The Fine Print: Fighting Citi Prestige’s ‘Trip Delay’ Shenanigans

Disclaimer: The following is not legal advice. Please contact Alexander Bachuwa at Bachuwa Law if you have a consumer protection question or claim. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.


As points enthusiasts, our priority is meeting the requirement to obtain the signup bonus. The next priority is to maximize the benefits that come with the card.  These perks include free Global Entry, reimbursement for airline tickets, and lounge access. An overlooked benefit is trip delay and cancellation coverage which can come in handy when itineraries don’t go as planned.

Citi Prestige: Nick’s Positive Experience

Nick has written about how he was reimbursed $500 for a trip delay when he used his Citi Prestige card. Here’s how it works: 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). In this case, Nick had a tight window to make his connection but because his flight arrived late, he missed his connection and was forced to stay overnight.

Citi Prestige: Alex’s Negative Experience

When it is honored, the trip delay protection is a fantastic perk. In the example above, Nick used the benefit successfully when a delay in one leg of his trip caused him to miss a connection.  He ended up being delayed more than 3 hours to his final destination. However, more recently, cardmembers have not had the same outcome. Here’s an example of an itinerary where the claim is now being denied. 

Alex purchases a flight from Las Vegas to Miami with a connection in Dallas. The first leg of the trip is delayed by 30 minutes. Despite his best efforts to sprint to the connecting gate in Dallas, Alex misses his connection to MIA. The airline does not provide hotel accommodations, and Alex has to pay an exorbitant price to stay overnight before taking the first flight to MIA in the morning. In this example Citi will deny Alex’s claim stating that the delay is not covered by the trip delay protection.  Why?  Because Citi argued that the flight was only delayed 30 minutes, not 3 hours.

Reconciling Nick & Alex’s Outcomes

To begin, let’s look at what Citi’s benefit brochure says to see if Nick got lucky or Alex is getting the short end of the stick.

Citi’s policy states that if the trip is delayed for at least 3 hours, they may reimburse you for expenses incurred because of the delay. It also says the following: To take advantage of this benefit, the following conditions must apply:

  • The delay is caused by the Common Carrier.
  • The Covered Traveler’s passport, money or other travel documents are lost or stolen.
  • The Covered Traveler(s) are not able to board because of overbooking.
  • The Covered Traveler’s Trip is delayed because of severe weather, a natural disaster, a previously unannounced strike, a quarantine or hijacking.

The decision as to whether a cardmember receives the benefit depends on what constitutes a “trip.” Unfortunately, there is not a court case or published arbitration decision that definitively defines it. In Nick’s case, Citi looked at the departure time of Nick’s first flight and the arrival time to his destination. In Alex’s case, Citi looked at the departure time of the first flight and the time that flight arrived. Changing the definition of trip is how Citi is able to approve Nick’s claim and deny Alex’s.

What Can Be Done?

  • Option #1: Do nothing. At most, Alex is entitled to $500 under Citi’s travel protection. That’s not enough money to justify the hassle of going through the dispute resolution process which may include hiring a lawyer. Even if Alex did win, Citi may require him to sign a confidential settlement.
  • Option #2: Fight! Regardless of the dollar amount, Alex’s claim is definitely worth pursuing. Why?

The strength of the claim is in a reasonable interpretation of what a “trip” is”. By that standard, the plain, ordinary, and reasonable meaning of the word “trip” refers to the entirety of the travel, not just an individual leg or segment of the journey.  The terms say that the overall trip must be delayed by that period of time. A potential claim seems clear cut–Citi is in the wrong. (see Beating Citi in Arbitration, What It Means for You and The Successful Fight Against A Citi Shutdown)

Some Final Questions

How pervasive is this? Is this a Citi issue or is it industry wide? Without public records of claims, we simply don’t know. My colleague who practices criminal law advises his clients that the job of a police officer is to make arrests. The police officer’s job is not to be your friend. Similarly, the job of insurance underwriting companies is to deny your claim. It is not their job to make you happy by reimbursing you. That’s why they will find any loophole, including the one above, to ensure that you are denied what may be rightfully yours. One would think that Citi and its insurer of choice are not alone in denying these claims on shaky grounds.

If I am covered for a missed connection, why are there companies that sell supplemental insurance for connections that are not covered by trip delay insurance?  There are companies that sell flood insurance in Arizona. Unlike the Citi’s insurance, some policies may explicitly state that they do not cover missed connections. That is when the supplemental insurance would come in handy.


Overall, it seems likely that Citi is in breach of its obligations but has never been called to task because consumers either do not know about the insurance to begin with or do not care to pursue a claim once they are denied. Hopefully, reading this post will change that.

