UPDATE June 2019: Effective September 22, 2019, Citi cards will no longer provide Trip Cancellation and Interruption coverage. Please consider purchasing travel insurance to protect you from situations like ours!
Travelers beware! If you opened a Chase Sapphire®† card because of the advertised travel benefits, keep reading. Despite being routinely crowned the best credit card for travelers, Chase®† travel insurance fails miserably. Relying on this card in a travel emergency–like a terrorist attack or natural disaster–can leave you stranded or cost you thousands.
Travelers Choose Chase Sapphire Card for Travel Insurance
Many travelers who don’t need all of the components offered by a comprehensive travel policy are relying on the travel insurance provided by their credit cards to avoid coverage redundancies. Makes sense, right? Why pay for additional coverage that you already have? After being bombarded by propaganda declaring the Chase Sapphire card as the best card for travelers, I opened one.
I even reviewed the Guide to Benefits. I checked for sufficient coverage limits, covered reasons, and exclusions. Nothing unusual was mentioned. Unfortunately, it’s the stuff Chase doesn’t mention that is the problem.
Keep reading and I’ll tell you what Chase and its travel partners won’t…even if you ask in the middle of travel crisis.‡
Imagine for a moment that you are traveling with your family halfway around the world.
For months, you have planned every detail of your dream trip–maybe it’s an African safari, a Galapagos adventure, or exploring the beaches and temples of Thailand. Just as you’re about to board your flight, every TV monitor in the airport goes to the same breaking story:
A series of violent attacks is unfolding in your connecting city.
Bombs are exploding around the city and the airport. Streaming news footage shows travelers huddled and praying under desks and chairs in the exact airport that the flight you are boarding is heading.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have to imagine it. We lived it.
What would you do? Would you cancel your vacation entirely? Or would you reschedule your flights to avoid the connecting city?
A travel crisis like this highlights the importance of understanding the difference between Trip Cancellation coverage and Trip Interruption coverage and ensuring you have adequate coverage for both.
What’s the Difference between Trip Cancellation and Trip Interruption?
Many travelers use the terms “Trip Cancellation” and “Trip Interruption” interchangeably, as if they are the same thing. They are not. And the differences are critical.
Trip Cancellation means that something happens (usually before your trip begins) and you need to cancel your trip. The covered reasons vary from policy to policy, but Cancellation means you won’t be using your lodging, transportation, tours, etc., and are seeking a refund for those prepaid expenses.
Trip Interruption means that something happens during your trip that disrupts your plans. Trip Interruptions may include unexpected events like terrorist attacks, injury during the trip, death of a family member, natural disasters, etc. Because these are interruptions that occur during the trip, Trip Interruption Coverage typically includes both Cancellation for the unused lodging/tours/transportation PLUS the Additional Expenses that are incurred due to the Interruption.
Examples of Trip Cancellation vs. Trip Interruption
For instance, if you are on a cruise and a family member passes away unexpectedly, you are faced with trying to find a last minute flight back home from a different airport than planned. Trip Cancellation may reimburse you for the unused cruise/lodging/tour part of your trip but it won’t cover your last minute flight home. That is what Trip Interruption is for.
Or if you are vacationing in Bali when a volcano erupts and you must evacuate, Trip Cancellation may cover your unused lodging/tours, but it will not cover the additional expenses to evacuate. That is where Trip Interruption comes in.
Or, like in our case, just before boarding your flight to South Africa, a violent uprising breaks out in Istanbul (your connecting city) and the airport is under attack. In this situation you would have two options: 1) Cancel your trip and utilize the Trip Cancellation benefits to get refunded for your entire trip, or 2) utilize the Trip Interruption benefits to book alternate flights to Africa and not cancel the entire trip.
Which option would you choose?
Although this shouldn’t be a trick question, it IS if you have the Chase Sapphire or Chase Marriott®† card.
What Chase Won’t Tell You about Their Travel “Benefits”…Even if You Ask
Despite four separate phone calls–totaling more than 45 minutes in length–to Chase and its travel benefits partners on the day of the attacks in Istanbul, not one representative disclosed that their Trip Interruption “benefits” do not include alternate transportation…
Even when I specifically asked.
Instead of disclosing that they don’t actually provide the industry standard Trip Interruption coverage, Chase’s representatives informed me that we had $5,000-10,000 in Trip Interruption benefitsˆ and to book our alternate flights to Africa and then file for reimbursement.
I placed six phone calls over a three day period to Chase and its partners. Phone calls in which I sought benefits information and claims assistance. Despite my asking about additional transportation expenses, and then informing them when I had booked alternate flights to Africa at an additional expense of over $5,000, they still failed to disclose that those expenses were an unwritten exclusion in the policy and would be denied. After Chase’s representatives implied that our alternate flights to South Africa would be covered, we chose to not cancel our trip.
However, during my conversations with Chase’s partners, they were sure to add a disclaimer stating that only a “licensed adjuster” could interpret benefits. Yet I was never given the opportunity to actually speak to a licensed adjuster.
It was a brilliant strategy on their part.
