Does Travel Insurance Cover Award Flights?

Only some travel insurance plans will cover the fees to redeposit your miles.
Elina Geller
By Elina Geller 
Updated
Edited by Mary M. Flory

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This influences which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.

Purchasing travel insurance before going on a trip is a great way to protect yourself against unexpected medical bills or the loss of a nonrefundable deposit if an unplanned emergency derails your vacation plans.

But how much protection do you get if you booked your trip with miles or points? The short answer is yes, but with some caveats.

Award flight travel insurance coverage can be a bit murky, so its wise to read through the fine print of the travel insurance policies you're considering.

Here's our best advice on how to protect your award ticket so you can book your trip with confidence.

First, three things to note:

  1. Airlines and hotels loosened change/cancellation fees in recent years.

  2. Domestic and foreign airlines (that have U.S. websites and market to U.S. customers) are required by the U.S. Department of Transportation to offer a full refund as long as the trip is cancelled within 24 hours of booking. The information below is about canceled trips beyond this timeframe. Standard hotel award bookings come with varying, but far more flexible, cancellation policies that are usually in the range of one to three days before arrival (for a refund of points).

  3. To be eligible for reimbursement, the cancellation must fall into the insurer’s list of covered reasons. Covered reasons generally include terrorist attacks, medical emergencies, death, inclement weather that results in a flight cancellation, natural disasters that make your home uninhabitable and other extenuating circumstances.

There are several different types of travel insurance options that provide coverage for trips booked with miles/points:

  • Insurance offered by the airline.

  • Travel insurance provided by your credit card.

  • Comprehensive travel insurance.

The coverage provided by each of these policies will vary, and it's important to know the difference.

Type 1: Insurance offered by the airline

Generally, standalone trip insurance plans won't reimburse you for any miles you used to book a flight because insurers don't assign a value to the miles. The only way to get your miles back is to purchase the travel insurance add-on that is offered by the airline on the checkout page when booking your flight with miles.

For example, United offers a travel insurance option for $27 with Travel Guard to cover your award trip.

If the trip is cancelled for a covered reason, the miles will be deposited back into your United MileagePlus account and you will receive a reimbursement for taxes and deposit fees.

Award redeposit fees and taxes vary by airline. Because taxes are also dependent on the country of origin and destination, we didn't include this information. However, here is an infographic showing several domestic and international airlines along with their redeposit fees:

Note: The award redeposit fee charged by Qantas is charged in points, not dollars (and was excluded from our chart). The airline's current redeposit fee is 12,700 points.

These fees reflect the maximum amount that you would pay to cancel and redeposit an award ticket. If you have elite status or cancel far enough in advance, you may be eligible for a reduced fee or no fee at all.

However, if you are a no-show, the airline may tack on additional fees to your award redeposit fee. If you need to cancel an award ticket, try to do it as soon as possible to avoid extra charges.

Type 2: Travel insurance provided by your card

Premium travel cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and The Platinum Card® from American Express offer a variety of trip insurance benefits, including trip cancellation and interruption insurance. Because these cards earn points that can be transferred to airlines or used to book trips on travel portals, you get specific protections for trips paid with points.

When transferred to an airline/hotel partner

Chase Ultimate Rewards® points can be transferred to 14 partners (11 airlines, three hotels), while AmEx Membership Rewards includes 20 transfer partners (17 airlines, three hotels).

Once you transfer points to an airline or hotel, AmEx and Chase are removed from the equation. The miles or points are now with the airline or hotel and cannot be returned to AmEx or Chase in the event of a trip cancellation.

Similar to the United example, when you then book your award ticket, you can purchase the add-on travel insurance option at checkout so that you get your points back, directly from the airline, in the event of a cancellation.

If you don't purchase the add-on option and need to cancel your trip, Chase or AmEx will reimburse you for nonrefundable expenses and redeposit fees associated with the award ticket.

Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card
NerdWallet rating 

Chase trip cancellation and interruption coverage

The Chase Sapphire Reserve®, Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, United Club℠ Infinite Card and the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card provide trip cancellation, interruption and delay coverage for eligible travel expenses, which include nonrefundable prepaid amounts charged by a travel supplier (i.e., airline, hotel, car rental company, etc.).

Any trips booked using points through Chase's travel portal are also included.

Trips booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

If you paid for your trip using Chase Ultimate Rewards® points, you will be reimbursed in an amount that is equal to the monetary value of the points as long as the dollar amount is listed on your Chase booking confirmation. You won't get the points back.

