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® 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 vary 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.
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.
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- 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®, 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.
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 its premium offering no longer comes with travel delays or baggage protections.
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’s 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. 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. This 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.
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, 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®|
|Low annual fee||Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card|
|Business travelers||Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card|
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the three best credit cards for travel insurance?
The three top choices are:
- Chase Sapphire Reserve®
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
Are there any “free” credit cards that offer travel insurance?
There are a few credit cards without an annual fee that offer travel insurance. Here are some popular options:
- The Chase Freedom®
- The Chase Freedom Unlimited®
- The Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
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:
- American Express
- Bank of America
- Capital One
- U.S. Bank
Enrollment is required for select benefits; terms and limitations apply.