When does credit card travel insurance cover award flights?


I recently published a comparison of travel insurance provided automatically by ultra-premium credit cards (Chase Sapphire Reserve, Citi Prestige, and Amex Platinum).  You can find the comparison page here: Ultra-Premium Credit Card Travel Insurance.  In response to my post analyzing this comparison, a number of readers asked me which cards cover award flights?

An image of the chart from my comparison page is shown above.  Please click through to the source page (Ultra-Premium Credit Card Travel Insurance) for up-to date info.  To a large extent, the answer to the question of “which cards cover award flights?” is given above.  Wherever it says “Pay partial” you’re covered if you pay award taxes or fees with the card.  Even better, Amex Platinum offers emergency evacuation and transportation coverage even if you haven’t used the card at all.  You get that benefit simply by having the card.

Note that auto rental insurance always requires paying in full.  Roadside assistance, meanwhile, does not require any payment to be used.

Award Flights: Pay with Points

When you use your Chase, Citi, or Amex points to pay for travel you are fully covered as if you had paid in full directly with your credit card.  In other words, if you pay with Chase Ultimate Rewards points, Citi ThankYou points, or Amex Membership Rewards points, it counts the same as paying directly with your credit card.

Award Flights: Pay with Airline Miles

When you pay for an award flight with airline miles, you almost always have to pay at least a small amount for taxes and/or fees. In those cases, if you pay the taxes and fees with your credit card then you will be covered as long as partial payments are covered.

For example, let’s say you pay the $5.60 TSA fee for a domestic award flight with either your Chase or Citi card and your luggage gets lost.  Both Chase and Citi offer lost luggage protection when you pay in-part with your card.  Therefore, you are fully covered.  With Amex, though, you are only covered if you pay in-full with your card, so you would not be covered if you paid the TSA fee with your Amex card.

Award Flights: Are taxes and fees really part of the Common Carrier fare?

The question of whether paying taxes and fees counts is confused by the language in the credit card policies.  Let’s take a look at Citi and Chase’s wording…


To be eligible for coverage under this benefit, your Citi card and/or ThankYou® Points must be used to purchase at least a portion of the Common Carrier fare.

It’s understandable that people question whether taxes and fees are really part of the Common Carrier fare.  I can’t find an official answer to that question, but in practice it is clear that taxes and fees are part of that fare.  A number of people have successfully filed claims with Citi when they paid only taxes and feesSee this post, for example.  Also see this reader comment.


What is a Common Carrier Covered Trip?
• It’s travel on a Common Carrier (see definitions section) when some portion of the fare for transportation has been charged to your Account issued by Chase Bank USA, N.A. and/or its affiliates.
• It’s also travel on a Common Carrier when free flights have been awarded from frequent flier or Rewards programs, provided that all of the miles or Rewards points were accumulated from a Rewards program sponsored by Chase Bank USA, N.A. and/or its affiliates.

With Chase, you are fully covered if you paid with a rewards program sponsored by Chase.  You are also covered if you pay “some portion of the fare for transportation”.  I believe that taxes and fees count as a portion of the fare.

In summary: yes, taxes & fees count as a portion of the Common Carrier fare.

What if you pay in full with hotel points or airline miles?

Chase is unique among the travel cards in that their coverage often applies even if you pay in full with hotel points or airline miles as long as those points or miles come from a Chase transfer partner.

For an up-to-date list of transfer partners, please see: Chase Transfer Partners.

At the time of this writing, transfer partners include the following airlines:

  • Air France
  • British Airways
  • Korean Air
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Southwest
  • United
  • Virgin Atlantic

And the following hotels:

  • Hyatt
  • IHG
  • Marriott
  • Ritz

Note that trip delay, lost luggage, baggage delay, and travel accident insurance do not apply to hotel bookings since they are forms of transportation insurance and they require paying at least part of the transportation costs with your card or with a transfer partner’s points.  That said, trip cancellation, emergency evacuation, and emergency medical insurance do apply to hotel stays and should be covered if you pay for your hotel stay with Hyatt, IHG, Marriott, or Ritz points.

Are you covered when you pay with miles? A new chart…

The following chart assumes that you use airline miles to book an award trip and that you pay at least a small amount of taxes and/or fees with your card.  Green cells indicate that you are covered but do not indicate the quality of that coverage.  For a comparison of the quality of each coverage, see: Ultra-Premium Credit Card Travel Insurance.

Note that this chart makes the assumption that if partial payments are allowed with a ultra-premium card, they are also allowed with other cards from the same bank.  I think that’s true, but I obviously haven’t checked every card.  In some cases your card may not have the insurance listed here.  For example, only ultra-premium cards cover emergency evacuation and transportation.

Chase Citi Amex
Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver No No No
Roadside Assistance Yes
(No spend required)
(No spend required)
(No spend required)
Trip Cancellation and Interruption Yes Yes*
Trip Delay Yes Yes N/A
Lost Luggage Yes Yes No
Baggage Delay Yes Yes No
Travel Accident Insurance Yes Yes No
Emergency Evacuation and Transportation Yes Yes Yes
(No spend required)
Emergency Medical and Dental Yes N/A N/A

* With Citi’s Trip Cancellation and Interruption insurance, if you don’t pay in full with your card then you are covered only up to the amount charged to your card.  For example, if you pay $5.60 TSA fees for a domestic flight and you have to cancel your trip for a covered reason, you would recover only $5.60.  That said, some have reported success with paying award change or redeposit fees with the card and then using this coverage to reimburse those fees.

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