About Alex Bachuwa

Alexander Bachuwa is a New York attorney who focuses on consumer protection. He is also a BoardingArea blogger. Contact Alex at through his website at and visit

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39 Comments on "The Fine Print: Fighting Citi Prestige’s ‘Trip Delay’ Shenanigans"

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Live and Learn I would never book a trip where 30 mins late means ur screwed UNLESS that was the only Flt. Watch citi 4th nite free stuff their running 50% better deal then Hotel,com and it’s an Hassle too .I pay ALL fees with that card hoping the Ins will cover the trip .


English please


Yes I speak English and have common sense do u . Your not going to win every time so forget about it and move on or at least try to.


I see this attitude a lot in the points world – ‘you win some, you lose some; just keep playing the game.’ It seems to me that it’s a reaction to the opposite and equally irksome attitude that we should hold companies’ feet to the fire for every last cent, even when it’s well known we’re trying to get something that’s outside what’s reasonable (e.g., Aeroplan releases Swiss F award space and then Swiss revokes the tickets).

But this issue isn’t about people trying to get away with something unreasonable at the company’s expense. It’s industry standard for “trip delay” to mean delay in the time of your arrival, not of an individual flight, and further, Citi itself used to recognize this as well. The fact that their seemingly new missed connection exception has not been reflected in the terms is, to me, an obvious attempt to trick customers into using the card and then weasel out of paying a promised benefit.

The calculus we should all be doing now is if we are more likely to use the next best trip insurance: 6-hour trip delay based on arrival time (Chase Sapphire Reserve) or 12-hour trip delay based on arrival time offered on most Chase cards with an annual fee), or stick with the 3-hour trip delay based on individual flight delay (Citi Prestige). For me, most of my flights are direct since I live in a hub. And since it’s an American hub, I’ve been on my share of 3+ hour delayed non-stops. So Citi Prestige remains. And since I’m still on the Citi Prestige boat – does anyone know if Citi requires a single 3-hour delay or if it’s cumulative on one leg? For example, if I fly CLT-JFK-HKG-BKK, my first flight is delayed 2 hours, and my second flight is delayed two hours, does that qualify for trip delay in the new interpretation?


There is official letter from Citi stating that misconnections are not covered. Here is a link


I don’t see a letter when I click that link? Are you sure this is the correct link.


I do not understand why the hotel was not covered by the airline. I have in a couple of cases missed a connection due to the airline and had the hotel, breakfast, and roundtrip transportation to the airport covered. Or the airline paid for me to complete my trip on another airline that had later flights. Or paid for a rental car for me to drive the 2-3 hours to my destination.

That being said, I got a hotel even on my worst flight experience ever. Several years ago, my father was in crisis and fading fast and I bought the first cross-country flight I could get (that means $$$). I flew United and the trip that got me in first would involve 3 planes (direct flights to that location not available). The first plane had a mechanical error and we were delayed. The second plane then also had a mechanical error. That then meant that I missed the 3rd flight, which was the last flight of the night and I was sent to a hotel in San Francisco for the night. The end result was that I got to my father after travelling almost 24 hours in total, instead of what it should have taken, and he had lapsed into a semi-conscious state. I had used up every penny of very limited finances for that very expensive flight and it was too far for me to drive. Had I arrived on time, I would have been able to be by his side while he was still speaking and conscious. And when he passed away several days later, United fought me about the change fee so I could stay a few days more and attend to things. What that trip cost me was immeasurable. After 25 years of flying United consistently, I have avoided them like the plague. But I did get a hotel.


Not sure, but maybe the difference between them is the amount of time available to connect? In Nick’s case, he had two minutes to make the connection, which would be impossible to connect by any standards. In Alex’ case, he had 16 minutes, which would be borderline for a misconnect. Not sure what it should be, but there has to be a minimum standard for what constitutes a misconnection.
You can’t just take as long as you please to get from one flight to the other.
No idea if Citi is now rejecting all misconnects or if maybe a certain cut off is and always has been applied.

+1 Denied

rejecting all misconnects unless either flight segment was delayed by >3 hrs. so basically they are insuring the “flight” took off rather than you as the passenger/cardholder got from origin to final destination on time.


It does feel like Citi / their insurance co is becoming more of a hassle. It used to be seamless and I had used this perk a few times when a bag or three didn’t arrive with my flight. Most recently however, I submitted a claim in January 2018 for a late December 2017 flight where the bag didn’t arrive until afternoon the next day. I submitted all the docs right away, and haven’t heard anything from Citi / their insurance co since (other than the automated email). I’ve sent two follow up notes and still nothing. Not sure if others are having problems lately too, but 1 / 1 of my claims in the last 6 months has been painful.


It can be a big hassle But some times it pays off .


