American Express has announced a number of changes to the benefits provided on a wide range of its cards today. Most notably, premium cards will have travel protection benefits added, but only if you’re booking round trip flights.
There are a number of upcoming changes, so here’s what will be added and removed from January 1, 2020.
Trip Interruption & Trip Cancellation Insurance
If you book a round trip flight and pay for it entirely with select premium cards (listed below), you’ll be reimbursed for non-refundable expenses up to $10,000 per trip for covered reasons that include jury duty, sudden illness or injury, inclement weather and terrorist action. Although you’re covered up to $10,000 per trip, your overall coverage is limited to $20,000 per eligible account for each consecutive period of 12 months. (n.b. I’m not sure if the 12 months is by calendar year, cardholder year or if it starts from the date of your first claim).
Round trip award flights are covered too provided all taxes and fees are paid for with an eligible card.
The benefit will be available on the following cards:
- Business Platinum
- Hilton Honors Aspire
- Delta Reserve
- Delta Reserve for Business
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant
- Corporate Platinum
While this is a welcome change, it’s disappointing that it only applies when booking round trip flights, especially when it comes to award flights. If you’re someone that likes to plan for future trips a year out, you’ll be looking at award availability the day it becomes available which is often ~330 days ahead of time. If you’re planning a trip lasting a week or two and wanted coverage with Amex, you’d need to wait until the return flight becomes available, at which point the outgoing flight might have no availability.
If you are booking a round trip flight though, paying with a Platinum or Business Platinum card could be a no-brainer seeing as you earn 5x Membership Rewards when booking directly with airlines with the former and through the Amex Travel portal with the latter. Having said that, the Citi Prestige offers 5x ThankYou points for airfare, while the Chase Sapphire Reserve offers 3x Ultimate Rewards, so the best choice for you will depend on your card lineup, how you value each transferable currency and the nuances of each card’s coverage.
Trip Delay Insurance
Trip Delays of 6+ Hours
The same premium cards listed above will also have trip delay insurance added. This is valid on both paid and award flights, but sadly also has the round trip flight requirement.
As for the benefit itself, if your trip is delayed by 6+ hours for a covered reason, you’ll be covered for expenses including accommodation, meals, toiletries, etc. The trip delay insurance covers you for up to $500 per trip.
Trip Delays of 12+ Hours
A number of other Amex cards will have trip delay insurance coverage added for delays of 12+ hours, with a limit of $300 per trip:
- Amex Gold
- Amex Business Gold
- Amex Green
- Platinum Delta SkyMiles
- Platinum Delta SkyMiles Business
Note that the additional trip cancellation, trip interruption and trip delay coverage will be valid for flights booked on or after January 1, 2020. That means if you pay for a round trip flight before that date with an eligible card to be flown after January 1, you won’t be covered for these benefits.
Also starting from January 1, 2020, most Amex cards will reduce their extended warranty coverage from two years to one year, while some cards won’t have any extended warranty coverage whatsoever. Cards that won’t have any extended warranty coverage at all include:
- Blue Cash Everyday
- Amex EveryDay
- Cash Magnet
Amex will also be reducing the purchase protection coverage provided by all its cards from 120 days to 90 days. Chase, Citi and Discover have all been reducing their purchase protection coverage over the past year or so, so it’s no surprise that Amex has decided to follow suit.
Travel Accident Insurance & Roadside Assistance Hotline
Both of these benefits will be removed from January 1, 2020. While Amex is stating that fewer than 1% of cardholders use this coverage, I suspect that a larger percentage of cardholders value this benefit to some extent but have simply never needed to make a claim.
In my opinion, the overall value of the benefits being added outweighs those being reduced or removed. Whether these changes are good or bad news for you personally though will depend a range of circumstances – your credit card lineup, whether you book round trip or one-way flights, whether you have the benefits from other cards, etc.
The round trip flight restriction is a disappointing feature though. For your everyday consumer or business cardholder, it’ll be easy to overlook the round trip flight requirement, leading some to specifically use their premium card to pay for one way flights assuming that they’ll have insurance coverage for their trip, only to find out at the worst possible moment that they’re not covered after all.