A few weeks ago I purchased a flight to see a relative in Miami this weekend. As luck would have it, a Category 5 hurricane is bearing down on Miami, looks like it will hit Friday which is when I would be arriving (leaving Sunday). My relative is thinking of leaving the state.

I didn't buy travel insurance. But I looked up my credit card's (Citi's) built-in coverage, and here's what it covers:

  • Severe weather or natural disaster causes all travel to or from the Covered Traveler’s Trip destination to stop for at least 24 hours.


  • A mandatory evacuation is ordered by a government or public safety agency at the Covered Traveler’s Trip destination.

So if it only wreaks a little bit of havoc, closing airports for 18 hours and pushing my flight into Saturday or Sunday (at which point it would be worthless), and only leads to recommended evacuations, I'm not covered. And if it misses Florida entirely but my relative and I already agreed to cancel the trip as a precaution (so my relative could get out of state), I'm not covered.

But all of this depends on how strictly these things are enforced. In an ideal world in the first scenario I could call them up and say "Look, it was only a weekend trip so when I saw an 18 hour delay I decided to cancel" and they would agree with my decision and refund my flight tickets if the airline didn't.

Or in the second scenario I could just call them up and say "Look, Hurricane Irma was a Category 5 hurricane that looked like it was going to hit my relative's home directly, so they left town, and there wasn't anybody for me to visit" and similarly they'd cut me some slack and a refund.

So my question is: How generous are card companies with their trip cancellation/interruption coverage, i.e. how willing are they to decide close cases in the customer's favor? It's easy to imagine them writing 24 hours in their contracts but granting enough goodwill exceptions that the rule is closer to 18 in practice, but it's also easy to imagine them saying "Nope, technically the airport reopened after 23 hours 45 minutes and you're out of luck." I don't really know which to expect.

EDIT: It may be a moot point for Irma because it's a really bad storm so I'll likely hit the literal thresholds, but it's still an interesting question in general. A follow-up question is whether travel insurance (purchased from Expedia or directly from a broker) is generally better than built-in credit card coverage (though unlike the rest of my question that is straightforward to research).

  • 1
    Note that, if it looks like the storm is going to hit, airlines will start to put out travel waivers in the next few days, which will provide you with some opportunity to reschedule your trip without charges, though there will be certain policies that apply to those changes. – Zach Lipton Sep 5 '17 at 19:09
  • But what's your actual question? – David Richerby Sep 5 '17 at 20:59
  • @DavidRicherby it was stated in the title. But Harper put it better than I did in a comment below, basically it's whether CC companies have "a willingness to decide wobblers [or conditions that nearly meet the requirements but not quite] in your favor." It's easy to imagine companies writing 24 hours but granting enough goodwill exceptions that the rule is closer to 18 in practice, but it's also easy to imagine them saying "nope technically the airport reopened after 23 hours 45 minutes and you're out of luck." I didn't really know which to expect. – Stephen Sep 5 '17 at 21:19
  • @Stephen It's usually helpful to put the question in the body, too. The title's really supposed to be just a summary – David Richerby Sep 5 '17 at 21:35
  • OK - I updated the question to be more explicit. – Stephen Sep 5 '17 at 22:07

For clarity, it's not a matter of 'generosity'. It's whether or not the terms of the coverage apply.

Flights to South Florida airports may stop for 24 hours, maybe not. Irma will not be Cat 5 when it reaches South Florida on Sunday and proximity really matters.

An Evacuation Order is highly likely, like 99.8% for the Florida Keys so you may be be able to claim that as your ultimate destination.

Finally, there is also a high probability that your airline will suspend service and offer refunds making the card coverage moot.

  • You're right, it may not hit until Sunday. But that affects my entire trip because I won't want to fly to Miami on Friday if Irma will hit on Sunday which is when I would be leaving. As for "generous" I meant it in the tertiary sense of the word, per Wiktionary: "Large, more than ample, copious." – Stephen Sep 5 '17 at 18:05
  • And yes, I'm hoping I'd be able to get a refund from the airline - as always, insurance is a product you hope not to need. – Stephen Sep 5 '17 at 18:05
  • 1
    I parsed OP's use of "generous" as a synonym for "broad" or "a willingness to decide wobblers in your favor" – Harper - Reinstate Monica Sep 5 '17 at 18:37
  • @Harper yup that's exactly how I meant it. – Stephen Sep 5 '17 at 19:02

From experience, they are not generous but quite literal. They will not be more generous because its a weekend trip, that is not in the agreement. They strictly follow the agreement in its precise wording.

An insurance company works be collecting fees. In your case, they get them from your credit-card company and when you file a claim, the job of the person who evaluates it is to figure out what rules apply. Should your case fit the coverage exactly, they will compensate you. Otherwise, the insurance company is there to keep as much of the collected fees as possible, so they have no incentive to be more generous or lenient. This is why things are spelled so precisely and with some many clauses.

Me too, I use credit card for their insurance rather than purchasing separately and I can say that I had about a 50% success rate getting coverage. The agreement is actually quite long and you can get it from your credit-card company but it includes much more than the description on the bank website. Baggage delay insurance on the bank website corresponds to many paragraphs explaining what is considered a baggage delay and under what circumstances.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.