With regard to hidden city ticketing, I keep reading that the airline in selling you a flight from A-B, not from A-C-B. Seems like the trip delay insurance should make the same considerations: were you delayed from A-B.


Given how difficult to read this post was, I’m not sure it will effect any change with Citibank


This has been the case since at least October 2017. And I actually had an email convo with Greg about it in late Nov’17. I’m surprised no one has decided to litigate one of these yet (although as you said, perhaps someone has, and the settlement included a confidentiality clause).

From a lawyer perspective could you shed some insight on this question: It seems frankly pretty black and white that if someone did actually decide to sue the insurance company that you’d have a very solid chance of winning the case based on the way the T&C is currently written (I’m assuming the suit would be filed against the insurance company not Citi itself?). So why doesn’t Citi and/or the insurance company just rewrite the T&C to specifically note this exception and that way they eliminate any risk that people start filing suits against them?


I read about the official change in rules yesterday, and reacted with a “meh”. Prestige is a valuable card to me with or without this benefit, and its travel protection beats the competition by a good margin. Even if it tightens this rule a bit (in some ways to reduce cheaters, possibly), it’s still quite generous… so why complain?

This is why I find posts like yours valuable. Level set by reading the lawyer’s perspective, and realize that it’s about the fairness in the contract language and not so much about how big it is or whether I will personally need it. Still not gonna get worked up over this, but now I have a better appreciation for why it matters.

Thanks again Alex for the education.


I’ve thankfully not had to take advantage of this benefit, but I’ve always assumed if I had a legal connection the benefit would apply. Obviously not, but that would be my argument if it came to that point.

In the past I’ve always assumed I wouldn’t have any protection if I was combining two separate tickets so in cases like that I always leave an insane amount of time for connections.

Separate but related question – Is there any site where people compile data points on what has been denied (and presumably, for contrast, on similar fact patterns where claims have been accepted)? Only then could we see if there is a pattern on the part of the benefits administrator. I’ve been particularly interested in this question since I had a very clean return protection claim denied by Chase (Card Benefit Services). With one report, it’s just a data point. With many reports it is possibly indicative of deliberate mishandling of claims. (After the denial I did file a complaint with my state insurance commission in the hope the data point would be out there if anyone were ever looking into this benefit administrator).


I dont understand the people who are saying “But the Prestige insurance is still valuable”

No, you have a “memory” of it being valuable….

in the definition of insurance is “guarantee of compensation”

Citi no longer has that guarantee, thus you only “think” or “hope that there is value….

Something is not valuable any more if it does not work the way you expect it to…..Thus… the more things a company does not honor, the less valuable their product is.

Whats more valuable……
A 6 hour delay insurance that actually pays out when you are delayed.
Prestige insurance that you can file more often, but get less compensation for actual out of pocket expenses is less valuable.

Charge your trips on more valuable cards where you know the insurance works, let your spending do the talking


suggestions on the card to use, Craig?


I agree what card pays off 100% of the time ??
Only Correct answer me when I travel with my GF I pay no matter what happens HaHa .


Patrick Ohearn

Option 3:
Never book a connecting flight where you have less than an hour from the time you touch ground to the time the door is shut on the other plane; more if at an international airport where the other flight is geographically problematic in terms of adding more time to get you there, and certainly on international flights if you have to go through customs or etc. This option is not so much to meet the CITI requirements for trip delay reimbursement, but to avoid having to go through the claim to begin with.


[…] The Fine Print: Fighting Citi Prestige’s ‘Trip Delay’ Shenanigans by Frequent Miler. Will be interesting to see how this plays out. […]

D Jay

This article is BS. Alex’s claim was THE BS. AA put him on the next AA flight to his final destination. AA should have put him in a hotel since it was AA’s faults. Alex should have contacted AA gate agents while in DFW. Citi and Citi’s Benefits Administrator were and are within their rights in this case. QUIT ABUSING & GAMING THE SYSTEMS.


How AA can get away with not providing overnight stay in this case is totally beyond me.


Citi insurance policy is going down. Before October 2017, majority of the claims were approved as long as all conditions are met. Now my claim has been denied because they said terms and conditions state “we may reimburse you” and rep said there is a word “may” hence they are not required.


Clearly this guy has never been to Arizona. Flash flooding is a major issue


Seems like the alternative answer would be to contact the CFPB. Citi is a heavily regulated bank so while the issue at hand might not be banking, they are usually quick to make things right when the regulator gets involved.


Seems like it would be better to contact the insurance board for your state. At the end of the day it’s the insurance company that’s on the hook for approving the claim, not Citi.


In this case, would it be better to have use another card like the CSR for the trip delay benefit even though it is 6 hours instead of 3? Citi seems like they’re really trying their best to be Shitti.