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Is credit card travel insurance enough?

Some credit card travel insurance policies offer a good standard of cover now but there are a few pitfalls to watch out for.

What you need to know

  • You can get similar cover to standard travel insurance but many do not cover pre-existing conditions.
  • Credit card travel insurance often charges a larger excess (you need to pay this when you claim).
  • Some credit card travel insurance policies still do not cover COVID-related claims.

Credit card travel insurance pros and cons

Here's a really simple breakdown of the pros and cons:

Pros

  • Saves you from having to buy standalone cover
  • Many policies are underwritten by major brands e.g. Allianz, Chubb or Cover-More
  • Activation process is usually straightforward (e.g. booking trip over $500 with your card)
  • No price increase for expensive destinations such as USA or Japan

Cons

  • Expensive excess charge (often around $500 vs $200 for standard policy)
  • The benefit limits may not be enough for expensive destinations such as USA
  • Many don't cover pre-existing conditions (e.g. Qantas Money)
  • Many don't cover you over the age of 79
  • Most don't cover high-risk activities such as skiing or riding a motorcycle

Credit card travel insurance policies have changed a lot since the pandemic. For instance, Finder analysis in 2023 found that there are at least 14 providers and 58 cards that offer some form of COVID cover. But the base level of cover may not be enough if your trip involves extreme sports, travel to higher-risk areas or if you have pre-existing conditions.

Is credit card travel insurance worth it?

If you already have a credit card that includes complimentary travel insurance, then it might be worth using instead of taking out standard cover. Just keep in mind that:

It's not worth claiming for less expensive mishaps

Most credit card travel insurance policies have a $500 excess. You need to pay this when you make a claim. This can make claiming pointless in some situations.

For example, my luggage was delayed for just over 24 hours on a trip to Scotland. I could have made a claim to buy some essentials but I'd have had to pay a $500 excess. Instead, I persevered with what I had in my hand luggage, since there's no way essentials would have cost me as much as $500.

Some policies will only cover the cardholder

If you're not sure, you should call and ask the insurer. I looked through the product disclosure statement (PDS) of several complimentary travel insurance policies and it wasn't always clear it would cover more than the cardholder.

You won't be covered for pre-existing medical conditions

Standard travel insurance can can cover some pre-existing medical conditions. Insurers have made it a fairly straightforward process. If your conditions aren't listed in the PDS, you'll need to fill out a short questionnaire and they'll let you know if they can cover that condition or not.

It's a similar issue if you're over 79. Lots of standard travel insurance policies will cover you, many credit cards don't.

The benefit limits may not be enough

There's no price increase for expensive countries such as USA or Japan. That's great, except there's a reason these destinations should cost more. Medical care is expensive, flights tend to cost more and accommodation usually isn't cheap.

Some complimentary insurance products come with lower limits than standard travel insurance. As a benchmark, a standalone comprehensive travel insurance policy can offer unlimited medical cover, unlimited cancellation, $25,000 for lost or stolen luggage and $30,000 for travel delay expenses.

Not all credit card travel insurance policies are created equal

There are sometimes big differences. For example, our credit card specialist Amy Bradney-George found that Qantas Money's policy states that it doesn't cover any pre-existing conditions and excludes IVF pregnancy (cover for natural pregnancy is available for the first 22 weeks).

Others offer much better value for money. For example, Bankwest Zero Platinum Mastercard, which won the 2023 Finder Award for Best Travel Credit Card, has the option of paying for upgraded benefits, including cancellation and rental vehicle excess cover.

It's automatically available when you have an active, eligible card and are travelling overseas. I used this card on a trip to Japan in 2023. So did Amy when she travelled to the UK.

Keep in mind though that this level of cover wasn't free. You have to pay extra for the upgraded benefits. The base level only covers overseas emergency medical assistance and baggage. Cover is also limited to 31 days.

Angus Kidman

Meet our travel expert Angus Kidman

Angus Kidman is the international editor-at-large at Finder. He's an award-winning journalist, avid travel enthusiast and passionate frequent flyer. Angus appears regularly on Sunrise, Today, The Project, Seven News and other TV and radio shows to share his expert tips.

Angus's top credit card insurance tips

  • Travelling as a couple? Some credit card insurance covers you and a partner, but others don't. So check the fine print.
  • Credit card insurance generally requires you to register, it isn't enough to just pay using your card.
  • It's rare for credit card insurance to cover domestic travel, for that, you'll usually need a separate policy.

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