It reminded me of the super-fast, high-pitched legal disclaimer that you hear at the end of attorneys’ commercials. By using this tactic, Chase and its partners avoid having to give actual critical policy information to travelers in their moment of crisis.
In our experience, no matter what Chase’s representatives say, imply, or fail to disclose, as long as they add the CYA statement about the licensed adjuster, they take no responsibility for the consequences.
Chase Travel Insurance Partners
Chase partners with Allianz®† Global Services (AKA “Visa Card Benefit Services”), Broadspire®†, and Chubb®†/Federal Insurance Co. to underwrite and administer its travel claims. All are well known companies within the insurance world. Allianz and Broadspire are also members of the U.S. Travel Insurance Association, whose code of ethics requires them to “Present its products, benefits, conditions, exclusions and prices clearly and accurately” and “Conduct business in good faith, according to the highest standards of honesty and fairness.”
Why does this matter?
Chase’s Trip Interruption coverage excludes the single major component of Trip Interruption coverage–Additional Transportation Expenses–yet they did not disclose it verbally or in writing.
So how exactly is a traveler supposed to know this in the middle of a travel emergency?
Why is Additional/Alternate Transportation So Important in Trip Interruption Coverage?
It is the unexpected transportation expenses that can cause a financial wreck due to a trip interruption. Having to book last minute flights to anywhere can cost a small fortune. This is why Alternate Transportation/Additional Transportation Expense is the cornerstone benefit in Trip Interruption coverage.
Benefits for alternate transportation are as essential to Trip Interruption coverage as brakes are to a rental car.
A review of 38 comprehensive travel policies on InsureMyTrip.com*, confirms that every single one provides for the Additional Transportation costs associated with a trip interruption.
Every. Single. One.
Maybe you’re thinking, “But those are paid policies, of course they are going to cover stuff that a free credit card perk policy wouldn’t.”
Wrong. Even the Citi®† AAdvantage®† card provides for “additional fares or tickets needed to rejoin a trip that has been interrupted.”§
In fact, over the past 18 months, I have reviewed over 40 different travel policies, both free ones provided by credit cards and independently purchased policies. Of those, only Chase’s does not include Additional Transportation Expenses.
Trip Interruption Coverage without Alternate Transportation is Like Renting a Car without Brakes
Trip Interruption coverage with an unwritten exclusion of alternate transportation is akin to a rental car company “forgetting” to disclose to you that the car you just rented doesn’t have brakes.
You’re renting a car from a major rental car company, and while you’re checking out you ask, “Hey this car has brakes, right?”
And the rental agent responds, “Of course it does!”
And just as you’re leaving the lobby she quickly adds, “Only a licensed mechanic can actually tell you if it has brakes.”
You wouldn’t think much of it would you? I mean really? What company would rent a car without brakes? And even if they did, wouldn’t they have a duty to disclose it? Especially when asked?!
And then when you crash and get badly injured while driving the car without brakes, the rental car company’s response to your medical bills payment request is:
“We TOLD you only a licensed mechanic would know if the car had brakes. It’s YOUR fault for driving the car.”
That’s the kind of conversation and travel coverage you can expect if you have Chase travel insurance.
Why Does Accurate Benefits Information in the Moment of Crisis Matter?
Sadly, Chase’s non-disclosure cost us nearly $6,000 in additional expenses. If Chase and partners had disclosed that they do not provide the industry standard benefit of Additional Transportation Expenses, we would have chosen to cancel our trip and file a Trip Cancellation claim. That would have cost them significantly more than $6,000.
Is it just me, or do you smell a rat too?
By implying, but not confirming, that alternate flights would be covered, Chase and partners were able to deny our Trip Interruption claim and avoid a very expensive Trip Cancellation claim.
Innocent omission? Or intentional misrepresentation? Either way–it stinks.
What Should You Do if You Have a Chase Card for Travel Insurance?
- You can do what we did: cancel all Chase accounts and use the old cards for target practice.
- If you still want to use your Chase card for travel, consider purchasing a separate comprehensive policy that will actually cover you if things go wrong. I like InsureMyTrip.com* and World Nomads.*
Use a credit card such as the Citi AAdvantage card to cover Trip Cancellation and Trip Interruption; and b) get a MedJet membership* to cover medical evacuations on an annual basis. Finally, if you are leaving the country, c) consider a travel Medical policy* to cover any hospital expenses if you get sick abroad.
- Be sure to thoroughly read the terms and conditions to make sure that the policy has all of the coverage that is right for you. Do NOT rely on fancy marketing propaganda or website recommendations.
Travelers Deserve Accurate Travel Insurance Information During a Crisis
After more than a year of challenging Chase and partners’ handling of our travel crisis, they have made it clear that they believe it was handled appropriately.
Call me crazy, but I don’t think it is unreasonable for a traveler to expect to be given the critical benefits information required to make an informed decision in the middle of a travel crisis. Do you?
Before you book your next trip with your Chase card, ask yourself this:
If Chase and its travel insurance partners will not provide critical policy information when bombs are exploding at your destination, do you think there is any situation in which they would?
If you’ve had a similar experience with Chase travel insurance, we’d love to hear about it! Please scroll to the very bottom of the page to comment.