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Despite the miracles of modern technology, it’s still unfortunately common for an airline to lose your baggage. While some airlines offer reimbursement for bags that never arrive, you might end up relying on another safety net: your credit card. We’ll break down which credit cards offer protection, and what you need to do to get it.
Cards that offer lost bag insurance
Most premium credit cards – the Visa Signatures, World MasterCards and high-end American Expresses of the world – offer lost baggage insurance. (You can read more in our comprehensive credit card travel insurance article.) Visa Signature and World MasterCard protection plans insure you up to $3,000 per trip ($2,000 for New York residents), while Amex cards give you $500 for delayed baggage, and an extra $500 for bags delayed over 48 hours.
However, there’s a pretty significant caveat: Typically, you have to book the entire flight on your credit card – so an award flight where you charge only taxes and fees to your card won’t be covered. If you’re booking with miles, you’re going to have to consider other options.
What to expect from lost baggage insurance
As with all things insurance, proper documentation is key. Be sure to keep your checked luggage tags as proof that you successfully got the bags into the airline’s hands, so that whoever’s processing your claim can verify that you didn’t simply misplace your bags. It’s also probably a good idea to keep your plane ticket, and to have your credit card statement handy to show how you made your purchase.
Also, when you’re adding up the value of your lost items, keep in mind that most airlines won’t reimburse you for jewelry, money, electronics (including computers), anything fragile and a few other standard exclusions.
Where else to turn
You should definitely check to see if your airline offers some sort of reimbursement. Policies vary by carrier, but most U.S. airlines (including American Airlines, JetBlue and Southwest) cap their liability at $3,400 per customer for domestic travel.
You can, of course, always buy standalone travel insurance that will cover your lost luggage. Travelex’s trip insurance plans will reimburse between $500 and $2,500, depending on the plan, while Travel Insured’s coverage ranges from $750 to $1,000. And if you’re really worried about losing your bags, you can consider investing in a GPS tracker to stick in your suitcase. The higher-end ones don’t come cheap (think hundreds of dollars), but you can get a basic model for less than $40.
Your credit card might help in other ways, too: Some high-end cards come with concierge service, and you can ask them to try to hunt down your bags rather than spending your trip listening to airlines’ hold music.
In a nutshell, if you have a good travel or rewards credit card, chances are you’ll be covered if you bought your ticket with the card. If you booked an award flight, well, you might have to do a bit more legwork.
Baggage image via Shutterstock