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Spoiler alert: Travel can be unpredictable. Bags gets lost, flights get canceled or delayed, or you can come down with a bad case of the stomach flu. Your plans for a relaxing vacation can turn into a scramble to fix urgent problems far away from home. There’s only so much you can do to prevent disaster; you never know if you’ll be a victim of bad travel luck until you depart. But, if you use the right credit card to pay for your trip, you can set off with peace of mind that you’ll be covered in case of an emergency.
Travel-focused credit cards let cardholders earn points that can be used for significant discounts on flights, hotels, or rental cars. But there’s another benefit many cards offer that could save your vacation in more ways than one. Some cards come with travel insurance that can help reimburse some of the costs related to delays, medical mishaps and other travel surprises. To be sure, credit card travel coverage comes with plenty of limitations—check your card’s benefits to see the specifics—but it’s nice to know that, say, if a freak hailstorm dents your rental car, all you had to do to get covered was put the purchase on your card.
We’ve sorted through dozens of credit cards that come with perks that protect you from common travel nightmares, all at no extra cost to you. Here are the six best.
The best credit cards with travel insurance
- Best overall: Chase Sapphire Preferred
- Premium option: Chase Sapphire Reserve
- No-annual-fee option: Chase Freedom
- Small business option: Capital One Spark Miles Select for Business
- Average credit option: QuicksilverOne® from Capital One®
- Military member option: USAA Rewards American Express Card
How we evaluated
Credit card benefits vary with every credit card and issuer. Right now, our research shows that one issuer—Chase—is a clear leader in offering travel insurance policies with their cards, although that could change in the future. Banks can, and have, changed the insurance offerings that come with their cards. For example, Discover and Citibank no longer offer some travel insurance benefits on their credit cards, and American Express credit cards tend to include just a few basic coverages. (AmEx offers a fuller coverage in its stand-alone travel insurance, which you can buy separately.)
Some of the most common credit card insurance benefits include roadside assistance, trip cancellation/interruption, trip accident, and lost or delayed luggage. We chose cards that offer a wide range of coverages but also include rewards programs, (mostly) low annual fees and no foreign transaction fees. Where possible, we chose cards that included travel delay insurance, as about 1 in 5 flights have been delayed so far this year, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
As with any travel insurance plan, you’ll usually need to foot the bill first and file a credit card travel insurance claim before getting reimbursed. And, again, credit card travel coverages come with plenty of limitations. For example, to use a card’s travel insurance, you’ll need to book the travel on that card. In other situations, the card’s coverage is secondary, which means you’ll need to request compensation from other sources, such as primary insurance providers or common carriers, before the card’s insurance will pay out. You’ll also need to carefully review your card benefits to make sure any claim you’re submitting follows its guidelines. It’s always a good idea to check with your card issuer before filing a claim.
Things to know about credit cards
Be cautious with cards that offer long introductory period APR rates. Potentially high APR rates snap into effect after the card’s introductory period ends, which could cost you a lot in interest if you’ve left your balance unpaid. It’s really important to keep an eye on your finances, and keep an eye on the calendar.
APR rates and credit limits vary based on your individual credit. Credit limits and interest rates for each card are determined based on each cardholder’s personal situation, so we did not take that information into account when evaluating these cards. One thing to remember is that if you pay your card off in full every month, you will not be charged interest.
Banks have final say on who they accept for a credit card. These recommendations were put together with the assumption that applicants would have average credit or above. That being said, banks decide who they will issue credit cards to using criteria including, but not always limited to, an individual’s credit score when evaluating each applicant.
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
The Chase Sapphire Preferred’s coverage is comparable to the premium offering of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, but at a fraction of the cost. The Preferred card’s annual fee is $95 (compared to the Reserve’s $450), and it offers a robust system of points cardholders can use for travel purchases or cash back. You’ll earn 2 points per dollar spent on dining and travel worldwide and 1 point per dollar spent everywhere else. There are no foreign transaction fees, and the variable APR ranges from 18.24% – 25.24%. If you’re more focused on low-cost rewards and travel coverage, this card’s hard to beat. Its travel coverages include:
- Trip cancellation/interruption insurance for up to $10,000 per person and $20,000 per trip for prepaid, nonrefundable expenses such as airfare, tours and hotel stays.
- An auto rental collision damage waiver that offers primary coverage for theft and collision damage for most rental cars in the U.S. and abroad.
- Baggage delay insurance that reimburses you for clothes and toiletries, up to $100 per day for five days, if your luggage is delayed by more than six hours. You’re also covered up to $3,000 per passenger for lost or damaged luggage.
- Trip delay reimbursement, which pays for unexpected expenses if your common carrier travel is delayed more than 12 hours or requires an overnight stay, up to $500 per ticket.
- Roadside dispatch to help coordinate local emergency services such as tire changes, gas delivery or towing. However, you’ll pay for the services with no reimbursement.
- Travel accident insurance up to $500,000.
