Since I got into the "credit card game" around 2018, I (fortunately) have not had to deal with delayed or lost luggage, but it always gave me a peace of mind knowing that if something were to happen, my credit card travel protection benefits would kick in.
In summer of 2020, during my American Airlines flight from Philadelphia to San Francisco, I finally got a chance to test the effectiveness of my credit card travel benefits when AA misplaced our luggages. For more details on how I booked this flight, check out this post.
Before claiming any reimbursements from credit cards, be sure to first ask your carrier (airline) for compensation. In most cases, the credit card coverage will only apply for excess amounts after deducting the airline's own reimbursements. I'll cover my experience in more detail later in the article.
Credit Card Coverage
There are two main travel benefits that will cover you in the case of lost of delayed baggage. Note that this is specific for Chase Sapphire Reserve (which was what I used, review here), but are similar with other travel credit cards:
Baggage Delay Insurance - If your bags are delayed for more than 6 hours, you may be reimbursed for emergency purchase of essential items, up to $100/day for 5 days.
Lost Luggage Reimbursement - If your bags are lost, you and your immediate family members may be reimbursed up to $3000 per person.
You are automatically eligible if your trip was paid (even partially) using an eligible card, including on award flights (in my case where I paid the taxes using my card). Knowing your full benefits before a trip is especially important, since you may not have time to understand your coverage when it actually happens.
When we arrived at SFO, it appeared that my girlfriend and I weren't the only ones missing our bags. Everyone on our flight who had checked bags were missing theirs! My theory is that since it was during the height of the pandemic, moving time-critical cargo was much more valuable for the airline, and not many passengers will ask for reimbursements anyways...but...this is just a theory.
The ridiculous thing was the airline made no announcement at the baggage claim, even after the carousel stopped spinning after over 30 minutes and it was evident no more bags were going to come out.
People started lining up at the baggage claim office to find out more. One by one, it seemed like AA told the passengers that the bags were somehow not loaded, and that they will be delivered on the next available flight. It was a very inefficient process, especially during COVID when we were supposed to minimize contact between people.
When it was finally our turn, they basically told us the same thing as everyone in front (that the bags will be put on the next available flight), and won't arrive until the next day.
This was particularly inconvenient for us, since we were moving to our new apartment in San Francisco, with no furnitures or bedding (or anything really). All our essentials like air mattress, towels, toiletries, etc were all in our 4 checked bags!
I noticed no one asked for any sort of reimbursement, so I decided to ask at the baggage claim counter. Good thing I did! I was immediately given 2 amenity kits that contained essential toiletries, and a form outlining the reimbursement procedure and how to make a claim. I also knew that anything AA did not cover will ultimately be covered by Chase.
Below is a step-by-step process on how to get reimbursed:
(1) Get delayed baggage receipt at the airport baggage claims office
(2) Go buy your necessities, save the receipts!
(3) Within 30 days of delay (AA), submit a reimbursement form to the airline. In my experience, this was a very streamlined process. I received an email and follow-up phone call from the AA agent shortly, who processed my request and sent me a check! Unfortunately, the airline only covered clothing and toiletries. I could have pushed for more, but seeing as Chase will be covering the remainder, I didn't see the need to push it further.
(4) Once I received the final compensation amount from the airline, I was able to get started on the claim with Chase. This is a similar process to how I filed purchase protection and extended warranty claims. Here is a list of what I needed to submit:
- Chase Card Benefit Services EClaims form (available here)
- Flight reservation PDF
- AA delayed baggage receipt
- AA baggage delivery form
- AA final compensation amount
- Receipts and credit card statement
- Description of relationship (if traveling with someone else)
And that was it! I received my payment via direct deposit shortly after!
Although it was unfortunate that our bags arrived a day later, knowing that expenses incurred during the period in between would be covered gave us a peace of mind. Thinking back, it also made our Lyft ride from the airport to our new apartment much easier, since instead of carrying 4 big suitcases ourselves, they were delivered straight to our door the next day!
This experience showed that it is worth it to study up on credit card benefits, especially before a trip. This way, if something were to happen, you will feel much more relaxed knowing what you can fall back on! Just having this benefit alone more than justified the annual fee of the card itself!
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