10 ways to maximize delayed trip and bag reimbursements

How to maximize baggage delay and trip delay insurance using your cards

Baggage delay, trip delay insurance: Credit card tips

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They might not be the sexiest credit card benefits. 

But if you fly – even infrequently – reimbursements for delayed bags and delayed travel are like ice water on a hot day: Exactly what you need when you need it.

“These are a couple of the benefits that are really overlooked,” says Emily McNutt, news editor for The Points Guy. “They really can add supreme value.”

And too many consumers ignore them.

“It’s shocking to me the number of people who don’t know the benefits exist,” she says. “They’re leaving money on the table.”

Credit cards that offer both baggage delay and trip delay benefits include Chase Sapphire Reserve, Citi ThankYou Premier Card and Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card.

Here are 10 ways to make the most of credit card reimbursements for delayed travel or delayed bags:

See related: 11 credit card travel insurance benefits

Trip, baggage delay: 10 tips for maximizing your card benefits

  1. Take a picture of your luggage before you travel.
  2. Pack like the airline is going to lose a bag.
  3. Understand what you're getting reimbursed before you shop.
  4. Put replacements on the same card.
  5. Are reimbursements per bag, per trip or per traveler?
  6. Know that loyalty to an airline, rewards card counts.
  7. Skip the concierge for replacement shopping tips.
  8. Budget your shopping time.
  9. Act immediately when delay hits.
  10. Don't overspend.

1. Take a ‘luggage selfie’

Before you leave, take a phone pic of your luggage (open and shut). Not only is it proof of what you really packed, but it can jog your memory if you’re struggling to recall what you brought as you’re filling out those claim forms, says Angel Castellanos, travel blogger and founder of AngelsTravelLounge.

Then, as you go to replace those items mid-trip if your baggage gets lost or delayed, “it almost becomes your shopping list,” he says.

  • You can also consider extra insurance. At checkout, some travel sites will offer lost or delayed bag insurance, says John DiScala, editor-in-chief and founder of Johnny Jet.
  • One such service: BlueRibbonBags. The fee is $5 per bag. Then, if your luggage goes missing, they will track it down for you and expedite its return – leaving you that time to enjoy your trip.
  • If the bag still goes missing after four days, you're reimbursed $1,000.

2. Pack like the airline is going to lose a bag

Travel vets have different ways of dealing with this one. DiScala puts half his wife’s clothes and half of his in every bag. That way, if one gets lost, both of them have clothes in the other.

Castellanos puts a week’s worth of clothes in his carry-on bag.

Why this is smart: Any reimbursement money you get will stretch farther if you don’t have to also buy a new travel wardrobe on the fly.

Tip

Tip: Always carry medications and important papers (passport, tickets, etc.) on you, rather than in a checked bag. Not only are these things more expensive to replace, but doing them mid-trip is a hassle that can cost you plenty of cash, too.

3. Understand what you’re getting reimbursed before you shop

Many times, credit cards will give you “reasonable” expenses or cover “essentials.” Granted, what’s essential for you and what’s essential for someone else can vary widely. “It varies so much depending on the circumstances,” says McNutt.

So, before you spend $100 replacing that snail-slime rehydrating mask, get on the phone with your card issuer and find out exactly what – and how much – those card benefits will cover.

And you may have to talk with a couple of different people to get an answer, says McNutt.

4. Put replacements on the same card

If it’s possible, put your replacement expenses on the same card, says McNutt. “That will help you to stay organized.” And you still want to save all your receipts. “It’s all part of the claim you’ll be filling out, so you want to be sure you’ll have the receipts.”

For many cards (and airlines), medicines and electronics are not included in your reimbursement. So, carry those items with you, pick them up at your destination, or leave them at home.

Tip

Tip: You may have to pay a premium to replace items or rebook plans in the middle of a trip. So, make those replacement purchases with a credit card that offers price protection, says The Points Guy editor Emily McNutt. That way, if the price does drop, you’ll reap the benefit as a savings windfall.

5. Are reimbursements per bag, per trip or per traveler?

If you’re traveling with a family, it can be worth asking if the reimbursement is per bag, per trip or per traveler. “If you’re traveling with your family, it can be worth asking if everyone traveling will get that money,” says McNutt.

And the answer can make a big difference in the plans you make following a delay or delayed bag.

6. Know that loyalty counts

This is the time that being brand-loyal should pay off. If you’re a heavy user of a particular credit card or airline that status should get you a little extra attention when you have delayed bags or travel, says Castellanos. It’s something to keep in mind as you negotiate for reimbursements and also when you book your next trip.

So, if you have status with that airline or card, this is the time you want to (nicely) drop that into the conversation.

See related: 3 ways to earn elite status with airlines

7. Skip the concierge

You have a small reimbursement and have to replace a few lost or delayed items. For shopping recommendations, skip the concierge, says Catellanos. Instead, ask the guy who parks the cars at the hotel or the woman who cleans your room, he says. “They’re working-class folks and will know the local shops.”

And, if you’re luggage is only delayed, you may want to opt for a duffle bag or inexpensive suitcase.

8. Budget your shopping time

If you’re replacing your goods using precious travel time, let tech do some of the heavy lifting for you. Castellanos suggests using a mapping app or site (like Google Maps), to plot your shopping excursion. “You can bookmark some things, be strategic about it and make your life easier.”

And if you have to make new reservations (especially if you’re temporarily stranded in one place), “I’m a big fan of HotelTonight,” he says. What you get: A “seriously reduced” rate on a hotel in your area at the last minute, he says.

9. Act immediately when delay hits

When a flight is delayed or canceled. “I will immediately make that phone call” to set up alternative arrangements, says Castellanos. That means from the seat and while he’s deplaning. That puts him ahead of everyone who’s heading for the ticket counter or waiting until they get to the lounge.

Tip

Tip: Those handy toll-free numbers are often embedded in the apps for your credit card and airline. So, if you download them to your phone before you leave, you’re ready to go.

10. Don’t overspend

You may get a set amount of money for trip delays. But on the road it’s easy to overspend, says Castellanos. One way to trim meal costs: picnics. “If you picnic, that’s really going to help you save on the budget,” he adds.

Even in a pricey city like Paris, you can hit a local street market and pick up an al fresco lunch for a fraction of the cost of a restaurant meal, he says. Castellanos and his family make a point of doing this every year. Their favorite picture-postcard backdrop: the Eiffel Tower.


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Updated: 11-16-2018