Planning months in advance for a vacation can be a smart way to save money with airfare deals that may not be around in the weeks before your trip. One drawback, however, is you can lose most or all of that nonrefundable expense if you have to cancel the trip because you’re ill or have to deal with some sort of emergency.
If you used a credit card to pay for the flight — which is the main way to make reservations — then you may be covered if your credit card offers free travel insurance as a perk of being a customer.
Check the Restrictions With Your Issuer
Checking if your credit card provider offers trip cancellation insurance is pretty easy: Just call the customer service phone number on the back of your credit card and ask.
There are different types of travel insurance that credit cards cover: rental car collision, travel accidents, lost luggage, and cell phone replacement. Those are needed during a vacation, but the biggest and probably the most important is something you may need when planning a trip cancellation insurance.
Only about 15 percent of credit cards offer travel cancellation insurance, so it’s worth calling your provider to see if it offers it and will reimburse you the cost of nonrefundable flights in an emergency or if you become ill.
There are some caveats worth checking on before you book your flight. Only a few reasons are allowed to cancel:
- death of an immediate family member
- serious illness or injury that prevents you from flying
If a pre-existing condition flares up or your destination becomes a war zone, then you won’t be covered. You’ll probably have to provide a doctor’s note to prove your case.
Not many credit cards cover weather-related trip delays, such as a snowstorm that grounds your flight.
Credit Cards With Travel Insurance
A few cards, such as the Chase Sapphire, offer trip cancellation and interruption insurance for severe weather. Chase offers up to $10,000 in reimbursement per trip for prepaid, nonrefundable travel expenses, including flights, tours, and hotels. If a flight is delayed more than 12 hours or requires an overnight stay at a hotel, it pays for meals and lodging of up to $500 per ticket.
Another option with the same trip cancellation insurance benefits as the Sapphire Preferred® is the Ritz-Carlton Rewards card from Chase. This amount of insurance is unique, as most cards have a reimbursement limit of $1,500. Few offer $5,000 to $10,000.
Most of the higher limits for trip reimbursement are offered on Chase credit cards.
Select Citi credit cards offer trip cancellation and interruption protection for severe illness or weather-related reasons. Non-refundable expenses may be reimbursed, including change fees.
The Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve card, for example, offers up to $5,000 in reimbursement for nonrefundable trip expenses if the trip is paid for with the Citi card.
American Express offers trip cancellation insurance on its credit cards not only for adverse weather, natural disasters, and if you or a family member are unexpectedly and seriously sick or injured, but also for a labor dispute affecting travel services and if your job is unexpectedly terminated.
Read the Fine Print
Whichever credit card you use to pay for a flight, remember its travel insurance shouldn’t be a replacement for more comprehensive coverage you can buy yourself from a travel agent or travel insurance company. Read the fine print of your credit card’s travel coverage and make sure any exclusions are covered by your own policy.
Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.