…or why you should read the terms and conditions of your credit cards.
I love credit cards. One reason why I love credit cards is because they often come with tons of benefits that most people don’t know about.
On my way back to SFO from a recent trip to Austin, my flight was delayed due to weather at SFO (i.e. there were clouds, so planes couldn’t land). Since it was the last flight out, they kept on delaying the flight, until they eventually canceled it altogether and rebooked passengers on flights the next day. Unfortunately, this meant that I had to overnight in Austin.
Since weather was the cause of the delay and subsequent cancellation, the airline didn’t offer any sort of amenities to the passengers; the most they could offer was a number to call that would get me a distressed traveler rate at a nearby hotel. But luckily, I had booked my airline tickets with my Discover card, and, lo and behold, my Discover card offers trip delay insurance.
For Discover’s trip delay insurance to apply, your flight needs to be delayed for at least 6 hours before being cancelled. If it does, they’ll reimburse you for up to $150 per day for lodging and meals for up to 3 days. This meant that my hotel room that night and breakfast at the airport the next morning were completely reimbursed by Discover. Once I got back to SF, I faxed in some paperwork, and a check arrived a couple of weeks later. Awesome!
Other little known travel benefits to credit cards include trip cancellation insurance (they’ll reimburse you if you have to cancel your trip for covered reasons), lost or damaged luggage insurance (you get paid for whatever your airline doesn’t pay for if they lose or damage your luggage), and baggage delay insurance (like trip delay insurance; you’ll be reimbursed some amount per day for certain expenses if your bags are delayed more than a certain amount of time). Together, these benefits can mean that buying travel insurance isn’t necessary since your credit card will cover the same things (similar to how it often makes sense to decline purchasing additional insurance when renting a car).
Not all credit cards have all of these benefits, and sometimes the benefits might not apply as you would expect (e.g. Discover’s trip delay insurance doesn’t apply if your flight is cancelled within 6 hours), so I would advise you take some time to read the terms and conditions of your credit cards. It might save you some money and provide some peace of mind the next time your trip gets derailed.
Have you ever used a little-known benefit of your credit card? What was your experience?