This is probably the part readers were waiting for considering the focus of this blog. The major downside to any of these options is you need to already have an applicable credit card before being able to take advantage of the benefit, and that involves costs like annual fees. Even if you do already have a card, there are some circumstances where you might not be able to protect your trip. For example, I’ve booked a number of FlexPerks trips that were significantly delayed, but I had no option to actually cover the trip with a credit card because there were no ancillary costs to be paid. Regardless, for a lot of people, this is probably the best option because of how much it covers and the relatively minor costs involved.
For the most part, cards from the same issuer are all the same, so I’m grouping them together. Shout out to Mile Cards for a lot of this information (although I have updated it where relevant).
Most Chase cards that have this benefit require an overnight stay or 12 hours of delay, almost the equivalent to an overnight stay in most cases, before kicking in. The exception is the Chase Sapphire Reserve which only requires a 6 hour delay or an overnight stay. Importantly, this doesn’t need to be continuous delay. For example, on a multi-legged itinerary, you could have one delay of 3 hours and then another of 3 more hours before finally reaching your destination. As long as that was part of the same itinerary, Chase would recognize it as a total delay of 6 hours, and you’d be covered under the Chase Sapphire Reserve protection.
A common feature of all Chase cards is that you only need to purchase a portion of the trip to be eligible for full delay coverage. That means that if you just paid for taxes and fees on an award trip, you’d still get the full benefit. Additionally, this means that you could somewhat artificially cover an otherwise unprotected flight. For example, you could book a FlexPerks ticket and then select a seat upgrade or checked bag. If you pay for that extra cost with a Chase card that has the benefit, the whole trip will be covered because you paid for “either a portion or the entire cost of your Common Carrier fare using your Account.”
The terms state “[y]ou are covered for reasonable additional expenses, including but not limited to meals, lodging, toiletries, medication and other personal use items that you encounter due to a Covered Hazard delay, as long as the services were not provided free of charge by the Common Carrier or any other party.” Thus, importantly, this coverage is secondary to any other compensation you may receive.
Additionally, you are not covered when a delay is made known prior to the departure, and you’re also not covered for any prepaid expenses. This is in contrast to the Allianz plans that will cover prepaid expenses. However, you are given up to $500 per ticket in coverage, matching some of Allianz’s plans.
Citi’s coverage is much the same as Chase’s with some exceptions and, I argue, improvements. First, similarities include the fact that like the majority of Chase’s cards that offer the benefit, the majority of Citi cards that offer trip delay insurance only offer it after 12 hours. Also like Chase, you can either pay part or the total amount of your trip with a Citi card to be eligible for full coverage. Finally, like Chase, Citi’s coverage is secondary to any other coverage.
The improvements come with the Citi Prestige and the Executive AAdvantage cards, both of which offer trip delay protection after only 3 hours of delay. That’s a significant improvement over the next best option of 6 hours with Allianz or Chase.
Another advantage is that, unlike Chase, Citi doesn’t have language barring reimbursement for prepaid expenses, so they should be eligible. The terms state “[t]his benefit covers the following expenses, as long as they are reasonable and necessary for you to incur during the delay: Hotel accommodations, Ground transportation, Meals, Necessities you may need to carry out your work or other items such as toiletries.” Thus, although you may not be able to recoup lost costs from prepaid activities (unless they were reasonably necessary for work), you would still be able to recover for prepaid hotels and the like. This is potentially very significant for some people.
Finally, like Chase, the benefit is limited to $500 in reimbursed expenses per ticket, so you definitely can’t go overboard.
Bank of America
And then we have the relative black sheep. In contrast to Chase and Citi, Bank of America only has one publicly available card that offers trip delay protection, the Merrill+ Visa. There’s not much I want to say here because it’s all around inferior in terms of protection compared to any of the Chase or Citi cards that offer the benefit.
First, the entire fare has to be purchased with the card, in contrast to Chase and Citi that allow you to only pay a portion. You may be thinking that if you pay for the taxes of an award flight with the card you’ll be covered because you paid all that you could with the card. No. You would only be covered up to the amount you paid in that case, however much you paid in taxes.
Next, your trip needs to be delayed for 12 hours or more before coverage will start, the same as the worst of the Citi and Chase cards that offer trip delay protection. One thing that stings is that it doesn’t even kick in after an overnight stay unless that overnight stay is actually longer than 12 hours. And just like Chase and Citi, any coverage is only secondary, so if you get compensated by the airline for your delay (which you really should if it’s over 12 hours of delay), then you won’t be reimbursed for those costs. Also like Chase and Citi, the Merrill+ gives up to $500 in coverage per ticket…except it doesn’t. Instead of letting you choose how to spend that $500, you’re limited to $100 per day for up to five days.
Finally, like Chase, you won’t be covered if the delay is made public to you before your departure, and prepaid expenses aren’t covered. This card is basically the worst of the credit card options, all things considered. The only advantage it has is that it has no annual fee, but, as indicated below, it would still be beat out by the no annual fee Chase Sapphire.
Overall, if you already have the Citi Prestige, it’s the best option to make sure you’re covered. It’s best not only because of its shorter delay requirement but also because of the breadth of things that it covers, including prepaid expenses and any necessities to carry out work, unlike Allianz, Bank of America, Chase, or Freebird.
If you don’t have the Prestige and don’t want to get it because of the high annual fee, that’s a perfectly reasonable choice, and I would suggest using another card that offers some form of trip delay protection. The two no annual fee options would be the Chase Sapphire (obtainable only through card conversion) and the Bank of America Merrill+, both of which offer protection after 12 hours of delay.
If you have a really sensitive trip and don’t have any cards with trip delay protection, paying about $20 for Allianz coverage wouldn’t be the worst choice. Whatever you do, though, take caution before making a choice to buy Freebird coverage. Not only is it more expensive than Allianz, it only covers booking a replacement flight, not any reasonably incurred expenses like food or lodging.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of options, and I’m sure there are other providers of trip delay insurance. Hopefully, however, this provides a good overview of some choices and helps in time for your next trip.