Because holders of the Chase Sapphire Reserve® receive 1.5 cents per point when booking travel through Chase's travel portal, verify that your booking confirmation includes the dollar equivalent of the 1.5-cent-per-point redemption. For example, if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and you book a $750 United flight using 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards® points that you later need to cancel, you will be reimbursed $750 by Chase as long as the dollar and point values are shown on your booking confirmation.

The refund cashes out your points at 1.5 cents each, so if you value Chase points at more than that, you’re out of luck. If the dollar equivalent of the points isn't listed on your booking confirmation, you will be reimbursed 1 cent per point.

AmEx trip cancellation and interruption coverage

Many premium American Express cards offer trip cancellation and interruption insurance, which also cover trips booked with Membership Rewards points. The following cards offer these protections:

AmEx Cards

  • The Platinum Card® from American Express.

  • The Business Platinum Card® from American Express.

  • Centurion® Card from American Express.

  • Business Centurion® Card from American Express.

  • The Corporate Centurion® Card from American Express.

  • The Platinum Card® from American Express for Ameriprise Financial.

  • The American Express Platinum Card® for Schwab.

  • The Platinum Card® from American Express for Goldman Sachs.

  • The Platinum Card® from American Express for Morgan Stanley.

  • Corporate Platinum Card®.

  • Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card.

  • Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card.

  • Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card.

  • Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card.

Terms apply.

Trips booked through American Express Membership Rewards

Similar to Chase, American Express has the Membership Rewards travel booking site. With the exception of the The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, which has a redemption rate of 1.35 cents per point, the redemption rate on all other cards is 1 cent per point.

If you cancel travel booked through the Membership Rewards site, you will be reimbursed in cash (regardless of whether you paid with cash or points). To be eligible for coverage, the trip must include round-trip travel to a city that isn't the cardmember’s city of residence and cannot exceed 365 days away from home at the time of departure.

If you book a nonrefundable flight through the AmEx Travel portal, you can purchase Trip Cancel Guard as an add-on. Trip Cancel Guard will get you a reimbursement up to 75% on nonrefundable airfare costs — regardless of your reasons for canceling your trip — so long as you do so at least two days before departure.

Type 3: Comprehensive travel insurance

If you don't have travel insurance through a premium travel credit card and/or you did not insure your award ticket on the airline’s website, consider a standalone travel insurance policy.

Although comprehensive travel insurance plans don't reimburse miles directly, they will reimburse you for any taxes you paid for the award ticket, mileage redeposit fees you pay to get your miles back, checked bag fees and upgrade fees.

In addition, these plans offer other protections including emergency medical coverage, emergency repatriation and evacuation, baggage loss, car rental coverage and much more.

🤓Nerdy Tip

Each travel insurance policy is different and the reimbursement limits vary by state, so review the fine print to find out what coverage is provided for canceled award tickets. If you’re not finding the information you need in the policy, call the insurer.

Which travel insurance type should you choose for your award trip?

The answer depends on how you booked the trip.

If you have one of the premium travel credit cards mentioned above and cancel a trip booked with points through the American Express Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards® travel portal, you will receive a cash reimbursement for the points.

If you use airline points to book your award travel and want to get your points back in the event of a cancellation, it makes sense to purchase the add-on travel insurance option that is offered by the airline on the checkout page. Those who would like to get a refund of airline miles (in addition to any taxes/redeposit fees) should strongly consider this add-on when booking the award ticket.

If you don’t have credit card-offered protection (or the coverage amounts aren't sufficient) and you don’t purchase the airline-offered add-on, your remaining option is a comprehensive travel insurance policy, which will often reimburse you for fees associated with getting your miles back (but always read the fine print). If you want additional protections as well, a comprehensive travel insurance policy is the way to go.

Using your hard-earned miles and points to travel can be a great experience. If you want to protect your award ticket in the event that a covered reason derails your vacation plans, consider purchasing travel insurance.

All information about the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card has been collected independently by NerdWallet. The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is no longer available through NerdWallet.

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are some of the best travel credit cards of 2024:

Cards for Travel Insurance from our Partners
Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Sapphire Reserve®
5.0
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1x-10x

Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Travel℠ immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.

Points

Intro offer

60,000

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.

Points
Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
5.0
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1x-5x

5x on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases.

Points

Intro offer

60,000

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.

Points
Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

on Chase's website

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card
4.2
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1x-2x

Earn 2X points on Southwest® purchases. Earn 2X points on local transit and commuting, including rideshare. Earn 2X points on internet, cable, and phone services, and select streaming. Earn 1X points on all other purchases.

Points

Intro offer

85,000

Earn 85,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Points
See more cards
Get more smart money moves – straight to your inbox
Sign up and we’ll send you Nerdy articles about the money topics that matter most to you along with other ways to help you get more from your money.