Note: The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted existing and future travel plans, and turned greater attention to trip insurance. Read our take on specific information concerning travel insurance and COVID-19, or see our comprehensive guide to managing your finances during COVID-19.
It's easy to feel overwhelmed by the various travel insurance options, from coverage offered by rewards credit cards to the kind you can purchase separately.
But that doesn't mean you should go into your next trip sans travel insurance. You just need to pick the best option for you. In this post, we'll compare the benefits, cost and downsides to airline travel insurance against coverage provided by some of the best travel rewards credit cards to help you decide which option is best for you.
What to look for
When you think about travel insurance, you may think it will cover the cost of your flight in the event of trip cancellation or delays. But these days, there’s a lot more to travel insurance than just airfare reimbursement. And in many cases, your travel rewards card and your airline will both offer some form of travel insurance.
A few things you’ll want to look for in terms of travel insurance:
Rental car coverage.
Trip cancellation/delay coverage.
Lost/delayed baggage coverage.
Travel accident coverage.
Some sort of 24/7 helpline.
Coverage through a card
Getting into an accident in your rental car is probably the farthest thing from your mind when you’re trying to blow off some steam in a tropical locale. But it happens. That’s why it’s important to make sure you’re covered. Many travel rewards cards offer primary collision coverage, which you can opt for in lieu of the coverage sold at the rental car counter.
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card offers both collision damage waiver and theft coverage. This card’s rental car collision coverage is secondary to your own insurance, meaning it will not kick in unless your insurance company declines to cover the loss. Coverage is also restricted to rental periods of up to 15 days in your country of residence and 31 days abroad.
Cardholders also get travel accident coverage and 24-hour assistance should you lose your card while away.
The Platinum Card® from American Express
The Platinum Card® from American Express offers secondary car rental loss and damage coverage and the 24/7 Premium Global Assist Hotline. This can help you sort out legal, medical and financial mishaps when you’re far from home. Starting in 2020, American Express will be adding trip delay, cancellation and interruption insurance. Terms apply.
» Learn more: American Express Platinum review: Luxury isn’t cheap
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
If you really want to err on the side of caution, look for a card that offers trip cancellation/interruption coverage. One of the best policies we found was via the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, which offers $10,000 coverage per person and up to $20,000 per trip toward non-refundable travel expenses in the event your trip is canceled or interrupted.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve® also offers lost luggage reimbursement up to $3,000 per passenger, primary auto rental collision damage waiver, trip delay reimbursement up to $500 per ticket and up to $100,000 in emergency evacuation and transportation coverage.
Keep in mind that this card charges an annual fee of $550, plus an extra $75 per authorized user.
World of Hyatt Credit Card
Having a bag lost, even for a few days, is pretty inconvenient. So it can be useful to have a travel card with baggage delay and lost baggage coverage. World of Hyatt Credit Card offers up to $3,000 per passenger for lost or damaged luggage. If your luggage is lost for six or more hours, you’ll get $100 per day for up to five days to pay for necessities.
This card also offers trip cancellation or delay coverage, which can reimburse you for up to $5,000 per trip for your prepaid, nonrefundable travel expenditures. The card also comes with secondary rental car collision and damage coverage.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers up to $10,000 worth of trip cancellation/interruption insurance and $500 in trip delay coverage. Chase will also reimburse you for toiletries and other necessities if your bag is lost for six or more hours, to the tune of up to $100 daily, for up to five days.
No one wants to consider the fact that accidental death or serious injury could happen on their vacation. But it’s possible, which is why travel accident coverage is something you may want to consider. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card’s accidental death or dismemberment coverage of up to $500,000.
Coverage through your airline
Most airlines sell some type of travel insurance. And good news — it doesn't just pertain to flight coverage.
Some offer many of the same benefits as travel credit cards, with coverage ranging from emergency medical and dental to trip cancellation protection, to lost baggage, even change fees. See Delta’s travel insurance offerings below.
Airlines like Delta and American offer travel insurance for purchase to its customers. Coverage areas include emergency dental and medical coverage, delayed or canceled trip coverage, rental car damage or theft, even a 24/7 assistance hotline and concierge service.
The travel insurance options from airline and rewards credit cards may seem similar. But here’s the difference: You’ll have to pay extra to purchase travel insurance via airlines. The cost varies by trip. For example, travel insurance purchased through Delta for a trip costing $1,000 rings in at $124.
The bottom line
Both airline and travel rewards credit cards can offer similar travel insurance coverage options. But in many cases, getting travel insurance via your credit card company is cheaper, since you won’t have to pay an extra fee; rather, this benefit is part of your annual fee already.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:
Airline miles and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
Flat-rate rewards with no annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Premium travel rewards: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card