No one plans a trip expecting something will go wrong. But if it does, your credit card could provide you with some relief. Many credit cards offer one or more forms of travel insurance to protect you on your trip.
Depending on the card and how you book your trip, though, you may run into some limitations or not be covered at all. Before you take your next trip, make sure you understand the different types of credit card travel insurance and how to make sure you get the right coverage.
What Are the Types of Credit Card Travel Insurance?
Travel insurance is commonly offered with credit cards, especially travel rewards cards, but some offer more coverage than others. These are six types of travel protection you may have through one or more of your credit cards.
Rental car collision damage waiver: If you get in an accident while driving a rental car or your rental car is stolen, most credit cards offer some form of protection. To get the coverage, you’ll usually need to pay for the full amount of the rental fee with your credit card and decline the car rental company’s coverage.
Trip cancellation or interruption insurance: If you get sick, an immediate family member dies or severe weather keeps your flight grounded, you may be able to get reimbursed for the cost of your canceled trip. If you have to cut your trip short for similar reasons, trip interruption insurance can kick in, reimbursing you for your remaining prepaid travel costs, as well as any additional costs to get back home.
Trip delay insurance: If your 6 p.m. flight gets canceled and the next available flight isn’t until the next day at noon, trip delay insurance may help cover the cost of meals and your hotel for the night.
Lost or delayed baggage insurance: If your airline loses or damages a checked or carry-on bag, or your checked bags are delayed long enough, your credit card could provide you with some protection. Depending on the card and coverage, you could get reimbursed for your lost or damaged personal belongings, or get coverage for the cost of necessary personal items until your luggage arrives.
Travel accident insurance: If you’re in an accident on a common carrier, such as an airplane, train or cruise ship, your credit card could provide coverage for you and your loved ones. However, this insurance doesn’t cover all types of injuries. Rather, the coverage typically only applies if you die or are dismembered.
Emergency evacuation and transportation insurance: If you or a member of your immediate family gets sick or injured on your trip and you need an emergency medical evacuation, some credit cards may cover the cost of your transportation and medical services.
What to Know About Credit Card Travel Insurance Before Your Trip
It’s nice to know you’re protected in case of the unexpected. But credit card travel insurance isn’t always straightforward, so you should understand the limitations of your coverage if something goes wrong. These are a few things to consider before you rely on your credit card’s coverage.
With some protections, coverage is secondary. This means that if you buy a travel insurance policy or have an auto insurance policy, your credit card travel insurance will only cover what your other policy doesn’t.
“The credit card [insurance] won’t even kick in unless you have to pay a deductible or something is not covered by the private insurance,” says Sukhjot Basi, co-founder and CEO of Bank Yogi, an app that helps credit card holders maximize their cards’ benefits.
There are some exceptions. For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve and United Explorer Card provide primary rental car insurance. You can purchase primary auto rental coverage through American Express for a flat fee per rental period instead of a daily rate.
You need to use your credit card to purchase the trip. Just having a credit card with travel insurance won’t be enough. You typically need to either charge some or all of the trip costs to the credit card that offers the coverage or use rewards you’ve earned with the card.
You may not get enough coverage. Credit cards offer varying coverage limits for their travel insurance. Depending on the card, you may still be on the hook for some of the loss. For example, the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard offers up to $5,000 per trip with its trip cancellation insurance. The Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard offers $1,500 per trip for the same coverage.
You may run into some limitations. Every insurance policy has limitations or exclusions that could keep you from getting the coverage you need. Credit card rental car insurance, for example, may not cover personal liability. There may be some limitations based on where you’re traveling and the type of car you choose. And if you’re thinking about requesting trip cancellation coverage because your dog died, it’s probably not going to happen.
How to Find Out What Your Credit Card Offers
Most people don’t apply for a credit card for its travel insurance benefits, instead prioritizing rewards, sign-up bonuses and other perks. So you’re likely not alone if you don’t know what travel protections your card does and doesn’t provide.
“People probably don’t know what they’re getting until they apply and get the card,” says Basi. “And even then, a lot of the people don’t know what exactly they have with their credit card.”
You’ll want to know what your credit card does and doesn’t cover, though, before it’s too late.
“You should have received a guide to benefits when you first were approved for a credit card,” says Patti Geroulis, credit card rewards expert and writer at The Travel Sisters advice website. “You can also find this information online on the bank’s website. If you can’t find a summary of your benefits, call your credit card company and request a copy.”
If you’re shopping around for a new credit card, you’ll typically find basic information about a card’s travel insurance on the card details page. If you want more information, don’t hesitate to reach out to the issuer.
Should You Switch Cards to Get Better Insurance Coverage?
Not all credit cards offer every type of travel insurance, and some have better coverage amounts than others. If you travel frequently, it may be worth looking at credit cards that offer better travel insurance. Consider the other features of each card, including its rewards program, sign-up bonus, fees and interest rates so you can get a credit card that provides the best value overall, not just a card that has great travel insurance. However, it could make sense to get a credit card specifically for its travel insurance if you need the coverage.
When Should You Buy a Separate Travel Insurance Policy?
If you’re thinking about relying on your credit card’s travel insurance coverage, read the fine print well in advance of your trip. Depending on your card’s coverage or your travel plans, you may want to add a travel insurance policy.
Your card doesn’t offer coverage. While many credit cards offer auto rental insurance, other protections are less common. If you find that your card doesn’t offer a type of travel insurance that you want, you’ll gain more peace of mind by buying a separate policy.
“It can be worth it to buy travel insurance for medical expenses and emergency evacuation expenses when traveling internationally,” says Geroulis. “Most credit cards do not cover medical expenses or emergency evacuation expenses incurred abroad, and they are usually not covered by your regular health insurance.”
The cost without coverage, says Geroulis, could be catastrophic to your finances.
Your card’s coverage is limited. Some credit cards don’t offer a high coverage amount, and some have so many limitations and exclusions that it can be hard to file a claim. If your travel plans specifically disqualify or limit you from getting value out of your credit card’s protection, you’ll be better off getting a policy that will cover you with certainty.
But while it’s nice to be covered on every front, avoid going overboard. The chances of any of these losses occurring may be small, which means that you’ll likely never end up filing a claim. If you can afford to cover the costs of delayed baggage out of pocket or you already have a general accidental death and dismemberment policy, you may be better off sticking with your credit card’s insurance benefits.
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