My $500 trip delay claim with Citi Prestige

Greg has recently written several posts on travel insurance offered by various premium credit cards (See: Travel Insurance Showdown: Reserve vs Prestige vs Platinum). Many cards offer what sounds like generous protection benefits on the surface, but the key question boils down to this: Will they really hold up their end of the bargain? This summer, I had a chance to test Citi’s limits — both in terms of payout and time — and I was impressed with the outcome.

The Delay

On my way back home from FTU Minneapolis, I had a tight connection in Washington, DC.

As you can see, there were only 36 minutes between my scheduled arrival and takeoff — meaning that my DCA-ALB flight would be boarding more or less as soon as I got in. Luckily, I was seated up near the front of the aircraft and my gates were scheduled to be nearby each other. Less fortunate was the weather around which we had to navigate in Wisconsin.

I’d rather have gone around than through, but that was bad news for my connection.

As you can see, we landed at 10:00pm. Actually, we landed a few minutes sooner — but we sat on the tarmac for more than 15 minutes waiting for a gate to open. By the time we got off the plane, my connection to Albany was gone. I knew there wasn’t another flight until around 8am the next morning, resulting in an overnight layover. While that certainly wasn’t convenient, I was simultaneously glad to get a chance to try out my Citi Prestige trip delay protection benefit since I had paid for this ticket with my Prestige card.

The benefit

As we’ve previously outlined, the gist of Citi Prestige Trip Delay protection is this: if you pay for at least part of your ticket on your Prestige card and are delayed for 3 hours or more, Citi will cover your expenses for things like food, lodging, and transportation up to $500 per person (including your family and those traveling with you provided you paid for their tickets with your Prestige card). You are required to submit your claim within 60 days of the delay, and the form (which can be downloaded and filled out after logging in here) asks you to submit any documentation that supports your claim. Once you fill out the form, you can simply email it to the Citi claims administrator (the form also lists a mailing address and fax number if you prefer). You can find the full guide to benefits here.

Five hundred dollars per person has always sounded impossibly generous to me — would Citi really pay out $500? While I had read some delay protection success stories, I hadn’t read one that fully tested the limits. I didn’t set out with that intention in mind, but it soon became apparent that I might have to do so.

Hotels were expensive

Even though I knew I had missed my flight, I ran to the gate just in case (it was basically across the hall). Sure enough, it was gone. I went back to the gate where we had landed and got on line with others in my same situation. Nobody was happy. At this hour, many had missed connections and would be stuck in DC for the night. What’s more, the airline wasn’t offering rooms; since the delay had been a result of weather, the gate agents were telling people that there was nothing they could do to help and that all of the hotels with which they partner were full. Understandably, that wasn’t going over well. As I soon found out, even if they had wanted to provide rooms, there simply weren’t many left to be had. Hotel after hotel was totally booked. The ones that were available in the area were exorbitantly expensive and were surely giving people sticker shock if they were looking on their phones:

What’s more, availability seemed to come and go — one moment, it showed a room available, the next nothing. I thought for sure I’d find something more reasonably priced with a few minutes of effort, but I first wanted to get documentation of my delay from the airline.

A military excuse

I went back to my landing gate for a military excuse. I knew that my Citi Prestige card should theoretically protect me and cover my costs, but I had read in other write-ups that one piece of documentation I might need would be proof from the airline that I had been delayed. I wanted to cover all of my bases on this one, so I went to the agent to ask for a military excuse — which is just the term that every gate agent seems to recognize for a document that shows you were delayed due to no fault of your own. Mine looked like this:

I thought it was odd that they marked by delay as being due to gate space availability rather than weather, though both had delayed my arrival. To be on the safe side, I had also taken the screen shot shown above of the weather in Wisconsin and our delayed arrival from Flightaware.com. I figured more documentation beats less.

A little kindness never hurts

When it was my turn to see a gate agent, I was certainly less angry than other travelers. After all, I knew I wasn’t going to sleep in the airport and that Citi would probably reimburse me for a reasonably-priced hotel. Since I didn’t expect to pay for my room in the end, it was easy for me to be the one guy who didn’t want to crucify anyone. I smiled and let her know that I understood it wasn’t her fault and I just needed the documentation for the delay. She seemed appreciative of my attitude and stepped away for a moment, making a couple of phone calls. She came back with a piece of paper and handed it to me. On it, she had written the name of a Comfort Inn somewhere in the vicinity and she had written $175 and the phone number. She pointed and said quietly, “they are holding a room for you at that rate, but you should call them right now to book it because it’s their last room available.” I was surprised, but it was a good reminder that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar — sometimes even when you have a right to be angry (such as if you missed your connection because the airline didn’t have gate space), a pleasant response may be more likely to get you what you want..

