What's the Added Value of a Credit Card with Travel Insurance?
Most of us know that we should have travel health insurance before we depart, but we’re not all aware of the fact that travel insurance can cover us for much more than just medical expenses. What are the different components of travel insurance, and which Canadian credit cards offer what?
Summary of Travel Insurance Coverage Per Credit Card
|Scotiabank Gold American Express||American Express Gold Rewards||Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite||RBC Visa Infinite Avion||Desjardins Odyssey World Elite Mastercard||National Bank World Elite Mastercard||BMO World Elite Mastercard||PC Financial World Elite Mastercard|
|Credit Score||740 -850||670-739||740 -850||670-739||670-739||740 -850||740-850||670-739|
|Days Covered||15 days under the age of 65, 10 days for 65+||15 days under the age of 65||25 days under the age of 65, 10 days for 65+||15 days under the age of 65, 3 days for 65+||< age 60 = 60 days, ages 60–64 = 31 days, ages 65–74 = 15 days||60 days under the age of 55, 31 days from age 55 - 65, 15 days for 65 - 74||21 days under the age of 65||10 days under the age of 65 only
|Travel Medical||$1,000,000||$5,000,000 ||$1,000,000||Unlimited||$5,000,000||$5,000,000||$2,000,000||$1,000,000
|Trip Cancellation||$2,500 per person / $10,000 maximum||N/A||$2,500 per person / $10,000 maximum||$1,500 per person / $5,000 maximum||$2,500 per person||$2,500 per person||$2,500 per person / $5,000 maximum||N/A
|Trip Interruption||$2,500 per person / $10,000 maximum||$1,500 per trip per insured person, $6,000 maximum||$2,500 per person / $10,000 maximum||$5,000 per person / $25,000 maximum||Unlimited||$5,000 per person||$2,000 per person||N/A
|Flight Delay||$500 per person - 4+ hour delay||$500 per person - 4+ hour delay||$500 per person - 4+ hour delay||$250 per person / $500 per trip - 4+ hour delay||N/A||$500 ||$500 per person - 6+ hour delay||N/A
|Lost Luggage||$1,000 per group - 4+ hour delay||$500 per group - 6+ hour delay||$1,000 per group - 4+ hour delay||$500 per person / $2,500 maximum - 4+ hour delay||$1,000 for theft or damage, $500 for delay of 6+ hours||$1,000 - 6+ hour delay||$750 per person, $2,000 maximum - 12+ hour delay||N/A
|Car Rental||$65,000 - 48 days||$85,000 - 48 days||$65,000 - 48 days||$65,000 - 48 days||Up to actual cost - 48 days||$65,000 - 48 days||$65,000 - 48 days||$65,000 - 31 days
|Hotel/Motel Burglary||$1,000 (Cananda & U.S. only)||$500||$1,000 (Cananda & U.S. only)||$2,500||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A
|Annual Fee||$99||$150||$139||$120||$130||$150||$150 (waived if sign up bonus is reached)||None
|Apply Here||Apply Here||Apply Here||Apply Here||Apply Here||Apply Here||Apply Here||Apply Here|
What to Consider When Using Travel Credit Card Insurance
Before we get into the nitty gritty details of the different kinds of travel insurance out there, let’s make sure we understand the essentials:
Charge Travel Expenses to the Right Card
It’s important to note that to qualify for your credit card travel insurance, you’ll have to charge your related travel expenses–e.g. flights, accommodations, and car rental—to your card to be covered. If you happen to have two credit cards that offer travel insurance, then use the card that gives you better coverage when you’re ready to pay.
Try Not to Double Up on What You Already Have
When making your decision about which card is best for your needs, consider what coverage you already have. E.g. if your current car insurance policy already covers you for car rental insurance, then you shouldn’t get a travel credit card that offers car rental insurance as its primary perk.
Keep in mind that your credit card travel insurance will not cover any pre-existing condition you have. Nor will your protection apply if you’re doing anything extreme such as bungee jumping or diving. Pregnant women should also be aware that certain conditions apply to them. If you fall into one of those categories, you’ll need to purchase an outside travel health insurance plan as credit card travel insurance is not designed for those scenarios.
Be Aware of Ageism
The coverage available to you is dependent on the length of your trip and your age. If you’re under age 65, the cards we recommend will cover you from 10-60 days of travel (depending on the card). However, if you’re over the age of 65, the longest amount of coverage offered is just 15 days. If you need additional coverage, you’ll need to call your credit card provider to see if you can pay to get it extended or you’ll need to purchase a separate travel insurance package for any outstanding days.
You Get What You Pay For
I know, I know, we all hate paying an annual fee for a credit card. But sometimes it’s worth it. Although the majority of the recommended cards in this article do have an annual fee, the comprehensive travel insurance they offer easily offsets their annual fee.
Types of Travel Insurance Provided By Credit Cards
The travel insurance lexicon can be confusing for those who are new to travel credit cards, and even for those who have had a travel card for years. We’ve translated everything into plain English so that you’ll know what you’re getting (and what to look for) with each type of coverage.
