When I periodically trash the Chase Sapphire Preferred as inferior to the Chase Ink Plus (because of its better bonused earning categories) and the Chase Freedom (because of its better earning and lower annual fee) readers invariably come back at me with the Sapphire Preferred's supposedly superior trip delay and car rental insurance benefits.
What does insurance cover?
With respect to rental car insurance, and any other insurance policy, it's important to understand what the policies do and do not cover. Credit card insurance policies, whether "primary" like the Sapphire Preferred or "secondary" like virtually every other credit card, do not cover personal liability, so if you don't have another car insurance policy you'll need to buy one from the rental car agency anyway, and if you do have another car insurance policy you'll still need to make a claim, thereby "revealing" the accident and subjecting yourself to higher future rates, if your car insurance company works like that.
In other words, the supposed advantage of "primary" rental car insurance applies exclusively to situations where you run into a tree or snowbank or something.
My dad once backed a rental car into a tree. But it's a silly thing to claim is worth paying a $95 annual fee for, let alone foregoing a more lucrative credit card like the Chase Freedom.
As I explained shortly after my Labor Day itinerary was delayed, trip delay insurance doesn't cover the consequences of your delayed flights — it only covers the costs. That's better than nothing, but what it's worth depends on how much value you get out of the coverage. Since my trip delay insurance claim has now been paid, I can finally shed some additional light on that.
Who is covered by Chase Sapphire Preferred trip delay insurance? It's complicated.
Chase Sapphire Preferred trip delay insurance covers the cardholder, the cardholder’s spouse or domestic partner, and dependent children under age 22.
Importantly, authorized users count as cardholders for the purposes of Sapphire Preferred trip delay insurance.
However, coverage eligibility is not transitive.
Consider two almost-identical situations:
- Primary cardholder Alice buys tickets home from college for her dependent son Bob and his domestic partner Carol. Bob and Carol's flight is delayed, requiring an overnight stay. Since Bob is Alice's dependent child, his trip delay is covered. But since Carol is not a cardholder, cardholder's spouse or domestic partner, or a cardholder's dependent child under age 22, Carol's trip delay is not covered.
- Primary cardholder Alice makes Bob an authorized user, and Bob books tickets home from college for himself and his domestic partner Carol. In this case, Bob is a cardholder and Carol is the domestic partner of a cardholder, so both of their trip delays are covered by Sapphire Preferred trip delay insurance.
Like I said, it's complicated.
One possible takeaway is that if you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred card, you can make all your friends and family authorized users and have them pay you back for flights they book with the card. You get the points, they get the trip delay insurance. Whether that's worth doing or not is up to you.
What documents are required for a trip delay insurance claim?
To file a trip delay insurance claim, you need to provide documents verifying 4 broad categories of information:
- Proof of purchase (1). You must prove that you paid for the original ticket with a Chase Sapphire Preferred card. You'll need to upload the receipt for your ticket, showing the ticket was paid for with a Sapphire Preferred card and the credit card statement the purchase originally appeared on.
- Proof of purchase (2). You must also provide receipts for the purchases you're making the trip delay insurance claim against. That means hotel receipts, meal receipts, cab receipts, and receipts for any other covered "reasonable additional expenses incurred for meals, lodging, toiletries, medication, and other personal use items due to the covered delay."
- Proof of eligibility. You must prove that you are either the primary or authorized user on a Sapphire Preferred card.
- Proof of relationship. If you are filing a claim for the itinerary of a passenger who isn't a primary or authorized user on a Sapphire Preferred card, you must prove that person is a covered individual as described above.
What did I submit to get my claim approved?
The best way I can think of to illustrate this process is to list the 11 files I had to upload to get my claim approved (I uploaded all these documents as .pdf files):
- original itinerary. The e-mail from United listing my original flights.
- delayed itinerary. The e-mail from United showing my updated flights after the mechanical delay forced an overnight in Denver.
- credit card receipt. The credit card statement showing the original purchase of the ticket.
- MSO-IAD MSO-DCA boarding passes. The original and reprinted boarding passes from before and after the mechanical delay caused us to be rebooked.
- MSO-supper. The e-mail from Uber showing the amount paid for our car from the airport to the restaurant where we ate dinner.
- supper-MSO. The e-mail from Uber showing the amount paid for the trip back to the airport.
- meals. Scanned images of the credit card receipts for all our meals after the delay was announced.
- hotel receipt. The folio from the Hyatt House Denver Airport where we spent the night.
- united flight delay letter. The letter from United giving the reason for our delay and restating our original itinerary and the flights we ultimately took (see how to request your own flight delay letter here).
- verification of authorized user. A scan of the back of my authorized user card.
- verification of relationship. A lease co-signed by my partner and I.
Where the value is hiding
Now that you've read this post, you know infinitely more about this process than I knew when I went into it. That means it probably won't take you a full month to get your trip delay insurance claim approved. But I want to dig into how much value there is in trip delay insurance, and where it is.
- Meals and booze. When a trip is significantly delayed, airlines will sometimes offer airport funny money that can be used for meals at participating restaurants. Those vouchers exclude alcohol, and are normally in the single-entree range of $5-15. On the other hand, as explained to me, Chase's trip delay insurance provider will cover meals up to $49.99 without an itemized receipt (I've seen mixed reports of whether alcohol was reimbursed on itemized receipts).
- Hotels. Likewise, when itineraries are delayed overnight, airlines will often accommodate customers at contract rates at nearby hotels. Those rates typically don't earn elite-qualifying nights or points. On the other hand, if you book your own hotel room as soon as you find out your flight is delayed, you get to book at the chain of your choice, maximizing the value of any current promotions while earning elite-qualifying stays and nights.
- Miscellaneous expenses. There's no better time to buy toothpaste, a fancy new electric toothbrush, or any other expensive toiletries than during a covered trip delay!
Conclusion: if you are willing to pay for trip delay insurance, you have to be willing to take advantage of it
Each purchased ticket during a trip delay is covered for up to $500 by Sapphire Preferred trip delay insurance. If you're holding onto a Sapphire Preferred card, instead of product changing it to a Freedom or Freedom Unlimited, then when an eligible trip delay occurs you need to be ready to get your money's worth. That means booking hotels, buying toiletries, and eating meals that aren't just expensive, but worthwhile.
In other words, if you use your trip delay insurance claim to eat at the airport Qdoba and stay at the airport Ramada, you're paying $95 per year for what United will give you for free.