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Physician on FIRE has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Physician on FIRE and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Some or all of the card offers that appear on the website are from advertisers. Compensation may impact on how and where card products appear on the site. POF does not include all card companies or all available card offers. Credit Card Providers determine the underwriting criteria necessary for approval, you should review each Provider’s terms and conditions to determine which card works for you and your personal financial situation.
Editorial Disclosure: Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed, or approved by any of these entities.

Best Credit Card for Travel Insurance & Medical Coverage

When planning a trip, we think about the destination, the sights, the history, and the fun that we’re going to have while away from home and our everyday lives.

We tend to think less, and for good reason, about the things that can go wrong. Why spoil the fun when things usually go according to plan?

Unfortunately, our travels don’t always go off without a hitch. Planes are delayed. Luggage gets lost. Limbs are lost in a horrific dismemberment. Wait, what?!?

As unlikely as a joint disarticulation maybe while away from home, would it be at least a little bit comforting to know that you may already have a credit card that will reward you for such a calamity? No? Well, we’re going to talk about it, anyway.

One final piece of the puzzle is evacuation coverage, which you likely do not have unless you have one of two popular premium credit cards that offer it. One has a more generous benefit than the other.

 

Credit Card Perks: Travel Insurance Benefits & Medical Evacuation Coverage

 

Traveling to Ecuador 

We’re about to embark on a two-month trip to Ecuador. The last time my wife and I visited the country, we were part of a tour that hopped from one Galapagos Island to another and another. We also visited the capital city of Quito and the port city of Guayaquil.

It was an amazing trip. We saw Darwin’s finches, swam with sea turtles, said hello to Lonesome George before he and his species became extinct, and slept in cozy and unique lodgings far from civilization.

Did everything go perfectly? Not exactly. When I think back on the trip, I recall the sight of penguins, blue-footed boobies (tee hee!), and thousands upon thousands of iguanas. I also recall having cerebrospinal fluid dripping from my nose and my wife’s suitcase disappearing as we were transported from a ferry boat to a bus.

that’s me in a turtle shell

Years later, I would learn from a head CT of my sinuses that my cribriform plate is not fully formed, and the pressure differential from some free diving I did while snorkeling created a temporary communication between my brain and my nostrils.

Uncannily, one of the other 16 or so people on our tour was a neurosurgery resident. In a late evening consult, we determined that the clear, warm fluid coming out of only one nostril was indeed very likely CSF and that I ought to consume plenty of fluids, sleep with my head elevated, and take it easy. Fortunately, conservative treatment was successful.

My wife wasn’t so lucky. Her luggage was almost certainly stolen. I’ve never been a fan of leaving my luggage outside the door for someone else to handle, but that was the way this trip was set up. The only silver lining of her bag disappearing was the fact that it occurred at the end of the trip rather than the beginning.

If I had required further medical treatment, that would have required emergency evacuation from one of the Galapagos islands to who knows where. I can only imagine what that might have cost us.

 

 

Credit Cards and Travel Benefits

In the eight years since that trip, I’ve learned a lot about the benefits of various cards. We’ve used the points from different welcome bonuses to travel for free, and in preparation for our upcoming travels that include two months each in Ecuador and Spain, I’ve started to study the travel perks that individual cards have.

 

The main benefits that I see are in the following categories:

  • Airport Lounge Access
  • Trip Cancellation & Interruption Insurance
  • Travel Accident Insurance (payable upon death or the aforementioned dismemberment)
  • Lost or Delayed Luggage Benefit
  • Rental Car Insurance
  • Evacuation Coverage 

 

Airport Lounge Access

 

I’ve only started using this benefit in the last year or two. I’ve been able to take advantage of the benefit about a half-dozen times, and it’s been pretty stellar.

By virtue of carrying both the card_name (rates and fees) and card_name (rates and fees), I’ve been granted 20 Priority Pass lounge visits per year.

Read our detailed review of the card_name.

In the summer of 2019, the Priority Pass for American Express cardholders became less attractive, as they no longer allowed cardholders to use their pass for discounts at certain airport restaurants that were typically good for $28 towards food. You can, however, still use the pass at non-restaurant airport lounges, which typically offer free food and drink, including alcohol, good wifi, and comfortable seating.

My family and I didn’t mind the long wait we had in the Tegucigalpa airport after our most recent medical mission. The grownups sipped on beers and cocktails while eating sushi, and the kids ate way too many sugary snacks while downing big bottles of Gatorade.

If you have the Priority Pass via the card_name card, the restaurant credits are still fair game for you, as are the airport lounges, and you’re not limited to 10 visits per year.

