When does credit card travel insurance cover award flights?

I recently published a comparison of travel insurance provided automatically by ultra-premium credit cards (Chase Sapphire Reserve, Citi Prestige, and Amex Platinum).  You can find the comparison page here: Ultra-Premium Credit Card Travel Insurance.  In response to my post analyzing this comparison, a number of readers asked me which cards cover award flights?

An image of the chart from my comparison page is shown above.  Please click through to the source page (Ultra-Premium Credit Card Travel Insurance) for up-to date info.  To a large extent, the answer to the question of “which cards cover award flights?” is given above.  Wherever it says “Pay partial” you’re covered if you pay award taxes or fees with the card.  Even better, Amex Platinum offers emergency evacuation and transportation coverage even if you haven’t used the card at all.  You get that benefit simply by having the card.

Note that auto rental insurance always requires paying in full.  Roadside assistance, meanwhile, does not require any payment to be used.

Award Flights: Pay with Points

When you use your Chase, Citi, or Amex points to pay for travel you are fully covered as if you had paid in full directly with your credit card.  In other words, if you pay with Chase Ultimate Rewards points, Citi ThankYou points, or Amex Membership Rewards points, it counts the same as paying directly with your credit card.

Award Flights: Pay with Airline Miles

When you pay for an award flight with airline miles, you almost always have to pay at least a small amount for taxes and/or fees. In those cases, if you pay the taxes and fees with your credit card then you will be covered as long as partial payments are covered.

For example, let’s say you pay the $5.60 TSA fee for a domestic award flight with either your Chase or Citi card and your luggage gets lost.  Both Chase and Citi offer lost luggage protection when you pay in-part with your card.  Therefore, you are fully covered.  With Amex, though, you are only covered if you pay in-full with your card, so you would not be covered if you paid the TSA fee with your Amex card.

Award Flights: Are taxes and fees really part of the Common Carrier fare?

The question of whether paying taxes and fees counts is confused by the language in the credit card policies.  Let’s take a look at Citi and Chase’s wording…

Citi:

To be eligible for coverage under this benefit, your Citi card and/or ThankYou® Points must be used to purchase at least a portion of the Common Carrier fare.

It’s understandable that people question whether taxes and fees are really part of the Common Carrier fare.  I can’t find an official answer to that question, but in practice it is clear that taxes and fees are part of that fare.  A number of people have successfully filed claims with Citi when they paid only taxes and feesSee this post, for example.  Also see this reader comment.

Chase:

What is a Common Carrier Covered Trip?
• It’s travel on a Common Carrier (see definitions section) when some portion of the fare for transportation has been charged to your Account issued by Chase Bank USA, N.A. and/or its affiliates.
• It’s also travel on a Common Carrier when free flights have been awarded from frequent flier or Rewards programs, provided that all of the miles or Rewards points were accumulated from a Rewards program sponsored by Chase Bank USA, N.A. and/or its affiliates.

With Chase, you are fully covered if you paid with a rewards program sponsored by Chase.  You are also covered if you pay “some portion of the fare for transportation”.  I believe that taxes and fees count as a portion of the fare.

In summary: yes, taxes & fees count as a portion of the Common Carrier fare.

What if you pay in full with hotel points or airline miles?

Chase is unique among the travel cards in that their coverage often applies even if you pay in full with hotel points or airline miles as long as those points or miles come from a Chase transfer partner.

For an up-to-date list of transfer partners, please see: Chase Transfer Partners.

At the time of this writing, transfer partners include the following airlines:

  • Air France
  • British Airways
  • Korean Air
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Southwest
  • United
  • Virgin Atlantic

And the following hotels:

  • Hyatt
  • IHG
  • Marriott
  • Ritz

Note that trip delay, lost luggage, baggage delay, and travel accident insurance do not apply to hotel bookings since they are forms of transportation insurance and they require paying at least part of the transportation costs with your card or with a transfer partner’s points.  That said, trip cancellation, emergency evacuation, and emergency medical insurance do apply to hotel stays and should be covered if you pay for your hotel stay with Hyatt, IHG, Marriott, or Ritz points.

