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Years ago, my credit card’s auto collision damage waiver came to the rescue when I was involved in a car accident while driving a rental car. When I got the rental company’s $3,600 bill, I immediately filed a claim with my credit card benefits administrator and was reimbursed over $3,200. I didn’t have to buy supplemental insurance from the rental agency or file a claim with my own auto insurance. My credit card coverage took the stress out of that situation and made it easy to move forward.

Credit card travel protections offer a range of benefits and coverage that can provide peace of mind when traveling. If you have a travel credit card in your wallet, chances are it comes packed with protections that can save you money and hassle in an emergency. We’ll cover the common types of travel protections and what they mean.

What Is Covered by Credit Card Travel Insurance?

Credit card travel insurance typically covers various unexpected travel expenses incurred due to unforeseen circumstances.

Some common examples of travel insurance coverage include:

  • Reimbursement for non-refundable trip expenses due to covered reasons such as illness, injury, or severe weather, including prepaid expenses like airfare, accommodations, and tour packages
  • Travel-related emergencies such as necessary medical treatment while traveling
  • Lost, stolen, or delayed baggage reimbursement, as well as expenses incurred due to travel delays
  • Rental car collision damage waiver, which protects against damage to or theft of rental vehicles 

It's important to review the specific terms and conditions of your credit card's travel insurance policy to understand the extent of coverage and any limitations or exclusions that may apply. Some coverage is secondary, meaning it applies only when personal insurance options are exhausted. You also must charge the cost of travel to your credit card to receive coverage.

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Overview of Credit Card Travel Protections

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Whether you're booking flights, hotels, or rental cars, credit card travel protections can come in handy if things don’t go as planned. Depending on the type of coverage your card offers, you might get away with relying on it instead of purchasing a separate policy. But what exactly is covered by credit card travel protection? The term refers to an umbrella encompassing nearly a dozen types of policies.

Here's an overview of some common credit card travel protections:

  • Trip cancellation and interruption insurance
  • Trip delay reimbursement
  • Travel accident insurance
  • Travel and emergency assistance services
  • Emergency evacuation and transportation
  • Emergency medical and dental benefit
  • Baggage insurance 
  • Auto collision damage waiver
  • Roadside assistance
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Trip Cancellation and Interruption Insurance

Trip cancellation and interruption insurance covers non-refundable trip expenses in case of cancellation or interruption due to covered reasons. Typically, this coverage extends to situations such as illness, injury, severe weather, or other unforeseen circumstances. When you book your trip using the credit card that offers this protection, you may be reimbursed for pre-paid, non-refundable expenses like airfare, accommodations, or tour packages if you need to cancel or cut short your trip. 

Coverage may vary among credit cards and there are usually limitations and exclusions. For example, pre-existing medical conditions may not be covered, and certain events, such as losses incurred due to acts of war or civil unrest, may not qualify for reimbursement. Some credit cards offer up to $10,000 in coverage per person, while others impose this limit per trip.

Two years ago, I experienced the value of trip cancellation and interruption insurance when my brother tested positive for COVID before a family trip to London. I had charged the flights to The Platinum Card® from American Express and got the $1,295.37 cost of his flight reimbursed after filing a claim and submitting supporting documentation. The process was straightforward, though it took about two months.

Trip Delay Reimbursement

Trip delay insurance compensates for expenses incurred due to covered travel delays. Eligible expenses may include meals and lodging, and many credit cards provide up to $500 per ticket or trip.

Most credit cards that provide trip delay reimbursement do so only for delays of six hours or longer. However, coverage limits and eligibility criteria vary between cards so it's important to familiarize yourself with your card's terms and conditions.

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Travel Accident Insurance

Travel accident insurance provides coverage in case of an accident or injury that occurs while traveling. This policy typically includes accidental death and dismemberment coverage for you and your dependents when traveling on a common carrier such as an airplane, train, or cruise ship. Coverage and amount vary by card but typically range between $250,000-$1,000,000.

Travel and Emergency Assistance Services

Travel and emergency assistance is exactly what it sounds like: A support line you can call for emergency assistance while traveling. These services may include access to a 24/7 hotline that provides medical or legal referrals, emergency cash transfers, and other help. It can be invaluable if you travel abroad and find yourself in an unfortunate situation. 

It’s important to note that travel and emergency assistance services act as facilitators. It doesn’t cover the cost of a lawyer, medical bills, or other services rendered.

Emergency Evacuation and Transportation

If a medical need arises during your trip, you can call your card's benefits administrator to arrange for emergency evacuation and transport to the nearest medical facility. Coverage only applies to the cost of evacuating and transporting covered individuals, so you'll still be on the hook for any medical care received once you're on the ground again.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® is one of the few cards that provide emergency evacuation and transportation. This benefit can be incredibly valuable during emergencies that require urgent medical transportation or evacuation.

Emergency Medical and Dental Benefits

Emergency medical and dental coverage often can provide up to $2,500 for necessary medical or dental treatment. In most cases, you must travel 100 miles or more from home. Coverage applies to the cardholder, spouse or partner, and children. A deductible may apply, so double check your card's requirements.

Baggage Insurance

bag going on conveyor belt at airport

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There are two types of credit card baggage insurance: Lost luggage reimbursement and baggage delay insurance. Lost luggage reimbursement compensates the value of your belongings if your checked or carry-on luggage is lost or damaged. This type of insurance typically excludes luxury goods, so you should review your card’s coverage details to determine if you need additional coverage. 

On the other hand, baggage delay insurance may reimburse you for essential purchases you must make if your baggage is delayed by six or more hours. Eligible purchases generally include clothing and toiletry purchases.

Auto Collision Damage Waiver

Auto collision damage waiver provides coverage for damage to or theft of rental vehicles when you pay for the rental with your credit card. This coverage can potentially save you money by waiving the need to purchase the rental company's waiver.

Some credit cards offer primary coverage while others offer secondary. With primary coverage, you won’t need to file a claim with your personal car insurance first. Meanwhile, secondary coverage kicks in only after your personal auto insurance rejects your claim. Some policies cover the full cost of the damaged vehicle, while others are limited to $50,000-$75,000.

It's important to note that auto collision damage typically does not cover liability insurance, personal injury, or property damage. You may need to buy supplemental coverage if that’s a concern.

Roadside Assistance

Roadside assistance services provide emergency assistance if your vehicle breaks down while traveling. These services may include towing, jump-starts, tire changes, fuel delivery, and locksmith services. It's important to know that roadside assistance coverage may have limitations, such as a maximum number of service calls per year, while others may carry a service charge.

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Bottom Line

Every credit card differs in the travel protections it offers. Some might be so comprehensive that you won’t need to buy travel insurance, while others will provide very limited coverage. Regardless of the coverage level, even the most basic level of credit card travel insurance can provide peace of mind and save you money when traveling. You may not find it necessary to apply for a credit card just to get this benefit, but you should definitely familiarize yourself with your card’s coverage and limitations before paying for a policy.

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Ariana Arghandewal

Ariana Arghandewal is a rewards travel expert and founder of Pointchaser, an online publication dedicated to rewards travel topics. She brings over a decade of experience writing about travel, points, miles and credit cards. Her expertise includes her roles as an editor for distinguished travel and finance publications such as NerdWallet, The Points Guy and FlyerTalk. She has also authored many articles featured in major financial news & travel channels like Forbes, U.S. News Weekly, Business Insider & Fodor’s Travel.