Buying Travel Insurance? Save the Money If These Cards Are In Your Wallet

Stephanie Miller
June 21, 2017
Credit Cards and Travel Insurance

If you’ve ever booked a flight online, put down a deposit on a resort getaway, or even prepaid for a rental car, you’ve probably been offered the upsell of travel insurance. This add-on coverage varies in price, but is meant to ease your worries about the “just in case” scenarios that could derail your travel plans.

If you’re anything like me, you always decline the additional expense. No, it’s not because I never get sick at the last minute or have never had an airline lose my bag. For me, it’s not worth the expense simply because my everyday credit card already offers complimentary travel insurance. And for two years, I didn’t even know it.

With the multitude of credit card products on the market, you can expect a wide spectrum of coverage from the cards that offer it.

Some cards will offer coverage in case your trip is delayed or interrupted in some way. This includes situations that arise after you’ve already begun your travels, whether due to weather, illness or injury, equipment damage or failure, and even labor strikes. Each card has their own rules regarding what is (and isn’t) covered, and I haven’t found a card yet that covers everything, so be sure to check your own card’s details.

Other credit products will refund expenses if you have to cancel the trip altogether. For some, this may mean that you, the cardholder, has an injury or illness preventing you from traveling (with proof). Some may include injuries and illnesses for others, like your spouse or immediate family members, travel companions, or even – like my card – your pet!

Yes, I was a little shocked to see that last one on there, too. It’s good to know that if my pup gets very sick the morning I leave for Italy, I don’t forfeit thousands of dollars in travel expenses.

Some cards even offer coverage in case your baggage is lost or stolen. Now, this benefit usually only kicks in if there’s a residual loss remaining after the airline reimburses you (if the airline reimburses you). However, one neat thing I found is that some cards will also cover the personal belongings that weren’t even checked with the airline.

This means that if your carry-on is picked up by someone else as you deplane, or if your diamond earrings go missing after that extensive TSA bag check, you’re (at least partially) covered. This is great, since airlines and airports typically don’t offer any compensation for these types of situations.

Credit card products change all the time, so you should definitely call and ask your credit card company if they offer any sort of travel coverage as a cardholder perk. It may even be worth it to you to do some research before applying for your next new card. That way, you can ensure that you have at least one product in your wallet that will offer some peace of mind when planning that next vacation.

With that said, there are a few credit cards that currently offer at least some travel benefits. These include:

• Citi Double Cash (this is the card I carry, and it also offers a TON of other benefits aside from travel coverage), Citi AAdvantage, Citi Prestige, and Citi ThankYou

• Chase Sapphire/Chase Sapphire Preferred

• United MileagePlus (including the Explorer, Plus, and Presidential)

• American Express products don’t offer free cancellation/delay coverage, though you can enroll in their optional delay coverage for $9.95. However, most of them do offer either baggage insurance or travel accident insurance (or both).

Well, as mentioned, different cards offer a wide range of coverage. What you’ll get really does vary from product to product, and you’ll need to be aware of what you’re being offered.

In order to determine whether a supplemental travel insurance policy is worthwhile, you should consult your terms & conditions paperwork for your credit card product. As you likely tossed this packet when your shiny new credit card arrived (I know I’m not the only one), you can almost always find these online, too.

Just be aware that each card has different guidelines regarding:

• Claim deadlines -- Be sure you submit your claims within the allowed window, or you’ll be denied coverage.

• How you paid – Did you pay for your trip entirely on that card, or did you just put down a deposit/pay a portion? Depending on the card, this can make or break your travel coverage.

• Who is covered – While some cards, as mentioned, offer coverage if Fido breaks his leg, others only reimburse your expenses if it’s a family member or travel companion. Be sure to check with your card company!

• How much you lost – No matter what you lost, there are limits to your coverage.

• What happened – Did your bag get stolen in the terminal? Was the flight crew delayed by 6 hours which threw off your entire trip? Different situations mean different coverage for each card.

• What your travel looked like – Some cards only cover “qualifying travel,” meaning that they will only offer travel coverage if you paid for round-trip tickets. This can be frustrating if you booked one-way flights separately for some reason, and may change how you book your travel in the future.

So, does this mean that travel insurance is a thing of the past? Well, no. Whether or not your trip warrants additional coverage depends on how much you’re spending, who you’re traveling with, and what credit card product you’re using to pay.

Be sure to check your card’s terms to maximize your coverage and ensure that you cover all of your bases. If you’re embarking on a particularly expensive trip (especially if no refunds or cancellations are allowed), it may still be worth eyeing supplemental coverage.

For most of us, though, it’s a pleasant surprise to see that our everyday card offers some protection when we travel.

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