However, I knew there were people around who were facing a choice between sleeping in the airport and spending enough money to actually buy a new mattress but only getting to spend a few hours on one instead. Someone needed that $175 room more badly than I did, so I politely told the gate agent that my credit card should cover my expenses and she should give that room to someone else who needed it. I think she was a combination of surprised and confused when I said no thanks — but hopefully it made someone else’s night a little bit easier.

Shopping around

While I expected Citi to pay out, I wasn’t necessarily looking to test the limits of their generosity. After all, I had only paid about $362 for my ticket. Would they really agree to pay out more for my trip delay claim than I had spent on the ticket in the first place? I didn’t want to get stuck with a $500 loss, so I sat down at baggage claim and shopped around. Hotel after hotel told me that they were fully committed for the evening. I tried pulling the Globalist card at the full-service Hyatts to no avail. There simply weren’t many rooms available. The Sheraton and Hilton near the airport disappeared soon after I started shopping and I quickly regretted not booking one of them from the get-go as it didn’t seem I was going to do much better. In the end, I settled on The Darcy — a Curio Collection by Hilton hotel. It was only about 10 minutes from the airport, and while it was still very expensive for the night, it looked a hair more reasonable than the other options and I knew that Hilton was offering bonus points for Diamond members (they are doing so again this quarter).

The cheapest room came to $389 before tax or about $445 all-in. I hadn’t eaten dinner and needed to get to and from the hotel, so at that point I realized this would likely end up maxing out the Citi Prestige trip delay benefit. Sure enough, my bill after getting tomato soup and grilled cheese came to $485.05.

The Uber/taxi rides came out to about $15 each way, meaning I exceeded $500 in expenses. The Darcy itself was nice. I’d certainly consider going back if the price were a bit more reasonable.

But on this trip, I only got to spend a few hours there before returning to the airport.

Filing my claim

For no good reason, I dragged my feet on filing my claim. It became one of those things you keep putting off until tomorrow knowing that you have more time. I have no doubt this is why Citi is gives you sixty days to file your claim — since you know you can wait, you inevitably wait too long. In my case, it popped into my head just before the deadline and I submitted my claim on Day #59 after the delay. I received an instant auto-response:

Thank you for your recent submission and/or inquiry. We appreciate the opportunity to service your request provided through your Citibank N.A. issued card.

You can expect to hear back from us within 14 days after we receive all requested information.

Note that you only have to submit the initial claim within 60 days. After that, I believe you have up to 180 days to provide all of the necessary documentation for Citi to pay out your claim. While the auto-response email promised a response within 14 days, I had hoped it would be faster. In the end, they stuck pretty close to the timeline. Twelve days later, I received this message with the subject line, “Important information regarding your Citi Card Benefits Request XXXXX“:

Thank you for your recent claim request. We appreciate the opportunity to service your claim request for the Trip Delay Protection program provided through your Citibank N.A. issued card. 

In order to substantiate your claim request, please provide the following information for review.

Itinerary
Additional Information Needed

Please provide a copy of the original trip itinerary received at the time of booking. Thank you

The documents can be submitted via email (mybenefits@cardbenefitscommunications.com), fax or mail. You can expect to hear back from us within two weeks after we receive all requested information.

If you have any questions, please call the Citi card benefits service center toll-free at 1-866-918-4670. Our representatives are available 24 hours a day.

 

Sincerely, 
Citi Card Benefits Administration 

Ooops — I guess I had left out a critical detail — my initial itinerary, showing that I didn’t have an overnight layover after all. I immediately forwarded them my email purchase confirmation. This time, I expected to wait a full two weeks to hear back.

Two weeks came and went

Two weeks came and went without any email from Citi. At this point, I was starting to worry that I had simply blown $500 on a night of lodging and they weren’t going to pay out on the benefit. I was prepping to call or write when I first logged into my Prestige account. There, I saw that just two days after I submitted my itinerary, I had received the $500 reimbursement.

Moral of the story: don’t count on an email confirming that your claim was approved. If you choose to receive a statement credit, keep an eye on your account. If you choose to receive a check, keep your eye on the mail.

What documentation did I submit?

For clarity, here is the documentation I submitted:

  1. Original itinerary (paid for with my Prestige card)
  2. “Military excuse” from AA
  3. Screen shot from Flightaware.com showing the delayed arrival
  4. Photo of my folio from The Darcy
  5. Copy of my Prestige statement showing the purchase of the airfare (as I had purchased direct, the confirmation number showed on my card statement)
  6. Copy of my Prestige statement showing the payment of the charges for the room and Uber/Lyft rides.

