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Insurance is a proven bad investment. How do insurance companies stay in business? The same way that a casino continues to operate day in and day out — they have a slight edge. That edge keeps insurance companies profitable.
While the idea of paying for insurance should make anyone shudder, at least a little, it does provide a sometimes necessary safety net. The shocking thing with travel insurance is that you may be purchasing an inferior product that might not cover what you really want, and your desired coverage might already be something you have through one of your credit cards.
This isn't a junky throw-away benefit, but rather something that doesn't get a lot of attention because it isn't sexy — unless you read the fine print. With that said, we've looked at a few of the top travel rewards cards, and have identified which we think are the best options out there for travel protection and insurance that comes at no additional cost to you. You get these benefits just by being a cardmember.
Top Cards For Travel Insurance & Protection
Our top picks in order with a few summarized bullet points on why these cards stand out are below. Review the benefits guide and contact your benefits administrator for clarification on any benefit.
- Lowest annual fee of the group
- You don't pay to add authorized users who receive the same benefits/protection as the primary card account holder
- Primary Rental Car Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) included globally without country exclusion
- Trip Interruption/Cancellation – up to $10,000/trip and covers personal illness of you, your traveling companion or immediate family that may not be traveling with you. If you're worried about someone you care for getting ill — this covers you!
- Trip Delay Reimbursement – up to $500 if you're delayed for 12+ hours or overnight. If you're not otherwise compensated for a hotel, rental car, meals, this has you covered.
- Baggage Delay – $100/day for up to 5 days ($500 total) to cover clothes and toiletries if your bag is 6+ hours delayed
- Lost Luggage – Up to $3,000/trip/person
- Travel Accident Insurance – Probably something you're not buying, but if something happens coverage of up to $500,000/person is provided at no cost
- Coverage applies when you use Ultimate Rewards to pay or the card for all or part of your travel
- Chase Sapphire Preferred Benefits Guide
- Almost identical coverage to the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card with some enhancements
- Authorized users are $75/person
- Trip Delay Reimbursement – Kicks in after 6+ hours of delay (instead of 12)
- Travel Accident Insurance – Caps out at $1,000,000 (instead of $500,000)
- Emergency Evacuation & Transportation – If you need to be transported for emergency medical reasons you're covered up to $100,000.
- Emergency Medical & Dental Benefit – Yes, medical and dental coverage. Up to $2,500 if you need to head to a hospital, clinic, or receive other medical/dental services while traveling that wouldn't be already covered by your insurance provider.
- Sapphire Reserve Guide to Benefits
This card would be ranked #1, however, it has a much higher annual fee and authorized users are $75 each.
- Similar coverage to the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card – exceptions noted:
- Benefits may extend to employees of the company even if they don't have a card
- Primary CDW with Rental Cars – Only for business travel. Coverage is secondary with personal travel (remember, this is a business credit card)
- Trip Interruption/Cancellation – Up to $5,000
- Ink Preferred Benefits Guide
#4 – Citi Prestige® Card
- Rental Car CDW is Secondary in the United States, Primary internationally
- Coverage applies when you use ThankYou Points to pay or the card for all or part of your travel
- Medical Evacuation – up to $100,000
- Trip Interruption/Cancellation – Up to $5,000/traveler. Note: Coverage includes if you have a sick pet as well.
- Trip Delay Protection – Up to $500 for a 6-hour delay
- Baggage Delay Protection – Up to $500 if your bags arrive 6+ hours after you
- Lost Baggage Protection – $3,000/bag ($2,000 for NY residents)
- Travel Accident Insurance – Up to $1,000,000/person
- Citi Prestige Benefits Guide
- Rental Car CDW is Secondary in the US and Primary internationally
- Coverage applies when you use your card to pay for all or part (if the rest is covered by rewards from another program) of your travel
- Trip Interruption/Cancellation – Up to $5,000/traveler
- Trip Delay Protection – Up to $300 for a 6+ hour delay
- Baggage Delay Protection – Up to $100 per day if your bags arrive 12+ hours after you
- Travel Accident Insurance – Up to $250,000/person
- Barclaycard Arrival Plus Guide to Benefits
We also covered a more in-depth comparison of the Sapphire Preferred and Sapphire Reserve benefits as well.
American Express Cards
Until recently, Amex cards struggled against the competition when it came to insurance benefits, however, Amex refreshed the coverage on almost all of its cards and the coverage is slowly gaining on that of Chase, Citi, and Barclaycard. The changes affect too many cards to list, but you can catch them all on a dedicated page of the Amex website.
One of the biggest changes was the adjustments to the Rental Car Coverage. Amex provides secondary coverage across the most credit cards but also supplies primary coverage for a flat fee. Amex charges a one-off payment of $19.95 – $24.95 per rental which covers you up to 42 days. The policy covers you for up to $100K in almost any car including luxury vehicles, SUV’s, and pickup trucks.
You can opt-in to the program on the Premium Car Rental Protection page. You'll be presented with a couple of options when signing up for the Amex coverage. No need to pay anything upfront, the payment comes off automatically after you rent a car and will continue to do so each time you hire a car until you unregister your account.
Why Other Cards Didn't Make the List
- They don't offer primary CDW insurance on rental cars
Almost every travel-related credit card we've looked at offers some form of rental car protection and most of them provide secondary coverage. This means the coverage kicks in after your own personal insurance. Ideally, you don't want to involve your insurance at all, which is why primary CDW coverage is a big deal.
If your card doesn't explicitly call out that the coverage is primary, which would be a selling point, it is reasonably safe to assume that the coverage is secondary.
- They don't offer trip & baggage delay
This is a great perk, and if your bags don't show up, you'll have to go shopping. It's a logical protection to have.
- They require you put the full amount of your travel on the card and don't cover if you pay with points
If you've got a diverse set of points and miles, you're likely using points from one or more programs to pay. Credit card issuers need to realize this.
- They're just not as good
These cards provide the best in class benefits — others just don't stand up.
Don't Ignore These Benefits
You pay nothing for any of these benefits. Sure, each of these cards has an annual fee, but when calculating the value of these cards, we'd venture a guess that you didn't look at some of these benefits.
Knowing about these benefits now, do they have you thinking about which card you use when you purchase your travel? It isn't all about 2x, 3x, or 5x points — even though these cards are some of the best for earning as well.
Is there are a card you think belongs on this list that we left out? Let us know in the comments.
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