10 Credit Cards That Reimburse You If Your Flight Is Delayed

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Flight delays happen. Whether due to tech meltdowns, poor crew scheduling, mechanical issues, or just bad weather — delays and cancelations can be pretty common, even on the simplest itineraries (I was delayed nearly four hours last week for a Los Angeles > San Diego flight, which is just annoying).

I’ve written before about how to react to travel disruptions, and all that advice is still valid for getting through the day and getting where you need to go. Ultimately, you want to control your own destiny as much as possible, versus waiting to receive help from the airline.

One useful tool in the travel self-help arsenal is the credit card you used to purchase your tickets. Several of the best travel rewards cards will reimburse you if your flight is delayed (not even canceled, just delayed!). With all the travel disruptions we’ve been discussing on OMAAT lately, I figured it would be helpful to go through how these programs work.

Why is delay coverage useful?

On a big trip you might consider travel insurance, which can be valuable even with award tickets. If you’re traveling to/from/within Europe, or on an European carrier, you may be eligible for compensation under EU261.

For the most part, however, short and domestic trips are where we as frequent travelers can be most vulnerable. One good storm at a hub can mess up flight plans for days, and even stupid things can cause cascading problems.

Chicago-Delays

My four-hour delay last week, for example, came down to:

  • A broken iPad (the pilots use these for navigation/charts)
  • No functioning printer in the terminal (so replacement charts couldn’t be printed)
  • Backup iPads being in the crew lounge across the airport
  • The time taken to fetch said iPad requiring us to de-board, as other aircraft needed our gate, and there was nowhere for us to linger
  • The plane needing to wait for (and be towed to) a new gate
  • Flow control into San Diego then delaying our departure further

You just can’t anticipate stuff like that.

But you can react. I didn’t have anywhere I needed to be, and was happy working from my hotspot or the SkyClub while the mess was sorted, but I could have:

  • Asked to be rebooked on another carrier
  • Asked for a later flight so I could keep my phone meetings
  • Bailed and driven or taken the train
  • Canceled the trip entirely

Having credit card delay coverage is helpful because it gives you options.

Rather than waiting to be rebooked, you could buy a new ticket. Or pay for a one-way rental car. Or you might be able to afford a stay at the adjacent airport hotel, versus taking a 25-minute taxi ride to the hotel the airline gives you a voucher for (this has happened to Andrew B). Lots of options.

And when travel starts going poorly, options become incredibly valuable.

Which cards offer delay coverage?

Of the major travel rewards credit cards, there are a few with particularly good delay coverage, as follows:

CardBenefit active after:Reimbursed expenses:Includes award tickets:
Citi Prestige Card3 hours$500Yes
Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®3 hours$500Yes
The Platinum Card® from American Express
If enrolled in optional $9.95 delay protection
4 hours$250 per personNo
The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN
If enrolled in optional $9.95 delay protection
4 hours $250 per personNo
The Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card6 hours$500Yes
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card12 hours$500Yes
Ink Plus® Business Credit Card12 hours$500Yes
United MileagePlus® Explorer Card12 hours$500Yes
United MileagePlus® Explorer Business Card12 hours$500Yes
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®12 hours$500Yes

As you can see, however, not all card coverage is created equal.

Some offer coverage after a three-hour delay, some four, some longer. Some cards will cover you even on award tickets (when you’ve technically only purchased a portion of your trip with their credit card), others require you to put the full ticket on their card.

The Citi cards are standouts because coverage kicks in after three hours. That’s fantastic, and can make an huge difference when things start getting ugly. I’ve been purchasing all my domestic travel with a Citi card because of this.

If you travel with a posse, the American Express cards might be a better fit for you. They offer $250 per person after four hours, if you’re enrolled in their optional delay/cancellation protection. The benefit also covers an outrageous number of people:

Platinum Card travel insurance benefits are limited to yourself, your partner, your children [up to age 25], up to five Supplementary Cardmembers, their partners and their children.

For a family, that can add up quickly. Travis and his family, for example, would be able to claim $1250 of eligible expenses after a delayed trip booked with their Platinum Card® from American Express. That kind of money would go a long way towards making a travel delay more palatable. The catch, of course, is that the Platinum cards don’t cover award tickets, and I’m not sure new cardholders can enroll in the delay coverage at this time.

For international travel, I’m okay with the 12-hour mark on the various Chase cards, and the $500 per ticket coverage is great for families as well.

