How Does Credit Card Travel Insurance Work?

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As much as you’d like your vacation to be perfect, accidents and losses can occur in even the most picturesque locales. Luckily, many credit cards offer travel protection, so you don’t necessarily have to purchase a standalone insurance policy. 

Before you travel, however, it’s important to understand what’s covered and who’s eligible for protection. Here’s everything you need to know about credit card travel insurance, along with a few of the best travel credit cards with great travel protection benefits. 

What Is Travel Insurance?

Travel insurance typically encompasses a few different types of coverage that help protect your finances if something goes wrong before or during your trip. Travel coverage can help you get reimbursement if your trip is canceled or delayed, receive compensation if your baggage is lost, pay for medical care you receive when you’re traveling, and more. And the best part is, many credit cards offer travel protections as a benefit, including some cards with no annual fee. 

Of course, credit card travel insurance doesn’t cover everything, says Bola Sokunbi, a Certified Financial Education Instructor and founder of Clever Girl Finance. “It’s really important that people look at the exclusions when they are determining if they want to use travel benefits,” says Sokunbi. “For example, [your credit card issuer] may not cover your medical benefits if you already had a pre-existing health condition before you went on the trip.” Also, “they may not cover you if the length of your trip is too long,” she adds.

If your credit card travel insurance doesn’t meet your needs, or if you don’t have a card that offers the benefits, you can also purchase a standalone travel insurance policy. Many insurers offer customized plans that can provide robust coverage for a variety of incidents. 

Travel Protections You Should Look For

Some of the most important (and most common) travel protections that credit card issuers provide include:

  • Trip Cancellation and Interruption Coverage: If you need to cancel your trip or end it early due to a covered reason, such as illness or injury, losing your job or being required to work, or hurricane damage, your credit card issuer will reimburse you for trip activities you booked with your credit card up to a limit. However, “Make sure the location you’re going to is actually one of the destinations where the benefits that they’re offering you will apply,” says Sokunbi. 
  • Trip Delay Reimbursement: If your trip is delayed due to a covered reason, this coverage allows you to get reimbursed for the travel activities you missed as a result. 
  • Baggage Delay or Loss: If your baggage is lost or damaged by the carrier, you can be reimbursed for the items in your bag up to a limit. You may also get a flat amount for each day your baggage is delayed. However, “you usually have to make your claim with the airline before the card issuer will step in,” says Nathan Grant, Senior Credit Industry Analyst at credit card review site Credit Card Insider. 
  • Rental Car Insurance: This pays for repairs to the rental car vehicle — and sometimes medical treatment for you and your passengers — after an accident. “Prioritize cards that offer primary coverage,” suggests Grant. That way, you can avoid having to report the accident to your car insurance company and seeing a rate increase as a result. 
  • Emergency Medical and Dental: If you get in an accident or develop an illness while traveling, this coverage helps pay for your medical care. Sokunbi says this benefit is especially important if you’re going overseas, where your health insurance may not cover the cost of your care. However, Grant notes that “this coverage is secondary, so you’d have to file a claim with your health insurance provider first.”
  • Emergency Evacuation: If you need to be transported to a better hospital, this coverage pays for your evacuation expenses, such as an airlift, which can be quite costly. 
  • Accident Insurance: This coverage is similar to a life insurance policy. If you die or are dismembered while traveling, you or your beneficiary will receive a payout. 

How to Get Travel Insurance from Your Credit Card

“Before you travel on a trip, log in to your credit account and review the travel benefits that you have and make sure you understand the exclusions,” says Sokunbi. “You also want to make sure you register that trip with your credit card company if that’s a requirement to receive that coverage.” 

You might also be required to purchase at least a portion, if not the entire cost of the trip, with the credit card you want coverage from. “There are a couple cards, though, that will cover you even if you book the trip with points or miles earned,” says Grant. 

Keep all the paperwork for your trip in case you need to file a claim later. Every issuer has a slightly different claims process, but you’ll typically need to provide information about your itinerary and proof of the loss. You’ll also need to identify the related charges on your statement. 

If you have secondary coverage through your credit card, you’ll need to first file a claim with your current health or car insurance provider. And if your baggage is delayed or lost, you’ll need to notify the airline before filing a claim with your credit card issuer. 

