Who knew that the little piece of plastic floating around in your back pocket would end up being the most valuable player in dealing with your flight delays and cancellations? Though airline agents can (almost never) get you what you need to wait in comfort, certain credit cards carry very useful travel delay protection policies which can get you meals, new clothes, rental cars, hotels and anything else you might need…

What Is Delay Coverage?

Delay coverage is one of those little fine print things in the credit card agreement you most likely put in a drawer or tore up when your card first arrived. In that seemingly useless piece of “bad news” paper, there are details about how well you’re covered when and if flights get delayed or cancelled, when the coverage kicks in (number of hours), what qualifies and what you can buy. 

Ok, So What Can I Buy And When Does It Kick In?

The cool thing about delay coverage is that you’re covered for any reasonable expenses during your delay or cancellation. You can generally buy clothes, meals, hotels, ground transportation, rental car, toiletries and anything else to remedy the situation within reason. You don’t need to have each purchase approved in advance, you can just buy and keep your receipt to submit. As for the “when”, each card is different and the amount covered varies too. Here are the specs for a few of the most popular cards in the US + UK…

British Airways Premium Amex (UK)

Coverage Kicks In: After 4 Hours

Coverage Amount: £200 (You may be able to receive more through EU compensation).

On Tickets Booked Using Miles Too? No.

Chase Sapphire Preferred (US)

Coverage Kicks In: After 12 Hours

Coverage Amount: $500

On Tickets Booked Using Miles Too? Yes.

Amex Premier Rewards Gold (UK)

Coverage Kicks In: After 4 Hours

Coverage Amount: £200 (You May Be Able To Receive more through EU Compensation).

On Tickets Booked Using Miles Too? No. 

Citi Prestige (US)

Coverage Kicks In: After 3 Hours

Coverage Amount: $500

On Tickets Booked Using Miles Too? Yes.

Ritz Carlton Rewards Card (US)

Coverage Kicks In: After 4 Hours

Coverage Amount: $500

On Tickets Booked Using Miles Too? Yes.

Any Fine Print I Should Know About?

Not too much. This coverage is designed for things that airlines or governing bodies don’t cover or won’t cover. Your home airport is not covered, since you can just pop home for anything you may need. To ensure smooth dealings with your reimbursement, which occur after your trip, you’ll want to keep all receipts and ask the airline for a proof of delay. An agent should be able to issue you a proof of delay, often known as a “military excuse”, or you can print out confirmation of the delay on your own. Each policy will vary slightly, so be sure to take a nice look at your individual coverage, which your card issuer can mail to you, or you may find it in a PDF online. In general, very easy to use, no questions asked. Good stuff.

Delay coverage is an awesome thing to have, and these cards are all worthwhile based on other merits, so having protection from airlines is just an added bonus. Always confirm your coverage with your card issuer before travel and be sure to keep receipts…