My credit card trip delay coverage paid for my $300 Mustang rental and my Whataburger, too!

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A while back my wife and I celebrated our anniversary with a trip to the Miraval Tucson. We couldn’t have been happier with our $3,000+ resort stay that we booked for free with points, but the trip there was a different story. Our late night American Airlines flight out of O’Hare was delayed several times and after hours of waiting around, it was eventually canceled. A staffing issue caused the cancellation. If our flight had departed the pilots would have been over the legal limit for their flight hours by the time we landed.

They offered to put us on a flight the next evening, but that would’ve cut our short trip in half. All of the other early flights to Tucson were completely booked, so we opted to fly into Phoenix and rent a car to Tucson. We were assured by customer service agents in Chicago and Phoenix that we would be reimbursed for our extra expenses because it was “their fault.”

Of course, that’s not how it worked out at all, luckily I booked the trip with a credit card with travel insurance.

My credit card’s trip delay coverage saved me hundreds on a rental car. (Photo by the author.)

In retrospect, I should have known better than to trust what an airline customer service representative was telling me. I’ve seen a gate agent tell an angry mob of passengers to go to the customer service desk to get their hotel vouchers only to have customer service let those same people know that they weren’t getting a dime from the airline. In these situations, there is a lot of incentive to pass the buck and I don’t think airline employees are given much power to fix the problem.

When American Airlines let me down, Chase came to the rescue

The one thing we did right was to save our receipts for everything – food, gas, transportation to/from the airport and of course the rental car. We even upgraded our rental to a luxury car for $30 and paid extra for liability insurance. And we stopped at a Whataburger on the way to Tucson in hopes that American Airlines would pick-up the tab. After several phone calls and emails with American Airlines over the next few weeks, it was clear they weren’t going to reimburse us for $365 tab we had racked up.

I had paid for the airfare with my Chase Sapphire Preferred® card, which comes with trip delay insurance. But this flight was technically canceled, so I wasn’t too hopeful that our expenses would be covered and I was even told by a Chase phone rep that it wouldn’t be. I had already had a positive experience with Chase’s trip delay benefit earlier this year when I was reimbursed $200+ for a hotel room and incidentals for a delayed flight. And I figured it doesn’t hurt to try, so I submitted a claim, which is easy to do online. You can read more about how to file a Chase trip delay claim here.

A week or so later I got an email from the claims department asking for additional documentation. I uploaded the necessary documents and forgot about it, thinking it was a lost cause. Then, out of the blue, I got a call back from Chase to ask me questions about the claim. I explained why I needed the rental car and what happened with the trip. I had rented the car for two days so we wouldn’t have to bother with dropping it off at the airport and then figuring out transportation from there to the resort.

At first, I was told they would only reimburse me for one day of the rental. But then, without me even asking, the agent went and talked to her supervisor and told me they would be reimbursing all of our expenses in full. The money was deposited into my account within a few days.

I had counted the $365 as long gone and I wasn’t going to let the cost overshadow the great time I had at the Miraval. But after this experience, I’ll be paying for just about all my flights with my Sapphire Preferred or another card that has trip delay coverage, like The Platinum Card® from American Express.

What to know if you’re in a similar situation

The Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve® all come with trip delay coverage that will reimburse you for up to $500 in expenses (incurred as the result of the delay) per ticket. This includes transportation, food and other incidentals like toiletries. To be eligible for the benefit, you must pay for your travel with the card. But even if you book an award flight with miles (which is what I did for this trip) you’ll be covered, as long as you pay the taxes and fees with your card.

It’s also important to note that you don’t actually have to pay for the reimbursable expenses with your Chase credit card or the rewards credit card that has the benefit you’re taking advantage of. I was working toward earning a bonus on a Delta credit card when this all happened. So I put the rental car on that card and just submitted the receipt.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Ink Business Preferred will cover delays of 12+ hours (or delays requiring an overnight stay). But if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the delay only needs to be 6+ hours for the benefits to kick in. It’s benefits like this that make paying an annual fee on a travel rewards credit card absolutely worth it.

For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred has a $95 annual fee, but the trip delay insurance alone has saved me ~$568 spread out over two claims since I first got the card. And that’s not including all the travel I can book for next to nothing with the Chase Ultimate Rewards points I’ve earned with the card.

What has your experience been like with less well-known credit card benefits, like trip delay coverage?

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Jason Stauffer was a writer for Million Mile Secrets where he covered points, miles, credit cards, airlines, hotels and general travel. His work has appeared in The Points Guy and NextAdvisor.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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