There are additional lounges outside of the Priority Pass program. card_name (See Rates and Fees; terms apply) gives you access to a host of lounges in their Global Lounge Collection(enrollment required), including their upscale Centurion Lounges and Delta Sky Club lounges, which you can also access with a Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card (rates and fees). Terms apply.

 

Read PoF’s detailed Amex Platinum Card Review.

In summary, the top cards for lounge access include:

 

card_name

Learn more

Annual Fee

annual_fees (rates and fees)

Intro APR

intro_apr_rate,intro_apr_duration

Regular APR

reg_apr,reg_apr_type

Recommended credit

credit_score_needed

Bonus Intro Rewards

bonus_miles_full

 

Best Credit Card for Travel Cancellation Insurance

 

 

Every time you book a flight online, you’re prodded to purchase trip protection. You can’t even buy the ticket without accepting or declining the fee. Did you know that you may already have that benefit as a part of your credit card benefits package?

Currently, Citi only offers trip cancellation coverage on the card_name

Plus, several Amex cards offer up to $10,000 in coverage for qualifying trip cancellations. These include:

But this is an area where Chase cards truly excel.

Their trip cancellation can reimburse you if you need to cancel for certain reasons before the trip, and trip interruption protection covers you when you have to end a trip early.

The covered reasons include medical emergencies for you or an immediate family member, severe weather, jury duty, military duty, or a tour operator going belly up. You will not be reimbursed for most other reasons, including a change of heart, pre-existing condition of the heart or any other organ, or any trip that exceeds 60 days, regardless of the reason. A more complete list can be found on Chase’s website.

Note that part or all of your fare needs to be paid for with the particular card for you to qualify for this protection.

Eligibility and Benefit level varies by Card. Terms, Conditions, and Limitations Apply. Please visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details.

Top cards for Chase trip insurance include:

  • card_name (up to $10,000 per person and $20,000 per trip)
  • card_name (up to $10,000 per person and $20,000 per trip)
  • card_name(up to $5,000 per person and $10,000 per trip)

 

card_name

Learn more

Annual fee

annual_fees

Intro APR

intro_apr_rate,intro_apr_duration

Regular APR

reg_apr,reg_apr_type

Recommended credit

credit_score_needed

Bonus Intro Rewards

bonus_miles_full

 

Travel Accident Insurance

 

You visit extended family for the holidays when some punk kid with thick glasses and a Red Ryder BB gun shoots your eye out.

You’ve just finished a set drumming for Def Leppard, you’re waving to fans outside the tour bus, and Boom! There goes your arm.

Aren’t you glad you booked your travel with a card that has travel accident insurance? Not only will you be covered in the event of simple dismemberment, but you’ve also got coverage in the event of your untimely death. Your next of kin thank you.

American Express even has a chart that defines the payout for a variety of gruesome outcomes.

Currently, Citi’s card_name is the only one that offers benefits like worldwide travel accident insurance. Bank of America and Discover don’t offer it at all. 

Chase and American Express cards are your best bets. Most of their cards offer some level of travel accident insurance. The card_name leads the pack with $1,000,000 in coverage. The card_name and card_name each offer $500,000 worth of insurance, as does the card_name.

Read our full review of the Chase Ink Business Preferred Card.

Dozens of cards from American Express offer this coverage, often with $500,000 in coverage. If I’m innocently birdwatching and a rare Ecuadoran condor swoops down and makes off with my left arm, I’ll be $250,000 richer.

Eligibility and Benefit level varies by Card. Terms, Conditions, and Limitations Apply. Please visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details. Underwritten by New Hampshire Insurance Company, an AIG Company.  

 

Lost or Delayed Luggage

 

The benefit for delayed or lost baggage is not seen as often, although this is one of the more common travel mishaps, second only to loss of limb by act of condor, I believe.

The card_name and card_name shine in this category. You’ll be covered for reimbursement of up to $3,000 for the value of lost luggage. In the event of delayed luggage, up to $500 in necessary expenses will be covered.

For business travelers, the card_name offers the same benefit.

American Express cards do not offer baggage delay coverage, but some cards offer protection for lost, stolen, or damaged luggage.

card_name provides coverage of up to $2,000 for checked bags and $3,000 total between checked and carry-on bags (See Rates and Fees; terms apply). The card_name protection is up to $500 for a checked bag and $1,250 for carry-on bags.

I was unaware of these coverages when I absentmindedly left about $1,500 in camera equipment under the seat in front of me a few years ago. I didn’t think to look into it when my son left a couple of mp3 players and headphones in the seat pocket this spring, either.

