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Despite what many travelers may believe, there is no federal law in the U.S. requiring airlines to provide passengers with compensation for a delayed flight. Even if an airline’s policy is to provide meals or lodging, it will rarely do so if the delay is due to weather or another factor it considers beyond its control.
Fortunately, many premium credit cards and travel insurance providers offer trip delay insurance, which can cover expenses like overnight accommodation and meals if your flight is significantly delayed.
Here's how trip delay insurance works and where you can get it.
What is trip delay insurance?
Trip delay insurance is protection against additional expenses you incur when your travel booked on a common carrier is delayed. Common carriers include airlines, ferry operators, passenger railroads and long-distance bus service.
However, not every delay is eligible for coverage under trip delay insurance. The policy’s terms will specify the length of the delay required before coverage kicks in, but many policies require a minimum delay of six to 12 hours — or an overnight stay.
Trip delay insurance offered by credit cards is generally considered secondary to other coverage you might receive, meaning that if your airline provides you with a hotel room or meals, you wouldn't be able to claim those things under your credit card’s trip delay insurance.
» Learn more: How do travel insurance claims work?
What does trip delay insurance cover?
Trip delay insurance policies differ, but typically they cover reimbursement for necessary expenses incurred due to a travel delay. Unlike airlines’ policies which cover delays under their control only, trip delay insurance also covers delays due to weather or other unforeseen events. Coverage is typically limited to a specific dollar amount per day or per trip.
Purchases that are often covered under trip delay insurance include:
Transportation to and from your hotel.
Other personal use items.
» Learn more: The best credit cards for travel insurance benefits
Trip delay insurance via credit card
Many travelers already have trip delay insurance and don’t even know it. Check your credit card’s benefits to see if you’re already covered. Here are the policies and limits for those who hold certain American Express or Chase travel cards.
American Express offers trip delay insurance with most of its premium cards, including Centurion cards, Platinum cards, Gold cards and its high-tier co-branded hotel and airline credit cards. Here are some American Express travel cards that include trip delay insurance:
American Express also includes trip delay protection on small-business, co-branded and corporate varieties of the above cards.
To be eligible for coverage, you must do the following:
Pay for your travel with your eligible American Express card.
Book a trip that starts and ends in the same city and is no longer than 365 days.
If you use points, certificates or vouchers, the cash component of the ticket must be paid for using your eligible card.
AmEx trip delay insurance also provides coverage for the cardholder’s family members and traveling companions when their travel is also booked using the cardholder’s eligible American Express card.
Coverage kicks in when your trip is delayed more than six hours. Eligible reimbursements include meals, lodging, toiletries, medication and other personal use items.
AmEx trip delay insurance coverage is limited to $500 per covered trip and two claims every 12 months. Terms apply.
Chase offers trip delay reimbursement on its premium Sapphire credit cards and several of its high-tier co-branded credit cards. Here is the list of travel cards offered by Chase that include trip delay insurance:
To be eligible for coverage, you must purchase your common carrier tickets with an eligible Chase card or with rewards earned on an eligible Chase card. Coverage is extended to the cardholder, their spouse or domestic partner and any dependent children younger than 22.
Unlike AmEx, Chase’s coverage doesn’t require travel to start and end in the same location, but your trip must still be shorter than 365 days.
You are eligible to claim reimbursement for expenses if your trip is delayed by more than 12 hours or requires an overnight stay. Chase will reimburse for reasonable expenses including meals, lodging, toiletries, medication and other personal use items.
Chase trip delay reimbursement coverage is limited to $500 per covered trip.
» Learn more: What you need to know about Chase’s trip delay insurance
Trip delay coverage via travel insurance
If the credit card you booked your trip with doesn’t offer trip delay protection or if you need additional coverage, you can purchase it as part of a travel insurance package.
Who is covered, what is covered and coverage amounts vary by plan and issuer. Also, not all travel insurance providers offer trip delay insurance, so be sure to review coverage details before making a purchase.
Here are three providers that offer travel insurance including trip delay protection.
Allianz Travel Insurance
Allianz offers travel delay protection as part of many of its travel insurance packages. For example, the OneTrip Prime package includes coverage for expenses up to $800 per trip ($200 per day) and is effective once your trip is delayed by five hours or more.
Allianz coverage can also reimburse expenses if you miss your cruise or tour due to a covered delay. In addition to single-trip packages, Allianz offers annual travel insurance for the frequent traveler.
» Learn more: The NerdWallet guide to Allianz travel insurance
Berkshire’s ExactCare Value plan includes $500 of travel delay insurance, but for those needing more protection, the ExactCare Extra plan provides up to $1,000 of protection.
You may have seen Travelex currency exchange counters at major airports, but the company also provides travel insurance. All of Travelex’s travel insurance plans include trip delay protection, starting with $500 of coverage for the Travel Basic plan and going up to $2,000 for the Travel Select and Travel America plans.
» Learn more: How to find the best travel insurance
Trip delay insurance recapped
Unexpected delays can happen to anyone when traveling. Understanding what trip protection benefits are available to you will save you stress and money in case you encounter a lengthy travel delay.
If you hold one of the many premium credit cards that offer trip delay insurance, take a moment to read your card’s terms and conditions to understand what coverage you have. If not, you can still access trip delay benefits by purchasing a standalone travel insurance policy.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card