Credit Card Travel Insurance: Everything You Need to Know (Plus 3 Best Cards)
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Travel credit cards often provide several types of travel insurance, covering trip delays, baggage loss, emergencies, and more. Premium cards usually have the best perks, but you may find solid protections on cards with low or no annual fees, too.
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Last year, I was stuck at the Greenville airport for eight hours. My flight was delayed and delayed some more… and then canceled.
Since the airport didn’t have any Priority Pass partners at the time, my only option was to hang out in the airport and wait. Luckily I’d paid for the flights with my Chase Sapphire Reserve® (Review) card, which comes with trip delay reimbursement.
So, instead of trying to save money by subsisting on Cheez-Its and nut mixes from Hudson News, my partner and I had a nice meal at the Wolfgang Puck restaurant knowing Chase would cover the cost.
While many travel rewards cards come with some form of travel insurance, the type and level of coverage varies greatly. If you’ve been wondering: “Does my credit card give me travel insurance?” — then keep reading. We’ll reveal everything you need to know about credit card travel insurance, plus your three best options for staying covered.
Wondering if you can cancel your travel plans due to COVID-19? See what Amex, Chase, Citi, and others told Business Insider about their travel insurance policies.
What Is Credit Card Travel Insurance?
Travel insurance is an umbrella term for several different types of coverage. Whereas some cards offer across-the-board protections, others only cover a limited set of scenarios.
Here are the different types of credit card travel insurance coverage you might encounter:
- Trip delay: This is what I used on that ill-fated day in GSP. It covers food, transportation, and toiletries when your trip is delayed by several hours (usually at least six or eight).
- Trip cancellation or interruption: Trip cancellation insurance covers the cost of canceling travel arrangements before you leave; trip interruption insurance covers it if you need to come home during your travels. It usually reimburses non-refundable travel expenses like airfare, hotels, and activities, in case of illness, injury, severe weather, or natural disaster, and sometimes jury duty or terrorism. Pre-existing conditions are normally excluded.
- Baggage delay or loss: Travel long enough, and the airline will inevitably lose your bags. This pays out a certain amount each day your bags are lost — to cover clothing and toiletries — plus a lump sum if your lost luggage is never recovered. You must usually make a claim with the airline before the card issuer will step in.
- Emergency medical and dental: If you break a leg or catch a fever while you’re abroad, this will cover your expenses. Since this coverage is secondary, you’ll need to file a claim with your regular health insurance first.
- Emergency evacuation: If you get sick in a remote location, this will pay for your transportation to the nearest medical facility. Again, pre-existing conditions may preclude you from coverage.
- Travel accident insurance: Kind of like life insurance, this will pay you (or your beneficiary) if accidental death or dismemberment occurs while traveling.
To be eligible for credit card travel insurance, you must pay at least a portion of the trip’s expenses with your credit card. Some cards require you to pay for the entire trip with it; others, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve® (Review), will cover you even if you book the trip with points or miles and pay the fees with the card.
Credit cards usually limit their coverage to “common carriers”: public transportation companies like American Airlines or Amtrak. If you’re flying in your private jet, in other words, you’re on your own.
In many cases, credit card travel insurance covers your loved ones, too. With the Reserve, for example, immediate family members will receive coverage — even if you’re not traveling with them — as long as you paid for the trip with your travel card.
Many travel credit cards also come with rental car insurance and roadside assistance. When comparing car rental insurance policies, prioritize cards that offer “primary” coverage, which means you can file a claim without alerting your regular car insurance company. Here’s a list of our favorite credit cards with car rental insurance.
Is Credit Card Travel Insurance Good Enough?
There’s no straightforward answer to this question. It depends, of course, on A) the coverage offered by the credit card, and B) your personal needs and preferences.
Here’s what to ask yourself when determining whether you should buy an additional travel insurance policy to supplement your credit card.
- How much did the trip cost? If your all-inclusive luxury cruise for you, your kids, and all of your grandchildren cost $20,000, then an additional plan is probably a good idea. Most credit cards cover a maximum of $10,000–$15,000 for trip cancellation or interruption.
- Do you have health insurance? Are you traveling overseas? Only a few credit cards cover emergency medical costs. And while most health insurance plans will cover some emergency costs abroad, you’ll need to pay out of pocket and then get reimbursed. Credit cards don’t cover pre-existing conditions; if you have those, you should look into travel insurance with a pre-existing condition waiver. In short, if you’re going abroad without a domestic health insurance plan, or with reoccurring health issues, supplemental insurance is a good idea.
