Free Credit Card Travel Insurance Comparison – Which Card Is Best For You?

travel insuranceWhile vacations are intended to be worry free, Murphy’s Law states that when something can go wrong, it will go wrong. Hence the popularity and need for travel insurance.

From flight delays, to lost baggage, cancelled trips, car rental dings and sickness abroad, we’ve all either experienced or heard of a travel horror story. Travel insurance is a must to protect ourselves from the potentially devastating effects of having to pay for accidents out of pocket.

What most Canadians don’t know is that they already have insurance protection for many of the most important travel insurance coverages. Many of the best credit cards now offer comprehensive travel insurance as a card benefit, including: travel medical, car rental, travel accident, trip cancellation, trip interruption, trip delay, lost baggage, and motel burglary amongst others.

Just how good are the coverages, and which Canadian credit cards offer the best travel insurance packages is something that will vary by each person’s needs.

Credit Card Travel Insurance Comparison

TD Aeroplan Infinite Scotia Amex Gold BMO World Elite MasterCard Desjardins Visa Odyssey Gold National Bank World Elite MasterCard American Express Gold Rewards CIBC Aventura Visa Infinite RBC Avion Visa Infinite
Travel Medical 21 Cons. Days
4 Days/65+
$1,000,000
25 Cons. Days
10 Days/65+
$1,000,000
21 Cons. Days
No Coverage 65+
$2,000,000
Up to 59 60 Cons. Days
50-64 31 Cons. Days
65-75 15 Cons. Days
$5,000,000
Up to 54 60 Cons. Days
55-64 31 Cons. Days
65-74 15 Cons. Days
$5,000,000
15 Cons. Days
No Coverage 65+
Unlimited
15 Cons. Days
3 Days/65+
$5,000,000
15 Cons. Days
3 Days / 65+
Unlimited
Trip Cancellation $1,500 / person
$5,000 / group
$2,500 / person
$10,000 / group
$2,500 / person
$5,000 / group
 $2,500 / person $2,500 / person N/A $1,000 / person
$5,000 / group
$1,500 / person
$5,000 / group
Trip Interruption $5,000 / person
$25,000 / group
$2,500 / person
$10,000 / group
$2,000 / person  Unlimited $5,000 / person $1,500 / person
$6,000 / group
$2,000/ person $5,000 / person
$25,00 / group
Flight Delay $500 $500 $500  $200/day $500 $500 $500 $500
Lost Luggage $1,000 / person
No group limit
$1,000 / person
$1,000 / group
$750 / person
$2,000 / group
$1,000/
person
No group limit
$1,000 / person
No group limit
$500 / person
$500 / group
$500 / person
No group limit
$500 / person
$2,500 / group
Car Rental CDW, theft CDW, theft CDW, theft, ADD, Personal  effects  CDW, theft CDW, theft, Personal effects CDW, theft CDW, theft CDW, theft
Hotel/Motel Burglary N/A Yes N/A  N/A N/A Yes N/A Yes
Travel Accident $500,000 $500,000 $500,000  $1,000,000 N/A $500,000 $500,000 $500,000
Annual Fee
Sign-up Bonus
1st Yr Free. $120 after
30,000 Miles
$99
20,000 Points
$150
20,000 Points
 $110
0 Points
$150
0 Points
$0 1st Yr. $150 after
25,000 Points
$120
15,000 Points
$120
15,000 Points
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When selecting which credit card is right for you, you’ll want to evaluate the earning potential of each card, the point redemption options and structure, the annual fee, and obviously the insurance coverages. Travel insurance needs will vary by person, stage of life and travel type. But here are a few suggestions we have:

1. Always carry travel insurance when going out of province or country. Your provincial health-care plan does not cover all of the costs you can incur in a U.S. hospital. Typically you will only be covered for the equivalent cost of care in a Canadian hospital, which is far less.

2. Check for eligibility, limitations and exclusions.  People 55+, adventure travelers, motorcyclists, pregnant women should read the fine print of each insurance certificate.

3. If you have any health related issues prior to your trip they can impact availability of your protection.  Check your insurance certificate.

4. You have no medical secrets. When making a claim, your insurer will comb through your medical records to assess pre-existing conditions, what you’ve been treated for, when and what medications you’re on.

5. Rental car insurance on credit cards will only cover collision damages. You will need your own third party liability coverage (covers you if you hurt someone else).

6. Most credit card insurances (except for travel medical) only apply if you pay for the covered service with your credit card.. For example, you have to pay for your airline ticket with your credit card to be covered by its trip cancellation insurance.

