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No one wants to think about all of the unforeseen situations you can find yourself in while abroad, but the unexpected happens. Kids get sick, injuries occur, luggage gets lost, flights get delayed and more. Investing in travel insurance can protect you physically and financially during your travels abroad.
Kristen, founder of OMVenture and frequent traveler who spends over half the year on the road, has first-hand experience being overseas without coverage.
“In the past, when I didn’t use travel insurance, it was because I didn’t know about it (I’d never heard about it growing up, so I never looked into it as a young adult),” says Kristen. “Then, when I started hearing about it, I didn’t fully trust it was necessary — until I experienced challenges on the road. Now, I’m an absolute believer in the necessity of travel insurance.”
What is travel insurance?
Broadly speaking, travel insurance is a coverage plan that helps protect you from losing money if travel plans go awry.
While many credit cards offer forms of travel insurance coverage, you can also purchase independent plans that are more comprehensive. Credit card travel insurance is typically limited to transportation-related expenses and emergency circumstances — for example, it might cover the cost of your flight if you have to cancel your trip to an unexpected hospitalization. Independent plans offer options that go beyond that, from medical coverage to gear protection.
Types of travel insurance coverage
You can find an almost infinite number of coverage options, but many plans fall into one of these categories:
This option is a common type of travel insurance that covers non-refundable expenses such as flights, accommodations and activities in the case of last-minute cancellations. Both credit card coverage plans and independent insurance companies have policies regarding which cancellation reasons are eligible for coverage.
Most include accidental injury, sickness, severe weather, terrorism and government orders such as military orders, jury duty and subpoenas — but, some reasons such as medical issues caused by a pre-existing condition or changes to your itinerary by carriers, tour operators and travel agencies may not be covered. If you want full peace of mind, you can find “cancel for any reason” policies for a higher premium.
Trip interruption coverage is similar to cancellation coverage, but it only kicks in once a trip has already started. If you need to change your itinerary for certain reasons — whether that means rerouting or cutting your trip short — you can be reimbursed for the cost of your trip and last-minute travel expenses. Many luxury travel cards such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card offer trip interruption coverage, but you can get more flexible coverage with a third party insurance provider.
Medical coverage is something not typically offered by credit card companies, but it can be a lifesaver when you’re overseas. Your U.S. issued healthcare insurance may not cover injuries or illnesses that require medical treatment in another country, and it probably wouldn’t cover medical repatriation costs. Medical travel insurance plans can cover all of that, plus add-ons like dental coverage.
While many travel cards offer coverage for lost or delayed luggage due to airlines, you can find independent plans that will also cover your baggage throughout your trip — including your tech!
These third-party plans can cover expensive equipment or software like a professional camera or laptop throughout your trip so that you can be reimbursed if your belongings are damaged or stolen. If you’re looking for this heightened coverage, many independent insurance companies that offer travel insurance plans will list this type of insurance as an add-on.
Death and dismemberment insurance is a common coverage option offered by travel credit cards, but third-party providers will offer more comprehensive coverage. If you are traveling to a dangerous part of the world, or if you will be partaking in hazardous activities (such as rock climbing or expeditions in extreme climates), you might want additional coverage options even if you have a basic plan offered by your credit card.
Car rental insurance (both primary and secondary coverage), insurance for your RV and emergency evacuation coverage are all options found with independent providers. Many credit cards will offer secondary rental car coverage (a few notable exceptions like the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Reserve offer primary coverage).
You can also find plans that cover all of the above. You won’t find this type of coverage as a credit card perk, but some independent travel insurance providers allow you to bundle coverage options to give you a personalized plan that covers everything you need in one policy.
Is travel insurance worth it?
The short answer is yes.
Unexpected circumstances come up all the time, and travel insurance coverage can help you save time, money and a lot of frustration. For short or low-cost trips, the insurance that comes with a credit card might be sufficient to give you peace of mind. However, there are occasions where looking into additional coverage is a good idea.