- Will you be engaging in “hazardous sports”? Many credit card travel insurance plans won’t pay for your medical needs if it turns out your travel plans include snowboarding or scuba diving. If a similarly “hazardous” activity is part of your itinerary, you should seek out a plan that specifically covers it.
- How fickle are you? If you change your mind and decide you’d rather go to India than Italy, your credit card’s travel insurance probably isn’t going to cover the costs of canceling your Italian vacation. But a “cancel for any reason” travel insurance plan might.
Personally, I use Squaremouth to purchase travel insurance for international trips. Although the Reserve is one of the few cards to cover medical emergencies, it only does so up to $2,500 — and since I currently don’t have United States health insurance (and like to do “hazardous” stuff), I wanted more coverage than that. It’s affordable, too: Earlier this year, I paid $304 for an 11-month policy that covers up to $50,000 in secondary emergency medical insurance and $25,000 for reoccurrences of pre-existing conditions.
Which Credit Card Issuers Offer Travel Insurance?
Credit card travel insurance varies greatly depending on the card and issuer. As you’ll see below, certain credit card companies offer better coverage than others.
Since the specifics of credit card travel insurance are always changing (and since it’s usually not as heavily advertised as flashier perks), we recommend checking your coverage by searching for your card benefits guide or calling your card issuer. Whether you’re thinking about applying for a new card or wondering what your current card offers, that will quickly get you the most accurate information.
In my opinion, Chase credit card travel insurance is the cream of the crop. Many of its cards offer an array of travel protections, including trip delay, cancellation, and interruption insurance; baggage delay and loss; and even emergency medical and dental.
It also has a generous definition of “immediate family” that includes “your spouse or domestic partner and their children, including adopted children or step-children; legal guardians or wards; siblings or siblings-in-law; parents or parents-in-law; grandparents or grandchildren; aunts or uncles; nieces or nephews.”
Although Citi used to offer some of the best travel perks around, the issuer has eliminated many of its benefits. Even the Citi Prestige® Card (Review), its premium offering, no longer comes with travel delay or baggage protections. Costco credit card travel insurance, on the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi (Review), has been discontinued, as well.
What about Visa credit card travel insurance? And Mastercard? Though Visa and Mastercard are networks, and not issuers, they do offer their own travel insurance benefits. But it’s up to your card issuer to decide whether any particular one will come with your card. As Visa states on its site, “Your Visa Signature card may come with the following benefits – please check with your issuer to see if your card is covered.” Translation? Prioritize the card and issuer — rather than the network — when making your selection.
See American Express’ latest updates on its travel insurance policies regarding the spread of COVID-19.
For the luxurious lifestyle it espouses, American Express credit card travel insurance is surprisingly lackluster.
If your card has it, you’ll get baggage delay or loss and travel accident insurance. To be eligible for coverage, you must have paid for the entire fare with your Amex credit card.
If you want trip cancellation or delay insurance, you’ll need to purchase a separate policy — Amex’s site quoted me between $118 and $340 for a weeklong, two-person trip that cost $4,000.
Bank of America
While Bank of America credit card travel insurance doesn’t come standard with all its cards, you will find decent coverage on the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Credit Card (Review). It covers trip delays, cancellation, and interruption; delayed and lost baggage; travel accidents; and even emergency evacuation.
Though Discover used to offer $50,000 of “flight accident insurance” for death on a common carrier, it phased out this benefit (and several others) in 2018. We would not recommend any Discover cards for travel insurance.
Capital One offers basic credit card travel insurance through Visa and Mastercard. Which means that, while you’ll get travel accident coverage, you won’t see luggage protections until you reach the Visa Signature or World Mastercard levels. (Here’s where you can access the different benefits guides.)
One bonus? Capital One doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees on its cards, making it a good issuer for international travel.
Like Capital One, U.S. Bank extends Visa’s travel insurance to its customers with Visa cards. So with the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite® Card (Review), for example, you’ll get trip delay/cancellation/interruption and emergency evacuation coverage, among quite a few others.
You can check the benefits for all U.S. Bank cards on its site.
No matter which card you have, report your travel incidents as quickly as possible. You often only have a short window (think: 20–30 days following the occurrence) in which you can file a claim. For information on how to make a claim, check your card’s Guide to Benefits, Google your card’s name plus “benefits guide,” or call the number on the back of your card. You’ll usually begin the process by filling out an online form. Here are some websites that might help for Visa, Mastercard, and Amex.
