This blog post was updated on July 30, 2021.
When it comes to travel insurance, you’ve probably heard it all — the good, the bad, the ugly — and it’s all probably been headache-inducing. The bad news is, that you’ll always have to do a solid amount of research, reading and reassessment in dealing with any sort of travel insurance. The good news: If you have a credit card that offers travel insurance, it’s going to be a much smoother ride to get to your benefits! Check out the ins and outs of credit card travel insurance and find out if your card has your back.
What’s Travel Insurance and Why Do I Want It?
If you’re unfamiliar with travel insurance, here’s an easy way to understand what it is and why it’s important to have: there are a wide variety of expenses that result from unexpected mishaps to your travel plans. So, when something goes wrong on your trip (ranging from lost luggage to medical emergencies) travel insurance is usually your only hope for any coverage of your costs. Accidents happen, and as much as we hope that you never need it, protecting and preparing yourself for worst-case scenarios is worth it.
How It Works
Credit card travel insurance comes in one of two forms: complimentary or through purchase. It’s important to note that complimentary does not necessarily mean free. Although you won’t pay an upfront charge for any type of insurance policy, the catch here is that you’re paying for this coverage (probably unknowingly) through your yearly/monthly fee. If you don’t pay a fixed fee on your card, you’re most likely only going to be covered for the items that are purchased with the card you’re depending on to cover your costs.
Now that you know how to get credit card travel insurance, here’s a list of things to check for to see if you’re coverage actually has your back (or at least however much of it you actually want to be covered).
Types of Coverage
Hopefully, by now you’ve finished your happy dance and are ready to get down to business. The most important element to any type of credit card-induced travel coverage is to read the fine print. Whether you’re combing through the terms and conditions or you’re more proactive and like to get on the phone, you should always check with your credit card company to see what you’re covered for, before you step foot onto the plane!
Flight to Jamaica – $500
Snorkeling lessons – $150
The relief you felt when you found out that your hospital bill was covered after being stung by a jellyfish: Priceless.
You’re on vacation — isn’t the motto supposed to be “don’t worry, be happy”? The last thing you want is to stress about paying an unexpected (and potentially expensive) medical bill if your health insurance doesn’t cover you while you’re traveling. Thankfully, many credit card companies provide policies that may cover up to $1,500 of healthcare-related expenses you incur during emergencies. While conditions may apply, you can at least rest assured that your snorkeling adventure in the Caribbean won’t leave you bankrupt!
You fall ill the day before your honeymoon… you have to cut your trip short because little Suzie fell off her bike and needs twelve stitches on her head… or your flight got moved to tomorrow night due to a severe snowstorm. It happens. The good news is, that when it does, you might be covered for it! Rebooking, staying an extra night, or losing out on a trip completely can all cost a pretty penny. Some credit card companies reimburse you up to $500 on any food or hotel costs you incur, due to a weather-related flight delay of three or more hours. Even better? There are credit card travel policies out there that will cover the cost of your airfare tickets, for a trip canceled or cut short due to a medical or family emergency (so long as you can provide proof).
A unique feature of credit card travel insurance is that employs some of the same policies for replacement and reimbursement as it does for any bank purchases. You’ll find that you’re usually covered for theft or damage that was done to your goods and belongings while traveling, and these policies are often more generous with replacing your stolen cash!
The Pros and Cons
- Geographic coverage. While travel insurance packages are great in their own right, they often come with limitations to the fortification you will receive based on the location you’re traveling to. Most travel coverage via credit card does not have such restrictions, or at the least have fewer ones.
- Even if you don’t pay a premium or annual fee on your precious metal or jewel card (silver, platinum, diamond, etc), as long as you’ve purchased the trip tickets, car rental, suitcases, and whatever other goods you need for your trip abroad, those purchases are likely covered!
- Forgot to activate your free travel insurance before your international trip? Don’t stress, you might be covered! A lot of credit card travel insurance policies are activated automatically upon your first reported day of travel, or your first purchase in your destination, while others are easily activated online with just a few clicks.
- Free coverage, usually means less coverage. Because the travel insurance you’re receiving through your credit card comes without any upfront costs, you’re likely to be slightly more out of pocket in the case of an emergency.
- Age limits. Unfortunately, if you’re 80 years of age or older, you’re probably not covered. Not only that, (and sorry for being morbid) but if you have to cut your trip short and fly home for a family member’s death or sudden illness who is 80 or older, you’re not covered then either.
- Domestic travel. Most of what is covered by your card is international travel. Although a few policies might cover some domestic flight delays or missed connections, it’s very unlikely that you’ll get any medical, rental, personal or baggage coverage through your credit card.
- Timing is key. While purchased policies may give you up to four weeks of coverage time, in case of a delayed injury, credit card travel insurance ends the minute you set foot back on to your home turf. So, if you suffer an injury while but it doesn’t turn for the worse until your return traveling (i.e. a cut that happens abroad, but gets infected a few days after you return home), you’re probably not going to be able to receive any compensation or coverage for your medical bills.
- Family vacay? Bring a helmet for those beautiful, but injury-prone kids of yours. Many policies may fully cover the cardholders, a.k.a. you and your spouse, but are likely to only partially cover your children or other family members traveling with you.
Have any facts to add to the list? Tell us any fin facts you know about credit card travel insurance below!