It turns out my card_name has the same baggage coverage as the card_name, but a claim should be filed within 30 days. Now I know!

In summary, the top coverage for luggage protection belongs to these three Chase cards:

Eligibility and Benefit level varies by Card. Terms, Conditions, and Limitations Apply. Please visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details. Underwritten by AMEX Assurance Company.

 

Rental Car Insurance 

 

Many credit cards offer secondary coverage for rental cars when traveling. That is, your primary auto insurance will be used first when needed, and the credit card’s insurance will be supplemental to that.

There are a handful of Chase cards, however, that offer primary rental car coverage.

Both the card_name and card_name give you primary rental car coverage, meaning you may not have to involve the insurer you use on the cars you own in the event of an accident while driving a rental car.

The card_name also offers this benefit.

The card_name is another card with primary auto coverage, and like the Sapphire cards, has the benefit of no foreign transaction fees. The card_name and card_name also offer primary auto insurance but do charge 3% foreign transaction fees.

Read the full Chase Ink Business Unlimited Review here.

You can save a lot of money by declining the insurance the folks at the rental counter will try to upsell you. It’s a good idea to know exactly what coverage you do have, so check your documents before you take the keys for your next rental car.

 

Medical Evacuation Coverage

 

Last, but not least, is coverage in the event you need to be evacuated in the case of a medical emergency. Such an event could easily cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Not many cards offer such coverage, but two of the cards with many other travel benefits also offer emergency evacuation coverage.

The card_name card offers supplemental evacuation insurance for up to $100,000 in transportation costs for you and your immediate family.

There are a few stipulations. First, at least part of the travel fare must have been charged to the card.

Second, the trip cannot be for fewer than five days or more than 60 days. Additionally, the transportation must be pre-approved by a benefit administrator.

A second card that offers evacuation coverage is card_name. I have read elsewhere that there is no cap to their benefit amount, but the fine print tells me the maximum benefit is $100,000 per beneficiary. See Rates and Fees; terms apply.

Also, the incident must occur within the first 90 days of your trip, and there is no minimum trip length. I have also read that being a cardholder qualifies you for this benefit even if the card was not used to book the trip, although I have yet to verify this.

The transportation does need to be coordinated with a benefits administrator.

The more generous timeframe makes the coverage from card_name superior, in my opinion. We’ve got two trips of 60 or 61 days coming up. I’m not sure the card_name would cover either of them even if we used the trip to book the fare, whereas the timeframe easily qualifies under the Platinum card, perhaps whether or not we booked the fare with the card.

 

Alternatives to Credit Card Travel Insurance

 

If you don’t travel that often, don’t like credit cards with annual fees, or want more comprehensive travel coverage, consider purchasing an individual policy to cover the dates of your travel from an agency that specializes in travel insurance.

The nature of these policies is beyond the scope of this article, but you can learn more about the coverage options and receive quotes from the following reputable carriers:

  • AIG Travel Guard
  • Atlas Travel Insurance
  • VisitorsCoverage
  • World Nomads

 

Which Credit Card is Best for Travel Insurance?

 

There are a number of travel rewards cards with excellent travel perks. My research has shown that Chase and American Express clearly lead the way, and the higher-end cards offer the best coverage.

A rule of thumb with any type of insurance is to cover the costs you cannot easily cover out of pocket. Most of these coverages are for incidents that might cost you a few hundred or a few thousand dollars. Or one arm.

But it’s the potential six-figure expenses that scare me the most. Actually, the voracious condor scares me even more, but the two are interrelated.

While I wouldn’t want to deal with a lost bag or eat the cost of four flights with a last-minute cancellation, I can afford to do so. A medical evacuation could really set us back, though.

With that in mind, I would choose one of the following two cards, which seem to offer the best perks across the board.

 

card_name

Learn more

Annual fee

annual_fees

Intro APR

intro_apr_rate,intro_apr_duration

Regular APR

reg_apr,reg_apr_type

Recommended credit

credit_score_needed

Bonus Intro Rewards

bonus_miles_full

 

card_name

Learn more

Annual fee

annual_fees (rates and fees)

Intro APR

intro_apr_rate,intro_apr_duration

Regular APR

reg_apr,reg_apr_type

Recommended credit

credit_score_needed

Bonus Intro Rewards

bonus_miles_full

 

For Business Owners

 

card_name

Although it does not offer evacuation insurance, with many other excellent travel perks and an unparalleled bonus offer, the card_name stands out as the top travel card for small business owners.