Credit Cards That Offer Travel Insurance

There are many credit cards that offer travel protection, so it’s a good idea to compare other benefits as well. “When you’re choosing a travel credit card, you want it to be the best card for your lifestyle. It might have other benefits and other rewards, unrelated to the travel directly, that fit your lifestyle,” says Grant. 

Here are a few of our favorites, and you can check out more on our list of the best travel credit cards. 

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

This no-fee cash back card comes with a $200 signup bonus after spending $500 within three months. It has an impressive rewards rate, including 5% back on travel purchases through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, 3% back on dining, and 1.5% back on all other purchases. There’s also a 0% introductory APR for the first 15 months. 

The Chase Freedom Unlimited card offers several helpful travel protections, including:

  • Trip cancellation and trip interruption insurance covering up to $1,500 per person or $6,000 per trip
  • Secondary auto rental collision damage waiver

Read our full Chase Freedom Unlimited review for more details. 

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

This card has a $95 annual fee and offers 60,000 bonus points, worth $750 in travel when you redeem them through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, after you spend $4,000 in the first three months. You’ll also earn 5% back for travel purchases you make through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, 3% back on dining (including takeout and delivery), 3% back on online grocery and streaming services, and 2% back on all other travel purchases. Plus, there’s a 25% redemption boost when you use your points to book travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

There are no foreign transaction fees associated with this card, and it offers more robust travel protections, including:

  • Trip cancellation and trip interruption insurance covering up to $10,000 per person or $20,000 per trip
  • Trip delay insurance covering up to $500 per ticket
  • Primary auto rental collision damage waiver
  • Travel accident insurance with a maximum benefit of $100,000
  • Lost luggage reimbursement up to $3,000 per passenger per trip
  • Baggage delay coverage up to $100 per day for a maximum of five days

Read our full Chase Sapphire Preferred Card review for more details. 

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

This card has a $95 annual fee and offers 60,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in the first three months. It has a straightforward earnings rate of 2X points per dollar and flexible redemption options. You can also get up to a $100 credit every four years towards Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, and there are no foreign transaction fees. 

The Capital One Venture card doesn’t offer trip cancellation insurance, but it does provide up to $3,000 in luggage protection, auto rental collision damage waiver, and travel accident insurance. 

Read our full Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card review for more details. 

  • Intro bonus:
  • Annual fee:

    $0

  • Regular APR:

    14.99% – 23.74% Variable

  • Recommended credit:

    670-850 (Good to Excellent)

  • Learn more externa link icon at our partner’s secure site.
  • Intro bonus:
  • Annual fee:

    $95

  • Regular APR:

    15.99% – 22.99% Variable

  • Recommended credit:

    670-850 (Good to Excellent)

  • Learn more externa link icon at our partner’s secure site.
  • Intro bonus:
  • Annual fee:

    $95

  • Regular APR:

    15.99% – 23.99% (Variable)

  • Recommended credit:

    670-850 (Good to Excellent)

  • Learn more externa link icon at our partner’s secure site.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

This card has a whopping $550 annual fee but comes with a ton of benefits, including a 50,000 point sign-up bonus after you spend $4,000 in the first three months. When you book through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, you’ll get 10X points on dining, hotels, or car rentals and 5x points on air travel. You’ll earn 3X points on other travel and dining, and 1x points on all other purchases. Plus, you’ll get a $300 travel credit, $100 towards Global Entry or TSA PreCheck every four years, access to airport lounges, and some additional temporary perks. 

In addition, this card offers several travel protections:

  • Trip cancellation and interruption coverage up to $10,000 per person and $20,000 per trip
  • Primary auto rental collision damage waiver up to $75,000
  • Emergency evacuation and transportation coverage up to $100,000
  • Trip delay reimbursement up to $500 per ticket
  • Travel accident insurance with a benefit up to $1 million
  • Baggage delay insurance up to $100 per day for a maximum of five days
  • Roadside assistance covered up to $50 per incident up to four times per year

Read our full Chase Sapphire Reserve review for more details. 

Editorial Independence

As with all of our credit card reviews, our analysis is not influenced by any partnerships or advertising relationships.

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