Trip Delay Protection and the Credit Cards That Offer It

flight delays

This past week the east coast has seen winter weather which has caused delays and cancellations for thousands of flights. Affectionately known as the #bombcyclone, this storm has cancelled more than 4,000 flights along the east coast. While the airlines seem to be offering their customers some relief in the form of fee waivers, most travelers are on the hook for things like; lodging, food, toiletries, etc. for the duration of their delay. You see, when weather is the reason for a flight delay or cancellation, the airline is under no obligation to offer its customer any sort of financial relief for expenses incurred as a result of the delay or cancellation. It is for this reason that some major credit card companies offer trip delay protection and will actually reimburse you for certain expenses, up to a certain dollar amount. Lets see how it works.

Trip Delay Protection – How it Works

Lets say you’ve paid for your airline ticket using your Citi Prestige credit card. You show up at the airport, go through security, head to your gate, and upon arrival you learn that the flight has been delayed by 30 minutes due to weather. No big deal, you’ll wait. 30 minutes then turns to an hour, which turns to 3. Before you know it you’ve lost your entire day in the airport, and there are no additional flights that you can get on to get you to your destination today. At this point you’re looking at spending the night at a hotel somewhere and flying out first thing in the morning. This is great, but the airline isn’t going to reimburse you for that stay because the delay was a result of weather. Not something they control directly like the aircraft having a maintenance issue. Solution? Trip delay protection. Heres the following from the Citi website:

If a Covered Traveler’s Trip on a Common Carrier is delayed for at least 3 hours, we may reimburse you for expenses incurred because of the delay. You are covered for up to $500 per Covered Traveler, per Trip.

To be eligible for coverage under this beneft, your Citi card and/or ThankYou® Points must be used to purchase at least a portion of the Common Carrier fare.

Translation, if you’re delayed more than 3 hours Citi will reimburse you for reasonable expenses up to $500 which the common carrier is not also reimbursing. The last part just means that if the airline does in fact give you a hotel voucher, you cannot also submit a claim to Citi for the hotel.

This works much the same as with other cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserver and Chase Sapphire Preferred. From their website:

Trip Delay Reimbursement covers up to a maximum of ve 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. Coverage is in excess of any expenses paid by any other party, including applicable insurance.

The big difference? With Citi you only have to be delayed 3 hours, whereas with Chase you’ve got to be delayed for at least 12 hours.

What About American Express?

We’ve touched on both Citi and Chase above, but what about those Amex cards you’ve got in your wallet? Well, as of Jan 6, 2018 when searching for “american express travel protection” I was brought to this page on the Amex website. It states:

We are not accepting enrollments in Travel Delay Protection at this time. We apologize for the inconvenience.

If you would like to contact us regarding a claim, please call us at 1-800-645-9700.

If you would like to contact us regarding your existing enrollment, please call us at 1-800-958-8197.

Hmm, looks like if this is a benefit that you’d find value in you’re better off going with Citi or Chase.

Credit Cards Offering Travel Protection

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How to File a Travel Delay Benefit Claim

In most cases you will have a sixty (60) day window after the conclusion of your trip to submit your claim for the reimbursement of funds. Each card is going to have a different mechanism for beginning the claim process, but we’ve put together this travel delay reimbursement claim resource to help you get started. Before you call be sure that you’ve got all of the requisite documentation in hand so that you can send it to the agent ASAP. Chase says that the following are required for a submission. Other cards and issuers may vary in their requirements, but the following is at least a good starting point.

  • Your completed and signed claim form
  • Your Account receipt showing that the travel fare was charged toyour eligible card. If more than one method of payment was used, include documentation that shows a portion of the purchase was made with your Account.
  • A copy of the Common Carrier ticket
  • A statement from the Common Carrier indicating the reasons thatthe Covered Trip was delayed
  • Copies of receipts for the claimed expenses
  • Any other documentation deemed necessary, in the Benefit Administrator’s sole discretion, to substantiate the claim

Thats it and Thats All

Overall the Citi Prestige card certainly has the best travel protection benefit. The fact that their delay threshold is only 3 hours for the $500 means that you can be reimbursed for meals, toiletries, ground transportation, and more after just 3 hours of waiting. The Chase products (save for the Reserve) all have thresholds of 12 hours or a delay causing an overnight stay. If you’re booking travel on those cards you’ll basically be guaranteed to have to spend the night in order to get anything back. For that reason the top 3 credit cards from a travel delay and protection standpoint are:

  1. Citi Prestige
  2. Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard
  3. Chase Sapphire Reserve


Have you ever made use of your travel delay benefit? What was your experience? What card did you use it on? Let us know in the comment section below!

Written by Peter

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