 

card_name

Learn more

Annual fee

annual_fees

Intro APR

intro_apr_rate,intro_apr_duration

Regular APR

reg_apr,reg_apr_type

Recommended credit

credit_score_needed

Bonus Intro Rewards

bonus_miles_full

 

Which travel benefits do you find to be the most valuable? Which have you used? Have you ever purchased travel insurance independently?

To see rates and fees for featured cards from American Express: Hilton Honors Surpass Card from American Express (rates and fees), Hilton Honors American Express Business Card (rates and fees), Platinum Card from American Express (rates and fees), and Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card (rates and fees).

 



 

Terms and Restrictions Apply
Physician on FIRE has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Physician on FIRE and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.
Some or all of the card offers that appear on the website are from advertisers. Compensation may impact on how and where card products appear on the site. POF does not include all card companies or all available card offers. Credit Card Providers determine the underwriting criteria necessary for approval, you should review each Provider's terms and conditions to determine which card works for you and your personal financial situation.
Editorial Disclosure: Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.

User-Generated Content Disclosure: Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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11 thoughts on “Best Credit Card for Travel Insurance & Medical Coverage”

  1. As I read this post and in other places I have read about this online like the TPG, some of these travel cards have nice evacuation coverage and accident coverage, but they aren’t providing coverage for medical costs like hospital charges, doctor’s fees, etc. So the coverage from the card will help you avoid a large expense from an air ambulance (if you quality for it based on the comment from pcurtis) or provide compensation for something terrible like an arm amputation. If my take is correct, it would be prudent to buy a separate travel medical policy (using some of the places you suggested in the section: Alternatives to Credit Card Travel Insurance), if your health insurance does not provide coverage for international healthcare expenses. Does that sound right?

    Reply
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  3. Pingback: Family FIRE Travels: Krakow, Poland - DrDons 'Selected News You Can Use' Media
  4. CAVEAT EMPTOR! Your medical evacuation will only be covered by most of these insurance policies IF AND ONLY IF the local physician in a foreign land deems it medically necessary. He and the hospital 1) have a financial interest in keeping you, a cash-paying, full-price patient there; and 2) he and the hospital owners would have to deem themselves medically incapable of caring for you – a difficult decision for their egos. Furthermore, the credit card card company doesn’t want to pay $50,000 – $250,000, if it can avoid it with a note from a “friendly” local doctor.
    Therefore, I always pay for medical evacuation insurance that guarantees to fly me to the hospital of my choosing near my home, based SOLELY on MY judgment. I don’t want to languish or die in a substandard hospital in a developing country, while my savings are rapidly drained away. In the past, I’ve gotten such coverage from Medjet Assist, but there must be others.

    Reply
  5. For the lost luggage benefit, do you recommend taking photos prior to travel to prove you were traveling with that expensive equipment or generally do they take your word for it?

    Reply
  6. We have had the AMEX Platinum card–I can get best deals by calling their travel service for airlines and rent a car. Global entry and TSA pre check is free. I get UBER credits and airline credits. I can get into domestic and international lounges free of charge. All in all–best card.

    Reply
  7. Thank you for this article. I made a deposit on our next family vacation back in August with the Costco Visa because of the travel insurance and trip interruption coverage. I did not know Citi cards stopped the coverage in September (I’m sure some notice was sent out that I ignored and I have verified you are correct). On the hunt for a new travel card. Deciding between the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Reserve.

    Reply
    • Interestingly, the Citi Costco Anywhere VISA Card is the only Citi Card that kept its benefits. It’s a shame because I really liked my Citi Prestige Card. Before sept 22, it had the best coverage.

      My guess is that Citi is working out some contract negotiations with third party insurance providers and that benefits will come back in 2020. There’s no way they can expect to keep premium customers like me without travel insurance benefits. If benefits are not reinstated in 2020, I may cancel my once beloved Citi Prestige Card 🙁

      Reply
  8. Can you get coverage through your umbrella policy? Wouldn’t that be cheaper then a credit card with a $550 annual fee?

    Taking out specific insurance before a trip might be cheaper too.

    Obviously the card has other perks so it depends on their value to you.

    Reply
    • Umbrella insurance is pretty much an extension of home and auto insurance. Emergency evacuation coverage would not be a part of a typical umbrella policy.

      As you suggest, you could purchase it separately, and I’ve listed a number of insurers who can give you quotes for your trip.

      $550 a year is a steep price to pay, but the other perks may be worth more than that to you. I think of the CSR as having a $150 annual fee since $300 will be reimbursed on travel costs each year (and an additional $100 for Global Entry your first year).

      Cheers!
      -PoF

      Reply

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