Credit cards may reimburse you for your pre-paid expenses if your trip is canceled or interrupted. Here’s how trip cancellation and interruption insurance works, what cards offer it and what alternatives are available.
While COVID-19 is on everyone’s radar screens, everything from illness to severe weather can disrupt your travel plans. Travel credit cards may provide some peace of mind by reimbursing you for your pre-paid expenses if your trip is canceled or interrupted.
But before you make a travel purchase, it’s important to check whether your credit card has trip cancellation and interruption coverage. If it does, be sure to find out how much it covers and under what circumstances the coverage kicks in.
Typically, “if credit card companies do actually offer trip cancellation or trip interruption insurance, it’s very restricted and very limited,” says Erin Gavin, product analyst for the travel insurance site InsureMyTrip.com.
Things often change, so while some credit card issuers may add trip cancellation insurance, others may reduce coverage amounts or drop the coverage completely. “It’s very hard for consumers to stay informed if they use their credit card for travel insurance,” Gavin says.
Because of that, it’s important to call your credit card company and check your coverage before you book your next trip, she says.
InsureMyTrip.com recommends asking:
- What is the reimbursement limit per trip and per occurrence?
- What is the maximum benefit per year?
- What are covered reasons, restrictions, limitations and exclusions?
- Does the insurance cover my family?
How trip cancellation and interruption insurance work
Trip cancellation insurance covers you if certain circumstances prevent you from traveling on or before your scheduled departure date and you have to cancel your flight, hotel or other travel arrangements that you’ve already paid for.
Trip interruption insurance kicks in if certain covered circumstances arise while you’re traveling and your trip is interrupted.
“Most credit cards only cover trip payments purchased on that specific card,” says Steven Benna, content director at the travel insurance site Squaremouth.com.
So, if you charge your flight to a credit card that provides trip cancellation or interruption insurance, and your hotel to a card that doesn’t have such coverage, you could be reimbursed for your flight but not your hotel.
You’re likely to be eligible to be covered if you or your traveling companion become injured or ill, severe weather prevents you from traveling or there’s a terrorist incident.
The amount of coverage can vary greatly, from $1,500 to $10,000 per person, depending on the credit card. So coverage that might be plenty if you’re flying to visit your grandmother in California might not be adequate if you’re taking an expensive trip, like an African safari.
Your credit card also might have an annual limit on trip interruption and cancellation insurance.
The kind of instances covered can vary from credit card to credit card. The Platinum Card® from American Express, for example, covers the sickness of the traveler, a traveling companion or a family member, or a quarantine imposed by a physician. Those might apply in a case where you or a family member contracts or may have been exposed to someone ill with COVID-19.
Other eligible reasons include inclement weather or a change in military orders.
Platinum card coverage does not apply if someone has a pre-existing medical condition or is participating in a sport for which you receive a salary or prize money, for example.
Credit cards that offer trip cancellation/interruption insurance
|Chase Sapphire Preferred Card||$10,000 per person; $20,000 per trip|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve||$10,000 per person; $20,000 per trip|
|United Explorer Card||$1,500 per person; $6,000 per trip|
|United Quest℠ Card||$1,500 per person; $6,000 per trip|
|World of Hyatt Credit Card||$5,000 per person; $10,000 per trip|
|Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card||$5,000 per person; $10,000 per trip|
|Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card||$2,500 per person per trip|
|The Platinum Card® from American Express||$10,000 per trip; $20,000 per year|
|Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card||$10,000 per trip; $20,000 per year|
|Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card||$10,000 per trip; $20,000 per year|
Purchasing travel insurance
If your credit card doesn’t provide trip cancellation coverage or if you need higher limits or a wider range of coverages, you can also purchase travel insurance on your own.
In a typical year, Americans spend about $4 billion on travel insurance, according to the U.S. Travel Insurance Association.
Most policies you purchase are considered comprehensive, and along with covering trip cancellation and interruption, often include such things as medical coverage and reimbursement for travel delays and baggage delays, Benna says.
Travel insurance typically costs between 4% and 10% of the cost of your trip, according to InsureMyTrip.com. The age of the travelers, number of travelers, length of the trip and type of coverage all influence the price. Travelers age 65 and older often will pay more.
Many travelers are looking for coverage because of the coronavirus pandemic, Benna says. As long as you don’t have symptoms before you purchase travel insurance, you can get coverage.
Currently 18 countries require you to purchase travel insurance because of the pandemic. Many of them are in Latin America and the Caribbean and include Bermuda, Costa Rica and Jamaica, he says.
Royal Caribbean International is now requiring unvaccinated guests age 12 and older who are sailing from Florida to show proof of travel insurance that covers COVID-19 medical expenses, quarantine and evacuation.
You can also buy more expensive cancel-for-any reason policies, which typically allow you to cancel your trip for any reason up to 48 hours before your trip, including if you are afraid of contracting COVID-19.
Most policies must be purchased between 10 and 21 days from when you make your first payment for the trip. These policies generally cost 40% more than typical comprehensive policies and will reimburse up to 75% of your trip cost, according to Squaremouth.
If you purchase your own travel insurance, your credit card trip cancellation and interruption coverage might be secondary, meaning your credit card will cover whatever costs your independent travel insurance didn’t cover.
To cash in on your travel insurance, you’ll need to file a written claim, providing documentation of the costs you pre-paid and the reason for your claim, such as a letter from your physician if you’re unable to travel because of a medical issue, Benna says.
“Travelers are becoming much more vigilant when protecting their trips,” Benna says.
Read the fine print before using your card’s travel insurance
Your credit card is likely to have certain exclusions so you won’t be reimbursed, such as if you can’t travel because of a pre-existing medical condition, or if your airline or tour operator cancels your trip other than for extreme weather or a strike.
“Consumers should be very wary of using credit cards [for trip interruption and cancellation insurance] without digging into the details,” Gavin says.