Are you covered when you pay with miles? A new chart…

The following chart assumes that you use airline miles to book an award trip and that you pay at least a small amount of taxes and/or fees with your card.  Green cells indicate that you are covered but do not indicate the quality of that coverage.  For a comparison of the quality of each coverage, see: Ultra-Premium Credit Card Travel Insurance.

Note that this chart makes the assumption that if partial payments are allowed with a ultra-premium card, they are also allowed with other cards from the same bank.  I think that’s true, but I obviously haven’t checked every card.  In some cases your card may not have the insurance listed here.  For example, only ultra-premium cards cover emergency evacuation and transportation.

Chase Citi Amex
Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver No No No
Roadside Assistance Yes
(No spend required)
Yes
(No spend required)
Yes
(No spend required)
Trip Cancellation and Interruption Yes Yes*
N/A
Trip Delay Yes Yes N/A
Lost Luggage Yes Yes No
Baggage Delay Yes Yes No
Travel Accident Insurance Yes Yes No
Emergency Evacuation and Transportation Yes Yes Yes
(No spend required)
Emergency Medical and Dental Yes N/A N/A

* With Citi’s Trip Cancellation and Interruption insurance, if you don’t pay in full with your card then you are covered only up to the amount charged to your card.  For example, if you pay $5.60 TSA fees for a domestic flight and you have to cancel your trip for a covered reason, you would recover only $5.60.  That said, some have reported success with paying award change or redeposit fees with the card and then using this coverage to reimburse those fees.

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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Comments

  1. The Amex remarks in this article doe not apply to my Netherlands issued Platinum card: they provide full coverage on all subjects as long as taxes and fees are paid with the card.

  2. Great job, Greg.

    What, if any, trip cancellation coverage is offered by each card for timeshare stays (of which the ‘cost’ is normally paid upfront via annual maintenance fee payments) ?

  3. Chase will cover award taxes/fees for trip delay insurance (that’s a fact). I’ve received over $1,000 trip delay reimbursements for hotels/meal this year (Can thank UA for that). Also, points don’t necessarily have to come from Chase transfer partner – they don’t verify that information. Ex. I had a trip booked with Iberia that was reimbursed. The charge showed up on the chase statement as a regular travel purchase, and that was sufficient for my claim.

    • Thanks Brian. And, yes, I didn’t mean to imply that you had to use a transfer partner’s miles if you pay for fees with your card. It is only in the case where you pay $0 with your Chase card but use (for example) United miles to book a flight where the partner benefit comes in. In that case you’re covered because you used a Chase transfer partner — United (assuming I’m reading the benefits guide correctly).

  4. For clarity — I think it is worth noting that Citi Trip Delay coverage does not have the same restriction as Citi Trip Cancellation and Interruption insurance.

    Delay Insurance is not capped at the amount you paid in cash for the ticket. Only the Cancellation and Interruption insurance list this restriction in the benefits guide.

  5. I booked a southwest flight with points, paying only the taxes and fees with my Citi Prestige. They ended up losing our gate checked stroller (not sure how that happens, but it did). We weren’t going to get the stroller for a few days, so I bought a new one to use during our trip. We definitely needed a stroller with two little kids under 2. I filed a claim with Citi for delayed baggage, but it was declined because they said that the taxes and fees did not qualify under ‘common carrier fare.’ I’m hoping I can challenge that logic with some of the examples you provided above of individuals getting their claims fulfilled, but that was my experience.

    • This is an important data point. I’m thinking that getting the 3rd party insurance administrators to pay out on these claims could very well be a YMMV situation.

      Hopefully more people chime in and we can start to see patterns of whether or not they actually pay out on award ticket claims.

  6. Just wondering because I have been using my Chase Sapphire Preferred card for many years to pay the leftover amount after using Hertz points for auto rentals whenever possible. Generally it’s between $50 and $70 dollars for taxes, etc. From what I read above, it seems that I am not covered by what I thought was Chase’s generous primary auto coverage for car rentals. I am reading this right? Thanks.

