When many travelers consider adding a credit card, some of their first thoughts revolve around the points and miles they may collect to see the world for free. While a combination of flexible points and branded points can help travelers see the world at a low cost, credit cards can also offer protections in the event of an emergency.
Many travel credit cards do not just offer points and miles with every dollar spent. When those cards are used to pay for trips, travelers on the same itinerary are also extended valuable travel insurance benefits. These bonuses go beyond covering incidental coverage when luggage is lost, providing a deeper level of aid in the event of an unforeseen event, accident, or serious illness.
Before making your next travel plans, take a moment to consider what is in your wallet. The following six credit cards offer some of the best travel insurance benefits.
Best Overall: Chase Sapphire Reserve
Launched in 2017, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is one of the most popular cards among frequent international travelers. Individuals who hold this card can find many ways to justify the $450 annual fee, especially if they need to file a travel insurance claim.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with numerous travel insurance benefits when travelers use their card to pay for their itinerary. Those who are forced to cancel their trip can be reimbursed for up to $10,000 in non-refundable expenses per covered trip. The card also comes with $500 of trip delay benefits, baggage delay benefits after luggage is lost for over six hours, and the customary auto rental collision damage waiver.
What makes this card the most beneficial is that benefits are extended to the cardholder or immediate family members, even if the primary cardholder is not traveling. However, in order for these benefits to be valid, the trip must be paid for with either the card, or directly through Ultimate Rewards points earned on the card.
Best for Trip Cancellation: Chase Sapphire Preferred
Gaining valuable credit card travel insurance benefits does not have to come with a high annual fee. The Chase Sapphire Preferred card is one of the most popular credit cards in the United States, and offers a number of valuable benefits for a $95 annual fee.
Much like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred also comes with a $10,000 trip cancellation or trip interruption benefit. This benefit offers coverage for pre-paid tours, trips or vacations purchased either using the credit card or directly using Ultimate Rewards points. Covered incidents include death, illness, or life actions (including jury duty) of the traveler, or catastrophic events which include severe weather, terrorist activity or hijacking, and bankruptcy of a travel provider.
In addition, the Chase Sapphire Preferred also offers several other credit card benefits for those who use the card to purchase their trips, including baggage delay coverage and emergency assistance while traveling.
Best for Baggage Delay: Citi Prestige Card
In most situations, baggage delay benefits from either a credit card travel insurance policy or a third-party travel insurance benefit require the traveler to have their items misplaced for a certain amount of time. Most policies in the industry requires luggage to be lost between six and 12 hours before benefits apply.
This is what makes the Citi Prestige Card one of the best cards for travelers who frequently check their luggage to their final destination. The Citi Prestige Card offers up to $500 in baggage delay benefits per traveler, per trip, if luggage does not arrive to the traveler within three hours. To activate this benefit, travelers must purchase their trip using their Citi Prestige Card, or directly with ThankYou Points earned from spending on the card.
Before going on spending spree when luggage is lost, be sure to understand the benefit limitations. The benefit will not cover purchases of anything that was not in the lost luggage, and will not cover lost luggage on trips returning to the traveler’s primary residence.
Best for Baggage Loss: Chase Ink Business Preferred
Although business credit cards are considered to be only for actively operating companies, individuals with good credit who are starting a small business may qualify for a business credit card, too. As a result, many people can benefit from a small business card.
The best business credit card with travel insurance benefits is the Chase Ink Business Preferred, which offers multiple protections for cardholders. One of the most valuable benefits that comes with this card is the baggage loss protection. In the event a common carrier (such as an airline, train operator, or cruise line) loses a traveler’s luggage, the Chase Ink Business Preferred offers up to $3,000 in reimbursement.
Another benefit offered only through the Chase Ink Business Preferred includes cell phone coverage. If a traveler accidentally damages a cell phone, loses a cell phone, or has their phone stolen, the Chase Ink Business Preferred card may offer benefits towards a new phone.
Best for Travel Accidents: Chase JP Morgan Reserve
For luxury travelers who have a relationship with Chase Private Banking services, high-end credit cards can offer elite protection levels. This is true with the Chase JP Morgan Reserve credit card, available to those preferred customers of one of America’s largest banks.
Travelers who purchase their travel itinerary with the JP Morgan Reserve card can access a number of emergency benefits in the event of an accident. Travelers who are over 100 miles away from their primary home can receive reimbursement for up to $2,500 in emergency medical and dental costs as the result of an injury, while those who require emergency evacuation or transportation can receive up to $100,000 in coverage. Additionally, if those same travelers experience an accident that results in death or dismemberment, travelers can receive up to $1 million in coverage after an emergency.
While the benefits are commiserate with the preferred customers who hold this card, applying for and getting approved for this card are pretty high. In order to be considered, travelers must have a relationship with a Chase Private Client banker, who must submit their application on their behalf.
Best for Medical Evacuation: The American Express Platinum Card
One of the biggest fears of international travelers is experiencing an accident which requires medical evacuation. Traveling aboard an air ambulance to a qualified medical facility can cost tens of thousands of dollars before the treatment expenses.
For those who travel often, The Platinum Card from American Express offers travelers evacuation benefits while far from home. In the event a traveler requires medical attention and a medical professional determines medical evacuation is required, the Premium Global Assistance Hotline (available to all Platinum card holders) can coordinate medical evacuation from the point of illness or injury. In order to activate this benefit, the travel must be coordinated through American Express—and when done correctly, it may add no additional cost to the traveler.
While this benefit may be arguably the most valuable of all the above benefits, it does come with some limitations. First, the card comes with a $550 annual fee, which is significantly cheaper than medical evacuation, but significantly more expensive than many other cards. Second, benefits may only apply as the result of a true accident. Injury or illness that are self-inflicted or the result of an act of war may not qualify.
Limitations of Credit Card Travel Insurance Policies
As with any travel insurance plan, there are a number of limitations to consider before taking advantage of benefits. In some situations, the benefits mentioned may only be secondary coverage. As a result, the travel insurance provider may require travelers to file for compensation from other sources, including primary insurance providers or common carriers. Another common pitfall travelers often do not foresee are the terms and conditions of each benefit. For example: a trip cancellation plan is not the same as a “Cancel for Any Reason” plan, meaning travelers who attempt to cancel their trip for a non-covered reason could be left holding the bill for their trip.
Before taking advantage of any travel insurance benefit, be sure to understand all of the terms and conditions that govern the benefit. It is important to include a copy of the card benefit guide with a travel emergency kit, and call the credit card provider before taking an advantage of a benefit to understand how the claim process works.
While travel insurance is always a good idea for international trips, many travelers may already have a level of coverage without being aware. By understanding the benefits that already come with readily available credit cards, international travelers can stay safe, secure, and protected while seeing the world.