Traveling with kids
When you’re on the road with kids in tow, the more flexibility your travel plans need. Trip cancellation and interruption insurance are smart options when you’re planning family vacations. You should also consider medical coverage. If the unfortunate happens and your child is sick or injured, you’ll want to make sure your expenses are covered.
Extended trips abroad
The longer your trip, the more likely it is that you’ll benefit from travel insurance. Whether you’re staying in one place for an extended period of time or managing a trip with multiple moving parts, you should consider insuring your trip. Baggage can get lost abroad, circumstances at home may require you to cut your trip short or you could catch a bug while traveling.
While most vacation spots are safe for all types of travelers, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. You could be caught in a foreign country with a medical emergency, delayed flight with nowhere to stay, stolen luggage or a number of other scenarios. Travel insurance can help guarantee that you’ll have help navigating what to do in case something happens when you’re abroad.
Any trip where you’re spending $500+ on expenses
Traveling is a serious investment, and travel insurance is a way to protect that investment. No matter what type of trip you’re planning, if you are spending more than $500, it’s a good idea to look into appropriate coverage options.
Many cards offer basic travel insurance
Some of the most popular travel credit card options also offer certain travel insurance protections, though policies aren’t as robust as independently purchased plans. Flights, hotels, vacation packages and some excursions purchased with your credit card could be covered by your travel credit card.
Chase Ultimate Rewards cards such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve and Ink Business Preferred Credit Card offer trip cancellation, trip interruption, primary car rental and baggage insurances.
Citi cards including the Citi Premier and Citi Prestige also offer certain travel insurances. Co-branded cards offered by Chase and Citi also offer certain insurances.
Just remember that these plans will have terms and conditions that determine what is covered and how much you are eligible to be reimbursed, so double check the terms and conditions to learn the extent of your coverage.
Credit cards won’t offer medical insurance or full coverage plans, so it’s a good idea to look at supplemental options even if you have basic trip cancellation and interruption insurance with your travel credit card.
Things to consider when looking at independent coverage
If you decide to look into additional coverage, there are a lot of factors to consider.
- What coverage you already have: While supplemental coverage can be extremely helpful, you don’t want to pay for coverage that you already get through your credit card, travel agency, work or existing policy.
- Cost vs. coverage: Make sure you’re choosing a plan that gives you the coverage you need for a reasonable price. Shop around or use a travel insurance aggregator to compare price points and policy options to make sure you aren’t overpaying.
- Who is covered: Does your trip cancellation or interruption insurance cover all parties on the trip, or just the policyholder? Does the medical coverage extend to the entire family? These are things you should make sure you are clear on before purchasing a plan.
- Policy timeline: Some policies require you to have purchased the insurance within a certain time period before your trip begins in order to be valid. Others will have rules regarding extensions. Double check how long your coverage will last so that you aren’t left with coverage that ends halfway through your trip.
- Annual policies vs single trip coverage: If you are traveling for more than one-fourth of the year, an annual policy might make more sense. That way you won’t have to pay for a new policy every time you go on a trip, and you won’t have to worry about policy timelines or extensions. Single trip coverage plans might be better for occasional family vacations and beginner travelers.
- Cancellation policy: Always look at the fine print to see if there are any caveats for prematurely canceling a policy — especially when looking at annual or long-term plans.
The bottom line
Traveling is a rewarding experience and well worth the investment. Don’t let worrying about all the things that could go wrong keep you from enjoying your trips — consider your travel insurance options.
Whether you’re traveling with kids or going on a solo trip for an extended period of time, travel insurance coverage can give you peace of mind in case the unthinkable happens. Check with your credit card issuer to understand your current benefits and research independent coverage if necessary.
“Just knowing it will cover unforeseen losses/expenses, should something go wrong, puts my mind at ease,” says Kristen. “I love having that reassurance, especially with how expensive medical bills can be. The comfort of knowing I’m protected is invaluable while traveling.”