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If there was ever a year to have travel insurance, it’s 2020.
Coverage like trip cancellation protection and rental car insurance can save you time and headaches when things go wrong on the road.
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As the holidays approach and the daily number of U.S. airport passengers hovers around the 1 million mark on a regular basis, you might be considering a trip in the coming weeks or months. Many airlines have relaxed their change and cancellation policies, and hotels are offering more booking flexibility than ever due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, unexpected circumstances can still arise that force you either to cancel your trip, delay it, or face other issues while on the road. Luckily many of the best rewards credit cards provide travel protections as part of their regular benefits. Here are the credit cards that offer the best travel insurance coverage.
A slate of travel-related insurance policies could potentially be the most valuable benefit your card provides. Just remember: You typically have to pay for all or a portion of your trip with the card in order to invoke its coverage. Credit card policies are like invisible safety nets, but their coverage tends to be secondary. So for expensive trips, you might want to investigate non–credit card travel insurance policies, too, and opt for one that covers just about every plausible emergency, though these can cost anywhere from $20 for the most basic of coverage up to thousands of dollars depending on your trip.
Here are the different types of coverage credit cards tend to offer:
Trip interruption and cancellation coverage varies widely from card to card, but can range all the way up to $20,000 per trip. This is probably the most important insurance to be aware of since it can save you thousands of dollars in certain situations. If you need to cancel or cut short your trip due to unforeseen circumstances such as a hurricane or wildfire, you can contact your credit card’s benefits administrator to file a reimbursement claim for nonrefundable expenses like flights or a cruise.
Limitations: As you might expect from any type of insurance policy, there are many important exclusions to be aware of, so before making a claim, be sure to read the fine print. Among the typical preclusions are traveling against the advice of a physician, if there are labor strikes affecting public transportation, trips that exceed 30–60 days, and (yikes!) if there’s a declared or undeclared war where you’re traveling.
You know that sinking feeling when the sign above your airport departure gate changes from “Delayed” to “Canceled”? That’s when trip delay coverage is a lifesaver. In general, if what is known as your “common carrier,” like an airline, train, or bus, is delayed by more than 6 to 12 hours (depending on the card) or overnight, you might be able to call upon your credit card to reimburse you for expenses like meals and lodging.
Limitations: Each card has a specific hour mark at which its trip delay coverage kicks in, and there are per diems that usually range from $300 to $500. So before you charge a lavish nine-course dinner or a suite at the nearest Ritz-Carlton, know your limits.
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Is there anything more disheartening in your travels than being the last person standing at the baggage claim? The belt still turns, but no bags arrive. Then it turns off. Then the screen lists a different flight. Don’t get too down, though. If you have a card with lost luggage reimbursement, you might be able to claim compensation for your missing belongings. In the case of a mere delay, your credit card might reimburse you up to $100 a day for three to five days for temporary replacement items like clothing and toiletries.
Limitations: Before you can complain to your credit card’s benefits administrator, you usually have to exhaust all other avenues of recompense—namely, the airline that lost your luggage and possibly even your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance. If you do make a claim, prepare to submit paperwork galore, including original receipts for the items you lost. There are also plenty of exclusions, like electronics and jewelry.
If you’re renting a car on a vacation away from home, or simply using one for a road trip, it can give you extra peace of mind to know that if you hit a few bumps along the way—be it a fender bender or even if your car is broken into—that your card has you covered.
Limitations: With few exceptions, most of the credit cards that offer some sort of insurance on car rentals only provide secondary coverage. That means before you can make a claim, you have to go through either your own personal insurance or get an expensive policy from the rental agency. Certain vehicles and countries are excluded, and coverage tends to max out at $50,000 to $75,000 per rental.
If you become ill on your trip and require medical evacuation and treatment, your card might cover some of those expenses.
Limitations: As with many of the other insurance policies listed here, this tends to be secondary, so you might want to get a travel insurance policy with more ironclad coverage if you think this is a possibility. It also excludes trips made specifically for medical treatments, nonemergency services, and experimental care.
