It’s the middle of hurricane season, which means much of the East Coast is currently preoccupied with tropical storm tracking — and there could be even more to worry about in future seasons. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, we’re likely to see an increase in both rainfall rate and storm intensity over the next several years.
In light of that forecast, it’s important to think about how you can protect yourself and your travel investments — whether it’s hurricanes, tornadoes or other severe weather events you’re worried about.
Book with the right credit card
Many credit cards offer at least some form of travel insurance coverage automatically, so be sure to check whether your cards do so before you plan a trip. The most important thing to remember is that if you’re depending on your credit card insurance in the event of a storm, then you need to put your travel expenses on that card. If you haven’t charged your expenses to that card, then you won’t be able to use the credit card benefits.
If you don’t already have a card that comes with travel insurance, we recommend the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card. Look at other travel rewards cards, too, which can offer certain protections.
Know what’s covered
Sometimes travel insurance won’t cover a storm that has already been named. This is because once a storm is named, it is known, has been categorized and is being tracked. That qualifies the storm as, essentially, a “preexisting condition,” and many travel insurance agencies aren’t liable in that case.
As of this writing, Chase cards cover trip interruption and cancellation in the event of severe weather, without that fine print. You can get up to $5,000 per trip for your nonrefundable travel expenses with Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card and up to $20,000 per trip with the Sapphire cards. Again, make sure you charge your travel expenses to your Chase card to cash in on this benefit.
How to get a refund
If you’re stranded at the airport, stuck without accommodations, or your trip is canceled altogether, it’s important to understand your next steps. Note that your credit card generally only covers expenses you can’t get refunded from the source, so it’s smart to try to get a refund from your airline, hotel, or travel company before applying for a refund through your credit card company.
If you run into weather trouble before your trip starts, contact your specific airline to see whether it’s offering weather waivers. For example, United offered fee-free flight rebooking and itinerary alterations for passengers impacted by Hurricane Dorian. For travelers with flexible itineraries, this lets you schedule a new itinerary without much fuss beyond contacting the airline customer service hotline.
Unless you’ve already paid a nonrefundable rate, you’ll probably be able to back out of your hotel or Airbnb reservation between 24 and 72 hours in advance. Similar to switching your airline itinerary, this is relatively hassle-free and can often simply be done online.
However, it’s not always possible to know in advance whether a storm will impact your trip. If you’re away from home and stuck in the middle of an itinerary that has been canceled or altered, this is where having travel protections really comes in handy.
First things first, though: If you’re stranded at the airport and your flight has been canceled, you should immediately get in line at customer service. If you can, get on the phone with customer service while you’re in line for face-to-face service. If you are able to be rebooked through the airline without a significant delay, then you’ll be all set.
However, if you paid with the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, Chase will cover any extra expenses you incur if you’re rebooked on an itinerary that results in a delay of over six hours and/or an overnight stay. (The delay length must be 12 hours or overnight if you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.)
How to file a claim
Check your issuer’s terms and conditions. If you’re filing a claim with Chase, you’ll need to head to the claims center, enter your credit card information and select the relevant claim type (i.e., trip cancellation/interruption). Enter relevant details and upload important documents (receipts, itineraries, payments, settlements, etc.) and submit the claim. Allow a month or so for your claim to be processed, and you should receive a reimbursement check from Chase. You can also call the number on the back of your card to get the process started.
How to maximize your rewardsYou want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2019, including those best for:
- Airline miles and a large bonus: The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- No annual fee: The Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
- Flat-rate rewards with no annual fee: The Bank of America® Travel Rewards Visa® credit card
- Premium travel rewards: The Chase Sapphire Reserve®
- Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
- Business travelers: The Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card
Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice:
Find the best travel credit card for you
Oh no, #travelfail? Your credit card’s insurance could bail you out
How to find the best travel insurance