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The best credit cards for travel insurance

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Barry Choi

Canadians are lucky to have publicly funded health care, but did you know if you travel outside of Canada that your provincial health plan doesn’t follow you? The cost of medical attention can be quite high in some countries. Think hundreds of dollars for a quick trip to the doctor, or thousands if you need to visit the emergency room. Fortunately, as long as you have travel insurance, you won’t have to pay anything out of pocket.

Usually when people speak about travel insurance they’re referring to travel medical, which covers you in situations where medical care is required abroad. However, other types of travel insurance you may need include travel accident, trip cancellation and interruption, delayed baggage, and lost baggage. It may seem excessive to have that much insurance when travelling, but trust us, you’ll be glad you have it if you ever need it.

The good news is that many premium credit cards offer a comprehensive travel insurance package as a standard benefit. To qualify for coverage, your account needs to be in good standing and a portion or the entire cost of the transportation ticket must be paid for using the credit card.

Here’s a breakdown of the types of credit card travel insurance we cover in this post.

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The best credit cards in Canada for travel insurance

 

BMO Ascend™ World Elite®* Mastercard®*

Travel insurance details

  • Travel emergency medical: up to $2 million for up to 21 consecutive days (under the age of 65)
  • Travel accident: $500,000
  • Trip interruption: $2,000 per person
  • Trip cancellation: $2,500 per person, up to $5,000
  • Flight delay: $500 per person if flight is delayed more than 6 hours
  • Baggage delay: $200 if baggage is delayed by more than 12 hours 
  • Lost or stolen baggage: $750 per person, $2,000 per trip
  • Rental car theft or damage: for trips up to 48 consecutive days 

These travel insurance benefits are applicable when the full cost of transportation is charged to your BMO Ascend World Elite Mastercard. 

The BMO World Elite Mastercard offers the full suite of insurance you’d expect from a top travel card, and in some cases, more. For one, it provides cardholders with $2 million in out-of-country insurance (versus the standard $1 million in coverage offered by most other cards). It also includes Personal Effects insurance as part of its car rental insurance package, so along with providing collision and damage loss insurance, your personal belonging in the rental car will be covered in the event they’re lost or stolen as well (up to a maximum of $2,000). Despite the fact that you get $200 per person in delayed luggage insurance, there must be a 12+ hour delay before you can make a claim which is much longer than many other insurance policies.

While at first glance, it’s disappointing that the BMO World Elite Mastercard offers no included insurance for people 65 or older, the optional insurance is actually quite good. For an annual fee of $249, those aged 65-69 get 31 days of medical protection while those aged 70-74 will have to pay $349. 

See full insurance details for the BMO World Elite Mastercard here.

 

Scotiabank®* Gold American Express® Card

Travel insurance details

  • Travel emergency medical: up to $1 million for up to 25 consecutive days (3 days for age 65+)
  • Travel accident: $500,000 per person/ $1 million per occurrence
  • Trip interruption: $1,500 per person, up to $10,000
  • Trip cancellation: 1,500 per person, up to $10,000
  • Flight delay: $500 per person
  • Baggage delay: $1,000 if baggage is delayed by more than 4 hours 
  • Lost or stolen baggage: $1,000 per trip
  • Hotel burglary: $1,000
  • Rental car theft or damage: up to $65,000 for rentals of 48 days or less

These travel insurance benefits are applicable when the partial or full cost of transportation is charged to your Scotiabank Gold American Express Card. 

The travel insurance included with the Scotiabank Gold American Express is above average. The $1 million travel medical insurance lasts for 25 days, which is one of the longer coverage periods you’ll get. Your insurance also includes hotel burglary insurance up to $1,000 per person for accommodations booked in Canada and the US.

See full insurance details for the Scotiabank Gold American Express here.

 

Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* Card

Travel insurance details

  • Emergency travel medical: up to $2 million for up to 25 consecutive days (3 days for age 65+)
  • Travel accident: $500,000
  • Trip interruption: $2,500 per person, up to $10,000
  • Trip cancellation: $1,500 per person, up to $10,000
  • Flight delay: $500 per person
  • Baggage delay: $1,000 if baggage is delayed by more than 4 hours 
  • Lost or stolen baggage: $1,000 per trip
  • Hotel burglary: $1,000
  • Rental car theft or damage: up to $65,000 for rentals of 48 days or less

These travel insurance benefits are applicable when the partial or full cost of transportation is charged to your Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite card.

