How to Get Free Travel/Visa Insurance

Written by: David Scott

Even if you are not obliged to have either travel insurance or travel medical insurance, considering having them can buy you peace of mind. In the above-mentioned article, we also wrote that before purchasing your travel insurance, you are suggested to check with your credit card companies, health insurance provider, and airlines about coverage that you may already have.

In our previous article titled What You Should Look After When You are Traveling:Travel Insurance (Part 2), we mentioned that certain countries, such as ones in the Schengen area, will require you to present your travel medical insurance together with your visa application.

If you think their coverage is not enough, you can then decide to purchase additional insurance from third parties. This way, you will make sure that the insurance that you purchase is effective and efficient, considering that many insurance companies will not accept double claims (e.g., your third-party insurance will ask you to check your insurance coverage first before processing your claim in case of an incident). This article will discuss how to get free travel/visa insurance from your existing credit card company.

Credit Card Travel Insurance: What is it? How does it work? What to expect from it?

Credit card travel insurance is an insurance policy that is usually included with premium credit cards. While marketed as ‘free’ or ‘complimentary,’ these policies are typically paid for through your annual card fees. Before continuing to read this article, please make sure you know the difference between travel insurance and travel medical insurance. Credit card travel insurance can reimburse cardholders in the event of canceled trips, missed connections, lost or delayed luggage, and injury during transit. You don’t need to sign up for it to benefit; you just have to pay for your travel with a credit card that offers travel insurance. But coverage amounts and restrictions vary widely based on the type of card you have, the company that issues it, and the card network it is affiliated with. So, you definitely want to look into what your credit card is offering beforehand. 

Making Sure that You are Covered!

So, you are about to go overseas. Your bags are packed, your flights are booked, and you are feeling pretty relaxed because your credit card comes with complimentary travel insurance. But did you read the fine print, and are you sure you know what you are covered for? This article will explain what you need to know and what you need to do to make sure that you are covered.

Step 1: Activation

Make sure that you have activated your complimentary travel insurance before you leave. It varies by card and insurer, but you usually have to use your card to pay for prepaid travel costs like flights, hotels, car rental, activities and pre-book tours to qualify. Some credit cards might need manual activation of the policy via internet banking or contacting the bank. Please contact your credit card provider to make sure that the insurance has already been activated. Don’t assume it’s automatically activated after you make a travel purchase; you could find yourself overseas without insurance when you need it.

Step 2: What is not covered

If you are 80 years old or older, have any pre-existing conditions (e.g., heart conditions, high blood pressure, mental disorders), or are pregnant, the level of coverage that you will receive could be impacted. And if you are eligible at all, your policy may exclude certain scenarios as well. For example, you won’t be covered if you have had a few cocktails (see the previous article about alcohol exclusions). If you put yourself in a reckless situation, or if you were traveling in a dangerous area.

Step 3: Ask who, how, and what?

Who is covered?

Lucky for your loved ones, your insurance usually covers more than just you. As long as the eligibility requirements are met, your partner and any dependent children traveling with you are also covered. 

How long are you covered?

You will generally be covered for 3-6 consecutive months of travel. 

What is covered?

Exactly what is covered will also differ. It usually includes expenses of medical & dental treatments, lost luggage, travel delay, rental damage, kidnap & ransom. Some benefits will be unlimited, but others will be capped. These are types of travel insurance that are generally covered by the credit card:

  • Travel Accident Insurance: It comes into play if you, your spouse, or any authorized user on your card gets into a serious accident while traveling. You are typically covered here for up to $250,000.
  • Luggage Insurance: If your checked-in or carry-on luggage is lost, stolen, or damaged by an airline carrier. You could get up to $3,000 for permanently lost luggage or $500 for delayed luggage. 
  • Travel Emergency Assistance: It tends to be the same across cards. It is not exactly insurance, but it does provide help with locating lost, or stolen luggage and travel documents, plus referrals to local physicians, attorneys, embassies, and cash advance services should you need them.

Side Note: Rental Car Insurance

Rental car insurance through your credit card is separate from travel insurance benefits.

Step 4: Check how much it will cost

When you make a claim, you may have to pay in excess, and how much it will cost will vary. You can find a list of the potential excess costs in the insurance policy T&C. 

Step 5: Claim it!

And finally, all credit card travel insurance policies involve a claim process. If something does go wrong, you will need to submit your claim directly to the insurance provider, not your credit card issuer. Specifics vary, but you will need to submit relevant documentation to the Benefit Administrator within a set timeline, usually 60 to 90 days. This includes credit card statements showing the covered transaction in question. If it is urgent, you can usually contact your insurer for a 24/7 customer service team to get started. You will need to send your claim within a set number of days from when the event happened, but you should try to contact your insurer as soon as possible.

Final Thoughts

There is no harm in checking your existing medical insurance, airlines, travel agent, and debit/credit card whether or not they provide travel insurance for you. However, you need to manage your expectations for free travel insurance and consider purchasing third-party insurance if you need to. As you are ticking off your travel checklist, include confirming what you are covered for and whether you meet the eligibility requirements. If you realize that the complimentary cover is not right for you, it might be worth comparing standalone travel insurance policies as well. You could stand to pay a little more, but you can’t put a price on peace of mind. You can get started by comparing credit cards with complimentary travel insurance as well as standalone policies.

If you need to pay extra (add-ons) for travel insurance, we suggest you read the fine print carefully, also consider the benefits and the drawbacks. Purchasing a low-cost insurance add-on provided by the airline companies at the end of your purchasing process might not be beneficial, especially if you need to file a claim process manually, as there are a lot of exclusions, and the claim process can cause a headache; thus, many people just let it go even when the incident (e.g., flight delay) truly happens. However, we believe it is still worth it if the process is completely automated (e.g., your balance will directly be added after a flight delay is detected, without you making a manual claim).

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