carrier. If it’s a longer delay, you could even get a hotel room so you have somewhere comfortable to rest or, heaven forbid, spend the night.

An airline might do these things for you at no cost if the delay is serious enough. But sometimes they won’t. If they do offer you something, it won’t necessarily be on your terms. You might have to wait hours before being booked on another carrier or your voucher might be for a hotel that’s 30+ minutes away. You might even be stuck paying for the taxi ride yourself.

Use credit cards with delay coverage

With delay coverage, though, you can take matters into your own hands. You can act quickly and find the most convenient option for your needs. Whatever you decide to do, it’s great to have choices when you’re caught in an unexpected situation at the airport.

How It Works

Some cards require you to pay for all of your ticket in order to qualify for coverage. Others offer delay reimbursement for tickets that are only partially paid for with a card. That means you can get coverage on award flights if you pay for the taxes and fees with the right card.

If you’re covered, you’ll be reimbursed by your credit card company for any expense that’s incurred because of the delay. You shouldn’t have to be preapproved for any purchases in order to qualify. Be sure to keep your receipts to submit to the card company after your trip.

It’s also a great idea to try to document your delay. This shouldn’t be necessary, but it’s best to make it as clear as possible that you qualify for the coverage. Simply ask the gate agent for a Military Excuse. It’s an official printout from the airline explaining the details of the delay. You don’t have to be a member of the armed services to get one. Send it in when you submit your receipts.

Reimbursement will come in the form of either a statement credit or check. Be warned that it can take a month or two to receive the reimbursement.

The Cards With the Best Delay Coverage

The cards with the best coverage also have big annual fees. These benefit-packed premium cards have a lot to offer, particularly to frequent travelers. So don’t let the fees scare you off. The perks can more than make up for the annual cost if you use them.

These cards have the most generous delay coverage in terms of the length of delay that’s required to get the benefit:

 Required Delay TimeReimbursement AmountAward Ticket Coverage Annual Fee
Citi ThankYou Prestige3 hours$500Yes$450
Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite3 hours$500Yes$450
Amex Platinum4 hours$250 per personNo$450
Amex Business Platinum4 hours$250 per personNo$450
Chase Sapphire Reserve6 hours$500Yes$450
Ritz-Carlton Rewards card6 hours$500Yes$450

Note that American Express does not offer coverage for award flights even if you pay for part of the ticket with the card. Also, you have to enroll in the delay coverage separately, which costs and additional $10 a year.

Both the Citi Prestige and Amex Platinum cards are great options if you’re looking for a premium travel rewards card. Prestige comes with a 50,000-point sign-up bonus, compared to the Platinum card’s 40,000 points. Both offer reimbursement for Global Entry or TSA Precheck and an annual airline fee credit, though Citi’s is $50 more at $250.

Citi Prestige Card benefits

You’ll also get Priority Pass Select lounge access with both cards. That gives you complimentary access to over 900 airline lounges around the world. Amex goes a step further, though, and also gives you free access to the swanky Centurion lounges, the International American Express lounges, Delta Sky Clubs and Airspace Lounges.

The two biggest differences between these cards are their airline transfer partners and their bonus earning categories. The Citi ThankYou program has 12 partners, whereas Amex Membership Rewards has 17.

Amex’s partners are also better. For instance, Citi has no domestic airline partners, but Amex has Delta, Hawaiian, JetBlue and Virgin America. It’s worth noting, though, that you can purchase flights from any of the three big airline alliances—SkyTeam, Star and oneworld—with either program.

Amex Platinum card offers delay coverage

On the other hand, the Prestige card has better bonus earning categories. You’ll get triple points for airfare and hotels, and double points for dining and entertainment. The Platinum card gives you an impressive quintuple points on airfare, but only one point per dollar for all other purchases.

While the Chase Sapphire Reserve may be the best overall premium card because of its 100,000-point sign-up bonus and $300 annual travel credit, it will only reimburse you for delays that are over six hours long. Many of us have faced delays like that at one point or another, but it doesn’t happen that often. Still, though, the card is worth considering for its impressive list of perks and fantastic sign-up bonus.

Other Cards to Consider

There are a number of other, more affordable cards that also offer delay coverage, but they require flights to be delayed for at least 12 hours. These cards can be useful for some extreme circumstances when flying internationally, but probably won’t be much help for shorter domestic flights:

 Required Delay TimeReimbursement AmountAward Ticket CoverageAnnual Fee
Chase Sapphire Preferred12 hours$500Yes$95
Chase Ink Plus Business12 hours$500Yes$95
United MileagePlus Explorer12 hours$500Yes$95
United MileagePlus Explorer Business12 hours$500Yes$95
Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite12 hours$500Yes$95

If you already have a card that offers coverage for delayed flights, or if you’re considering getting one, it can be a great benefit when you need it most. You never know what might happen and that reimbursement might be the difference between getting a comfy hotel room and sleeping in the terminal.

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