3 Best Credit Cards for Travel Insurance
When it comes to the best credit cards for travel insurance, Chase rules the roost. That means you’ll need to watch out for Chase’s “5/24 rule,” which states that, if you’ve opened five consumer cards in the past 24 months, Chase will usually deny your credit card application.
The solution? Wait until you’re out of that period, or consider a different issuer for your travel insurance needs. Though not as comprehensive as the Chase options, the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Credit Card offers good coverage for a $95 annual fee. U.S. Bank has several alternatives, too.
|Best For||Card Name|
|Overall||Chase Sapphire Reserve® (Review)|
|Low annual fee||Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (Review)|
|Business travelers||Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card (Review)|
If you’re looking for a card primarily for credit card travel insurance, then the Chase Sapphire Reserve card is your best bet. This card is so good, in fact, that I’ve abandoned all my other travel rewards credit cards.
It features high limits for its various trip delay and cancellation policies, and unlike almost every other card, it covers emergency medical/dental and evacuation. (The U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite® Card and The Platinum Card® from American Express also offer emergency evacuation coverage. But, while the Platinum has no cap on evacuation expenses, the only other coverage it offers is lost baggage insurance.)
The Reserve also comes with 3X Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on travel (after the full travel credit is used) and dining, and a $300 annual travel credit to offset its high annual fee.
|Type of Travel Insurance||What’s Covered||Who’s Covered|
|Trip cancellation or interruption||
|Emergency medical and dental||
- $300 annual travel credit: You’ll get a $300 travel credit every year that will be automatically applied to any travel-related expenses you charge to your card.
- Priority Pass Select membership: Cardholders get complimentary Priority Pass Select membership, which provides access to over 1,000 airport lounges and restaurants worldwide. You must manually activate this benefit, and you’ll receive a Priority Pass Select member card in the mail.
- Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit: Every four years you’ll get up to a $100 credit towards the application fee for either Global Entry ($100) or TSA PreCheck ($85).
- Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection: The Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection provides some complimentary services and benefits at participating hotels and resorts.
- Elite hotel benefits at Relais & Châteaux: Cardholders get accelerated progress towards Club 5C member status with Relais & Châteaux luxury hotel and resort properties; just stay two nights at qualifying properties in a 12-month period. Club 5C status provides benefits like a VIP welcome, room upgrades, access to a unique experience at each property, and invitations to exclusive events. You must book using the Visa Infinite Concierge.
- $120 Peloton credit: Enroll to get up to $120 back for an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership (through 2021). No fitness equipment is required.
- Visa Infinite Concierge: Call 1-877-660-0905 for non-emergency help of all kinds, like making dinner reservations or finding good tickets to a show. You can also ask for travel recommendations, for flights, tourist attractions, the best shopping spots, restaurants, night clubs, etc. This benefit is probably most useful when visiting a new city.
- Special car rental privileges: You can access your special car rental privileges by logging in to Chase Ultimate Rewards and following the instructions to enroll. You’ll get perks at Avis, Silvercar, and National Car Rental like rental upgrades, discounts, and occasional promotional offers.
- Lyft Pink membership: One-year exclusive saving opportunities with Lyft Pink membership, providing 15% off rides, relaxed cancellation fees, priority dispatch at airports, and more
- DoorDash membership, $60 annual DoorDash credit: Chase will pay for a DoorDash subscription for two years (a DashPass). You’ll also get $60 in DoorDash credits in 2020, and $60 in 2021 (learn more about Chase DoorDash benefits).
- Shopping protections: Purchase Protection; Extended Warranty Protection; Return Protection
- Travel protections: Primary Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver; Roadside Assistance; Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance; Baggage Delay Insurance; Travel Accident Insurance; Trip Delay Reimbursement; Lost Luggage Reimbursement; Travel and Emergency Assistance; Emergency Evacuation & Transportation
- No foreign transaction fee
- Annual fee: $550
You’ll note we didn’t include APR. Rewards cards generally have high interest rates, so if you’re applying for any of these cards, you should plan to pay off the balance in full each month. That way, you’ll avoid paying interest on purchases entirely. If you’d rather have a card on which you can float a balance, consider a 0% introductory APR card instead (and pay off the balance before the promotional period ends).
