When to Buy Travel Insurance

You don't have to purchase travel insurance, but it's helpful to have in case of unexpected travel disruptions.
Carissa Rawson
By Carissa Rawson 
Published

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Planning a trip involves a lot of moving parts, and while you want everything to go smoothly, the truth is that unexpected things can happen. In these cases, travel insurance can help make those issues easier to deal with — whether it’s by paying for your hospital bills in another country or reimbursing you for lost luggage.

However, the types of travel insurance that are available to you depend on when you purchase your policy. Let’s look at when to buy travel insurance, how late you can buy travel insurance and what different policies can offer.

The different types of travel insurance

There are many different kinds of travel insurance coverage depending on your needs. Here are some of the most common.

How early can you buy travel insurance?

Understanding when to get travel insurance can make a big difference in the policies you’re able to purchase. Typically, you can’t buy one before knowing some details about your trip.

While it’s possible to purchase a policy before you’ve booked your flights or made other travel plans, many insurers ask you for information about your trip to help you find the correct insurance. This means you’ll need to at least know where you’re going, when you’re going and the cost of your trip before purchasing travel insurance.

🤓Nerdy Tip

Multi-trip or annual travel insurance can cover you for a year with a single purchase. This is convenient if you travel frequently or take last-minute trips.

When to purchase travel insurance

So if you can’t buy travel insurance before doing some preliminary trip planning, you might be wondering “When should I buy travel insurance?” The answer to that is that it depends on what you want covered.

This is because not all types of coverage are available at all times. Two notable examples include CFAR insurance and pre-existing medical conditions.

CFAR insurance is a supplement to your existing policy that allows you to cancel your plans for any reason. Standard trip cancellation or interruption insurance requires that you cancel for a covered reason to receive reimbursement. Covered reasons may include sickness, death, job loss or financial insolvency, but CFAR insurance faces none of these limitations.

Many insurance companies only give you a short window to purchase a CFAR add-on. This will generally be within two to three weeks of your initial trip deposit, but the deadline varies by insurer so be sure to double-check if you’re interested in this type of coverage.

Likewise, many travel medical policies specifically exclude coverage of pre-existing health conditions — unless you take some additional steps in a timely manner. Some policies will cover acute re-occurrence of the pre-existing condition, provided you complete a waiver within a specific time period, usually within two weeks of your first trip payment.

When is it too late to buy travel insurance?

It’s a good idea to purchase travel insurance sooner rather than later, especially if you’re interested in any time-sensitive add-ons. However, running late on buying insurance doesn’t mean that you’re out of luck.

While you’ll likely get better coverage if you buy a policy soon after making an initial payment on your trip, it’s still possible to buy a plan if your trip is days away — or if you’ve already departed. Typically, these plans may include things like trip interruption, emergency medical and baggage delay coverage, but they won’t provide trip cancellation or other pre-departure benefits.

Credit cards that offer travel insurance

It’s tempting to purchase a travel insurance policy when planning a trip, but before you do, you’ll want to do some research. Many travel credit cards offer complimentary travel insurance. To qualify, you’ll need to pay for your trip with your card. Keep in mind that different cards have different coverage limits.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® card, for example, is a premium travel credit card that provides a wide range of coverage:

  • Trip cancellation, interruption and delay insurance. 

  • Baggage delay and lost luggage insurance. 

  • Emergency medical and evacuation insurance. 

  • Travel accident (AD&D) insurance. 

  • Rental car insurance. 

The coverage offered by the Chase Sapphire Reserve® isn’t limited to just the cardholder; immediate family members are also included in this policy. They don’t even need to be traveling with the cardholder to receive coverage as long as the trip was charged to the card.

When should you buy travel insurance?

Purchasing travel insurance isn’t mandatory for a good vacation, but it can certainly come in handy if your plans go awry. While it’s possible to buy travel insurance up until just before — or even after — you depart, the best time to do so is shortly after you begin booking the trip. This allows you to provide the information required to buy a policy while also remaining eligible for time-sensitive add-ons and benefits like trip cancellation.

Before you purchase travel insurance, however, you’ll want to take a look at any travel credit cards you own to see what types of complimentary insurance they offer.


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 2024, including those best for:

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 Ultimate Rewards® 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 Ultimate Rewards®.

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 Ultimate Rewards®, 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 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

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

30,000

Limited-time offer: Earn Companion Pass® good through 2/28/25 plus 30,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Points
See more cards
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