Need travel insurance for your next trip? Check your credit card first

Travel insurance can make every trip you take, whether for business or pleasure, a smoother ride. But you may not know how to buy insurance for your trip, or what it should cover. 

That’s where your credit card can come in handy. There is a slew of travel cards that offer travel insurance protection as a cardmember benefit. This guide highlights the most important things you need to know to protect yourself while you’re away from home.

What is travel insurance?

Simply, it’s insurance that covers you against certain events that could derail your travel plans. Banks and insurance companies can sell travel insurance policies for short- or long-term trips. But you may not need or want to pay for it when coverage is already built into your credit card. 

The types of things your card issuer will cover you for can vary but generally, credit card travel insurance can extend some or all of these benefits:

  • Trip interruption or cancellation coverage
  • Baggage delay coverage
  • Lost baggage reimbursement
  • Emergency medical care coverage
  • Medical evacuation if you need to be transported elsewhere for care
  • Accidental death or dismemberment coverage

Trip interruption or cancellation insurance covers you if your trip is interrupted or has to be cut short. For example, if a hurricane grounds your flight or keeps your cruise ship stranded in port then trip cancellation insurance could reimburse you for out of pocket costs related to the cancellation. 

Baggage delay coverage and lost baggage reimbursement insurance can provide you with money to buy basic clothing or personal care items if you make it to your destination but your luggage doesn’t.

Your card may offer travel insurance protection for emergency health care costs or evacuation expenses if you become seriously ill. Accidental death and dismemberment insurance is designed to pay benefits to your loved ones in a worst-case travel scenario. 

Some travel cards also throw in other trip protection benefits, including rental car collision coverage or 24/7 roadside assistance. The goal with all of these benefits is to ensure that if your trip suddenly goes off-course, any associated financial stress will be kept to a minimum. 

Which credit cards offer travel insurance?

If you’re looking for travel cards with these kinds of perks, you’ve got options. Generally, the more premium a travel credit card is, the more benefits you’re likely to get. The trade-off, of course, is that you might be looking at a higher annual fee for cards that are heavy on travel benefits. 

On the personal side, here are some of the top choices for getting credit card travel insurance:

Card NameTravel Protections
Chase Sapphire Preferred & Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Cards Trip cancellation/interruption, auto rental collision damage waiver, baggage delay reimbursement, trip delay reimbursement, travel and emergency assistance
The Platinum Card® From American Express Baggage insurance, premium roadside assistance, car rental loss and damage insurance, travel accident coverage, premium Global Assist hotline access
United Explorer Card Auto rental collision damage waiver, baggage delay insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, trip cancellation/interruption insurance, trip delay insurance

You can also find travel protections with business rewards cards. The Chase Ink Business Preferred Card, for example, comes with trip cancellation/interruption insurance, roadside dispatch and auto rental coverage.

Limitations on coverage

One thing to know about credit card travel insurance is that it’s important to read the fine print. You need to know what’s covered (and what isn’t) and whether your card issuer has any requirements you need to meet in order to qualify for coverage. 

First, let’s look at restrictions. With baggage delay or reimbursement insurance, for example, you may only be covered for essential items. That includes things like toiletries or clothing. If you stowed your tablet or camera in your suitcase and it ends up getting lost, you may not be reimbursed for those items. Or, your card may cover you for valuables but at a lower dollar amount than clothing or other necessities. 

Likewise, trip cancellation or interruption insurance may only reimburse you for a missed flight because of a disruption but not any money you may be out on a hotel room you’ve already booked. Your card issuer may allow claims for certain situations resulting in a cancellation but not others. Citi, for instance, covers you if you need to cut your trip short because a family member back home gets sick or passes away but not if you need to do so for a non-family member. 

With travel accident insurance, it’s common for card issuers to offer up to $500,000 in coverage. This may extend to you as well as your immediate family members but again, this isn’t necessarily blanket coverage. For example, in the case of dismemberment, the number of benefits you or your loved ones receive may be based on the nature of the loss. Full and total loss of vision may be awarded a higher benefit payout compared to the loss of a finger. 

Finally, remember that your card’s insurance may only kick in if you’ve charged travel expenses to that card. If you paid cash or used another credit card to pay for your trip, you might be out of luck when it comes to filing a claim. If you need the full rundown of what’s covered, what isn’t or what you need to do to be eligible for coverage, the quickest solution is to call your card issuer’s customer service line and ask.

Bottom line: Should you rely on your card’s travel coverage?

Your travel card can give you some peace of mind for your next trip if it comes with one or more insurance protections. If you’re looking for even more comprehensive coverage, you could always supplement it with a travel policy from your bank or insurer. Just be sure to compare cost against any the value of benefits you might receive.

Rebecca Lake

Personal finance writer and small business expert

Rebecca lives on the North Carolina coast with her two children an assorted collection of pets. In addition to freelance writing, she also authors a blog focused on making and saving money.