On my trip to Thailand with my extended family last year, we were eligible for $3500 in travel reimbursements after flight delays caused missed connections and we had to overnight. That certainly made the $250 per-room airport hotel less painful!

I’m probably not going to bail on a big trip because of a delay. So knowing that my hotel will be covered if a mechanical issue triggers an overnight delay meets my needs just fine.

I think this comes down to personal thresholds, really, and the kinds of travel you’re booking.

How does delay coverage work?

You’ll want to read the specific policy terms for your credit card, but in general all these cards provide reimbursement for covered expenses incurred because of your delay.

That means you’re free to make purchases as needed during your delay, without needing approval from the credit card company. Keep all the receipts, and submit them for reimbursement after the trip.

For the most part these insurance companies have been easy to work with, but it pays to have your documentation squared away. In addition to keeping track of your flight status, you can also ask the gate or lounge agent for a military excuse. This is basically just official documentation of the delay, nicely printed on airline ticket stock. Civilians can ask for these as well, and insurance companies love them.

Depending on your policy, you’ll either receive a statement credit or a check. This process can take some time, so if you can’t float $500 for a month or so I’d still be cautious about your delay spending.

Bottom line

Delay coverage is one of those things we don’t really think about, but can make those inevitable delays more manageable.

There are other cards with similar programs, I’m sure, but these are already some of the best travel rewards cards, and I always think it’s helpful to know about the extra benefits.

Have you used credit card delay or cancellation insurance? What was the process?

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Comments

  1. helpful commentary: the word “huge” doesn’t require the “an” modifier in front of it. just “a”. I’ve noticed it in this and the post on the airport hotel.

  2. The big 3 domestic airlines also have (seemingly) easy ways to get delay/cancellation verification after the fact. I’m sure an airport employee in the midst of IRROPS would appreciate the time saved by not having to fulfill this request at the airport.

    AA: Google “Email Request for Delay/Cancellation Verification for Trip Insurance AA”
    DL: Google “DELAY/CANCELLATION VERIFICATION FOR TRIP INSURANCE Delta”
    UA: Google “Flight delays and cancellations United”

  3. Hey @Tiffany, with the coverage discussed above, does it require the purchase of a return ticket, or are you covered on one-ways as well?

  4. I’ve only had to use it once. It was with Chase. They required a news article clipping or something like that to show it was caused by weather. Since it was just a typical thunderstorm that stalled over NYC area there was not much to find as far as news. I had to prove it to them. If I’d known about the “Military Excuse” I could of used that. Excellent advice.

  5. Hi Tiffany, does the Citi Thank You Premier also over the same coverage as the Prestige? I was under the impression that it was, but wondered if you have any insight. Thanks!

  6. @Tiffany – Any idea how this benefit works if you buy a ticket for someone else, but are not traveling with them, and their flight is delayed? Thanks!

  7. @Jason

    helpful commentary: Avoid prescriptive commentary about others’ grammar because it usually neither useful nor correct. In this case, I would suggest learning something about English usage variants, because many English dialects (notably most British dialects) put “an” before any word beginning with H.

    tl;dr: Don’t be snotty, especially if you’re wrong.

  8. @Tiffany — just got an email this morning that the Chase Ritz coverage has improved from 12hrs to 6hrs with the new benefits on that card. Might want to update the chart 🙂

  9. As a sidenote, IHG card by Chase has a 6 hour delay threshold. While CSP has the 12 hour rule, they also allow for reimbursement of expenses for any length delay which results in an overnight stay. So it could be a mechanical issue on the last flight out of the night which results in being rebooked onto the first flight the next morning. Provided the airline doesn’t cover your lodging/incidentals, CSP will.

  10. @Sam – No the “British dialects” (otherwise known as English) do not use ‘an’ before all words beginning with ‘h’, only those with a vowel sound such as ‘hour’.

    Using ‘an’ before ‘huge’ is simply wrong.

  11. @John Thank you very much
    @Sam
    Yes, I would say an hour, I wouldn’t say a hour. “An” typically goes before a silent h. “A” before a pronounced “h”.

  12. The Ritz Carlton card just improved this benefit to reimbursement kicking in after 6 hours and 500 dollars per ticket. Got something via email this morning.

  13. Wow, I never knew the Citi Prestige covered award tickets. I’ve been charging all my taxes and fees for award tickets on my Chase Sapphire Preferred. Although, I never had to file a claim (knock on wood).

