Travel credit cards get a lot of attention for the rewards, points, and miles they unlock. But for many people, the protections that come with some of these cards can be just as valuable.
These protections are often centered on insurance coverage — for trip delays, cancellations, lost baggage, and everything in between. They’re designed to give you peace of mind while on the road, in the air, or anywhere your travels may take you. And amid frequently shifting travel policies and cancellations throughout the coronavirus pandemic, these benefits can be more valuable than ever.
Here’s a rundown of how you can evaluate a card’s travel protection offerings, and a closer look at some of the top travel rewards credit cards on the market that will keep you covered during your next trip.
How to Choose a Card with Great Travel Protections
First, check the cards in your wallet to find out where you may already be covered. While travel protections are most commonly found on travel credit cards, other cards — from cash back to general rewards and co-branded credit cards — might also offer travel protection benefits. Also check if your card is a Visa Signature or World Mastercard, which often carry built-in travel protections from the network (for example, the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card* or Citizens Bank Cash Back Plus™ World Mastercard®*).
To understand exactly which travel protections you might already qualify for, make sure you read your individual card agreement and guide to benefits, check your account online, or call your issuer for more information. And when you’re searching for a new card, consider which, if any, travel protections are most valuable to you.
If you have a card that offers solid travel protections, be sure to pay for all or part of your trip with it so that you can get reimbursed if things do not go as planned.
In general, the more premium the card — and higher the annual fee — the more coverage you’ll get. Travel protections are a great way to get some extra value from a high-fee credit card, in addition to some of the more buzzy perks, such as lounge access, lifestyle and travel credits, and TSA PreCheck/Global Entry application fee credits.
But there are credit cards within any price range that offer some travel protections. No annual fee cards may not have the most comprehensive coverage, but you will often find cards on both ends of the spectrum with auto rental insurance or emergency assistance, like the Chase Freedom Unlimited® on our list below. The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card* and the Hilton Honors American Express Card are both $0 annual fee (See Rates & Fees) credit cards that come with complimentary rental car loss and damage insurance, in addition to access to the Amex 24/7 Global Assist hotline in case of an emergency abroad, for example.
Coverage differs by card, so read the terms of your agreement before you apply. Also keep in mind that some issuers tend to offer more protections than others. For example, Chase credit cards typically come with the most generous travel protections, whereas Citi removed many travel protections from its lineup a few years ago — so depending on your travel habits, one issuer might be better suited for your needs than another.
Which Travel Protections Should You Look For?
These are some of the most common travel protections you’ll find among travel credit cards:
- Trip delay insurance: If your flight is delayed more than a set amount of hours, you can receive reimbursement for meals and lodging
- Baggage insurance: If your baggage is delayed more than a certain amount of time or lost, you can be reimbursed for part of the cost of your luggage and belongings
- Trip cancellation/interruption coverage: If your trip is canceled or cut short by covered situations (sickness, severe weather), you can get reimbursed for prepaid, non-refundable expenses
- Travel accident insurance*: Receive coverage for accidental death or dismemberment during your travels
- Auto rental coverage: If your rental car is damaged or a theft occurs during your rental period, you can be reimbursed. Primary insurance means that this coverage applies first, no matter what type of other personal insurance you might have; secondary insurance (which is more common) means that your credit card issuer will pay the amount not covered by your other personal insurance policy.
Cards with Great Travel Protections
You can stay covered on your next trip no matter the annual fee you’re able or willing to pay. But if you’re looking to ramp up your travel insurance coverage and you travel enough to earn points and rewards that make the cost worth it, a more premium card may be a good fit. Here are a few of our favorite picks with varying price tags:
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
The Chase Freedom Unlimited card is our top pick for the best cash back credit card. In addition to its impressive rewards and flexibility for everyday spenders, it comes with a few notable travel protections — especially for a card with a $0 annual fee.
Cardholders can access benefits such as trip cancellation/interruption insurance, where you’ll be reimbursed up to $1,500 per person and $6,000 per trip for your prepaid, nonrefundable travel purchases. You’ll also receive a secondary auto rental damage collision waiver for car theft and damage, plus travel and emergency assistance services in the event of an emergency, including legal and medical referrals or other assistance.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
The Chase Sapphire Preferred card is our top pick for a travel card with an annual fee under $100. For $95 annually, you can earn rewards on dining and travel, plus a 60,000-point sign-up bonus after you spend $4,000 in the first three months of card opening.
It comes with primary auto rental collision damage waiver (up to the cash value of the vehicle), as well as baggage delay insurance for toiletries and clothing up to $100 a day for five days after your luggage is delayed for over six hours.
You’ll also get trip cancellation/interruption insurance for up to $10,000 per person and $20,000 per trip for your pre-paid, non-refundable travel expenses. Additionally, if your flight is delayed for more than 12 hours or requires an overnight stay you can be reimbursed for up to $500 per ticket for meals and lodging.
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is a solid mid-tier credit card with a $95 annual fee. It earns 2x miles per dollar on all purchases, and even ranks as one of our top credit cards of 2021.
The card comes with valuable travel protections, such as an auto rental damage waiver where you can be reimbursed in the case of theft or damage of your rental vehicle, as well as 24-hour travel assistance services in the event that you card is damaged or stolen while abroad — in that case, Capital One can send you an emergency replacement and a cash advance.
Additionally, you’ll get travel accident insurance* for a covered loss at no extra charge, and extended warranty protection at no charge on eligible items.
Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card
Another $95 annual fee travel card, the Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card*, offers some solid travel protections.
It includes trip cancellation/reimbursement coverage for prepaid, unused, non-refundable travel expenses that are interrupted or canceled for a covered reason (included in your card agreement) up to $2,500 per person per trip. Your baggage is insured, up to $100 per day for up to five days if it’s delayed more than six hours, and you can get reimbursed if it’s lost or damaged by the carrier.
If your trip is delayed by at least 12 hours, you can get up to $500 reimbursed to cover expenses such as meals, hotels, ground transportation and more. The card also comes with a secondary auto rental collision damage waiver.
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
- Intro offer:Earn an Additional 1.5% Cash Back
- Annual fee:$0
- Regular APR:18.74% – 27.49% Variable
- Recommended credit:670-850 (Good to Excellent)
- Apply Now At Chase’s secure site
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
The premium Chase Sapphire Reserve travel rewards credit card is known for some of its luxe benefits that help offset its costly $550 annual fee, such as a $300 annual travel credit and airport lounge access with Priority Pass Select. But it also comes with some of the top travel protections available from any card today.
You’ll get up to $500 per ticket if your flight is delayed by over six hours or overnight, as well as $100 per day for up to five days if your luggage is also delayed for over six hours. If your luggage is lost, Chase will reimburse you up to $3,000 per person (with a $500 cap on jewelry and watches, as well as a $500 cap on cameras and electronics). It also has a generous trip cancellation/interruption insurance for pre-paid, nonrefundable expenses including airfare, hotel bookings, and tours, which covers up to $10,000 per person and up to $20,000 per trip.
There’s even a $2,500 medical emergency reimbursement, subject to a $50 deductible, for treatment if you are injured or become sick while traveling. It also comes with a primary auto rental collision damage waiver for up to $75,000 and roadside car assistance — you’ll get up to $50 per service event, up to four times per year.
The Platinum Card® from American Express
The Platinum Card from American Express charges a steep $695 annual fee in exchange for premium perks like annual $200 airline fee and hotel credits; monthly credit toward Equinox, Uber, and digital entertainment; and more. While it doesn’t have as many travel protections as its main competitor, the Chase Sapphire Reserve card (there’s no baggage delay insurance or travel accident insurance), it does come with a few valuable benefits.
You’ll get car rental loss and damage insurance, which offers secondary coverage, and a secondary auto rental collision damage waiver for up to $75,000. The Platinum Card’s lost baggage insurance covers up to $3,000 per person with a $1,000 per-person cap on valuable items. Cardholders also get up to $500 per covered trip when they’re delayed by over six hours (up to two claims per card in a 12-month period), and complimentary emergency evacuation insurance.
Another valuable, related benefit of the Amex Platinum is its complimentary access to the American Express Concierge, which can help you make travel arrangements for both emergency and non-emergency situations.
U.S. Bank Altitude® Reserve Visa Infinite® Card
The U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite credit card* is a somewhat under-the-radar premium travel credit card with a $400 annual fee. You’ll get perks like a $325 annual travel credit, Priority Pass Select membership for airport lounge access, and more, but you must be an existing U.S. Bank account holder to apply.
There’s no baggage delay insurance, but if your baggage is lost or stolen, you can get reimbursed up to $3,000 per trip.
If your trip is delayed, you can get reimbursed up to $500 per ticket for a delay of at least six hours or that requires an overnight stay. You can also get up to $2,000 per person for trip cancellation and interruption protection — but only for non-refundable common carrier tickets (including travel by air, water, and land). Travel accident insurance (up to $500,000) and primary auto rental damage collision coverage are included, as well.
*All information about the Amex EveryDay Credit Card, Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card, Citizens Bank Cash Back Plus™ World Mastercard®, U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite credit card and Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card has been collected independently by NextAdvisor and has not been reviewed by the issuer
*Benefits only available to accounts approved for the Visa Signature card. Terms apply