Chart by Paul Rubio
Photo by Shutterstock
Whether your flight was delayed or your trip was derailed by COVID, you could recoup some of your costs with insurance provided by travel credit cards.
What does credit card travel insurance cover? How does it work? And what are some credit cards that offer trip protection? Start to unravel the complexities in this beginner’s guide.
AFAR partners with CreditCards.com and may receive a commission from card issuers. This site does not include all financial companies or all available financial offers. Compensation may impact how an offer is presented. Our coverage is independent and objective, and has not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are entirely those of the AFAR editorial team.
Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more. Eligibility and benefit level varies by card. Terms, conditions and limitations apply. Please visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details. Underwritten by Amex Assurance Company.
Travel can be fun and exciting, but many things can go wrong on a trip. There are flight cancellations and delays, lost luggage, and even the dreadful reality of contracting COVID away from home. Investing in travel insurance can alleviate the fear of such situations. But sometimes protections offered by travel insurance companies are ones that you already get for free from your credit card.
You read correctly. Just by charging travel to your credit card, you may be entitled to coverage that you never knew you had. As with third-party travel insurance—and basically any insurance for that matter—so many terms and conditions apply, there are rules after rules, and COVID reimbursements are a tricky topic.
The subject of credit card travel insurance is very complicated—way too complicated for a single article—yet the basics are worth knowing before booking your next trip.
Most—but not all—credit cards provide several implicit travel insurances as benefits for being a cardholder. These insurances usually kick in when charging travel to the credit card or using points for travel through a credit card’s loyalty program. Said travel insurances are collectively referred to as travel protections in credit card literature. Typically, when searching for the travel coverages your credit card provides, you will find them lumped under a banner or heading labeled “Travel Protections.”
Some of the best travel credit cards provide travel insurance as part of their regular benefits. Some do not. Depending on the credit card, you may be entitled to some compensation under the following insurances:
Again, it’s important to note that not all cards with travel insurance include all these coverages. Each is different. Moreover, if you buy third-party travel insurance, it may or may not include specific protections (and covered reasons) that you don’t already get with your credit card.
Remember those pamphlets that arrived in the mail when you received your credit card, the ones you threw in the recycling bin? Likely within that paperwork was a handy “Guide to Benefits” that detailed the travel insurances of your credit card. Thankfully, most of this information can still be retrieved online when logging into your credit card account or even doing a simple Google search.
In the most general sense, every credit card is unique in its benefits—and that includes travel insurances. Some cards like the Citi Premier® Card, which ranks best in class for extended warranty protection on shopping purchases and is great for earning points on travel, comes with zero travel protections. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Chase Sapphire Reserve® has the most comprehensive suite of travel protections, ranging from Medevac insurance to rental car insurance as primary coverage.
Below is a chart of six popular travel credit cards and the insurances they do and do not provide.
Within each box of this chart lies more layers of complexity. Often, you are entitled to itemized coverages only under specific circumstances known as “covered reasons.” Moreover, several cards may offer the same protection, say “Trip Delay Protection,” but each may define a delay differently (i.e., 6 hours vs. 12 hours) and then may cap reimbursements at different amounts. Similarly, while some rental car insurance policies like the Chase Sapphire Reserve offer primary coverage, others offer only secondary coverage (meaning, you’d need to go through your own regular car insurance first). On top of that, travel to specific countries may be excluded under some policies.
All this to say, read the fine print!
To start, your credit card travel insurance is not an umbrella policy for COVID-related expenses. But you can find some COVID coverage within the Trip Cancellation & Interruption policies of select cards.
In the most general sense, if you decide to cancel your trip because of COVID (or civil unrest—another big topic nowadays), you will not be covered. Even the most generous of travel insurance-promoting credit cards, Chase Sapphire Reserve, states in its Guide to Benefits that “your disinclination to travel due to an epidemic or pandemic” is not covered by its Trip Cancellation & Interruption policies.
However, should you get sick while traveling, some coverage may kick in. Again, this will require reading through the fine print of your specific credit card’s Guide to Benefits. Within the Trip Cancellation & Interruption policies of Chase Sapphire Reserve, it states, “quarantine of you or your travel companion imposed by a physician or by a competent governmental authority having jurisdiction, due to health reasons,” is a covered event while the guide for The Platinum Card® from American Express (see rates and fees) states, “quarantine imposed by a physician for health reasons” is also a covered event. What may be covered (if and when documented properly) is any prepaid trip expense charged to the credit card that you are unable to fulfill due to your illness. That means things like changing your flight home or a refund for the part of your trip/hotel stay missed after testing positive and having to quarantine. That said, neither card will pay for your expenses to stay in a hotel to recover from COVID.
Credit card travel insurance is complicated, and policies differ by card. However, it’s worth deciphering your card’s coverages to know exactly what you’re entitled to as a cardholder before booking your next trip–and to avoid redundant third-party travel insurance.
While the offers mentioned above are accurate at the time of publication, they are subject to change at any time, and may have changed or may no longer be available.
Sign up for the Daily Wander newsletter for expert travel inspiration and tips
Please enter a valid email address.
more from afar