This credit card offers solid travel insurance coverage at a much lower fee than the Reserve: $95.
While the coverage is good, it’s not quite as comprehensive: For travel delay insurance, your flight must be delayed by 12 hours (double the Reserve’s 6), the common carrier travel accident insurance payout is halved, and there’s no emergency medical/dental or evacuation insurance.
|Type of Travel Insurance||What’s Covered||Who’s Covered|
|Trip cancellation or interruption||
- 10% annual point bonus: Get a 10% bonus on all points earned in the past year; awarded on your account anniversary.
- 25% redemption point bonus: Get 25% more value when redeeming for travel expenses through Chase Ultimate Rewards; that means each point is worth 1.25 cents. Chase may give a 25% bonus for other redemption types as well.
- Point transfer: Transfer points at a 1:1 rate to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs, like Marriott Bonvoy and United MileagePlus.
- DoorDash membership: Get a free membership (DashPass) for at least a year, which provides free delivery and reduced service fees on orders over $12.
- $60 Peloton credit: Enroll to get up to $60 back for an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership (through 2021). No fitness equipment is required.
- Shop through Chase/Chase Offers: Earn more points by shopping at participating retailers with the Shop through Chase and Chase Offers shopping portals.
- Visa Signature Concierge: Call to speak with your Visa Signature Concierge any time, day or night.
- Primary Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver: Get primary coverage on eligible rental vehicles so you don’t have to pay for rental insurance and your premiums won’t go up after an accident.
- Travel protections: Roadside Dispatch; Trip Delay Reimbursement; Trip Cancellation / Trip Interruption Insurance; Baggage Delay Insurance; Lost Luggage Reimbursement; Travel Accident Insurance; Travel and Emergency Assistance Services
- Shopping protections: Purchase Protection; Extended Warranty Protection
- No foreign transaction fee
- Annual fee: $95
If you own a small business (and you might, even if you don’t think you do), then this Chase card is worth a look. It comes with essentially the same travel insurance as the Chase Sapphire Preferred card — with the important addition of employee coverage — and is offering a massive signup bonus right now. Plus, you don’t need to be traveling for business in order to be protected.
|Type of Travel Insurance||What’s Covered||Who’s Covered|
|Trip cancellation or interruption||
- Annual fee: 95
- Introductory bonus: 100,000 bonus points for spending $15,000 in the first 3 months after account opening
- Rewards: 5X Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on Lyft rides, 3X Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on the first $150,000 spent annually on travel, shipping, online advertising, internet, cable, and phone services; 1X Ultimate Rewards point per dollar on everything else
- Perks: No foreign transaction fees; 25% point bonus when booking through the Ultimate Rewards portal; point transfer to airline and hotel loyalty programs
Not into any of the cards above? If you’re loyal to a particular hotel or airline, and are looking for a credit card with free travel insurance, check if there are any co-branded options from Chase. The United℠ Explorer Card (Review), The World of Hyatt Credit Card (Review), and the Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card (Review), for example, all offer decent travel insurance in addition to their brand-specific perks.
You never know what’s going to happen when you leave your house. So if you’re a frequent traveler, it’s wise to find a credit card with travel insurance — while it won’t prevent the unexpected, it might make it a little easier to bear.
Your credit card may have more tricks up its sleeve to protect you while you’re on the road. Learn about cards with primary car rental insurance, which can bypass your regular car insurance if you get in an accident.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the three best credit cards for travel insurance?
The three top choices are:
- Chase Sapphire Reserve® (Review)
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (Review)
- Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card (Review)
Learn more about the three cards right here.
Are there any “free” credit cards that offer travel insurance?
There are a few credit cards without an annual fee that offer travel insurances. Here are some popular options:
- The Chase Freedom® (Review)
- The Chase Freedom Unlimited® (Review)
- The Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card (Review)
Do all credit card issuers offer travel insurance?
Not every issuer, no, but a handful of them do. Here are some of the best credit card issuers that provide travel insurance:
Enrollment required for select benefits; terms and limitations apply.
For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, please click here.
Susan is a freelance writer who specializes in turning complex financial topics into engaging and accessible articles. She's been writing about personal finance for six years, and was previously the senior writer at The Penny Hoarder and a staff writer at Student Loan Hero. Her personal finance writing has also appeared in publications like MarketWatch and Lifehacker.
The information related to Citi Prestige® Card has been collected by Credit Card Insider and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product.
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