Understanding credit card travel insurance

Like rewards points programs, “free” groceries and gas, and low or no interest rates, travel protection is just that – a perk that credit card companies use to support their primary business offering: credit cards.

While some credit cards can provide more than adequate travel insurance coverage, it’s a common mistake to assume your credit card includes all the benefits you need for your trip without verifying this before you leave. There’s also a risk in not understanding some of the coverage terms, conditions and limitations that are sometimes unique to credit cards.

Because of this, it’s important for you to know and understand the coverage you have in place before you leave when relying on your credit card’s travel insurance benefits.

A good practice is to look at the varying benefits that travel coverage credit card providers in Canada offer. Consider what the following coverage details might mean if you get sick or hurt while travelling, or your flight is delayed en route to your destination for example.

  • Overall and individual benefit dollar limits
  • Benefits may be for the whole family or for the primary cardholder only
  • Benefit limits may be capped per individual or for all covered travellers combined
  • Age limits
  • Limitations to the length of trip that’s covered, which may change depending on age
  • Emergency medical insurance may be optional or not included
  • Trip cancellation and interruption benefits may be optional or not included
  • Baggage coverage may be optional or not included
  • Coverage may be limited to trips paid for with the credit card that is providing benefits
  • Flight accident and accidental death coverage might not be included
  1. Do you charge an annual fee for travel insurance coverage?
  2. Do I have to purchase my trip in part or in full with your credit card to activate the insurance coverage?
  3. What length of trip am I covered for?
  4. Do you allow extensions if I want to stay longer than the day limit of coverage?
  5. What travel insurance benefits are included?
  6. Am I covered for all emergency medical expenses? Up to what amount?
  7. Does my age, medical history, medication, or pre-existing condition affect the travel medical benefits or any other coverage?
  8. Am I covered if an air ambulance is required to bring me back to Canada?
  9. Are there any sports or activities excluded under this coverage?
  10. Will you pay direct or guarantee payment to the medical facility if I need to seek treatment?
  11. Do I have to pay a deductible?
  12. Are my benefits cancelled if I miss a credit card payment while I’m on holiday?
  13. Do you provide a 24-hour, 7-day-a-week toll-free assistance telephone number? If so, is this service operated by you or a contracted assistance company?
  14. Do I have cancellation insurance for my trip that covers air, hotel, transfers, tax and services before my departure?
  15. Do I have cancellation or interruption insurance on my credit card if my travelling companion gets injured or sick?
  16. What are the other covered reasons to cancel or interrupt my trip?
  17. Does my credit card provide coverage for each of my family members? What is the Family Member definition?
  18. Am I covered for cancellation or interruption if a new travel advisory is issued for my destination?
  19. What are the benefits and limitations related to COVID-19?

Since credit cards are already limited to their available emergency medical coverage, make sure to check if your benefits include coverage for COVID-19, and how this coverage may be impacted if there is a Global Affairs Canada-issued Level 3 or Level 4 travel advisory in place for your destination on the day you book your trip and your date of departure.

In addition, coverage for quarantine may not be available through your credit card. For this reason, it is important that you check with your credit card company to fully understand how you are covered.

Before your next trip, make sure you read and understand your travel insurance policy, whether you have coverage on your credit card or through a travel insurance supplier. Know your health and consult a healthcare provider if you have questions about it. Know how long you will be gone and how often you plan to travel*. This will help you better address the questions you should be asking your credit card company or travel insurance supplier in order to understand what is and isn’t covered before you leave. This information will help you in becoming a fully informed traveller so you can head out on your adventure with complete confidence. 

*Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada (THIA): Travel Insurance Bill of Rights & Responsibilities
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