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Some credit cards provide complimentary travel insurance to cardholders that kicks in when charging travel to the card or using points for travel through their loyalty programs. However, as with all matters of insurance, you can expect to dig through complicated language and layers upon layers of T&Cs to figure out what’s covered, how much is covered, and when coverage applies.
To save you the headache, we’ve reviewed the benefits of dozens of credit cards—and the detailed fine print therein—for you. What follows are the three best credit cards for travel insurance, simplified summaries of the coverages they provide, and why these coverages are important when acquiring a new travel credit card.
1. Chase Sapphire Reserve®
The Chase Sapphire Reserve card (annual fee: $550) carries the most thorough travel coverage of any credit card on the market, hands down. Here are the key implicit travel insurances that come with the card.
Emergency Evacuation & Transportation: Up to $100,000 toward necessary emergency evacuation and transportation expenses for the cardholder, spouse, and/or eligible children under age nineteen
Trip Interruption and Cancellation: Up to $10,000 per person, $20,000 per trip (for instance, if you have family members on the same trip also filing a claim), and $40,000 per 12-month period, for trips canceled or cut short due to specific unforeseen circumstances
Emergency Medical and Dental Benefit: Up $2,500 (and subject to a $50 deductible) if you require emergency medical or dental services during a covered trip (Note that this is payable after going through your primary health insurance first.)
Trip Accident Insurance: Up to $1 million if you are severely injured, maimed, or die on a common carrier; up to $100,000 for accidents on a trip, beyond those taking place on a common carrier
Trip Delay: Up to $500 per ticket to cover things like meals and lodging if your common carrier is delayed more than six hours or overnight
Delayed Baggage: Up to $100 per day for up to five days, if your bags are over six hours late
Lost Baggage: Up to $3,000 per person
Rental Car Insurance: Up to $75,000 in primary coverage for theft or damage to the rental car that you did not cause
2. The Platinum Card® from American Express
While its travel insurances are not as broad as the Chase Sapphire Reserve, The Platinum Card from American Express (annual fee: $695, see rates and fees) has the best coverage of all American Express cards and is the only other card on the market to provide medevac to its cardmembers. (Terms apply.)
Emergency Evacuation & Transportation: Up to no specified amount towards necessary emergency evacuation and transportation expenses for cardholder and covered family members
Trip Interruption and Cancellation: Up to $10,000 per trip and $20,000 per eligible card per consecutive 12-month period
Emergency Medical and Dental Benefit: None
Trip Accident Insurance: None
Trip Delay: Up to $500 per trip if your common carrier is delayed more than six hours (with a total of two claims per 12-month period)
Delayed Baggage: None
Lost Baggage: Up to $3,000 per person
Rental Car Insurance: Up to $75,000 in secondary coverage for theft or damage to the rental car that you did not cause. Secondary coverage will cover the amount that your personal/business policies do not, meaning you’ll need to go through your personal/business automobile insurance first and see what it will cover
3. Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Although the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card has just a $95 annual fee, it carries several of the same protections as the Chase Sapphire Reserve as noted below.
Emergency Evacuation & Transportation: None
Trip Interruption and Cancellation: Up to $10,000 per person, $20,000 per trip and $40,000 per 12-month period, for trips canceled or cut short due to specific unforeseen circumstances (This is the same coverage as the Reserve card.)
Emergency Medical and Dental Benefit: None
Trip Accident Insurance: Up to $500,000 if you are severely injured, maimed, or die on a common carrier (vs. $1 million with Reserve); up to $100,000 for accidents on a trip, beyond those taking place on a common carrier
Trip Delay: Up to $500 to cover things like meals and lodging if your common carrier is delayed more than 12 hours (vs. six hours with Reserve) or overnight
Delayed Baggage: Up to $100 per day for up to five days if your bags are over six hours late (same as Reserve)
Lost Baggage: Up to $3,000 per person (same as Reserve)
Rental Car Insurance: Up to the value of the rental car in primary coverage for theft or damage to the rental car that you did not cause (vs. $75,000 with Reserve)
Of claims and coverages
To be sure, the implicit travel coverages that come with these three cards are the best on the market. However, that does not mean that understanding–or collecting–on such insurances is straightforward. In fact, it’s anything but.
Each card’s sub-insurance has its own set of detailed rules on what’s covered, what’s not, and in what situations. For example, to use Chase Sapphire Reserve’s Emergency Evacuation & Transportation benefit, “the evacuation must be pre-approved by the Benefit Administrator in consultation with a legally licensed Physician who certifies that emergency evacuation is warranted due to the severity of the injury or sickness.” It’s hard to imagine, in a dire enough situation, thinking first about calling the Benefits Administrator to get approval before making what could be a life-or-death decision.
For the same card’s Trip Interruption and Cancellation coverage, a “Named Storm Warning” is a covered reason for trip cancellation while “...a country closing its borders or a Travel Supplier canceling or changing travel arrangements due to an epidemic or pandemic” are not. Dig deeper into the scenario of a “Named Storm Warning” to learn that the warning must be issued by a meteorological society with jurisdiction to issue such a warning (a government’s declaration of a state of emergency on its own doesn’t count) and said storm must be “occurring or imminently expected to occur within fifty (50) miles of the airport, terminal, or station you are scheduled to depart from or arrive to.” While this doesn’t mean that a clause will always prevent you from collecting on insurance, it does mean there are plenty of what if scenarios and conditions to consider. On the flip side, third-party travel insurance often has equally lengthy benefit terms. And in some cases the insurance you already get from using your credit card could be superior to an additional policy.
Choosing the best credit card for travel insurance
Nobody wants things to go wrong on a trip, but sometimes they do and it’s wise to be protected. True, some events won’t be covered, but the same can be said for many of the general travel insurance policies people purchase–and pay lots for–when going on a trip. By charging travel to Chase Sapphire Reserve, The Platinum Card from American Express, or Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, cardholders can find peace of mind knowing their trips are protected under numerous scenarios.
We consider many factors when getting a new credit card, from welcome offers to lounge access to annual credits. Travel insurance should also be a consideration. Chase Sapphire Reserve is by far the best high annual fee credit card for travel insurance while Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is the best for a low annual fee credit card. The Platinum Card from American Express also provides strong coverage, but keep in mind it’s not best in class.
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.