We devote thousands of hours of research to help you get Big Travel with Small Money. You support us by signing-up for credit cards through partner links which earn us a commission. Here’s our full Advertising Policy.
With frightening hurricanes looming and a nasty and frigid outlook for winter, protecting yourself from weather-related travel disruptions is more important than ever. Whether it’s a storm in the tropics or a blizzard in the north, you’ll want to know how natural disasters can affect your travel plans and what coverage you can get from using the best travel credit cards.
Planning ahead with cards that provide travel insurance like trip delay and cancellation protection and being proactive with your trip reservations when disruptive weather is forecast can save you from expensive and potentially dangerous situations.
Luckily, there are plenty of credit cards that can help you when disasters arise and give you security and peace of mind.
This is your one stop shop for how to handle natural disasters when traveling!
Get Automatic Trip Insurance Paying With Certain Cards
- Trip delay or cancellation
- Delayed or lost luggage
- Travel accidents
These benefits can help if a natural disaster occurs and interrupts your travel plans.
Here’s a comparison of the benefits you get with some of our favorite cards for travel: The Platinum Card® from American Express, Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve®, and Citi ThankYou® Premier Card.
|Coverage||American Express Platinum||Chase Sapphire Preferred||Chase Sapphire Reserve||Citi ThankYou Premier|
|Primary Rental Car Insurance||• Enroll for free in the American Express Premium Car Rental Protection program|
• But you’ll pay ~$25 (~$18 for California residents) per rental for up to 42 consecutive rental days (30 consecutive rental days for Washington State cardholders)
|• Cardholders covered when you rent a car with your card and decline the car rental agency's collision damage waiver||• Cardholders covered when you rent a car with your card and decline the car rental agency’s collision damage waiver||• Cardholders and authorized designated drivers covered when you rent a car with your card and decline the car rental agency’s collision damage waiver
• Coverage is secondary in the US and primary elsewhere
|Trip Delay Protection||None||• If your trip is delayed for more than 12 hours, you could be reimbursed for up to $500 per ticket for reasonable expenses (meals, lodging, toiletries, medication, and other personal use items)|
• See this post on the Chase Sapphire Preferred card's Trip Delay Insurance for more details
|• If your trip is delayed for more than 6 hours, you could be reimbursed for up to $500 per ticket for reasonable expenses (meals, lodging, toiletries, medication, and other personal use items)||• If your trip is delayed for more than 12 hours, you could be reimbursed for up to $500 per ticket for reasonable expenses (meals, lodging, toiletries, medication, and other personal use items)|
|Trip Cancellation & Interruption Insurance||None||• Up to $10,000 for per occurrence, with a maximum of $20,000 per incident, if you pay for your trip with points you'll get a value of 1 cent per point |
• No more than $40,000 per 12 month period
|• Up to $10,000 per person per covered trip (maximum $20,000 per occurrence)|
• Up to $40,000 per 12 month period
• See the Chase Sapphire Reserve Benefits Guide for more details
|• Up to $5,000 per trip|
|Emergency Medical and Dental Coverage||No coverage||No coverage||• Up to $2,500 for medical expenses if you or your immediate family member becomes sick or injured 100 miles or more from home on a trip|
• See this post on the Chase Sapphire Reserve's coverage for more details
|Emergency Evacuation & Transportation||Coverage is provided with no limit||No coverage||• Up to $100,000 in coverage||No coverage|
|Travel Accident Insurance||• Up to $500,000 per person ($3,500,000 maximum)||• Up to $500,000 per person ($500,000 maximum payout)||• Up to $1,000,000 per person ($2,000,000 maximum)||• Up to $500,000 per person|
See the benefits guide for your card once you’re approved for specific coverage details.
I personally use and suggest the Chase Sapphire Preferred for all travel purchases because it offers excellent coverage without a high annual fee.
Before a Natural Disaster Occurs
Do you normally use a credit card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve to pay for your travel? Great, refer to the table above for specifics on how to take advantage of your trip insurance. If not, we hope after reading this, you can see the value of using the right credit card to pay for travel purchases.
Make sure you have you have a way to be notified by your airline, hotel, rental car agency, etc. That means having loyalty accounts, signing up for email and texts, and having a charged phone. You’ll want to know as soon as possible that your flight has been delayed or canceled. Every airline has different rules for how and when they issue travel waivers, so pay attention to those notifications!
If a natural disaster is about to occur, expect a proactive approach from airlines. They generally reach out 2 to 3 days before the expected storm dates with information on how to make use of travel waivers. Some airlines offer robust change and cancellation policies, while others make you re-book within a week.