  7. Greg, thank you for these series of posts, especially this one where travel is booked using points/miles.
    I do have a question regarding car rental coverage:
    If I pay for car rental with my CSR (no AU), but the car rental agreement is under my spouse’s name (as the driver), am I right to assume that there will be no insurance coverage? Thank you.

    • Here is exactly what the CSR Benefits guide states:

      Who is eligible for coverage?
      You, a person to whom a United States (U.S.) credit card has been
      issued (“Cardholder”) and your name is embossed on the card. You
      are then covered as the primary renter of the vehicle and any additional
      drivers permitted to operate it under the terms of the rental agreement
      (“Authorized Person”) are also covered.

  8. Defending Citi is close to last on my list of desired activities, but since every blog/website comparison I’ve seen compare auto rental coverage across premium cards has grossly overlooked the Prestige.

    As further demonstrated by this chart, such comparisons all suffer the same flaw: The assumption that all auto renters have primary auto insurance. Why does this matter? I live in NYC, and so do 8.5 million other people, where the majority of residents do not own a car and thus do not pay for auto insurance. This is true for millions of others in cities across the U.S.

    By stating the Prestige ONLY offers primary coverage “Outside the U.S.,” this chart flatly ignores the millions of people who don’t pay for car insurance because they simply don’t own a car, and it misinforms everyone.

    Here’s a real life example from my own experience: I sold my car when I moved to NYC last year, so (of course) I no longer pay for car insurance. Six months after moving to NYC, I traveled to California for a friend’s birthday and rented a Lamborghini Aventador.* (*see below for another item overlooked in every chart that compares auto coverage).

    On the last day of the trip, I parked the Aventador at a golf course we were playing when it was accidentally backed into. The damage came to $70,000. Citi sent me a CHECK for the full amount. I then deposited the check and used my Sapphire Reserve to pay off the full $70k in order to earn 3x UR (210,000 UR!).

    Why? How? First, because it’s untrue that the Prestige only offers primary outside the U.S. The terms clearly state that primary coverage IS provided in the U.S. unless you already have your own insurance policy, which I (again, like millions of others) do not. So, since I paid for the rental entirely using the Prestige, declined the auto company’s rental coverage, and lacked primary auto insurance, Citi provided me with up to $100,000 in coverage — and on a Lamborghini! This is also never mentioned. Please show me another premium card that covers a Lamborghini or anything in the same ballpark as an “exotic” car.” None.

    • I’m not an expert on this stuff, but my understanding is that it is always the case that secondary coverage effectively becomes primary when you don’t have your own insurance.

      Anyway, I described it as I did because the Prestige benefits guide clearly states the following:

      “In the United States, the coverage provided by this benefit is secondary.”

      (found on page 4 under the heading: “What’s Covered”)
      https://www.cardbenefits.citi.com/~/media/CPP/Files/LegalDocs/SOAPI/MV6704_PrestigeElite_0816.ashx

      • Your understanding is correct.

        So the chart should read, instead of “Primary Only Outside the U.S.”

        “Secondary in the U.S. if you own auto insurance, otherwise Primary both Inside and Outside the U.S.”

      • I think some a mean old golfer hit the Lamborghini and left the car damaged.

        But I hope the OP replies. Wow 70$k in damages. More than my car.. and I dont drive a toyota or honda.

      • Have you ever heard of no-fault auto insurance? Just wondering.

        Inapplicable to California either way, but to answer your question I fronted (aka Citi fronted) the bill because the car was valet-parked and the SUV that slammed into the Aventador was being driven by a valet at the time. Essentially both Citi and the other guy’s insurance stepped up and paid, knowing they would recover from the club’s outsourced valet company, which had initially tried to hide behind a disclaimer of liability that purportedly absolved them of responsibility for anything and everything, e.g. even negligence. That strategy was abandoned before it even reached court after the police finally got around to subpoenaing the surveillance tapes.

        (Also – I really wanted 200k UR :))

        • Wow that’s wild. what bad luck for the valet that the car he hit happened to be a Lamborghini.

          Definitely one of the more interesting stories I’ve heard to rack up some points.