Emergency Medical Insurance
Without a doubt, emergency medical insurance is the essential type of credit card travel insurance you’ll absolutely need. Canadians are accustomed to getting free healthcare, but once you travel out of your province of residence or the country itself, the cost of medical attention skyrockets. A quick trip to the doctor overseas could cost you a few hundred dollars while a trip to the emergency room could be in the thousands. Yikes.
All of our featured credit cards offer at least $1,000,000 in travel health insurance per insured person, and you can even get unlimited coverage with the RBC Visa Infinite Avion card. However, the RBC Visa Infinite Avion card only gives you 15 days of coverage whereas the National Bank World Elite Mastercard gives you a whopping 60 days of coverage if you’re under the age of 55, but at a maximum of “just” $5,000,000. If you happen to fall between the ages of 55-59, the Desjardins Odyssey World Elite Mastercard also gives you 60 days and $5,000,000 of coverage
Technically speaking, the more you’re insured for, the better, but to be realistic, $1,000,000 in coverage should be enough for even serious accidents. What you should look at before you pick a credit card with travel insurance are the other below coverages included beyond emergency medical.
Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance
Travellers often don’t understand how trip cancellation/interruption works. This type of insurance only covers the non-refundable portion of your unused travel arrangements, plus any transportation up to a fixed amount should your trip be interrupted or delayed for a covered reason.
In other words, you can’t just decide that you no longer want to go on your trip and then try to put in a trip cancellation insurance claim. Depending on the policy, you’ll likely be insured for many different reasons, so you’ll want to read the details before you commit, but some of the most common causes are as follows:
- The insured traveller, travelling companion, or a family member dies
- The insured traveller, travelling companion, or a family member suffers a serious, covered injury or illness
- The birth of an immediate family member which requires your attendance after your coverage has begun
- You or your travelling companion suffer a traffic accident on the way to the airport that needs immediate medical attention
- You or your travelling companion suffer a job loss through no fault of your own (conditions apply)
- Your carrier (airline, train, cruise, etc.) does not operate for at least 24 hours due to a strike, natural disaster, or suspended operations
- A natural disaster makes your home or destination uninhabitable
- A terrorist event happens within 30 days of your scheduled arrival at your destination
All of the credit cards we feature in this article offer both trip cancellation and trip interruption insurance except for the American Express Gold Rewards card, which provides just trip interruption.
The RBC Visa Infinite Avion card offers the best travel insurance in Canada when it comes to trip interruption, since it provides $5,000 per person and a group maximum of $25,000.
As for trip cancellation, the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite and BMO World Elite Mastercard have great payouts of $2,500 per person and a group maximum of $10,000.
This type of insurance may seem trivial at first, but it can be very useful for travellers who have elderly parents at home, since it’ll help cover the costs in the event of an emergency that requires you to cut your trip short. Note that the definition of who is a covered ‘family member’ differs per policy, so you’ll need to read the travel insurance plan documentation to ensure your needs are met.
Flight Delay Insurance
Of all the credit card travel insurance benefits out there, flight delay insurance may end up being the one you claim first. Depending on which credit card you have, after a flight delay of 4-6 plus hours, you’ll be able to claim all reasonable accommodations, meals, entertainment, and personal items purchased up to a certain amount if no alternate transportation is available.
Planes are often delayed or cancelled for a variety of reasons, and it’s in your best interest to make a qualifying claim since it’ll make your delay more comfortable. This is especially true if your flight is cancelled and you’re not able to fly out until the following morning. You can book a hotel of your choice, have a nice meal, and purchase some personal items instead of relying on whatever hotel and meal vouchers are thrown at you by the airline.
Remember, almost every flight delay insurance policy covers the cardmember, the cardmember’s spouse, and their dependent children, regardless if they’re travelling together or not.
The majority of the cards on our list include flight delay insurance, but one card we particularly recommend is the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite, since it provides $500 worth of coverage after just a 4-hour delay. Also, the card has no foreign transaction fees which will appeal to all travellers.
The RBC Visa Infinite Avion card offers $250 per person and a maximum of $500 per group for their trip delay insurance, but they actually separate emergency purchases and give you $500 per person for those expenses. This may appeal to some, but the $500 lump sum offered by the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite will likely cause you fewer headaches if you ever need to make a claim.
Lost, Stolen, or Delayed Luggage Insurance
In my opinion, the best travel insurance packages should include lost, stolen, or delayed luggage insurance since there’s a good chance regular travellers will need to make a claim for this at some point.
This type of insurance allows you to claim essential items if your luggage is delayed for a specified period of time. The term ‘essential item’ is somewhat ambiguous, but generally speaking, you should be able to purchase any clothing you need—including business attire—until your luggage is returned to you as long as the total doesn’t exceed the amount that you’re covered for.
If your bag is lost or stolen, the same maximum amount provided by your insurance applies, but it would only be relevant to what you lost. There’s often a line in the fine print that limits the maximum amount per item, so if you’re carrying any valuables, it’s best to keep it in your carry on luggage.
