If you’re planning to travel via airplane soon, you may want to consider using your Amex card to add an extra level of assurance that you won’t be out big money if your plans change.
American Express recently unveiled a new program, called “Trip Cancel Guard,” that could give all Amex cardholders a substantial amount of financial protection if they have to cancel a booked flight — regardless of the reason for the cancelation.
This program, and others like it, are in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. And money expert Clark Howard terms “a wave of the future” in the credit card and travel industries.
“There was a clear need in the marketplace that became so obvious during COVID,” Clark says. “It came up repeatedly that even people who bought travel insurance weren’t covered for the circumstances that led to them not going because of COVID.”
Amex’s Trip Cancel Guard was the topic of a recent episode of The Clark Howard Podcast. In this article, I’ll walk you through what you need to know about the new perk and give you Clark’s thoughts on using it.
Amex Trip Cancel Guard: What You Need To Know
What Is It?
Trip Cancel Guard is a new American Express credit card benefit that offers cardholders the chance to cancel a flight, for any reason whatsoever, and retain a large portion of their airfare without having to deal directly with the airline.
This protection, which is optional and does include paying an additional fee, can get you up to 75% reimbursement of nonrefundable flight costs as long as you cancel at least two calendar days before the departure date.
You must book your travel through Amex Travel for the flight to be eligible for Trip Cancel Guard.
Note: American Express says Trip Cancel Guard “is not insurance and may be purchased in addition to any other travel insurance.”
How Does It Work?
As mentioned above, you must book your flight through Amex Travel using your qualified American Express card to have the option to add Trip Cancel Guard to your trip.
You opt into it for your flight via Amex Travel on the American Express app or website, and then you’ll have a period of time in which you can activate your plan to recoup money if your travel plans change.
This operates separately from any sort of travel insurance you may have purchased through a third party.
American Express shows below how this works on its website.
When Does Trip Cancel Guard Take Effect?
If you decide to purchase this protection, keep in mind that you don’t need a “valid reason” to cancel the trip. You simply need to follow the instructions for cancellation during the time period in which your protection is in effect.
After purchase, Trip Cancel Guard remains in effect until you:
- Cancel your trip;
- Submit a request for reimbursement on a canceled flight;
- Reach your benefit end date.
American Express notes that this benefit applies only before your trip starts and does not offer coverage anytime after that.
If your flight gets canceled by the airline, you may still have a way to use Trip Cancel Guard. American Express says if you get a travel credit or airline voucher for your canceled trip, “Trip Cancel Guard can provide reimbursement once the credit or voucher has expired or is forfeited by its own terms and conditions.”
How Much Does It Cost?
It’s a percentage of the total cost of your flight. I did some test pricing on the Amex Travel portal, and I consistently came up with an 8% fee for the total cost of the flights that I chose.
For example, a $1,295 trip from Nashville to Maui priced out as a $103.60 charge for Trip Cancel Guard:
So … Who Is This New Amex Travel Perk For?
You may have read the description of Amex’s Trip Cancel Guard and thought, “That sounds a lot like travel insurance.”
I know I did at first glance. But Clark, as usual, provides a unique perspective on how this perk might serve some customers better than a typical airline credit or travel insurance purchase.
Clark says, much like “cancel for any reason” travel insurance, this is better than traditional travel insurance because there is no proof needed that you meet one of the policy’s qualifying conditions to get (at least some of) your money back for a trip you’re not going to take.
But he says American Express is covering a gray area that even “cancel for any reason” travel policies, which he has been recommending for COVID-era travel, are missing.
There are two types of customers Clark believes Travel Cancel Guard could really benefit.
1. The “I Don’t Normally Travel This Airline” Customer
Many airlines have adopted a policy, which Southwest Airlines made popular long ago, that allows customers to cancel or change flight reservations without losing any money.
This works for the airline because it gets to keep your money, and this also works out fine for many customers because they’ll use the credit on a future trip.
The catch here is that you’re trapped into using that airline in order to get any value from the money you’ve spent on the original ticket.
“That has been a hole in the market that American Express realized, Clark says. “What happens if you’re buying a ticket on an airline that you normally wouldn’t fly? Or an airline that services a part of the world that was just a special trip, special event, special purpose you were going for? And then if you couldn’t take the trip, that money basically was gone. Because you had a very little likelihood if ever that you would be rebooking that on that airline.”
Clark says the new Amex perk is a great way to avoid getting stuck with credit with an airline you don’t plan to use in the future.
2. Customer with Deteriorating Health
Clark says travelers who may benefit from the Amex perk are those who are struggling with health-related issues.
“We’ve had that question repeatedly, where somebody has had a medical reversal,” Clark says. “They’re never going to be able to take the trip. And the fact that they get a full credit towards future travel doesn’t help them.”
Clark says being able to activate this Amex perk and wait out the airline’s policy to get up to 75% of the airfare back may be the best option for someone who has a health condition that keeps them from being able to travel in the future.
Is this new Amex travel perk for everyone? No, probably not. Booking travel through a credit card company’s portal isn’t always ideal.
But I think even those who aren’t going to take advantage of the new Trip Cancel Guard perk with Amex can appreciate the fact that a major credit card issuer is taking what appears to be a customer-friendly approach to solving a travel issue that many have encountered in the last couple of years.
Clark says that he expects some other credit card companies may soon implement similar policies for booking travel with their cards on their platforms, meaning we may have more choices for trip protection.
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