          Thx for the follow-up explanation

  9. I’m confused. You said CSR has coverage for award flights as long they’re booked with UR partners? What if I book a BA flight with Avios transferred from AMEX? What if I used those Avios to book AA?

      • But perhaps the better strategy would be to just pay taxes and fees with the CSR card if you want coverage. Greg, based on my interpretation of your thoughts in the original post this is how I think it breaks down:

        We have the two below sections that I’ve labelled (1) and (2). The wording of this section implies that fulfilling either 1 OR 2 would qualify you for coverage. Therefore so long as you book taxes and fees on your CSR {thereby fulfilling section (1)} it becomes moot whether or not the points were from a UR partner, and it would render moot the concept of transferring 1000 points from Chase.

        What is a Common Carrier Covered Trip?
        (1) It’s travel on a Common Carrier (see definitions section) when some portion of the fare for transportation has been charged to your Account issued by Chase Bank USA, N.A. and/or its affiliates.
        (2) It’s also travel on a Common Carrier when free flights have been awarded from frequent flier or Rewards programs, provided that all of the miles or Rewards points were accumulated from a Rewards program sponsored by Chase Bank USA, N.A. and/or its affiliates.

  10. I missed my connection flight yesterday and I live in Miami. G18 to K10 in ORD in 10 min not that feasible Boy I should have read this article earlier. I was worried since it was booked as an award.

    Kudos to AmericanAir , by the time I made it to the gate I was already rebooked.

    Oh yeah they all looked at me like crazy for wanted to fly back to Miami

  11. Two things.

    1) Auto coverage with CCs do not cover liability, I’ve had this be an issue with some of the lower cost rental companies who then try to force you to buy separate insurance. Not sure if we non-car owners should have separate liability insurance anyway?

    2) AVOID CITI. Insurance is only as good if the company pays out in good faith. In my experience, Citi is awful and do everything they can to deny claims, no matter the situation or evidence. I no longer purchase anything o my Citi because I’d rather forego the slightly better terms (3 vs 6 hours delay) for something reliable. Chase and Amex are much better and more fair.

  12. Due to the death of my father in law, three of us near DTW and 2 of us at AUS, had to alter our family trip this Florida. Rather than flying non-stop to Florida, we all had to fly to JFK, a day earlier than our original tickets, then from JFK to Florida, two days later, or 1 day later than our original tickets. We all flew back on our original tickets. The last minute ticket changes due to the death of our immediate relative cost almost $2,000 extra above our original tickets. Filed a claim with Chase on the Sapphire Reserve card. After lots of time, paperwork and hassle from the 3rd party insurance company, we were only reimbursed for the one night missed at our vrbo home rental.
    NOTHING for our extra air expense dollars of almost $2,000.
    Greg, can you explain this?
    I appealed and just get runaround.
    Thanks

  13. Amex Plat does have trip delay and baggage insurance if you are part of their TravelAssure program, that I don’t believe is open to new members.

    For Trip Delay it is 6 hours or past 11pm, whatever comes first. The coverage is $250 per day, per person.

    The luggage coverage for delayed luggage is after 3 hours and is $500 per person, per trip. For luggage that is never found it is $1500 per person, per trip. For personal property stolen from you in the hotel it is $1500 per person, per trip.

    Trip cancellation is $500 per person, per trip.

    They also have a travel medical protection insurance benefit, that I also don’t believe is open to new members. I pay $13 a month for it.

  14. How about one-way flights? I’m flying to Columbia, will likely stay for 6 months or more on a one-way awards flight. Using my United MileagePlus Club Card. Since it covers trips of 5-60 days, would I be covered for the 1st 2 months? I also paid for an airbnb for a month with my Sapphire Reserve.

    Just trying to figure this out so I can be the correct travel insurance.

    • I’m not sure about one-way flights. I don’t see anything in the documentation that says that you must purchase round-trip flights, but it may be worth calling to ask. That said, unfortunately I can’t promise that any answer you get over the phone will be correct

  15. Are the Travel Insurance coverages from the Chase Ritz-Carlton card identical to those from the Chase Sapphire Reserve card?

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