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A common question we often get from readers, friends, and family is: “Should I buy travel insurance for my trip?”
Usually when you book a flight or package online, you’ll get the option to add travel insurance for a fee. It’s a big add-on and can be a major additional cost in some instances, especially if you’re traveling with family or as a group.
While protecting your trip is a good idea as things can happen, many folks don’t realize that several credit cards have travel insurance benefits built in! This includes benefits like rental car insurance, baggage and trip interruption insurance, emergency medical and dental coverage, and even emergency evacuation & transportation.
We’ll walk you through the benefits you get when you pay for insurance at time of booking and compare that to the free coverage you get with travel credit cards. In most cases, you get just as much if not more coverage with your card than you do paying extra money!
What Exactly Do You Get When You Buy Travel Insurance?
When you book travel online, you’ll often see a check box at some point during the checkout process offering you travel insurance if you pay a fee, usually from $30 to $60 per person.
Oftentimes you don’t even see what the benefits are unless you expand details or click a link for more info. To find out what’s offered in terms of coverage, I did some international and domestic test bookings on Orbitz and United.com to see what exactly I would get for my money.
First I tried to book an international flight from New York (JFK) to Tokyo on Orbitz. For $62 per person, you get a 100% refund of the cost of a ticket, $1,000 for lost baggage, and $15,000 for emergency medical transportation.
In my booking for 4 people, it came out to $248 for this travel protection.
Next, I went to United.com to book a domestic flight from New York (JFK) to Los Angeles. For ~$18 per person, I would get insurance through AIG where I would receive a refund for my ticket if I can’t travel for a covered reason, lost baggage coverage of $300 total ($100 per day), and trip interruption insurance up to 125% of the cost of booking (in this case $300).
Finally, I tried to compare United Airlines’ international insurance to that of Orbitz, so I looked up a flight from New York (JFK) to Tokyo. For ~$48 per person, I would get a flight refund, baggage insurance of $1,000, $10,000 worth of accident / sickness medical expense coverage, and emergency evacuation insurance of $20,000. For a group of 4, you are looking at ~$200 in fees for insurance.
It absolutely makes sense to cover your trip in case the unexpected happens. But you might already have coverage when you book with the right card!
Save Money by Using One of the Best Cards for Travel Insurance
In some cases, you can get all of the above coverage, and more, using certain travel credit cards. I’ll show you how 2 of the top cards, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and The Platinum Card® from American Express, can be better than the insurance coverage offered by booking sites. You can save a ton of money while enjoying more protection during your trips!
1. Chase Sapphire Reserve
Apply Here: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
The Chase Sapphire Reserve is packed with ton of great benefits, including many types of travel insurance.
With the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you get these protections when you book with your card:
- Baggage Insurance – You’ll receive up to $3,000 per person, per trip for lost checked bags. You, your spouse or domestic partner, and your immediate family members can receive up to $100 per per day (for up to 5 days) that your bags are delayed 6+ hours
- Trip Delay Protection – If your trip is delayed for more than 6 hours, you and immediate family could be reimbursed for up to $500 per ticket for reasonable expenses (meals, lodging, toiletries, medication, and other personal use items)
- Primary Car Insurance – You are covered when you rent a car with your card and decline the car rental agency’s collision damage waiver
- Trip Cancellation & Interruption Insurance – Up to $10,000 per person per covered trip (maximum $20,000 per occurrence)
- Emergency Medical and Dental 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
- Emergency Evacuation & Transportation – Up to $100,000 in coverage
- Travel Accident Insurance – Up to $1,000,000 per person ($2,000,000 maximum)
If you compare the protection you get from booking with your Chase Sapphire Reserve to the protection I would have paid for 4 family members ($248) on my flight booked with Orbitz, I would get more $2,000 more per person in baggage insurance and up to more $85,000 more coverage for emergency medical transportation by booking with the card!
That doesn’t even include other benefits like emergency medical coverage or travel accident insurance. The best part? All of the protection comes for free with my card! That means I can put that $248 towards a nice dinner in Tokyo where I can earn 3 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per $1 and pay no foreign transaction fees! 😉
You can apply for the Chase Sapphire Reserve here.
2. AMEX Platinum
Apply Here: The Platinum Card® from American Express
With the AMEX Platinum card, you get Emergency Evacuation & Transportation Insurance with no limits on the amount of coverage. If you are booking travel where you know medical facilities are few and far between or your destination is very remote, this card is perfect in case anything happens. You won’t have to worry about paying for transportation if you need to be rushed to a medical facility.
Similar to the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you’ll receive lost baggage insurance of up to $2,000 per person, per trip for checked bags, as well as up to $500,000 per person ($3,500,000 maximum) in Travel Accident insurance.
What If You’re Looking For Medical Coverage While Traveling Abroad?
If you are looking for medical insurance while you are traveling outside the US, most coverage you get either through your card or pay for through booking sites will not be sufficient. As mentioned, the Chase Sapphire Reserve offers up to $2,500 for emergency medical expenses and up to $100,000 in Emergency Evacuation & Transportation coverage, however, that might not be enough to cover any major issues while traveling.
If you anticipate that you may need medical attention while traveling or just want to cover all of your bases, you should consider paying for travel medical insurance. Make sure you check with your insurance company first to see if you’re covered for emergency medical outside the country. In many cases, you are NOT.
Here’s more about the difference between travel medical insurance and trip protection. And check out this post about purchasing medical insurance when you’re traveling abroad.
When it comes to travel insurance, you shouldn’t pay extra for limited benefits when the best travel insurance credit cards often offer more protection than the booking sites themselves!
With the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you get plenty of trip delay, lost baggage, and even some emergency medical coverage all covered for free when you book with your card.
And with the Platinum Card from American Express, you’ll get emergency medical evacuation coverage with no limit, so you don’t have to pay tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket just to get to a medical facility in some of the more remote areas in the world.
You’ll still want to consider purchasing travel medical insurance if you’re traveling overseas. Always check with your personal insurance provider to find out if you’re covered first!
If you’ve had any issues while traveling and used your card benefits to cover your expenses, we’d love to hear your stories below so you can help folks deal with similar issues should they arise!