Some credit cards offer phenomenal travel insurance coverages that will give you all you need. Others will get you halfway there, and you can top-up any holes with your insurance broker. When in doubt, review your insurance certificates and call the credit card company and/or its partnering insurance company. Either way, if you travel alone or with family, check to see what your credit card already covers you for, so you don’t pay twice.

22 comments

  1. I have a Scotiabank Gold Passport Visa, which provides coverage for up to 30 days outside the country up to age 65. I plan to be going to the US for approximately three months this winter. I was in touch with their partner who quoted a premium for the entire time which was very high. I contacted the CAA and their premium, for what appeared to be a similar coverage was quite a bit lower. I do need to explore further to compare.

    I don’t want to be in a situation which I have read about where I buy secondary insurance and the first company declines because it was more than 30 days and the second company declines because I had another insurer. Am I best to simply cancel my credit card and get one with no travel insurance, as when I travel outside the country I am always with my husband who has coverage for both of us on his card, and buy insurance for those longer periods out of the country?

    • Hi Susan,

      Without knowing the terms, conditions and exclusions of each policy it’s really hard for us to provide accurate advice. We would not make the mistake of assuming all policies are the same. That said, we have never heard of anyone having to cancel their credit card to ensure coverage eligibility for a stand alone out of country travel medical policy.

      Clearly you will need some additional coverage, since the best credit card travel medical insurance will only cover you up to 60 consecutive days out of country. We’d recommend you speak with an insurance broker to help you find the best and most economical options in the marketplace, given your situation. A good broker will be able to help lay your options out for you.

      Hope that helps,

      GreedyRates Staff

  2. Was there a reason that Mastercard (I use CUcredit, an former credit union card) was not included? It gives 15 travel insurance.

    • Hi J Callaghan,

      There are several MasterCards included in the chart above. We tried to include some of the more popular cards in Canada, as well as a range of coverage qualities. Moreover, because the CUETS MasterCard World Elite is only available to participating credit union members, we did not included it in the chart above. That said, hopefully it gives you the information needed to asses the quality of coverage your card has relative to the market.

      The MasterCard World Elite product from CUETS, offers excellent insurance coverage. It comes close to Desjardins and National Bank, with its travel medical coverage for those up to 74 years of age, for 15 consecutive days, for $2M. However, the one coverage that seems to be missing is trip delay insurance.

      Hope that helps,

      GreedyRates Staff

  3. While I was checking the Cardholder Agreement Guide for TD Aeroplan Infinite card, it looked like the card provides ADD for rental car (Section 3 under COMMON CARRIER TRAVEL ACCIDENT INSURANCE). Wondering whether I noticed it correctly?

    Thanks

    • Hi Ronnie,

      Thanks for writing in and letting us know. Looks like you are correct:

      Section 3 – Rental Car Accident Coverage
      Benefits will be paid as specified in the Schedule of Benefits below if an Insured Person suffers a Loss while operating
      or riding as a passenger in, or boarding or alighting from any Rental Car provided that:
      (a) The cost of the Rental Car was fully charged to your Account; or paid either in full or partially using your Aeroplan
      Miles. If your Aeroplan Miles have only partially paid for the cost of your Rental Car, the balance of that cost must
      be fully charged to your Account; and
      (b) there has been no violation of the rental agreement by the Account Holder; and
      (c) the driver of the rented automobile is not legally intoxicated nor under influence of any narcotic unless prescribed by
      a licensed physician. The maximum benefit payable for any one Rental Car Accident is $2,000,000 in total.

      Nice benefit. Hopefully you never have to use it!

      GreedyRates Staff

  4. Terry Stephenson

    If as in the case of Amex Gold card the medical insurance only covers 15 consecutive days can a second card either Amex SPG or Visa Infinite First Class cover the remaining 7 days of a 21 day vacation?

    • Hi Terry,

      The coverage from each card will begin on the day you arrive in the other province or country. As such, you cannot combine the coverage days from each card to engineer a longer coverage period.

      Nice thinking though!

      GreedyRates Staff

  5. hi – I have a Scotia Amex Gold card.

    I understand that there is a 25 day limit [for under 65’s]. But how many trips can I make in one year? I drive into the states regularly [perhaps 4-5 times] for a couple of weeks duration to visit family. Am I covered for each trip? and what happens for the remainder of the year if I do make a claim?

    thanks
    karen

    • Hi Karen,

      You are covered for each trip, up to 25 consecutive days each. That means you can go for one trip that is 20 days, come back home, then go on a second trip that is 22 days, repeatedly and be covered throughout. Making a claim should not impact your future coverage, unless there are claim amount (dollar) maximums for a given time period, which there usually are.

