Explore Travel Insurance

Everyone loves free stuff, which is why it seems like a great perk when financial institutions offer their customers travel insurance as a complimentary extra with their credit card.

There’s an old saying though: there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch, and while you may get some rudimentary cover from these products, you need to double-check that it suits your needs.

What does credit card travel insurance cover?

Credit card travel insurance will usually include:

  • overseas emergency medical expenses
  • cancellation costs and fees
  • lost, stolen or damaged luggage and personal effects
  • delayed travel costs
  • rental vehicle excess
  • legal liability.

Who does my credit card travel insurance cover?

As the primary cardholder, your credit card’s policy will always cover you. Some credit card providers also offer to extend travel insurance coverage to spouses or dependent children who are travelling with you. However, there will usually be terms and conditions to this (e.g. they must be accompanying you for the entire trip), although this is standard for non-credit card policies as well.

In some instances, additional cardholders will also be covered, so if your spouse is such a person and travels without you, they could still be eligible for travel insurance.

Make sure you read your Policy Disclosure Statement (PDS) to understand what you’re covered for.

a man calling his back to see if he has credit card travel insurance

How does credit card travel insurance work?

Not all credit cards will offer complimentary travel insurance. In any case, the insurance isn’t technically ‘complimentary’, since it’s generally paid for by the fees and interest charges that come with the card.

You’ll typically have to activate your credit card travel insurance before you can use it. The terms and conditions required to activate credit card travel insurance will differ across providers, and some may require you to pay for a portion of your trip with your card.

Exclusions

Like most types of insurance, there are a few things that credit card travel insurance doesn’t cover. Specific exclusions may vary from provider to provider, but you can generally expect the following to be excluded from cover:

  • pre-existing medical conditions. While more and more standalone travel policies are beginning to cover certain medical conditions, it’s usually an outright exclusion on credit card travel insurance.
  • adventure sports and activities. You’ll find that most travel insurance policies (both standalone and credit card) will usually exclude adventure activities and snow sports from standard coverage. However, where credit card travel insurance will exclude these completely, many standalone policies will offer cover for these activities as an optional extra.
  • age limits. Credit card travel insurance will usually impose an age limit on coverage (e.g. 74 years of age).
  • trip duration. Your coverage through a credit card travel policy is usually limited to trips between one and six months in length. In contrast, standalone policies can cover trips up to 12 months in duration.

Your PDS will outline the inclusions and exclusions of your policy, so ensure you’ve read this thoroughly before embarking on your trip.

Pros and cons of credit card travel insurance

To help you weigh up whether credit card travel insurance might be the right product for you, we’ve outlined some of the pros and cons below.

ProsCons
  • It’s ‘free’ or complimentary. You typically won’t have to pay an upfront premium for credit card travel insurance (although that doesn’t mean it’s completely free).
  • Prices don’t change as you age. Whereas standalone policies may charge higher premiums as you get older, credit card insurance doesn’t (just watch out for age limits on cover).
  • No price increases based on your destination. Some destinations are sometimes more expensive than others to insure through a standalone policy, but that isn’t the case with credit card insurance.
  • Quick and easy option for frequent travellers. Those who travel often might find it easier to use the same policy on their credit card each time rather than running around to organise a new one each time they take off.
  • Pre-existing medical conditions are often excluded entirely. While standalone policies are offering coverage for medical conditions, credit card travel insurance is yet to do so.
  • Ongoing costs of a credit card. The credit card travel insurance is technically paid for by your annual credit card fees, so you need to consider the fees and charges that’ll continue even once your holiday is over.
  • ‘One size fits all’ With standalone travel insurance, you’re usually offered different levels and optional extras, so you can more or less tailor your insurance to your needs; you generally can’t do this with credit card insurance.
  • Requires ‘activation’. You often need to spend a certain amount or pay for certain things with your card to get access to insurance coverage.

Frequently asked questions

How do I claim on travel insurance through a credit card?

Because your travel insurance is generally underwritten by an insurance company and not actually by your credit card provider, you’ll need to claim directly with the insurer. However, your credit card provider should have a help centre that can direct you to where you need to make your claim.

When an incident occurs overseas, you need to first report it to the relevant authorities (e.g. police in the case of theft or violence) or go directly to a hospital or other medical facility in the event of illness or injury.

To make your claim, make sure you get a copy of the police report, incident report (e.g. theft report from your transport provider) or medical notes and certificates. You’ll need to submit these to your insurance provider, along with any other supporting documentation, for your claim to be processed.

Many insurance providers will stipulate the time frame in which you can claim; within 30 days of your return to Australia is a common requirement. However, it’s always best that you claim as soon as possible.

What should I be aware of with credit card travel insurance?

The more important question you need to ask is, “How exhaustive is my travel cover?”

Credit card and insurance providers have gotten into trouble in the past because they failed to adequately disclose the extent of their cover, including things like who was covered by the policy (i.e. dependents, partners, or just you).1

Another issue commonly encountered with this product is exclusions and restrictions to your travel policy. As we’ve already looked at above, credit cards with travel insurance can exclude people above a certain age, trips longer than a specified duration and, perhaps most importantly, pre-existing medical conditions from cover. It’s also likely the credit card provider will only cover you for the trip you paid for on the card,2 so be mindful of this if you require insurance for multiple legs.

All this aside, you may only be interested in basic cover, and your credit card provider may offer you everything you believe is necessary for your trip. If this is the case, just be sure to read the PDS for that policy to check if it offers enough coverage.

If, however, it isn’t enough for your needs, why not consider comparing standalone travel insurance options? There are basic policies that cost relatively little that may offer broader cover to credit card policies.

What should I look for when taking out credit card travel cover?

We highly recommend you follow the below steps to ensure you’re protected on your trip.

  • Read through your PDS. Make sure you’re happy with the extent of your coverage. Are you covered for baggage loss and theft? Medical expenses? Cancelled flights? All these things can be covered under a regular travel policy but may not be in your credit card’s one.
  • Check how your card’s insurance is activated. It’s worth finding out how to enable the travel insurance on your credit card. Do you have to spend a minimum amount or a percentage of the costs to be eligible? Or can you simply contact your credit card provider to get coverage?
  • Consider whether the fees and interest rates outweigh the coverage. Will the annual fees and interest rates be worth more than the coverage and benefits you’ll be entitled to, or what you’d pay for a standalone policy?
  • Compare your options. If your credit card travel insurance isn’t quite up to scratch, there are many affordable standalone options out there; take a look at some of them with Compare the Market’s comparison service or learn more about travel cover.

Find insurance for your next trip today

If you’re considering credit card travel insurance for your next adventure, get in touch with your credit card provider to see what they offer. Make sure you read the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) before taking out any insurance policy.

If, however, you’re after a standalone travel policy, we can help! Our travel insurance comparison service is a quick and easy way to compare a range of policies in just a few minutes, and you don’t have to pay anything to use it!

Sources

1 ASIC – 15-136MR ASIC welcomes improved credit card travel insurance disclosure. Press release. Published June 2015. Accessed August 2020.
2 Moneysmart – Travel insurance. Accessed August 2020.

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