Let’s hope you never need this one because it means you’ve been injured, maimed, or even died on your trip. This type of coverage is usually between $100,000 and $1 million, depending on the specific card; it works kind of like emergency medical insurance or a life insurance policy based on what’s happened.
Limitations: This is really if something terrible happens specifically due to the conditions of your trip. There are a lot of exclusions, such as if the incident occurred because of mental or physical illness, pregnancy, the commission of illegal acts, while participating in various adventure activities, and more.
Did you pick up a gorgeous souvenir . . . only to break it, or have it stolen? Purchase protection is fantastic for helping you get your money back although the terms and conditions are specific to each card.
Limitations: Items are only covered for 90–120 days after purchase, and for between $500–$10,000 per claim and up to $50,000 per account.
Before you book a trip with one of your credit cards, it can pay off in the end (if something does go wrong) to make sure you’re using one with comprehensive travel protections. Here is a roundup of eight great cards that will help cover your expenses if your trip is disrupted. (Note: If a specific type of coverage is not listed with a card, it does not provide it.)
The Chase Sapphire Reserve card extends what is probably the most thorough travel coverage of any credit card out there. It currently offers new applicants 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months, and it has a $550 annual fee.
Travel insurance with the Chase Sapphire Reserve includes:
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Although this card has just a $95 annual fee, its protections are nearly identical to those of the Chase Sapphire Reserve. It is currently offering new applicants 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening.
Travel insurance with the Chase Sapphire Preferred includes:
The United Explorer is better than almost any other airline credit card when it comes to travel protections. It is currently offering up to 70,000 bonus miles: 60,000 after spending $3,000 in the first three months and an additional 10,000 miles after spending $6,000 in the first six months. Its intro annual fee is $0 the first year, then $95.
Travel insurance with the United Explorer includes:
On the hotel side of things, this card has you covered when you’re away from home. It is currently offering up to 50,000 bonus points: 25,000 after spending $3,000 in the first three months of account opening, and an additional 25,000 bonus points after you spend $6,000 within the first six months. Those who apply by December 31, 2020, also receive 10 qualifying night credits toward elite status in 2020 and 2021. The annual fee is $95.
Travel insurance with the World of Hyatt Credit Card includes:
Another hotel credit card from Chase with almost unbelievable protections wrapped in. It is currently offering an all-time-high bonus of up to 140,000 points after spending $3,000 within the first three months. Its annual fee is $89, but that is waived in the first year.
Travel insurance with the IHG Rewards Club Premier includes:
Among other phenomenal perks, this premium product includes some excellent purchase and travel protections. It is currently offering new applicants up to 75,000 Membership Rewards points after they use their card to make $5,000 in purchases in the first six months, and earns 10 points per dollar on eligible purchases at U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations, on up to $15,000 in combined spending during your first six months of card membership. Its annual fee is $550.
Travel insurance with the Amex Platinum includes:
New applicants can earn up to 50,000 bonus points (worth $500) after spending at least $3,000 in the first 90 days of account opening. Its annual fee is $95.
Travel insurance with the Bank of America Premium Rewards card includes:
While this card’s protections are not as wide ranging, it’ll still cover you in a pinch. Its annual fee is $95, and it is currently offering new applicants up to 100,000 miles: 50,000 after spending $3,000 in the first three months, then 50,000 more after spending a total of $20,000 in the first 12 months. Before you try to make any claims, it’s important to look at your individual card’s benefits guide, since the terms and coverage amounts will vary depending on whether it’s a Visa or Mastercard.
Travel insurance with the Capital One Venture generally includes:
If you travel a lot and want an extra layer of security in case your plans go awry, the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred are top choices due to their comprehensive insurance policies. Some issuers, including Citi and Discover, have largely dropped their travel coverage, so Chase cards are usually among the best options. Barring that, if you have a premium American Express product like the Amex Platinum Card, you can count on some excellent protections, depending on which one you need. These different insurance policies have many terms, conditions, and exclusions, but they can still save you time and money in the end and are well worth considering when using a card to pay for your travel. And knowing you’re covered in case the unexpected occurs can help you enjoy your trip that much more.
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.
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