While I initially forgot step one,  I was able to later send it later and have my claim approved in full within two days of receiving all of my documentation. That’s great.  Note that since the benefit is capped at $500, I only asked for $500 and I received it.

And I grabbed a nice chunk of points

On top of getting reimbursed in full for my expenses exactly as I’d expected based on the benefit terms, I was lucky enough to pick up some points. As I mentioned, Hilton was and still is offering bonus points for everyone and even more for Diamond members. I knew this, but I almost forgot to register for the promotion. Luckily, it popped into my mind as I was getting out of my ride from the airport. I literally registered for the promotion as I walked through the door to check in. I was glad I did, because this stay earned me a nice little chunk of Hilton points:

Bottom line

Citi Prestige trip delay protection worked out exactly as I would have hoped — I got my full $500 even as a solo traveler on a ticket that cost significantly less than my expenses on the delay. While not lightning fast, the process was simple and painless. The Citi Prestige had already become my go-to card for booking paid airfare based on how generous this benefit sounded. Now that I know it also works that way in practice, it would be hard to convince me to book airfare with another card. This benefit saved me more than $200 (including the cost of the next best alternative plus taxes and transportation). Combined with the annual $250 airfare credit, that’s more than $450 in total value. As I was grandfathered in to a $350 annual fee from an old CitiGold account, I feel like I’m ahead of the game this year on the Prestige — not even counting the two 4th Night Free hotel bookings I’ve made and my Priority Pass lounge visits.

About Nick Reyes

Nick Reyes is a (fairly) regular guy with an animalistic passion for maximizing the value of miles and money to travel the world in comfort and style. There is little in life that he loves more than finding a fantastic deal and helping you shop smarter & harder to achieve your travel dreams.

More articles by Nick Reyes »

Pingbacks

Comments

  1. Great article and super timely. We’re also both grandfathered in at $350, and my wife has been getting some of those re-up offers; but wasn’t sure it was really worth the trouble of doing the spend to work off the expense of a second card (since we really only need one for the fourth night benefit). But this testimonial now has me leaning toward renewing hers as well. Again, thanks for all the practical detail.

  2. Top post !
    This would be a good one to add to the ‘Resources’ folder as I could see myself coming back looking for this again.
    You could create a new category for Card Insurance Coverage, and add this along with your recent posts comparing the coverage across cards

  3. Does the primarily cardholder need to be traveling for this perk to kick in? For example can I just book flights for friends just to make use of this trip delay perk (and I do not travel w them)

    • It definitely won’t work for friends when you or a family member isn’t traveling. Here is what it says:

      ———————-
      > WHO’S COVERED
      Covered Travelers which means, you, your Family Members, and
      Traveling Companion(s) traveling on the Trip.
      Family Members means your children, spouse, fiancée, Domestic
      Partner and their children, including adopted children or
      step-children; legal guardians or wards; siblings or siblings-in-law;
      son-in-law or daughter-in-law; parents or parents-in-law;
      grandparents or grandchildren; aunts or uncles; nieces or nephews.
      Traveling Companion means any individual(s) for whom you have
      paid to travel on your or your Family Member’s Trip.
      —————————-

      The terms go on from there to define domestic partner, you can read on at the link in the post to the benefit terms. I read that to mean that it’s good for the primary cardholder, the primary cardholder’s family, and anyone traveling with the primary cardholder or primary cardholder’s family (provided you paid with your Prestige card).

  4. @Al – From the Prestige benefits guide:

    >Covered Travelers which means, you, your Family Members, and Traveling Companion(s) traveling on the Trip.

    >Family Members means your children, spouse, fiancée, Domestic Partner and their children, including adopted children orstep-children; legal guardians or wards; siblings or siblings-in-law; son-in-law or daughter-in-law; parents or parents-in-law; grandparents or grandchildren; aunts or uncles; nieces or nephews.

    >Traveling Companion means any individual(s) for whom you have paid to travel on your or your Family Member’s Trip. Domestic Partner means a committed relationship between two unmarried adults, in which the partners, (1) are each other’s sole Domestic Partner, (2) maintain a common residence, (3) share financial obligations if both are employed, (4) are not married or joined in a civil union to anyone else or are not the Domestic Partner of anyone else, and (5) are not blood related.

    My reading of that seems to indicate that it will only cover people flying without you (for whose tickets you’ve paid for) if they fall under the category of “Family Members”.

