Insurance

Chase Sapphire travel delay insurance


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atlanta airport power outageBranden Camp / AP

  • During delays like this weekend’s mess in Atlanta, which are not the fault of the airline, most stranded passengers are responsible for their own expenses, including overnight accommodations.
  • Fortunately for cardholders of the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve, those credit cards include trip delay insurance that should cover up to $500 of expenses, including overnight hotel rooms!
  • That coverage is the reason I always use my card to pay for my travel.

A power outage at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL) led to a ground stop this past Sunday, as airport staff and Georgia Power raced to pinpoint and correct the issue.

Thousands of travelers were left stranded as more than 1,200 flights were cancelled, with heavy delays spreading into the beginning of the busy end-of-year holiday travel period. Complicating matters: Delta’s operations, which are based in Atlanta, were severely disrupted. This, combined with the fact that many of the airline’s flights around the US route through the Atlanta hub, means that the consequences of the power outage may last for days, despite the fact that power was restored just after midnight.

Just about any traveler who was scheduled to depart Atlanta on Sunday was forced to find alternate transportation or was left stranded overnight, as were flyers in other cities serviced by Delta and Southwest — Southwest also cancelled a significant number of flights on Sunday. 

Passengers even had trouble reclaiming their checked luggage, due to the logistical nightmare of locating and transporting all of that cargo without power.

Unfortunately for affected travelers, airlines are not responsible for providing things like food or lodging during delays like this that are caused by factors outside of their control.

Except for those lucky people who had taken out the right travel insurance policy, most of those travelers will be stuck paying for all incurred expenses out of their own pockets. That includes hotel rooms (unless they slept in the airport overnight), food, toiletries, medications, and changes of clothes if necessary.

However, some of those stranded passengers may find themselves in luck.

When travel writers discuss credit cards, we tend to focus on things like rewards points and perks like airport lounge access. Two less-discussed features that a few cards include are automatic trip delay coverage and baggage delay insurance.

While I focus here on the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve cards due to their popularity, several other cards include the benefit, such as the Citi Prestige.

Trip delay coverage is fairly straightforward. If you’re travelling on a “common carrier” — virtually any form of mass transit available to the public, such as a plane, ferry, cruise ship, bus, or train — and there’s a delay for more than a certain amount of time, the trip delay insurance policy activates and covers any “reasonable” out-of-pocket expenses.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred’s coverage becomes active after a 12-hour delay or any delay requiring an overnight stay. The Chase Sapphire Reserve’s coverage is similar, though it applies after only six hours.

In order to be eligible for the coverage, you’ll need to use that card, or your Ultimate Rewards points, to pay for at least a portion of your ticket. Fortunately, in the event that you’re using an airline’s proprietary frequent flyer miles to book an award ticket, you can still get the protection from your credit card as long as you use it to pay the taxes and fees, which can be as low as $5.60 for a one-way ticket. For example, I filed a claim after delays during an award flight this past summer, and it was approved.

Passengers walk through the newly opened Maynard H. Jackson Jr. International Terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia May 16, 2012.   REUTERS/Tami Chappell  Thomson Reuters

You’ll be covered for necessary “reasonable” expenses, such as food, lodging, transportation to the hotel, and anything else you need, for up to $500 per covered ticket — or $500 per person whose ticket was purchased with your card.

My personal experience using the benefit has been positive, although I’ve (fortunately) only needed to use it once, and it was for a delay that didn’t require an overnight stay. I submitted a claim after I got back from the trip, and within a few months received reimbursement for lunch, a cell phone charger, a backup phone battery, and even a pair of headphones that I needed so that I could do some multimedia work from my laptop while I waited for my flight to board.

The two cards also include baggage delay insurance — this benefit generally applies if your trip hasn’t been delayed, but your bag didn’t arrive at your destination with you either due to the carrier losing or misdirecting it. The policy kicks in after six hours, and covers you, your spouse, and any other immediate family members on the covered trip for up to $100 per day for up to five days.

It’s unclear if both of those policies cover cardholders who were stranded in Atlanta, or if only the trip delay coverage applies — we reached out to Chase for clarification, but Chase didn’t return comment in time for publication. However, one way or another, eligible Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders can likely be reimbursed for up to at least $500 of expenses incurred because of the delays this weekend.

The same likely applies to passengers delayed because of the horrific train derailment in Washington early this week, as well as anyone else delayed during this busy holiday travel week.

Just make sure to save all of your receipts, which will be necessary for the claim. Also remember to keep your expenses “reasonable.” For instance, a room at a nearby Hilton hotel will likely be covered, but you may have an issue submitting a claim for a stay at the Four Seasons.

This is why I always use one of these cards whenever I book travel, and why you should consider doing the same.

Click here to learn more about the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card, and earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.

Click here to learn more about the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card, and earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.

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