Keep in mind, the Citi ThankYou Premier Card can cover up to $5,000 eligible expenses when your trip is cancelled or interrupted! And the Chase Sapphire Preferred reimburses up to $500 per ticket for reasonable expenses if your trip is delayed more than 12 hours. You can be reimbursed for a many things including meals and lodging.
Hotels and rental car agencies do not operate in the same proactive way airlines do, but they do typically work with their customers. Most major companies will issue refunds or waivers with proof of a delayed or cancelled flight. Just give customer support a call after you have your airfare all figured out :).
I recently had my flight delayed and when I called the Hilton hotel directly, they only required the flight information to verify that I wouldn’t be able to make my reservation for that night. Easy peasy.
Knowing there’s a storm in the forecast, you could proactively change your plans yourself. Airlines like Southwest are great because you can change and cancel flights anytime. Team member Jasmin changed her departure airport when she saw that her original one was expected to be hit by a storm.
Lastly, plan ahead. Depending on your travel destination, your comfort level with your trip in regards to safety may change. When I travel to new places, I like to pack my emergency preparedness kit and have an understanding of the geography in case I need to travel to a major landmark area.
During a Natural Disaster
Wait! What do you do if you’re already at your destination when the natural disaster hits?
Pay attention to travel advisories abroad. If you’re traveling abroad, know where the nearest embassy or consulate is. Additionally, you can call 202-647-5225 to get help or register your trip through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.
Again, airlines, hotels, and rental car agencies will likely notify you about cancellations and delays. You may want to pull in your departure date or push it out to avoid the weather advisory. Make use of airline waivers for this, but you should call hotels and rental car agencies directly for help.
Here are the travel advisory websites for major North American airlines:
- Air Canada
- Alaska Airlines
- American Airlines
- United Airlines
Depending on the necessity, you could rent a car to travel out of the affected area. Consider using cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve, which provide primary coverage when you pay for your reservation with your card and decline the rental company’s collision damage waiver.
If your forced to stay in your destination area longer than expected, you can turn to your credit card for help. For example, our favorite card for beginners, the Chase Sapphire Preferred, offers up to $10,000 per covered traveler per trip (up to $20,000 per occurrence and $40,000 per 12-month period) if the trip is cancelled or interrupted. That should more than cover a couple of nights in a hotel!
It’s possible that your current hotel arrangements could become damaged or uninhabitable because of the disaster. We suggest that you first work with your hotel to find other accommodations as they’ll likely know what to do. Alternatively, you could try to find a hotel room elsewhere in a nearby but safe location.
You may get caught in the storm. Don’t panic. Team member Jasmin’s mom was on an organized tour when Hurricane Irma hit Cuba. The tour leader diverted the route and arranged for accommodations as needed. When you’re in a foreign place, sometimes it’s better to trust the people in charge to take care of you.
Illness, injury, and loss can occur during natural disasters. The Chase Sapphire Reserve will cover up to $2,500 for emergency medical and dental expenses if 100 or more miles from home during a trip when you pay for the trip with your card. You’re not required to pay the medical / dental expenses with your card, but this coverage is secondary to any other insurance you may have.
And some credit cards offer emergency evacuation services for medical reasons, like the AMEX Platinum. Finally, all credit cards in the table above offer travel accident insurance which can help in situations involving death and/or dismemberment.
Every card issuer has its own set of rules outlined in a lengthy benefits package. Read up on your card’s benefits so you know exactly how you are covered in the case of a disaster.
Most card issuers require that a portion, if not the entire, trip be charged to the card in order to access the benefits. The Chase Sapphire Preferred only requires a partial charge of your airfare in order to gain access to its full suite of travel accident insurance. While, the AMEX Platinum requires the entire fare to be charged to the card. When in doubt, give the number on the back of your card a call well in advance to find out the exact terms for your trip.
In the case of natural disasters, card issuers label this as “severe weather” or “weather issues” so it’s generally an eligible unforeseen event for travel delays, cancellations, and interruptions.
The easiest measure you can take in advance is to pay a portion of your fare (where applicable) with credit cards like The Platinum Card® from American Express, Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve, or Citi ThankYou® Premier Card. Many of the best travel credit cards offer travel insurance when your trip is cancelled, delayed, or interrupted by a natural disaster.
Airlines are usually very helpful and have a solid travel waiver system in place for when disasters occur. Just make sure you have a way to be notified by the airline. And especially if you’re traveling abroad, know how to reach the nearest consulate or embassy and register your trip in advance.
If you do get caught by a natural disaster while on a trip, know that you have options and that your planning will have served a purpose.