  14. @Nico — will forward as soon as my video conference ends. Also, I thought the Prestige did not cover award tickets. Did that change or am I just crazy?

  15. According to the benefits document, the $500 for the Citi Prestige trip delay protection is also per “covered traveler,” or per person. According to their definition in the benefits document:

    Covered Travelers which means, you, your Family Members, and
    Traveling Companion(s) traveling on the Trip.
    Family Members means your children, spouse, fiancée, Domestic
    Partner and their children, including adopted children or
    step-children; legal guardians or wards; siblings or siblings-in-law;
    son-in-law or daughter-in-law; parents or parents-in-law;
    grandparents or grandchildren; aunts or uncles; nieces or nephews.
    Traveling Companion means any individual(s) for whom you have
    paid to travel on your or your Family Member’s Trip.
    Domestic Partner means a committed relationship between two
    unmarried adults, in which the partners, (1) are each other’s sole
    Domestic Partner, (2) maintain a common residence, (3) share
    financial obligations if both are employed, (4) are not married or
    joined in a civil union to anyone else or are not the Domestic
    Partner of anyone else, and (5) are not blood related.

  16. @Tiffany — thanks for the reminder. That’s huge. I’ve been booking award tickets with a different card because I missed that change. Back to the Prestige for all types of tickets now….except when I’m traveling with a posse….

    I forwarded you the text of the Ritz email. Thanks again for the article today — if I knew about the Prestige covering award tickets, I had forgotten and I definitely didn’t know about the Platinum card covering $250 per person — nor that it kicked in after 4 hours. I recently booked some trips on my Biz Plat and that knowledge will help if something happens. Awesome!

  17. Does this coverage extend to missed connections too? For instance, last year my flight was delayed in Baltimore for 2 hours for de-icing, which meant I missed my connection in Houston (the last flight for the night), and had to get a hotel until the next day (over 12 hours). So one way to look at this is that it was a 2 hour delay of the original flight, but another is that my entire trip was delayed by over 14 hours.

  18. @ Kevin — Hmmm, it’s part of the “delay/cancellation” coverage that you can opt in to, but it looks like they might be discontinuing enrollment. I’ve had it on my card for years, so didn’t think anything of it.

    Good catch, and let me make that more clear while I research.

  19. @Tiffany 🙂
    Can you explain some of these coverage when you buy tickets with UR/MR/TYP.
    I know these are “bad” redemption. I’m mostly thinking of a TYP redemption on American for 1.6CPP. Is it the same 3 hour coverage?

  20. Wow – this couldn’t have been timed any better.

    Last night I was stranded in YYZ, and I thought I charged my taxes &fees (award ticket) to my prestige (3 hr for reimbursement)- low and behold I charged to my premier ( 12 hr for reimbursement)….icing on the cake was my delay was 11 hour and 35 minutes.

    Thanks again to OMMAT and Tiffany.

    P

  21. My Chase Marriott card also has the trip delay coverage (after 12 hours). Regarding weather delay, what I did last time was to take screenshots of the weather map showing the storms right above EWR and ATL [yes, both cities had bad weather]. I was stuck in EWR waiting to fly to ATL on DL. When I applied for the reimbursement, I sent that screenshot, and my request for reimbursement was accepted immediately.

  22. @ Ricky — In most cases this coverage is based on “trip delay” not “flight delay,” so I think you’d be covered in that case.

  23. I used the trip cancellation insurance on the Prestige card for one-way tickets we had booked for a domestic flight in Turkey. Due to the coup attempt, we could not get to Turkey, and hence couldn’t use our one-way, intra-Turkey, tickets. Got reimbursed the full amount of the ticket cost (which wasn’t all that much given that Turkish domestic flights are pretty cheap).

    Note, for the Prestige card, there seems to be language in the T&Cs that will limit you to the amount spent, so if you only pay taxes & fees on an award ticket, that’s the most you can claim. Maybe Tiffany can verify this. We had booked our international flights out of Turkey using an AA award (1-way) and paid the taxes & fees with the Prestige. We had to pay AA $225 in redeposit fees in order to change the award origin from Turkey to another European destination. I don’t think I can claim the redeposit fees.

  24. Tiffany, very helpful article, thank you.

    Can you confirm that using my Citi Prestige card to pay for the $2.50 in taxes for my AA award ticket entitles me to $500 in expense reimbursement for any delayed over 3 hours?