Learn more about the Chase Sapphire Preferred
Chase Sapphire Reserve
The Chase Sapphire Reserve is a favorite among travelers—and for good reason. For a $450 annual fee, cardholders get a comprehensive lineup of travel benefits and rewards. That includes 3 points per dollar spent on dining and travel purchases worldwide and 1 point per dollar spent on all other eligible purchases, and no foreign transaction fees. Specific Reserve-only benefits include a $300 annual travel credit and free membership to more than 1,000 Priority Pass Select lounges in airports around the world. The variable APR ranges from 19.24%–26.24%, and travel coverages include:
- Trip cancellation/trip interruption insurance up to $10,000 per person and $20,000 per trip for prepaid, nonrefundable travel expenses such as airfare and hotels.
- An auto rental collision damage waiver that provides primary coverage, meaning you won’t need to file a claim with your car insurance before using this benefit. It pays up to $75,000 for theft and collision damage for rental cars in the U.S. and abroad.
- Reimbursement for clothes and toiletries, up to $100 per day for five days, if your luggage is delayed by more than six hours. * * * You’re also covered up to $3,000 per passenger for lost or damaged luggage.
- Trip delay reimbursement to cover unexpected expenses if your common carrier travel is delayed more than six hours or requires an overnight stay, up to $500 per ticket.
- Travel accident insurance, which acts as a sort of life insurance, up to $1 million.
- Emergency medical and dental coverage, up to $2,500 per person.
- Roadside assistance to help you find someone to perform emergency roadside services. It also can reimburse you up to $50 per incident four times a year.
- Emergency evacuation and transportation that covers you and your family members up to $100,000.
Learn more about the Chase Sapphire Reserve
The Chase Freedom has a 3% foreign transaction fee and offers fewer benefits and lower coverage limits than some of the other cards on this list. However, its lineup is pretty solid when accounting for the $0 annual fee. You’ll get a $150 welcome bonus after spending at least $500 and earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate, plus earn an unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. The APR is 0% for the first 15 months, then rises to a variable 17.24%–25.99%. Travel coverages include:
- Trip cancellation/interruption coverage for up to $1,500 per person and $6,000 per trip for prepaid, nonrefundable passenger fares.
- An auto rental collision damage waiver that provides secondary coverage for theft and collision damage for most rental cars in the U.S. and abroad.
- Roadside dispatch to help you find emergency services in your area, though you’ll need to foot the bill.
- Travel and emergency assistance services that provide legal and medical referrals. You’ll need to pay for the actual services here, too.
Learn more about the Chase Freedom
Capital One Spark Miles Select for Business
Capital One’s business card lineup is a favorite among small-business owners. These credit cards come with free employee cards, accounting tools, quarterly and annual summaries, and no foreign transaction fees. The Miles Select also comes with no annual fee, and you’ll earn 1.5 miles on every dollar spent. Its travel coverages includes:
- An auto rental collision damage waiver for you and your employees as long as they’re authorized card users or you ask them to rent a vehicle for business purposes.
- Travel and emergency assistance services to help you coordinate medical, legal and travel services while you’re away from home
- Lost luggage reimbursement, which can pay up to $3,000.
- Travel accident insurance up to $250,000.
Learn more about the Capital One Spark Miles Select for Business
QuicksilverOne from Capital One
If you have less-than-stellar credit, it could be hard to qualify for a credit card at all, much less one with a few travel insurance benefits. Although this card has a $39 annual fee and relatively high APR at 26.96%, you may qualify with average credit and will earn 1.5% cash back on every purchase. Plus, Capital One will increase your credit line after making five on-time payments and offers a free credit-monitoring program. There’s no foreign transaction fee, and travel coverages include:
- An auto rental collision damage waiver that covers rental cars for damage due to collision or theft.
- Travel accident insurance for up to $100,000.
- 24-hour travel assistance services to help coordinate legal, medical and travel services while you’re on a trip. If your credit card is lost or stolen, you can get an emergency replacement card and a cash advance.
- Roadside assistance to help you find emergency car services, such as a jump-start, tire change or towing.
Learn more about the QuicksilverOne from Capital One
USAA Rewards American Express Card
As a military member, you might find yourself abroad for work or family trips. This card offers a solid lineup of travel insurance benefits with no annual fee, no foreign transaction fee and a potentially ultra-low APR (it ranges from 12.15% to 28.15%, based on creditworthiness). You’ll also get 3 points per dollar spent on dining out, 2 points per dollar spent on gas and groceries, and 1 point per dollar spent everywhere else. The only slight catch: You’ll need to join USAA in order to apply for the card, which is only available to eligible military members and their families. Some of the travel benefits include:
- Travel accident insurance up to $500,000.
- Rental car insurance that offers secondary coverage on most rental cars for up to 31 days around the world.
- Trip cancellation/interruption insurance that covers up to $1,500.
- Baggage delay insurance, which can reimburse you for up to $100 per day for five days.
- Emergency travel assistance, such as information on travel requirements (such as visa and passport documentation), immunizations or currency exchange rates. If you have a travel emergency and need cash, this service can help transfer up to $5,000 from a family member, friend or business account.
- Medical and legal referrals.
- Roadside assistance, which helps you find emergency services anywhere in the U.S. Although you’ll need to cover the costs, some come at a low prenegotiated rate.
Learn more about the USAA Rewards American Express Card
Please note: the offers mentioned above are subject to change at any time and some may no longer be available.
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