There are plenty of travelers who will never check a bag. It’s too much of a hassle and they swear it’s possible to travel for 2 weeks with only a carry-on bag. Sharon and I are not those people. Besides the need to bring enough clothes for the trip, we also like to bring home souvenirs with us (like the 10 bags of Beaver Nuggets we brought home with us from Buc-ees in Texas. But Sharon says she’s not obsessed with Buc-ee’s [Note from Sharon: I’m not.]).
While it’s never pleasant, one of the inevitable problems of checking a bag is when that bag gets lost. I can remember at least two instances of our bag going missing during a trip. The first time, I was visiting my parents and all my clothes for the three day trip went missing. United found my bag and brought it to my parents’ house the afternoon before I was due to return home. Luckily, I had access to a washing machine and was able to wear some of my father’s clothes for the weekend. The recent time it happened, our bags went missing on Southwest on a trip to Texas. Since we were staying about an hour from the airport, we ended up sitting at the Austin Airport Hilton, wasting several hours waiting for the next flight to arrive, hopefully with our bags. While we got the bags back both times, it was a major inconvenience. Fortunately, many travel credit cards now offer some sort of baggage delay coverage that would allow you to get reimbursed for some of the necessities until your bags hopefully arrive.
Airline Co-Brand Credit Cards
Since you’re going to be flying, there’s a good chance you’d be charging airfare to your co-brand credit card. It’s necessary with some cards (specifically United and JetBlue) to use the co-brand card for payment if you want to take advantage of the free checked bag benefit.
I’ll compare the mass marketed card for each airline. These cards have a sub-$100 annual fee and include free checked bags and priority boarding. These are also the cards that most people will have.
So what coverage do these cards provide?
|United Explorer (Chase)||6 hours||$100 per day for 3 days|
|American Platinum Select (Citi)||6 hours||$100 per traveler per trip|
|American Aviator Red (Barclays)||12 hours||$100 per day for 3 days|
|Southwest Premier (Chase)||6 hours||$100 per day for 3 days|
|JetBlue Plus (Barclays)||12 hours||$100 per day for 3 days|
|Delta Gold AMEX||none|
The best coverages are from the two Chase cards, the United Explorer and the Southwest Premier which will each pay for delays over 6 hours and $100 per day for 3 days. The Barclays cards from American and JetBlue have the same coverage but will only pay for delays over 12 hours. The Citi American Platinum Select pays for 6-hour delays but only $100 per traveler.
A restriction on baggage delay for all these cards is that the airfare must be paid for in full with the card for coverage to be effective. The two Chase cards do have an exception where you’ll still be covered if you book a flight with points, as long as all of those points were earned from the Chase co-brand card.
The outlier here is the Delta Gold AMEX card, which provides no coverage for baggage delay at all. This is an unfortunate exclusion for many Amex cards, including the $550 a year American Express Platinum Card.
Flexible Points Travel Cards
While these coverages are good, there are other cards that offer baggage delay coverage. The Citi Thank You Premier and the Chase Sapphire Preferred (both less than $100 annual fee cards) provide coverage for baggage delays more than 6 hours.
|Citi Premier||6 hours||$100 per traveler per trip|
|Sapphire Preferred||6 hours||$100 per day for 5 days|
Both of these above cards will provide coverage if only a portion of the ticket cost is paid with the card. This is a great benefit if you’re booking a ticket with miles but need to pay the taxes. That $5 fee will provide you with full coverage for baggage delays.
|Sapphire Reserve||6 hours||$100 per day for 5 days|
|Citi Prestige||6 hours||$500 per traveler per trip|
Where the Sapphire Preferred and Reserve will pay $100 a day for up to five days, the Citi Prestige will pay $500 after a 6-hour delay. The charges do have to be reasonable for personal and/or business expenses but that’s a broad brush to paint with. Just don’t go crazy and you should be fine.
Baggage delay insurance isn’t something that I’d use as the sole reason to use one card over another. Besides American Express not providing any coverage at all, most other travel cards give you some type of coverage if your bags are lost. If you are paying the entire cost of a ticket on a credit card, there’s no reason not to use a co-brand card.
I’d prefer to use a flexible points card if I can. I’ve charged all of my airfare costs to either the Citi Prestige or the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Both cards provide coverage if you only charge a portion of the ticket to the card and will pay up to $500 for a delayed bag.
While the American Express Platinum earns five Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on airfare, the lack of any type of travel coverages is one reason I decided to cancel my card when it was due for renewal.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary