What is the best credit card travel insurance?
Free travel insurance is a popular credit card feature but the cover you get varies between providers. Here’s how to find the right option for you.
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Credit cards with complimentary travel insurance can save you hundreds of dollars on cover for overseas trips – and even for some domestic travel. Just like any insurance, the cover you get through a credit card depends on the type of card, the policy provider and your individual circumstances.
This means there isn't one "best" credit card travel insurance policy for everyone, but you can find one that works for you. So, let's take a look at what's usually covered, how you get insurance through a credit card and what else to think about when you're choosing your next card.
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Types of credit card travel insurance
- International travel insurance. Typically gives you comprehensive cover for overseas trips, including emergency medical and dental cover, travel delays and lost or stolen luggage.
- Transit accident insurance. This insurance typically covers accidents when you're travelling overseas on a plane, train, bus or other eligible vehicle.
- Car rental excess insurance. Helps cover the cost of any excess you need to pay a car hire company after an accident or other eligible issues. Depending on the policy, you could get cover when you rent a car overseas, in Australia or both.
- Domestic interstate flight inconvenience insurance. If you're travelling to another state or territory in Australia, this type of insurance typically offers cover for additional meals and accommodation costs if your flight is delayed for more than 4–6 hours. Flight cancellation, lost or damaged luggage and other key issues may also be covered, depending on the policy.
What does credit card international travel insurance cover?
If you get a credit card with comprehensive overseas travel insurance, some of the key issues that could be covered include:
- Emergency medical issues
- Cancellation (for specific situations)
- Major flight delays
- Lost and stolen baggage, travel documents and valuables
- Hijacking, kidnap and ransom
- Personal liability
- Accidental death
- Funeral expenses
Does credit card travel insurance cover COVID-19?
Just like travel insurance that you pay for, a lot of credit card travel insurance does not offer cover for any pandemic or epidemic – including coronavirus – but some do offer cover for specific situations.
In 2022, Finder looked at 32 credit cards that include travel insurance and found 16 offered some form of COVID cover – including cards from American Express and ANZ. And in June 2022, NAB updated its complimentary international travel insurance with details of when you can make claims related to COVID-19 and other known pandemics and epidemics.
Who is covered by credit card travel insurance?
As long as you meet the activation and eligibility requirements, complimentary travel insurance always covers the primary cardholder. Most policies also offer cover for your spouse and dependent children when they meet eligibility requirements, which typically include some or all of the following:
- They must be travelling with you for the whole trip
- Some or all of their travel must have been paid for using your credit card
- They must have a return ticket to Australia before the start of the trip
Can I use credit card travel insurance for friends or colleagues?
If you have a personal credit card, you can usually only get complimentary travel insurance for an eligible spouse and dependent children. If you want to cover people other than this, you could consider the following options:
- Additional cardholders. Personal credit cards may offer complimentary travel insurance to additional cardholders when they meet the activation requirements. If you request to share your account with a friend, new partner or colleague, this may give them access to the insurance cover when they travel.
- Business credit cards. Some business credit cards offer complimentary travel insurance for employees and/or additional cardholders. For example, the American Express Velocity Business includes overseas travel insurance for the primary cardholder and any additional cardholders, as well as eligible spouse and dependent children when the activation requirements are met before you travel.
Age limits and pre-existing medical conditions
Whether your cover comes through a credit card or you buy it outright, it's more likely you'll face restrictions if you're over 65 or have a pre-existing medical condition. Here are the key details for credit cards.
Most complimentary credit card travel insurance policies cover people up to the age of 79. However, some restrictions may come into effect earlier than that depending on the card and your circumstances.
For example, if you're under 50 years of age and have been diagnosed with diabetes or glucose intolerance, there is a variation for the cover you could get with a Bankwest credit card. Read our guide on credit card insurance and age limits for more information.
Pre-existing medical conditions
All travel insurance policies have specific requirements around pre-existing medical conditions, and sometimes you might not get cover through a particular policy. In basic terms, a pre-existing condition is anything you are currently being treated for, or have been diagnosed with by a professional before to the start of your trip. This usually includes:
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Ongoing dental work
- Alcoholism or drug addiction
- Psychological and psychiatric conditions
Depending on the condition and the insurance policy, you may be able to get cover for a pre-existing condition. But some policies are very strict about what conditions will and won't be covered, so you should always check the insurance policy document for full details.
What should I do if I have a pre-existing medical condition?
- Check the credit card insurance policy document to find out what's covered and what's excluded.
- See if there is any information on exceptions.
- Contact the insurance provider (not the credit card company), explain your condition and ask if there is a way for you to get coverage through the specific credit card you're interested in.
- When you have a credit card with travel insurance, contact the insurer before you travel to ensure that your pre-existing medical condition has been approved for cover. This may attract an additional fee, but will allow you to travel with cover that works for you.
Note: Remember to also take down details of any conversation you have with the insurance provider so you can refer to it later if you need to make a claim.
🔥 Hot tip: The easiest way to find details in the insurance policy booklet is to open your digital copy and use the find tool (Ctrl+F or Cmd+F) to search for the terms. E.g. "Pre-existing medical conditions".
How to use credit card international travel insurance
Most of the time, you'll need to activate an overseas credit card travel insurance policy to get cover. It varies between cards, but some of the most common requirements include:
- Book a return ticket. Most credit card travel insurance policies require you to have booked and paid for your return ticket to Australia before you start your trip.
- Use your credit card to book your travel. Usually, you need to pay for some or all of your overseas trip with your credit card. A really simple way to do this is to use it for airfares or other major costs. If you have a rewards credit card with travel insurance, you may be able to activate the policy by using points to pay for some or all of your travel costs before you leave Australia.
- Activate the policy online. Sometimes you'll need to activate your credit card travel insurance online to be eligible for full cover. For example, if you have a CommBank card with included travel insurance, you can get base cover at any time but will get more coverage by activating your policy online through NetBank or the CommBank app.
Usually, having a return travel ticket and paying for some or all of it using the credit card that offers travel insurance will activate the policy. But as the requirements do vary, it's worth checking with individual credit cards before you apply so that you're clear on what you need to do to use this insurance.
How to make a claim
The process can be slightly different depending on the insurance provider, so it's important to check the insurance policy document for full details. But as a general guide, the steps you'll need to take are:
- Contact the insurance provider
As soon as you think you'll need to make a claim, call or email the insurance provider. The contact details will be in your credit card complimentary insurance policy booklet.
- Fill in a claim form
Depending on the insurer, you may be able to submit a claim online, or download and complete a form that you can email or post back to it.
- Include supporting documents and submit your application
This could include any relevant police reports, medical certificates, photo evidence or receipts that relate to your claim. In general, the more details you can include, the better.
The supporting documents or evidence you include will help the insurer assess your claim and eligibility for a payout. Some more examples of what to include are:
- Your credit card statement showing the relevant purchase/s required to activate the policy (e.g. a travel ticket)
- A copy of a police report, if you're claiming for lost or stolen items
- Proof of ownership for lost, stolen or damaged items
- Flight itineraries and letters from carriers detailing delayed flights or unexpected events
What are the costs that come with credit card complimentary travel insurance?
While complimentary travel insurance gets you out of paying a premium for your overseas cover, there are still costs to consider before choosing a credit card that includes this perk. The key charges to look for are:
- Excess costs. This is what you'll pay when you have to make a claim on your complimentary travel insurance policy. Credit card travel insurance excess amounts range from $0 to $500 per claim and vary between cards and policies, so make sure you read the fine print and budget for this cost.
- Claim limits. Usually you will only be able to claim up to a certain dollar value for each type of cover included in your travel insurance policy. For example, you may be covered for up to $5,000 on claims for lost or damaged luggage and up to $50,000 on medical expenses. This affects the overall value of the insurance – even if you're not paying for it upfront.
- Other fees. If you need to request cover for a pre-existing medical condition or if you're over the maximum age for standard cover, then an additional premium may be charged before you can use your travel insurance. You may also have to pay for a medical assessment. These costs vary and usually aren't disclosed in the product disclosure statements (PDS), so you may have to call the insurance provider to find out what additional charges may apply.
Domestic interstate flight inconvenience insurance
This is another type of complimentary travel insurance you can get through some credit cards and it offers cover for flights to other states and territories in Australia. What you can claim depends on the card and the insurance policy, but some of the most common options include:
- Flight delays. If your flight is delayed for a set amount of time (e.g. 4 hours or more) and no alternative means of transport is provided, you could claim compensation for food and refreshments up to a set limit (e.g. $100).
- Baggage delays. If your baggage is delayed (usually by more than 12 hours) you can claim compensation for essentials, up to a set limit.
- Lost or damaged items. If your items are accidentally lost, damaged or stolen during the trip, this insurance could help cover the cost of repairs or replacement items.
- Funeral costs. In the event of accidental death during the trip, funeral costs such as the expense of transporting your remains or the cost of cremation/burial could be covered by an interstate flight inconvenience policy.
- Cancellations. Usually, you'll only get cover for very specific reasons if you need to cancel a trip. For example, if the travel is non-refundable and you or a close family member becomes seriously ill or injured before the trip.
Similar to international travel insurance, you usually need to have a return flight booked for travel to another state or territory in Australia. Eligible trips are also usually covered for 7 to 14 days with this type of complimentary insurance.
As with any insurance, check the terms and conditions in the policy booklet or contact the insurance provider to find out when you're covered, what you can claim and any excess costs you'll pay.
Other types of credit card complimentary insurance
Just as there are different types of insurance you can buy, there are different policies that you can get included with your credit card. As well as some travel insurance, the other main types of complimentary insurance are for different items you buy with your credit cards, including:
- Purchase protection insurance. Offered on both premium and mid-level credit cards, purchase protection insurance can cover the cost of theft, accidental damage or loss of items paid for with an eligible card. Usually, this insurance is valid for up to 90 days from the time of the purchase.
- Extended warranty insurance. This cover offers an extension on the manufacturer's warranty for eligible items purchased in Australia. Usually, this insurance will double the warranty, up to a maximum period of 12 months. For example, if you bought an item with a 1-year manufacturer's warranty, this cover would allow you to get insurance for a total of 24 months.
- Best-price guarantee cover. Also known as a "buyer's guarantee", best-price guarantee cover will refund the difference in price if you buy an item and then find it at a lower cost somewhere else (in the same geographic area). Usually, you have 21 days from the time of the purchase to submit a claim and will have to provide proof of the lower price.
- Mobile phone cover. Only a few credit cards offer insurance for mobile phones. Usually it will cover accidental damage to your smartphone screen if it's dropped or hit by something – or cover for theft as well as accidental damage.
Check the benefits of any credit card you're looking at to see what complimentary insurance you can get. And make sure you read the policy to decide if it's what you want.
What else should I consider?
Some of the other factors you'll want to take into account with complimentary credit card travel insurance include:
- Eligibility and activation of insurance. Make sure that you're eligible for the cover and that the terms and conditions make it so that the policy still suits your needs. Credit card providers also usually require you to activate the policy in some way. For most cards, you will "activate" or become eligible for insurance by purchasing your return travel ticket using your credit card. Others may require you to log in to your account online and fill out a simple form to activate your policy before each trip.
- Length of travel. Most credit card complimentary travel insurance policies will cover trips of between 3 and 6 months in length. Make sure you consider the specific coverage length offered by your card when you first start planning your trip. If you plan to travel for longer, you may be able to request an extension (for a fee).
- Levels of coverage. Some credit card companies provide travel insurance for several cards and offer different levels of coverage based on the account you have. For example, St.George complimentary travel insurance is available for up to 6 months with an Amplify Signature card, while it's only available for up to 3 months on an Amplify Platinum card. Different claim limits and excesses may also apply, so make sure you check what level of coverage your card offers when referring to the insurance policy booklet.
- Terms and conditions. While this may be a tedious practice, reading the terms and conditions is crucial to ensure you understand the opportunities and boundaries of your insurance. If you have any doubt about your cover after referring to such documents, you may wish to contact the insurance provider directly.
- Other card features. Remember to check the annual fee, interest rates and international transaction fees. Plus any other perks you want, such as points per $1 spent, airport lounge passes or even a concierge service to help with bookings.
Complimentary credit card travel insurance is a popular feature that has the potential to add hundreds of dollars of value to your card – if you can find the right policy for you. Looking at the activation requirements, the people eligible for cover, the age or medical limitations and the other features of the credit card will help you decide which credit card with complimentary insurance offers the most value and coverage for your needs.
Frequently asked questions
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