Many credit cards have travel insurance policies that can cover you if unforeseen circumstances ruin your travel plans. These cover everything from emergency evacuation and accidental death to baggage loss and the suddenly crucial trip cancellation.
Earning enough points for a free vacation or flight is always a thrill, but flying has become a massive hassle, and you never know when circumstances may interrupt your plans.
If the experience with COVID-19 has taught us anything, you never know when travel insurance is suddenly going to become extremely important.
As we watched credit card issuers scramble to adjust their coverage and answer questions at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, suddenly travel insurance wasn’t just a nice add-on to a credit card you barely ever use, but a potential lifeline for covering non-reimbursable flights, hotels, tours and other common carrier travel expenses.
If you’re traveling and something potentially as unforeseen as a worldwide respiratory illness takes hold, below you’ll find credit cards with the best travel insurance policies.
These cover everything from emergency evacuation and accidental death to more typical occurrences such as baggage loss and trip cancellation.
Credit cards with the best travel insurance
- Chase Sapphire Reserve: Best travel insurance coverage amounts
- Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: Best travel insurance coverage for a low annual fee
- The Platinum Card® from American Express: Best range of travel insurance benefits
Types of travel insurance coverage on credit cards
Travel insurance offered by credit cards is usually secondary to any individual travel insurance plan you may purchase, which means it will cover any eligible expenses not covered by your individual insurance plan if you have one.
That being said, even though you may receive a higher coverage amount and coverage under more varied circumstances with a separate individual plan, for most healthy adults, the travel coverage offered by the best travel credit cards below will be more than sufficient.
Below are the types of travel insurance coverage you’re most likely to find on credit cards, where that is a benefit.
Travel cancellation/interruption coverage includes prepaid and non-reimbursable travel expenses charged by the primary cardholder to the credit card with the travel insurance benefit if the trip had to be canceled or cut short due to sudden illness, medical emergency, bad weather or the death of the cardholder or their loved one.
Coverage amounts vary depending on the circumstances and the credit card offering the benefit. Exclusions for coverage are often any illness or death brought on by a preexisting condition that was not stable 90 to 180 days before travel. You may also receive no coverage or less coverage if you’re 65 and over.
Lost baggage or baggage delay
Lost baggage or baggage delay reimburses the cardholder when they either lose their luggage or their luggage is delayed for a certain period of time – usually six hours or over.
It covers the entirety of your lost or delayed luggage or is limited to essential expenses like clothing and toiletries. On some plans, you’re also reimbursed if your luggage is damaged in-flight.
Coverage amounts for lost baggage or baggage delay can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, depending on the card.
Trip delay covers you if your flight is delayed from overnight to a few days and you require a hotel or incur various related expenses as a result, such as meals or transportation. Coverage is usually limited to a few hundred dollars per ticket.
Emergency travel and assistance
An additional perk of some credit card travel insurance plans is assistance if you run into an emergency or legal issue on your trip. The plan administrator is usually available to refer you to medical, emergency or legal services in the country you’ve traveled to.
You will either be reimbursed for expenses incurred through these referrals or you’ll need to pay for them on your own, depending on the plan.
Emergency evacuation and transportation
If you or a traveling companion are suddenly struck with an illness or injury while on your trip, this coverage can provide you with emergency evacuation or transportation back home as well as any emergency medical expenses you may incur. Coverage amounts for these circumstances are usually a few hundred thousand dollars.
Best credit cards for travel insurance
|Card||Travel insurance benefits|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred Card|
|The Platinum Card from American Express|
The following credit cards currently carry the best travel insurance plans we can find in terms of coverage types and the amount of coverage they offer. Though they may have fewer restrictions and exclusions than lesser credit card insurance plans, exclusions and restrictions still exist that may limit your eligibility for coverage or the coverage amount you’re entitled to.
Chase Sapphire Reserve: Best travel insurance coverage amounts
Chase Sapphire Reserve just slightly edges its sister card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, for the title of “best credit card” when it comes to travel insurance.
The Reserve offers lost baggage reimbursement up to $3,000 per passenger even when your luggage is damaged, while the Preferred only offers baggage delay reimbursement once your baggage is lost for six hours and it will only reimburse you for essential purchases up to $100 a day.
The Preferred only offers travel and emergency assistance where the administrator will refer you to services that you yourself will have to pay for, while the Reserve offers emergency evacuation and transportation if you or a member of your immediate family becomes sick or injured up to $100,000. Everything else is identical between the two cards.
Other great coverage features of the Chase Sapphire Reserve include:
- Trip cancellation/interruption up to $10,000 per person and $20,000 per trip (up to a maximum of $40,000 in a 12-month period)
- Trip delay reimbursement for expenses when your trip is delayed more than six hours up to $500 per ticket
- Up to $75,000 for collision or damage on rental cars
- Emergency medical and dental up to $2,500 if you’re more than 100 miles from home if you or a family member gets sick or injured
- Accidental death and dismemberment up to $1,000,000
- Roadside assistance up to $50 per incident four times a year
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: Best travel insurance coverage for a low annual fee
While the Chase Sapphire Reserve has slightly better travel insurance coverage, it also has a high annual fee of $550 ($75 for each additional card).
This is not so with the Chase Sapphire Preferred, as the annual fee is only $95 – the lowest for the best cards with travel insurance. Plus, you don’t have to pay to add cardholders who will receive the same benefits as the primary cardholder.
The collision damage waiver for rental car insurance carries no country exclusion like many other credit cards and you get many of the same benefits as the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Chief among them is the $10,000 per person in trip cancellation/interruption insurance ($20,000 per trip) on flights, passenger tours and hotels.
Other benefits include the following:
- Baggage delay insurance that reimburses essential expenses when your baggage is delayed over six hours up to $100 per day for five days
- Trip delay reimbursement covers non-reimbursable expenses like meals and hotel stays, when common carrier travel is delayed more than 12 hours or overnight, up to $500 per ticket
- Travel and emergency assistance services provide legal and travel referrals from the plan administrator when you’re far from home. However, you’re responsible for the cost of any goods and services you use from the referral.
The Platinum Card from American Express: Best range of travel insurance benefits
The Platinum Card from American Express comes with a pretty comprehensive travel insurance package if you can handle the annual fee of $695.
It comes with many of the same travel insurance benefits as the rest of the Amex travel card slate, but the benefits are so significant that they’re worth a spot on this list because other cards have nothing on them.
Here’s a breakdown of all the details:
- Trip interruption/cancellation insurance up to $10,000 per trip and $20,000 per 12-month period
- $500 for reasonable expenses when your trip is delayed more than six hours, even if you pay with reward points
- Lost baggage protection up to $3,000 for a carry-on bag and up to $2,000 for a checked bag. Plus, up to $1,000 in coverage for high-risk items such as jewelry and electronics
- Primary rental car insurance when you enroll in the Amex Premium Car Rental Program
How to file a claim
The process for submitting a travel insurance claim will vary by issuer. If you have a trip that is unexpectedly canceled or impacted, your first step should be to call the support number on the credit card you used to book your trip. From there, the card issuer can walk you through the claims process.
With many issuers, the process is as simple as filling out an online claim form. Keep in mind that deadlines to file a claim vary, so it’s a good idea to read your card’s guide to benefits before booking a trip.
There are many options when it comes to credit cards that can cover you in the event your next trip gets pushed back or ruined altogether. It’s critical to review each card’s terms and fees and pick the one that best suits your travel plans.
“All of these programs are solid. But since there are so many of them and they do have subtle differences, consumers should investigate all of them to make the best choice based on their travel needs and personal preferences,” says David Bakke, personal finance contributor to Money Crashers.