While the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite owes much of its popularity to the fact it’s one of the few credit cards in Canada with no foreign transaction fees, this card also features top-notch travel insurance perks. Similar to the Scotiabank Gold American Express, this card offers $1,000,000 in travel medical insurance for 25 days and $500,000 in travel accident insurance (as well as $1,000 in hotel burglary insurance). This card also has baggage delay coverage of $1,000 that kicks in after only 4 hours. One way the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite separates itself is by offering ten days of travel medical coverage for those over the age of 65, which is over double the coverage period provided to seniors by many other cards.

See full insurance details for the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite here.

On a side note that’s unrelated to travel insurance but may sway you to choose this card over the others on this list: The Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite offers superior airport lounge access benefits with a complimentary membership and six free passes to Priority Pass lounges.

 

National Bank World Elite® MasterCard®

Travel insurance details

  • Travel medical: up to $5 million for up to 60 consecutive days (under age 55), 31 days (age 55-65), or 15 days (age 65-75)
  • No travel accident insurance offered
  • Trip interruption and delay: $5,000 per person
  • Lost baggage: $1,000 per person
  • Delayed baggage: $500 per person (6+ hour delay)
  • A portion or entire cost of the trip must be charged to the card for insurance coverage

These travel insurance benefits are applicable when travel (flight, accommodation, rental car, etc.) is partially or fully charged to your National Bank World Elite Mastercard.

This card’s trip interruption and delay, lost baggage, and delayed baggage coverage is on par with the other cards listed here, but the National Bank World Elite Mastercard stands out for its medical coverage. It has an exceptionally high benefit amount (up to $5 million) and the longest coverage period for travel medical for all ages, including 15 days of coverage for people age 65-75. However, it doesn’t offer any travel accident coverage — this means you aren’t protected if you sustain bodily injury while occupying a common carrier, or while at the airport, terminal or station at the beginning/end of your trip.

An additional benefit to keep in mind is that you are covered for the insurance amounts above (with the exception of the rental car) as long as you partially pay for your travel arrangements with the card. Most other credit cards require you to pay the full fare.

See full insurance details for the National Bank World Elite Mastercard here.

 

American Express® Platinum Card

Travel insurance details

  • Emergency travel medical: $5 million for up to 15 days (under the age of 65)
  • Travel accident: $500,000
  • Trip interruption: $2,500 per person, up to $6,000
  • Trip cancellation: $2,500 per person, up to $5,000
  • Flight delay: $1,000 for items purchased within 48 hours when delayed or denied boarding for 4 hours or more
  • Baggage delay: $1,000 if baggage is delayed by more than 6 hours
  • Lost or stolen Baggage: $1,000 per trip
  • Hotel burglary: $1,000
  • Rental car theft & damage: up to $85,000 for rentals of 48 days or less

These travel insurance benefits are applicable when travel (flight, accommodation, rental car, etc.) is fully charged to your platinum card.

For a premium travel card, the American Express Platinum Card offers comprehensive travel insurance in addition to unique travel perks and a great rewards system. While the emergency travel medical coverage amount is significant, you are only covered for what is considered a short period of time. However, this card stands out for higher than average coverage for trip interruption, trip cancellation and rental car theft and damage.

How to apply for a travel insurance credit card

Once you decide to apply for a travel insurance credit card, you'll quickly see that the process is similar to any other credit card application. That being said, there are a few particular things to remember:

 

Age and residency

To be approved for any credit card in Canada, you'll need to be both a Canadian resident and the age of majority in your province or territory. The age of majority is 18 in six provinces (Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, and Saskatchewan), while it goes up to 19 in four provinces and the three territories: British Columbia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Nunavut, and Yukon.

 

Credit score

If you want to be approved for nearly any travel credit card in Canada, a good credit score is very important. Having a good-to-excellent credit score opens doors for you, and that's not just limited to credit cards. Mortgages, personal loans, and lines of credit are all music easier to obtain if your credit is in good shape.

