Split travel cost between two rewards cards: Is your trip covered?
Review both cards' terms and conditions or contact your card issuer to know your travel benefits' details
Tony Mecia is a business journalist who writes for a number of trade and general-interest publications. Every week, he answers readers’ questions about credit card rewards programs in his “Cashing In” column.
Can I split the cost of a trip between two rewards credit cards and receive travel protection benefits from both?
Most rewards credit cards offer some form of travel protection, but conditions vary significantly from one card to another.
Read each card's terms and conditions or contact your card issuers to find out how you'll be covered if you split payment of the same trip between two different cards.
Dear Cashing In,
My husband and I are going on a cruise. I have both the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard and the Costco Anywhere Visa. Can I split our cruise expense and be covered by the travel protection of $5,000 for the Mastercard and the $3,000 for the Visa card? – Vera
This is an intriguing question – and a potentially ingenious idea on your part.
Many people probably have no idea their reward credit cards come with travel protection benefits.
Airlines and travel providers routinely offer travelers the option of buying extra travel insurance at the time of purchase. But typically, if you have a rewards credit card, you already have at least some coverage in case something goes wrong.
See related: 11 credit card travel insurance benefits
Travel benefits offered by rewards cards
This coverage varies by card and by card issuer, of course. Typically, reward cards come with insurance that covers costs such as an unanticipated and serious illness, trip cancellations and delays, and lost or delayed luggage.
- To be eligible, you have to use the card to pay for the trip.
- You have to submit a claim and provide plenty of documentation.
- Usually, the credit card company outsources the work to an outside insurance company.
- Often, the coverage is less comprehensive than privately purchased travel insurance, but if you encounter problems with travel, it’s better than nothing.
Coverage implications of paying trip with two different cards
In your case, you’re asking if you can split the cost between two cards – which both happen to come from Citi – and receive the full benefit of the protection.
The Citi AAdvantage card is limited to $5,000 for trip interruption or cancellation coverage per person, while the Costco card caps its benefits at $3,000 per person.
In these situations, you can often figure out a lot by reading the terms and conditions of the coverage. They will explain any limitations or restrictions.
- In your case, they say that the coverage is limited to either the above amounts or the amount you charged on the card for the trip, whichever is less.
- Those terms also stipulate that the coverage is secondary to any other insurance you might have or to any reimbursements the travel provider might offer.
Those are the terms that the company offering the coverage is legally bound by, and there is nothing in the terms and conditions that explicitly disallows claims if you have another card.
You just can’t make money off a trip cancellation by double dipping – you are limited to your actual expenses and subject to the coverage caps.
Tip: From trip cancellation to baggage delay and rental car protection, credit cards can offer you coverage on your next trip. See "Best credit cards for travel insurance" to pick the right card for your travel needs.
Dealing with travel insurance claims
In my experience dealing with travel insurance provided through reward cards, you never know for certain what the insurance company will pay until you file a claim and have that claim work its way through the insurance company’s process.
You might try to contact Citi ahead of time and ask, but my guess is that whatever customer-service agent you reach on the phone will not know the specifics of the travel insurance’s terms and conditions and will not guarantee you that your plan will succeed.
Remember that the credit card issuer tends to outsource the insurance coverage to another company, so issuers might not be as familiar with the details of that insurance.
A third option: Buying separate coverage
While that is probably not the definitive answer you are looking for, there is no real harm in splitting the cost between two cards to give it a shot.
Odds that your trip will be canceled or you will fall seriously ill are probably small.
If you are still worried about having enough coverage, the safer move is to look into buying separate travel insurance.
You can probably receive a much more reliable idea of what is covered and what is not.
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