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 or hotel accommodations — 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 a range of travel insurance types offered by credit cards, with the actual benefits varying greatly by card. Most cards offer basic secondary rental car collision coverage and travel accident insurance, while others include more specific benefits like lost luggage reimbursment and cellphone replacement. Some of the best cards will even offer reimbursement for expenses if your baggage is severely delayed.
However, of all the travel insurance packages offered, one of the most valuable type when planning a trip is trip cancellation or interruption insurance. Like other benefits, the exact coverage of your trip cancellation/interruption insurance will vary by card, but most will reimburse up to $5,000 in nonrefundable travel expenses if you have to cancel or cut short your trip due to covered events.
Events that are considered to be covered under most plans include:
- death of an immediate family member
- serious illness or injury that prevents you from flying
- extreme weather
Not all events are covered, of course. Some cards won’t cover your if a pre-existing condition flares up or your destination becomes a war zone, for example, and the types of weather events that qualify may be limited. In some cases, you may need to provide documentation from a medical professional.
Credit Cards With Travel Insurance
A few cards, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, and the Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card, 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.
- Earn 50,000 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®
- Named "Best Premium Travel Credit Card" for 2018 by MONEY® Magazine
- $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
- 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 foreign transaction fees.
- Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
18.49% - 25.49% Variable
- 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®
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
17.49% - 24.49% Variable
- Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories each account anniversary year
- Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases - with no limit to the amount you can earn
- Points are worth 25% more when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
- Redeem points for travel, cash back, gift cards and more - your points don't expire as long as your account is open
- No foreign transaction fees
17.49% - 22.49% Variable
Another option with the same trip cancellation insurance benefits as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is the Ritz-Carlton Rewards card from Chase (not open to new applicants). 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.