A "good-to-excellent" credit score is generally considered to be anything from 670 and upwards. If your credit score is below that threshold, you may want to consider working to improve it before applying for travel credit cards.

 

Annual income

Similar to their credit score requirement, many travel cards that carry perks and insurance benefits will ask you to have a minimum annual income for approval. This can vary depending on the card, but most higher-tier travel cards require applicants to have a minimum personal annual income of at least $60,000 to be considered. This is something else to be sure of before you apply, as you don't want your credit score taking a hit after a rejected application.

 

Benefits of a travel insurance credit card

 

Significant savings

Using the insurance benefits included in your travel credit card can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars, depending on your trip.

For example, on average, insurance for a rental car would cost you roughly $30 a day. One a two-week trip, that adds up to a total of $420, which isn't insignificant considering all the other extra costs involved in a vacation. Factor in other insurance benefits on your card such as trip delay/cancellation, travel medical insurance, and lost/delayed baggage, and that's a lot of money you can save (or re-purpose for something much more fun).

 

Worry-free vacations

Perhaps the best advantage of having a travel insurance credit card is the feeling of knowing you are insured across the board when you're vacationing away from home. Not only do you get peace of mind, but you avoid the added hassle of having to acquire different types of insurance from different sources (your car rental agency, bank, airline, etc). With a travel insurance credit card, it's all included, and you can walk out the door knowing you're in good hands.

 

Drawbacks of a travel insurance credit card

 

Better coverage = higher fees

While you may enjoy excellent insurance coverage on your travel credit card of choice, it won't come cheap. Unsurprisingly, the better your protection is, the more you're going to pay in annual fees.

 

Your coverage is tied to your card

Another drawback of travel insurance credit cards is that, for any of this excellent coverage to apply, the purchases need to be made with the card in question. This means that you'll be putting all of your travel expenses on one card, so make sure that you've got  a high credit limit and the card you're using has excellent cash back or points value. That way, you'll at least get something back for all that spending.

 

Insurance (usually) doesn't apply to rewards

One thing that's important to keep in mind: in most cases, your credit card's travel insurance will not cover purchases made using rewards. That includes airfare, accommodations, and car rentals. However, there's exceptions to every rule, so be sure to ask your provider.

 

Travel cards are made for frequent travellers

To get the most out of your card's extensive travel insurance (and high fees), you'll have to be travelling quite frequently. Business travellers and retirees who vacation multiple times a year should feel that it's a good trade off, but if you're someone who only goes away for a couple of weeks every summer, it may not be worth it to pay $150 or more per year for a card that's only valuable during that time.

Credit card travel insurance: things to remember

 

Know your policy

For many types of travel insurance, it's important to understand the details of your policy, as they contain information that could prevent you from getting the coverage you've been promised.

For instance, when booking a rental car, you'll need to charge the entire cost to your card and reject the rental company's collision insurance to get the coverage from your credit card provider. Failing to do this means they won't be responsible for any damages.

There's also the fact that credit card travel insurance won't cover third-party liability, meaning that, unless you buy additional liability insurance from a separate provider, you'll be on the hook in the event of an accident.

 

Know the length of your coverage

One detail that can be easily overlooked is the length of coverage. While most areas of credit card travel insurance provide a long-enough window for the average vacation, in some cases you may want to take out an additional travel insurance policy to supplement the one attached to your credit card. As an example, those 65 and older with travel medical insurance on their card may unfortunately have a shorter window of coverage, meaning they would need to bolster their existing plan with an additional policy if they're planning on remaining abroad longer than their initial insurance lasts.

FAQ

Does credit card travel insurance have age restrictions?


Does my credit card come with travel insurance?


Will my credit card travel insurance cover pre-existing conditions?


Find your perfect credit card in under 60 seconds - No SIN required

  1. Tell us a bit about yourself

    Answer some questions so we can personalize our recommendations - this won't impact your credit score

  2. Check your eligibility

    We confirm your eligibility with our partner, TransUnion. This will be a ‘soft credit check’ which you can see but lenders cannot

  3. Find your perfect matches

    We show you the cards you’re most likely to want and most likely to get

let's get started

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