  25. So if you have a flight delay and then end up buying a new flight that is 12+ hours after your delay, does the purchase need to go through 12+ hours after (for the CSP for example) or just the replacement flight?

  26. I bought tickets with CSP for an evening flight that was cancelled due to mechanical reasons. Airline paid for hotel that night and we were rebooked for same flight next day, causing us to miss the first night of our prepaid accommodations at our destination. CSP (or rather their insurance agent Broadspire) refused to reimburse us for missed prepaid accommodations because the cause was mechanical (but apparently would have paid for a weather related delay).

  27. @Pat: That doesn’t seem right, unless they’re arguing that it was made known to you in advance or that somehow the mechanical issue was not an equipment failure. The T&C document states: “A Covered Hazard includes equipment failure, inclement weather, labor strikes, and hijacking or skyjacking.”
    Later on, it also states: “You are not covered for any Covered Hazard delay that was made public or known to you prior to the departure for the Covered Trip. Also, prepaid expenses are not covered.”

  28. I have what may be an outlier of a question.

    What if I purchase a ticket with my Citi Prestige. Either an Award ticket and pay taxes and fees – (In this case Southwest), or a paid ticket on Jetblue where I have Mosaic Status (and can cancel/change for free), and cancel/change my flight and deposit the $$ into my travel bank.

    Can I use the $$ in the travel bank and still receive the insurance benefits of my Citi Prestige?

    I love the ancillary benefits of the Citi Prestige, and it’s already come in handy for me once while I got stuck in a 16 hour delay in Chile. So I try and use the card as much as possible when booking airfare.

  29. Having so many cards makes it difficult to remember which card paid for each flight. Is there any hint on the boarding pass, or an easy way to check?

  30. @gobluetwo: Where have you seen information that the Chase IHG card comes with Trip Delay protection. I’ve seen a couple of people mention this now, but it doesn’t show up anywhere in the benefits booklet of my Chase IHG mastercard, and none of the promotional materials for the card mention it. It comes with Trip Interruption insurance and Baggage Delay insurance, but I don’t see anything about flight delay coverage.

  31. @juan search your email for the flight # on your boarding pass. Your email receipt should have the last 4 digits of the card you used (So long as you have them all in your wallet, or have access via mobile apps/mobile web to your CC portals)

  32. @Tiffany: Nice chart, but could you update the Chase cards to show 12 hours OR overnight? They’ll cover anything that drags you through an overnight, even if it’s less than 12 hours.

  33. @Mipaho – Can’t find it myself now. I may have conflated the baggage delay rule with trip delay. Good catch.

  34. Thanks for a a great article. We just missed our connection in CLT last night due to weather and looks like our hotel stay should get reimbursed by Citi AA Plat card!

    Is there a limit to what is covered? Could I theoretically go sit at an airport bar drinking nice Scotch and get reimbursed?

    I would guess hotel, meals, cabs, travel fees… Anything else I’m missing or do the T&Cs say something specific?

  35. After reading your article I tried to claim hotel and dining expenses after my UA BOS>DEN flight was cancelled in July due to “air traffic control conditions”, meaning a large part of the east coast was shut down due to a storm. It was a one way flight since my wife and I had travelled separately to the east, and were flying home together. The claim was denied because they said it had to be a round trip ticket. When I get home I’m going to see if that’s actually what my printed terms and conditions say. Watch out for that fine print.

  36. The list is very helpful but would like to see CSR included, also include other travel benefits like hotel & cars. Is there is a list like that somewhere? for ex. Citi Prestige is only 2nd (instead of primary) insurance domestically but is primary for international rental.

  37. Recently used the Trip Delay benefit as our flight home (from Europe) was cancelled due to air traffic controller strike. I had booked United Award flights but paid the taxes/fees on my United Visa card.

    We called Chase before making arrangements to get home to see what was covered. I saved the webpage showing the airline cancelled our flight for that day, which was sufficient for my claim. In addition, my statement showing 2 round trip award flights were paid on the card, and all receipts were submitted online.

    Chase covered our expenses: lodging (apartment i booked since I figured same cost as a hotel), subway tickets, taxi to airport, meals, and toiletries. It took a few months but they also had to translate receipts. Happy with the experience overall. Great benefit to having the card! They paid my entire claim minus $50 for alcohol and tips paid to restaurants.

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