If you feel that this type of insurance is important to you, then consider the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite or Scotiabank Gold American Express card since they both offer $1,000 per group after just a 4-hour delay.
Rental Car Collision/Loss Damage Insurance
Generally speaking, rental car collision/loss damage insurance covers you if your rental car is damaged or stolen while you have possession of the vehicle. Unless your home auto insurance already covers car rentals, then having this type of insurance is a must when you’re renting a car during your travels.
Be aware that car rental insurance can have quite a few conditions relating to the type of car you’re renting and its current value. You won’t have any problem getting insured for a vehicle that’s available at all major car rental agencies, however, if you’re renting an antique, exotic, or expensive car, you may not be covered. As long as the current value of the vehicle you’re renting is less than the total insurable amount offered by your credit card travel insurance, then you’ll be fine.
Some rental car collision/loss damage insurance policies will cover any personal items that are lost when your vehicle is stolen, but they will never include liability insurance (if someone sues you due to an accident you caused in the rental car), so factor that in when you’re assessing your insurance needs.
For this policy to apply, you must decline the car rental agency’s insurance. It should also be noted that you’re responsible until the car rental agency has completed its inspection report, so avoid just dropping off your keys when you’re returning your vehicle.
The American Express Gold Rewards card offers the best value in this category, with $85,000 for car rentals under 48 days. That being said, the PC Financial World Elite Mastercard has no annual fee and gives you 31 days of car rental coverage with a maximum value of $65,000. Also quite a good deal.
Hotel/Motel Burglary Insurance
In the event that your hotel room, motel room, or cruise cabin is broken into and your possessions are lost or damaged, then your hotel/motel burglary insurance will reimburse you up to a certain amount.
For this type of insurance to apply, you need to take some reasonable precautions. For example, if you left your door unlocked and open, it’s unlikely you’ll be reimbursed if any of your things end up stolen. Checking into a hotel room at a destination that’s currently in a state of emergency/war/rebellion will also guarantee that you won’t be covered. Also, keep in mind that any lost cash or traveller’s cheques are not covered.
The RBC Visa Infinite Avion card offers the best hotel/motel burglary insurance since you can claim up to $2,500 in lost items.
Travel Accident Insurance
People often mistake travel accident insurance as travel health insurance, but the former is more of a life insurance policy as opposed to covering you for any medical expenses.
Generally speaking, for the policy to be valid, you need to travel on a common carrier (plane, train, bus or ship) and charge your tickets to your credit card. The maximum amount listed in our chart refers to what you would get if you were to suffer a loss of life while travelling.
Also, your travel accident insurance gives you a smaller payout for the loss of any of the following:
- One or both hands
- One or both feet
- Total sight in one or both eyes
- Use of upper or lower limbs
- Use of upper or lower limbs on one side of your body
Obviously this is one insurance policy that you/your beneficiary never want to claim. If there’s one small consolation, your travel accident insurance is treated as a separate policy from your personal life insurance policy so your beneficiary could get paid out twice.
All of the credit cards we have listed that offer travel accident insurance have a cap of $500,000, but the Scotiabank Gold American Express card has the lowest annual fee of $99.
All of the credit cards we have listed that offer travel accident insurance have a cap of $500,000, but the Scotiabank Gold American Express card has the lowest annual fee of $99. You could also consider the BMO World Elite Mastercard which which gives fantastic insurance perks and grants you a 35,000 point bonus if you’re able to charge $3,000 in purchases to your card within three months of card membership.
How to Make a Credit Card Travel Insurance Claim
To be eligible for your credit card travel insurance, you usually need to charge the entire price of your common carrier (plane, train, bus or ship) expenses to your credit card. Some cards only require you to charge 75% of the price, but it’s best just to charge the entire amount to ensure there are no complications later. If by chance you’re going on a road trip with your own vehicle, filling up a tank of gas as soon as you enter a new province or state would make your travel insurance policy valid from that point.
When it comes to making a claim, generally speaking, you want to contact your insurance provider right away to start a claim file. In the case of emergency medical insurance, it may not be possible to do things right away, so inform your insurance provider as soon as you reasonably can.
If your insurance company accepts your medical insurance claim, then you may not need to pay any expenses out of pocket. However, if you’re claiming flight delay or lost luggage insurance, you’ll have to hang onto any relevant receipts and submit them before your insurer will issue you a cheque. For these delay claims to be valid, you would also need proof that your flight was delayed or cancelled. The easiest way to get that proof is to take a screenshot from the airline or airport website showing the delay.
Regardless of which credit card you choose, make sure you keep the insurance certificate somewhere handy so you can look up what you’re entitled to and what the conditions are in the event you ever need to make a claim.
Having travel insurance is a must as soon as you travel out of your home province or the country. It doesn’t matter if you’re crossing the border just for a few hours to shop or you’re headed overseas for a vacation—it’s better to be safe than sorry. Which credit card you choose is ultimately up to you, but remember that there are enough options out there to make sure the protections you get line up with what you need.