  5. But I thought the trip delay only covered a 3 hour or more delay? You were only delayed 34 minutes. I understand that meant you missed your connection, but I would have expected them to deny based on the 34 minutes.

    • If DCA were my final destination, you’d be right. But I had a connection to ALB. I missed that connection and so I was delayed 10 hours until the next flight at around 8 am.

  6. It definitely works as well and as great with the delayed luggage coverage. I’ve used that 2x this year and all went smoothly. Conclusion: I purchase all my airtickets with my CitiPrestige. Proven to be good for me.

  7. Nick, this is a great piece of content. I appreciate your informative and unique content.

    Thank you for taking the time to give us a real life usage review of this benefit.

    I always wondered if it is as painless as Citi makes it sound, and whether I should swap my spend from travel over to the Prestige. Now I can’t seem to find a reason not to, between the insurance and the ease of travel redemptions that I experienced for myself earlier in the week.

  8. In my experience, if you call Citi to make a claim, they’ll punch in the initial information for you and send you an email requesting further information. This allows you to quickly skip directly to the documentation forwarding step rather than waiting two weeks. I called as soon as I arrived at the airport following a weather delay and then booked my hotel (mostly just to re-confirm the benefit since it was my first time using trip delay).

    Also, AA has a specific form to fill out online to provide info on delays for insurance purposes. https://www.aa.com/contact/forms?topic=TRP#/

    It was a smooth process for me as well, it made me more comfortable with citi’s follow thru on their listed protections.

  9. Thanks for the write up! Very comprehensive. I have a question that I think I know the answer to, but if I have a trip booked with Citi Prestige and then cancel the card before my trip takes place am I still covered? I’m assuming no.

    • Room service. By the time I got into the hotel an settled, it was just before midnight. Not many options and figured I might as well earn Hilton points on dinner. In case you’re curious, I highly recommend you not order either at The Darcy. Both arrived lukewarm at best.

  10. +1. Citi Prestige has paid me for the 2 times I’ve used them (for price match and for baggae delay). Each of these required back and forth, however, so I would not say theexperience was as painless as, say, dealing with Amex, but definitely worth my time.

    The only other benefit that I found superior is their Priority Pass, which seems to be about as good as I ever need. (Amex Plat and US Bank Infinity is a dud)

  11. I had similar excellent experience. I paid less than $150 for a ticket for myself and my partner ($300 total) and was reimbursed nearly $1,500. Our initial flight was delayed by 10 hours resulting in us missing a flight booked on a separate ticket. Citi reimbursed us for a hotel, meals and a new flight to get to our final destination.The process was painless (although slow) with no need for extra documentation as we followed the form precisely. I highly recommend this card for this benefit alone. Citi should get more publicity on this benefit.

      • My trip interruption claim was paid even though it was two separate tickets on different airlines and was not a round trip. I was flying from A to B to C, got delayed flying from A to B and missed more than 50% of my short one night, two day stay in B, that is why they paid out. So, it does not have to be a round trip, or on the same airline. Another Sara point I used a different (Chase) credit card to make new arrangements as that was what I had on me, Ciri paid all of those expenses in full, so it doesn’t matter how you pay for them so long as you have receipts.

        • Very helpful and positive data point. I wish they would spell these sort of things out in their T&C more clearly though – I have a feeling that these sort of things will be very YMMV.

    • Whoa, this is a fascinating data point if I’m reading this correctly…So when you say “flight booked on a separate ticket” was it a different airline?

      So for example you booked DCA-NYC-BOS with the DCA-NYC segment on American and the NYC-BOS segment on Delta. And your DCA-NYC segment was delayed, causing you to miss your Delta flight from NYC to BOS…and Citi paid for a new flight from NYC-BOS?

      If so, that’s AMAZING. I wonder if this is would be a consistent thing or you got lucky and it’d be YMMV.

  12. @Nick

    So one thing that I would be very interested to understand better with this trip delay coverage scenario is this:

    Lets say you landed at 8PM in DCA. You missed your connection on AA to the final destination since the last flight of the day for AA departs at 7:30PM. BUT, Delta has a flight at 9:30PM with seats available to your final destination. If you bought a walk up ticket on the Delta flight would the Trip delay coverage cover this?

    • I’ve read that it won’t, but I can’t remember an exact post about it. I almost put this one to the test this summer also, but didn’t end up having to as I was able to catch a flight to a different airport close enough to my destination (on my original carrier). But if I ever find myself in a situation where I need to do that, I’ll certainly test it an report here :-).

  13. I don’t bother with military excuse. I just email customer service later and they send me a confirmation email of the delay which serves as proof for CC insurance.

