Ineligible for delay reimbursement — reader mistake story

Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Zane, who missed an important exclusion for one of his credit card benefits:

My wife and I used Ultimate Rewards points to book a nonstop flight from Orlando to Calgary on WestJet for a trip with her family to Banff. While in the air, there was a burning smell coming from an overhead bin, and we were emergency diverted to Nashville. We waited in the Nashville airport for the mechanics to work on the plane, but they had no luck identifying the problem, so we were stuck overnight.

Due to my great knowledge of our Chase Sapphire Reserve® card (or so I thought), I knew we had trip delay coverage of up to $500 per person because the flight was booked using our card. My wife called and confirmed with Chase that the benefit could be used in our situation, and I was excited to use it. We had WestJet vouchers for a hotel, meals and taxis, but I thought I had a great workaround.

Since we were trying to meet her family the next day and WestJet seemed flaky about getting us there in a timely manner, I decided to book two tickets on Delta for the next morning for $425 each. Those tickets would get us to Calgary around when my wife’s family was scheduled to arrive, and were well under the $500 per person allowance. The flights went smoothly and we had a great time in Banff.

When we returned, I set out to get that money back from the trip delay reimbursement. I reached out to WestJet for documentation and submitted a claim to Chase with receipts, etc., only to find out that while “reasonable expenses” are covered by the benefit, new airfare is not. We were out $850 with only ourselves to blame. While we could have used the benefit on items not covered by our WestJet vouchers, we should have researched whether airfare specifically was covered. Now we know, and we won’t make that mistake again!

Trip delay protection can help you cover costs incurred from a lengthy delay, but as Zane learned, not all expenses are eligible for reimbursement. During delays of at least six hours, the Sapphire Reserve card offers coverage of up to $500 per ticket for purchases like meals and lodging, toiletries, medication, local transportation and other expenses intended for personal use. Anecdotal evidence suggests that items like books or clothing usually qualify even though they aren’t listed. Unfortunately, replacement airline tickets are excluded, along with prepaid expenses and purchases deemed unreasonable — a new sweatshirt should pass muster, but a $300 pair of earrings probably won’t.

Notably, replacement airline tickets are not mentioned in the Sapphire Reserve benefit guide; their exclusion from reimbursement shows up in separate terms and conditions visible only to benefit administrators. The takeaway is that you should consider calling in advance to verify purchases will be covered if they’re not explicitly eligible, especially if the dollar amount is high. In any case, make sure you document your delay by collecting receipts and a statement from your airline (or other common carrier) to support your claim.

Related: What card should I use during a trip delay, interruption or cancellation?

I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. In appreciation for sharing this experience (and for allowing us to post it online), I’m sending Zane a gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own travel mistake stories to [email protected], and put “Reader Mistake Story” in the subject line. Tell us how things went wrong, and (where applicable) how you made them right. Offer any wisdom you gained from the experience, and explain what the rest of us can do to avoid the same pitfalls.

Feel free to also submit your best travel success stories. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. Due to the volume of submissions, we can’t respond to each story individually, but we’ll be in touch if yours is selected. I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!

Featured photo by AzmanL/Getty Images.