Little-known card perk: insurance against baggage delays

Cashing In columnist Tony Mecia
Tony Mecia is a business journalist who writes for a number of trade and general-interest publications. He writes "Cashing In," a weekly column about credit card rewards programs, for

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Question Dear Cashing In,
In February, I was flying back from Cancun to Hartford. Because of bad weather in the Northeast, I got stuck in Atlanta, but my luggage was checked through to Hartford. I eventually made it home by flying through Detroit, which got me home a day earlier than a direct flight from Atlanta. 

A month later, I found out that MasterCard pays $100 for baggage delays. They told me I needed to prove that I had a baggage delay in Atlanta, but I didn't request anything at the time from the ticket agent. It has now been months. I email them about once a week, and they always say they are sending it to their manager for review, but I don't get anything else.

Can you help or direct me to someone who might be able to help? I know it's limited to $100, but I had to buy winter gear in Detroit and since it's part of what they are supposed to pay I don't know why they won't. -- Kevin

Answer Dear Kevin,
Like car-rental insurance and concierge access, insurance against baggage delays is one of those perks that are astonishingly common on credit cards, but few people probably know about. 

As in your case, Kevin, it probably doesn't occur to most people to check with their credit card issuer for money when their bags are delayed. But misplaced bags by airlines are so common that there are probably thousands of people who could file claims for this. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, there were more than 187,000 reports of delayed, lost or damaged luggage on U.S. airlines in July 2015. That works out to roughly one baggage problem for every 310 airline passengers.

In the case of MasterCard, baggage delay insurance used to come standard. However, in 2014, MasterCard dropped that insurance as a basic benefit on its cards. Instead, it chose to embrace identity theft resolution, price protection and extended warranty coverage as its three basic benefits.

However, banks that issue MasterCards are able to add baggage delay coverage if they choose. There's no way to know if your card has that coverage unless you check with MasterCard or your bank.

Typically, luggage delay insurance reimburses you, within limits, for purchase of essential items such as toiletries and clothing when your bags are missing en route to your destination for more than four or six hours.

That sounds as if it might not exactly match your situation, in which you were separated from your bags at several stages (Atlanta, then Detroit) en route to your home. But if you have coverage on your card, it is worth submitting a claim. You were separated from your luggage and had to go buy winter clothes to weather February in Detroit after sitting on the beach in Cancun. That sounds legitimate, assuming you were in Detroit for a while. 

Often, outside companies handle these types of insurance claims. Incidentally, other common features of cards can include coverage against travel accidents, medical evacuation, trip cancellation or interruption, rental car damage and damaged purchases.

You do need to submit as much documentation as possible to substantiate your claim, such as receipts that show what you bought as well as credit card statements that prove that you purchased the plane ticket with the card. You'll probably also need some proof from the airline that it mishandled your bag or delayed your flight. Most airlines have an email address or Web form that allows you to request that documentation. You didn't say what airline you flew, but based on your routing, I'm guessing it's Delta, whose website includes a delay/cancellation verification form.

I contacted MasterCard's media team and passed along the details of your situation and asked how these inquiries are typically processed.

Spokeswoman Beth Kitchener told me: "Insurance claims are handled differently based on who is providing the benefit. In some cases, the insurance is provided by the issuing bank and in some instances the benefit is provided by MasterCard. We cannot help your reader without knowing his card information." 

She said her team would very much like to help you, and she asked for your contact information so that MasterCard could be in touch, see if your card has the insurance coverage and help resolve the problem. With your permission, I passed that information along to her.

I hope you can get this issue cleared up to your satisfaction. Your case is a helpful reminder that cards often come with benefits you don't think about ... until you're stuck somewhere without your luggage.

Editor's note, Oct. 5, 2015: MasterCard says it investigated Kevin's claim and found that his bag was delayed because he accidentally picked up another person's suitcase instead of his own. "Baggage delay [insurance] covers airline errors, not traveler error," a spokeswoman said in an email.

See related: 11 credit card travel insurance benefits, Purchase protection survey 2016: Which cards offer them

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Updated: 09-25-2018