  14. I had the same issue of a weather delay and has to stay overnight but in Charlotte. I used my Citi thank you premier card to book the ticket but they automatically denied the claim because I only use the card to book 2 one way tickets on different carriers. Said it had to be a round trip ticket with same carrier

      • Ray — did you push back at all on that? Here are the exact terms from the benefits guide:

        “Trip means any pre-paid travel, tour or vacation when all or at least
        a portion of the cost of the Common Carrier fare was paid using
        your Citi card and/or ThankYou® Points for all Covered Travelers.
        Trip Departure Date means the date on which the Covered Traveler(s)
        are originally scheduled to leave on the Common Carrier.
        Trip Completion Date means the date on which the Covered
        Traveler(s) are scheduled to return to their point of origin or to
        a different final destination. ”

        That last line about trip completion being the date on which you are scheduled to return to your “point of origin or to a different final destination” is the part I’d point to in my argument to have a one-way covered. You were on trip from A to B.

        Did you try arguing over that specific term?

        @KT — I’ve been using my Prestige on one-way tickets also with the plan to use that part of the benefits guide if someone denied it. The benefits guide doesn’t use the words “round trip” anywhere in this section. Unfortunately/Fortunately, I haven’t yet been delayed on a one-way, this post was my first experience using the benefit.

  15. Just want to confirm. For the hotel and meals expenses, we don’t have to use the Prestige card for them right? Just need to submit the receipts? Thanks.

    • I don’t know the answer to this for sure. I used my Prestige card under the assumption that I would have to in order to be reimbursed, though I’d still probably use the Prestige for those expenses even if I didn’t have to.

      • Thanks Nick. Just confirming because I might be able to accumulate more points depending on the expenses but will stick with the Prestige to be safe.

  16. I have read in blogs the $5.60 is ok as the card covers award tickets the same way as purchased tickets. This is my go to card for airfare, I even questioned the 5x on Amex with paid airfare because of this benefit!

  17. Nice write-up but let’s be honest here, there’s no way you wanted to stay at a cheap Comfort Inn. It’s not up to many frequent traveler’s standards but it’s more than “reasonable” for an emergency one night stay. You obviously wanted to extract the full $500 value out of the benefit.

  18. I just had to cancel a $4,000+ group trip. I was surprised to learn that CSR has trip cancellation coverage that should cover me. It seems too good to be true….I’ve filed my claim; I’ll see what happens.

  19. I used the trip cancellation insurance on my Citi Prestige account earlier this year. It was totally painless, although I submitted documentation of everything since I didn’t want my claim to get denied. But cost of hotels, flights, and fees for redepositing points were all covered. It was a great experience – I’ll definitely be using the Citi Prestige for any trip I’m worried about a potential interruption or cancellation.
    I opted to receive a check rather than a statement credit, to avoid potentially having the statement credit deduct or offset points (like a refund would).

    • Greg – I was mostly concerned about the $4,000 I paid to the outfitter for the guided trip. I used miles for my flights; did pay a few hundred in redeposit fees. I’ll check on adding those to my claim.

        • I will update the thread. (I submitted my claim electronically, uploading all requested documents to CSR, about five days ago. Haven’t heard anything back so far.)

  20. I have used this benefit twice this year with Prestige with no issues. Now I don’t mind taking a late flight home with a tighter connection. Always take the check so as not to reduce thank you point earning with a statement credit.

  21. Beware with Citi. The one time I needed to make a claim, I had a terrible experience, they did not come through.

    A few experiences where they actually came through doesn’t mean the Citi travel benefits will be there when you really need them. Likewise one negative mean they won’t, but why risk it?

    Citi benefit terms also seem more generous on the surface– 3 hours instead of 6 hours, 2 years additional extended warranty instead of 1 year. But in the warranty example, Citi does not cover Apple Certified Refurbished, whereas Amex and Chase do. Something that is not 100% clear from the terms.

    In the example where Citi did not come through for me, I confirmed with both Amex and Chase that they would have. Now all my travel spend goes to the Reserve, 3x UR is more valuable than 3x TYP anyway, and a 6 hour trip delay benefit is fine with me– I’d rather have something I can count on than something I can’t.

    • I think this is definitely a fair point, but until you actually file a claim with Amex and Chase and see them come through I would be cautious. It’s great that Amex/Chase said “yeah we would’ve covered you” but until you actually submit a real claim and they send you a check I don’t think those assurances mean much b/c a lot of times front-line phone reps don’t really know what they are talking about.

  22. Do you have to book your flights directly from airlines to get the benefit? I Googled around but couldn’t find a straight answer.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *