Trips and vacations can cost thousands, and cancelling them might cost you more. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of credit cards that offer the best travel insurance. Here’s what they offer.
Credit cards are excellent for many reasons. They allow you financial flexibility, earn you rewards on the things you already buy, and even offer protection on many of your purchases. One of the best benefits they offer, though, is travel protection.
Different credit cards provide different levels of travel protection, all the way from delayed trip reimbursements to life insurance coverage on your travels, baggage coverage, and trip cancellation protection. If you want to protect not only yourself and your belongings but also the money paid for your next vacation–without having to pay out of pocket for a pricey travel insurance policy–using a credit card with travel insurance is a great idea.
So, which credit cards offer the most comprehensive coverage and what sort of reimbursements can you expect if your plans change, you’re injured while traveling, or even if your bags just get delayed for a day or two? Let’s take a look at the best products out there and how they can protect you for no additional cost.
Types of Protection
There are a few different degrees of trip protection coverage that credit cards will often provide. Here’s a general look at the differences between them, and the best credit cards for each.
The most commonly-offered benefit in regards to trip coverage is travel accident protection, which is also referred to as common carrier insurance. If you use your credit card to book your fare on a common carrier (such as a major airline, bus line, cruise line, or railway), you’ll often be automatically protected against travel accidents.
What are travel accidents? The fine print varies from one card to the next. But you can typically expect this type of coverage to protect you, your family members, and even friends if anyone were to be seriously injured, dismembered, or killed. As long as you’re all traveling together and paid with the card in question. In the case of a plane crash, freak accident, etc., the credit card company would pay out to your loved ones left behind.
Coverage ranges from a few thousand dollars for loss of limb, sight, or hearing, all the way up to $1 million with some credit cards for loss of life. While this is a coverage type that you hope to never use, it’s good to know that your loved ones would be protected (in addition to any life insurance policy you may hold), were the worst to happen.
Recommended card for travel accident protection: Chase Sapphire Reserve offering up to $1,000,000 in coverage.
Be sure to read the policies of your individual credit card product(s). Some credit cards require you to have paid the entire fare with that card in order to be eligible for coverage; others just mandate that you pay at least a portion of the travel expense on their card. There are also other limitations to the coverage, such as exclusions for acts of war or participating in illegal activities.
Learn more about this card and other travel rewards credit cards
Most of us have been there: we arrive safely at our destination and head down to baggage claim, only to watch all of the other bags appear on the belt… except ours. Well, if your luggage is delayed more than a few hours, your credit card may step in to help out.
Baggage delay coverage is an excellent benefit to have when you travel. As long as you purchase the baggage fees with said card (or the airfare, if checked bags are included), your belongings will be protected. If you then arrive at your destination but your luggage does not, and it takes a while to return everything to you (typically between 3 and 12 hours), many credit cards will step in to reimburse you for necessary expenses.
You can use this reimbursement amount to purchase new clothes, toiletries, and even cell phone chargers. There are exceptions, of course: some airlines won’t cover items like contact lenses, travelers checks, passports, or even dentures. There is also a dollar limit per day and an overall cap per claim; many credit cards will give up to $300-500 total for a luggage delay.
In order to file a claim, you’ll need to report the missing luggage to the airline and get documentation before leaving the airport. You’ll also be required to submit receipts for the items purchased while you were waiting for your bags to be delivered.
Best credit card for baggage delay coverage: Chase Sapphire Reserve offers up to $500 in coverage for a baggage delay of more than 3 hours (it covers both the cardholder, their family members, and travel companions)
Be sure to read your card’s fine print to see what is or is not included, the requirements for a claim, and how much you’ll be reimbursed each time your bags are delayed.
On a similar note, your credit card may offer certain protections if your trip is delayed due to circumstances outside of your control. The coverage, called trip delay reimbursement, is available through a number of excellent credit card products, and can be your (free) saving grace in the case that your travel plans are pushed back.
Let’s say that you have a trip planned with multiple flight legs. Your first flight is delayed and you, in turn, miss the connecting flight. The next flights out are overbooked or don’t leave for many hours–maybe even the next day! You’re stuck either grabbing a hotel room for the night or sitting in the airport for a day, finding high-dollar meals in the food court. So, what do you do?
Well, you can look into filing a travel delay claim with your credit card, for starters. While only a handful of cards offer this protection, trip delay coverage is wonderful to have. It will reimburse you for expenses related to a common carrier delay, such as overnight hotel accommodations, meals, toiletries, and even medications.
Expenses will be limited to those not already reimbursed by the carrier. For instance, if the airline offers you a hotel voucher (that you use) or pays for your dinner, you can’t then claim that expense with your credit card.
Best credit card for trip delay reimbursement: Chase Sapphire Reserve ($500 in coverage per ticket after a 6-hour delay)
Again, be sure to read your card’s fine print. This type of coverage typically excludes traveler-error delays, such as oversleeping or getting stuck in traffic. You’ll also need to have paid for the ticket either in part or in full with the card in question, and certain expenses won’t be covered even under an approved claim.
Trip Cancellation Coverage
A few years ago, I woke up at 4am to a sick child at my bedside. We were scheduled to fly out for our annual Colorado ski trip only 6 hours later, but both of my sons wound up with a doozy of a virus (and 103 fevers!). Even though my kids were obviously sick, the airline had little sympathy; it cost us $1,000 to move our trip down by a few days to allow the little ones to feel better.
Had I known about trip cancellation coverage back then, I would have saved myself a lot of frustration (and be $1,000 richer).
Trip cancellation coverage will protect a number of travel-related expenses if your trip needs to be nixed. Reasons could include illness (yours, a child or spouse’s, or with some cards, even a pet’s), terrorism, weather, a natural disaster, death in the family, and even a summons for jury duty, depending on the card in question.
Some cards have limits of $1,500 for cancellation coverage (though this would have been more than welcome in my past situation!), while others can provide up to $10,000 in protection. This means that whether a hurricane is brewing in Florida right before you travel to Disney, your child wakes up with a high fever the morning of the flight, or you are required to perform your civic duty in the courtroom, your trip’s investment is protected.
As always, cards have their own policies. You can expect most of them to cover trip expenses such as airfare, cruise/bus/train tickets, rental cars, prepaid hotel stays, and more, as long as you used the card in question to book them. Documentation is required, in the form of a doctor’s note, death certificate, etc. While there are always exceptions and limits (such as pre-existing medical conditions), booking your next vacation on a card that offers trip cancellation coverage is a great idea.
- Best credit card for trip cancellation coverage: Chase Sapphire Preferred, with up to $10,000 per trip in protection and a slew of covered reasons.
Rental Car Coverage
If you’ll be booking a rental car on your next trip, you’ll likely be offered the option to purchase collision coverage. While this is usually offered for a modest cost per day, it’s an expense that you don’t need to even think about if you carry certain credit cards.
Some credit cards today will offer rental car coverage that protects you whenever you get behind the wheel of a rental vehicle, as long as you pay for the rental with said card. Coverage is either primary or secondary to your everyday auto insurance coverage, meaning that some cards will step in immediately following a claim while others will only kick in once your primary policy pays its share. However, this added coverage (at no extra cost to you) means less money out of your pocket if an incident occurs.
Certain vehicles are excluded from coverage, including many luxury and exotic vehicles. There are also exclusions involving circumstances where the driver is involved in an illegal activity, is street racing, etc.
Best credit card for rental car coverage: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offer primary rental car coverage
Be sure to read your card’s fine print to note any exclusions to coverage. You’ll need to decline the rental car company’s collision coverage and, depending on whether your card offers primary or secondary coverage, you’ll be reimbursed immediately following an accident or following your primary insurer’s payout.
Credit cards with travel protection are incredible to have. While their coverage is limited, it provides you with a number of additional protections every time you travel, without costing you a single extra penny.
Be sure to note which cards offer which types of travel protection, and choose your payment methods accordingly. With the right plastic in your wallet, you’ll be covered whether your flight is delayed, you wreck your rental car, or if your dog gets sick and you need to cancel a vacation.Topics: Credit Cards