      Hope that helps,

      GreedyRates Staff

  6. Sorry if this is a dumb question, but you have to book your travel under the credit card in order to benefit from that credit card’s travel insurance coverage, correct? I am planning a trip to Tanzania and want to wire the funds to avoid the 2.5% incremental fee they will charge if I use a credit card. So if I don’t charge the trip on my credit card, then I wouldn’t be covered, correct?

    • Hi Cindy,

      Not a dumb question at all! The answer depends on what type of travel insurance your referring to. You do NOT need to book your trip through your credit card for out of country travel medical insurance coverage. Even if you drive into the U.S. you will be covered. However, for most other travel insurances like trip cancellation, trip delay, trip interruption, or lost baggage, you do have to book the trip through your credit card.

      Hope that helps,

      GreedyRates Staff

  7. When you updated this article, why did you not include the card you described elsewhere as the best card for insurance: the Desjardin Odyssey?

  8. Great comparison. Would be great if you could do a deeper dive how medical insurance offerings vary. i.e., what sorts of pre-approvals are required for coverage once an emergency situation occurs, how are reimbursements made…are receipts required or can the foreign entity bill the credit card company directly for reimbursement, how difficult is it to get reimbursed from the card company as well and are some more unreasonable to deal with than others. Always good to know what sorts of ‘gotchas’ might exist ahead of time. Realize some of these questions are more of the qualitative nature but it would be useful to leverage the wealth of experience that must exist, both good and bad.

    One offering you haven’t listed here that my card, the Visa Desjardins Travel Gold has is Emergency Travel Assistance. This is tied in with with medical emergency situations but covers a broad range of services beyond that including assistance with stolen documents and identification, cash advances as well as the aforementioned medical assistance.

    Also, now that I’m retired and my wife and I have a much reduced income relative to when we were working, I’m wondering if the card companies base their approvals on net assets, which in our case is reasonable, or is annual income the only factor that matters. It would be good to know that if we found a card that better suited our needs that our modest income wouldn’t be an impediment, or are we now ‘stuck’ with the card we now have because we wouldn’t qualify for any of the others, simply because they look at income only.

    Thank you.

    • Hi Greg,

      That’s a big project! Unfortunately we don’t have the data to qualitatively judge and compare travel medical offerings fairly i.e. understanding claims turndown ratios, amount funded versus claimed etc… Agree on Desjardins, a great insurance offering, but their appetite for cardholders outside of Quebec is limited.

      The question of getting approved for a premium card based on assets is interesting. In the United States it’s done. The income requirements are actually set by MasterCard and Visa. In Canada, as far as we can tell after making a few calls, MasterCard and Visa only have minimum income requirements, there is no “and/or” asset threshold unfortunately. That said, income verification is kind of loosey goosey.

      GreedyRates Staff

      • Thanks for your response. I realize that what I was asking is a tall order but as a consumer one is really flying blind as there isn’t any comparison information out there. The implications of this is that one often doesn’t find out the shortcomings of these offerings until it is too late, potentially at great financial costs and personal anxiety.

        Re Desjardins, I live in BC and have obtained the card through Coast Capital Savings, a BC based financial institution that uses Desjardins Visa services. I’m not sure if smaller institutions in other provinces use them as well. If not, you are correct in that they are somewhat limited outside of Quebec. I would say that their offering compares very favourably to the ones you’ve listed in your article but your Quebec comment helps explain why I never see their offering in any review comparisons.

        You might also be interested that they also offer 1% cash back and this can be used to offset travel purchases. (They used to offer 2% on foreign currency transactions but regrettably, this was cancelled.) I realize your article focussed on Insurance only but it would be interesting to see what the other cards’ cash back offerings are as well.

        Thanks again

        • Hi Greg,

          With respect to the rewards value offered by the cards, most offer more than 1% in value. While none are cash back cards, they either offer points or miles that can be redeemed for travel. As such most listed above offer in general between 1.5% to 2% in cash value. In addition, many have very attractive sign-up bonus offers, which you should always strongly consider – unfortunately new customers get rewarded more than old customers with incentives – as is the case in most industries.

          Best,

          GreedyRates Staff

  9. Hi, thank you for this one-stop detailed table summary of premium credit card travel insurance packages and caveat footnotes. Would you be able to please point out where on the National Bank World Elite MasterCard certificate you find their 500,000 Travel Accident coverage?

  10. Good overview. But are secondary users covered too?

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