Most credit cards aren’t offering relief when it comes to traveling amid the coronavirus outbreak. However, by contacting your travel providers, you might be able to cancel your trip and receive some sort of refund.
Dear Cashing In,
Late last year, my wife and I bought plane tickets to fly to Vietnam this summer. But with the coronavirus spreading, we don’t want to risk it. We paid for the tickets with a credit card. I have heard that credit cards sometimes have travel insurance. Can we use it to cancel our tickets and stay home? – Patrick
There’s no doubt that the coronavirus is shaking up the travel industry – and it probably will for some time.
Airlines have canceled flights into China and other parts of Asia, bookings are down and the stocks of airlines, hotel chains and other travel-industry companies have been hit worse than most.
Not only that, but travelers like you are now also forced to make decisions about travel plans without information about what things will be like months from now.
See related: Best credit cards for travel insurance
Credit card policies
While a lot of credit cards offer travel insurance as one of their perks, some companies have cut back on offering travel benefits the last few years.
For instance, Citi discontinued many of its insurance and price protection guarantees associated with its cards last year. But many premium cards – including some from Chase and American Express – do include travel insurance protections.
However, you need to look a little more closely at the details of these policies to see if they cover your situation. In the case of worrying about traveling because of the coronavirus, travel cancellation or interruption policies don’t appear to apply.
See related: Coronavirus: Can credit card travel insurance help?
For instance, Chase’s policies tend to reimburse you if you are unable to travel because of sickness, jury duty (or something similar) or if you are unable to reach your destination because of weather or terrorist attacks.
It does not cover choosing not to go because you’re worried about catching a virus. That constitutes as a “change of plans,” which isn’t covered.
In other words, if you have the coronavirus and a doctor says you shouldn’t travel, you probably qualify under the policy. But if you’re healthy and planes are flying to your destination (where some people might have the coronavirus), you won’t be reimbursed if you choose not to go.
Call your travel providers
However, just because you might not be covered by credit card travel insurance policies doesn’t mean you don’t have options.
The first thing you should do is contact your travel providers – the airlines, the hotels and the tour operators. They are likely to be more flexible than usual and allow you to postpone your trip.
Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, airlines around the world have been loosening their policies on changing tickets. Some are waiving change fees – including major U.S. carriers like American, United and Delta.
They might not fully refund your ticket, but they might be willing to allow you to change it. If you’re uncomfortable traveling to Vietnam this summer, you might consider postponing your trip until after the dust settles on this new virus. Or maybe you can change your destination to somewhere else.
The bottom line: Credit card travel insurance might not offer much help in this circumstance. But you still probably have options – and it never hurts to ask.