With the frustrating news that Citi has dropped travel protections across all its cards — even on its flagship Citi Prestige, Chase was left as THE option for booking flights if you wanted travel protections. Apparently, as reported by The Points Guy, American Express has decided it actually wants to compete for your business just a little and will be adding travel protections as of January 1, 2020.

Of course, this is Amex so there’s a catch. We’ll get to that later but let’s take a look at these new travel perks first.

Amex Cards With The Best Travel Benefits

Similar to the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, you can get $500 for reasonable expenses if you’re flight is delayed more than 6 hours — think meals, lodging, taxis, Lyft, Uber and some personal items. If you have any of 4 personal cards or 2 small business cards, you’ll be eligible for trip delay coverage. At this time, it seems that you must book a round-trip ticket to be eligible for coverage (more on that later). Here are the cards offering this perk:

  • The Platinum Card® from American Express
  • The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
  • Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card (Rates & Fees)
  • Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card (Rates & Fees)
  • Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card
  • Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card

Check out how our very own Caroline Lupini has been able to cover expenses with trip delay coverage.

Additionally, you’ll be eligible for trip cancellation/interruption coverage if you pay for a round-trip ticket with one of these cards and face one of these unfortunate circumstances:

  • Illness
  • Injury
  • Jury duty
  • Terrorist acts
  • Weather

You can get up to $10,000 in non-refundable expenses covered on a single trip. You’re limited to $20,000 in coverage per 12 months. Hopefully, you’ll never need to use this benefit. I seriously hope you never push that 12-month coverage limit. That would just be too much for one person in a year.

Other Amex Cards With Trip Delay Coverage

Alternatively, you can get $300 in coverage for expenses if you face a delay of 12+ hours if you have any of 3 personal cards and 2 business cards:

  • American Express Gold Card
  • American Express Business Gold Card
  • American Express Green Card
  • Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card (Rates & Fees)
  • Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card (Rates & Fees)

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers $500 in coverage for delays of over 12 hours, so this isn’t too exciting if you ask me. However, if you don’t have the Sapphire Preferred or another card with better coverage, at least you can get something!

What About Award Tickets and Amex Travel Bookings?

If you book an award ticket and simply pay the taxes/fees, you’ll be covered. If you book through Amex Travel, you’re also covered whether you book a cash ticket or you Pay With Points. The latter could be particularly useful if you have the Amex Business Platinum and find a good biz class fare deal (or economy on your preselected airline) as you can get a 35% rebate when you Pay With Points.

Amex Being Amex: Round-Trip Booking Required

if there’s one thing American Express likes to do with card benefits, it’s making perks annoyingly difficult to use. Think about the airline fee credits that come with the Amex Platinum cards. You get $200 per calendar year but it’s restricted to one preselected airline and it only covers some types of incidental fees such as checked bags.

Well, Ames is at it again with this one. You will only be covered if you book a round-trip ticket. That could be a simple round-trip from point A to point B and back to point A. You’ll also be eligible for coverage if you include a stopover and/or open jaw — points A to point B to point C to point A.

What does that look like in practice? Here’s an example:

Let’s say I book a trip with United miles and use the Excursionist Perk. I could fly from my home airport of Washington Dulles (IAD) to Vienna (VIE) on Austrian Airlines, spend a few days. then fly SWISS to Zurich (ZRH) for a few days. From there, I could take a train to Munich (this is the open jaw) and after a few days return to Washington Dulles on Lufthansa.

This trip would be eligible for coverage.

Unfortunately, one-way award tickets and one-way cash tickets are not covered by Amex’s new travel protections. I guess that would have been just a little too easy for people to understand.

Amex Platinum vs Chase Sapphire Reserve®

If you regularly book one-way flights, not much is changing for you. The Chase Sapphire Reserve® will continue to be the best choice to earn 3X Ultimate Rewards points while ensuring you are covered by trip delay insurance and interruption/cancellation insurance. If you book a lot of round-trip cash fares or award tickets, the Amex Platinum earning 5X Membership Rewards points is tough to beat when paired with travel protections.

The mid-tier trip delay coverage on the Amex Gold cards (etc.) is pretty blah. It’s better than nothing, but $300 is only 60% of the $500 in coverage the Chase Sapphire Preferred offers.

Personally, I’ll probably move round-trip flights to my Amex Platinum but I book a lot of one-way tickets — especially award tickets — and that means the Chase Sapphire Reserve® will be getting a lot of use (RIP Citi Prestige).

Final Thoughts

It’s great to see Amex at least try to compete with Chase a little bit. While Citi basically handed business to Chase when it gutted its travel protections, we at least have a choice now. What remains to be seen is how smooth the filing and reimbursement process is with Amex.

I just wish Amex would start to understand that to compete with Chase, it needs to make its benefits easier to use. All of the hurdle it throws in the way just make customers feel like Amex is trying to offer benefits in name only and really hope we don’t use them.

Don’t get me wrong, this is an improvement from Amex. They just could have done a lot better with it. If Amex decides to cover one-way tickets, that would really be a game-changer. They have plenty of time to make that change before the new benefit kicks in January 1, 2020 but I won’t hold my breath.

Will this change how you book flights as of January 1, 2020?