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Credit card providers offer several different types of credit card travel insurance. If you read the fine print for the “terms and restrictions” on your credit card’s website, you’ll find some of the information you need about activating your credit card travel insurance. Since policies do vary, it is wise to check with your credit card issuer about specifics before you plan your vacation.
If you have several credit cards, you’ll want to decide which card to use to book your trip. This means weighing the benefits and money you’ll save in regard to:
- Rewards you can cash in to pay for your trip
- Levels of travel insurance offered
- Points you’ll earn when you book your trip
- Prices of flights and hotel when you book through a credit card provider’s travel website
Typically, you activate your credit card travel insurance simply by using your card (or rewards points from that card) to pay for your trip.
- Lost or Damaged Luggage Insurance
- Trip Cancellation Insurance
- Travel Accident Insurance
- Rental Car Insurance (Collision Damage Waiver or CDW)
How to Activate Your Credit Card Travel Insurance
In most cases, your credit card travel insurance is activated the second you make a travel-related purchase with your card. American Express adds an automatic fee of $9.95 to cover travel delay insurance whenever you purchase airline tickets using your card.
Is Credit Card Travel Insurance Primary or Secondary?
A discussion of credit card travel insurance would not be complete without defining “primary” and “secondary” coverage. Primary coverage is the coverage that kicks in first. Your secondary insurance will cover anything your primary coverage does not. Most credit card travel insurance is secondary; ask your credit card issuer if you’re not sure.
If your airline carrier offers lost baggage insurance up to $250 per person, this is the primary insurance. Any claims above that amount would be covered by your credit card travel insurance.
This is significant mostly in the case of car rental insurance (CDW). Your own car insurance carrier offers primary insurance. If you need to make a claim, your own car insurance rates may go up. American Express offers the option to upgrade to “primary CDW” coverage. Additionally, some fees and claims (such as “loss-of-use” claims made by the car rental agency) may not be covered by your card — or your car insurance.
Filing a Claim
If your luggage is lost, your flight delayed or — worst case scenario — you are injured or disabled in transit, your travel insurance kicks in. Depending on what types of coverage you have, your insurance may pay for your medical care (traveling domestically or abroad), for lost luggage, or for hotel rooms and meals if your trip is delayed. If you are disabled, your travel insurance may cover you if you are traveling by boat, train, or airplane.
Making a claim requires a phone call to your credit card issuer.
For travel insurance claims on your:
- Visa card, call: 800-397-9010 (outside the U.S. call: 0-410-902-8012)
- MasterCard, call: 800-MC-Assist
- Discover, call: 800-Discover
- American Express, call: 800-645-9700
Remember, you have to file a claim with the airlines first; your credit card travel insurance only covers what your primary insurer does not. Some credit cards have a time limit of six months in which to file your claim. It’s best to file as soon as possible so you can expedite your settlement and receive your check quickly.
When you file a claim, you’ll need proof of the situation (loss, theft, damage, injury or a delayed flight).
Lost or Stolen Goods/Luggage
Show proof you owned the merchandise, in the form of one of the following:
- a receipt
- credit card statement showing the purchase
- photographic proof the item was in your possession
You may also need a letter from the airlines saying your bags were lost in transit. Also save receipts for purchases of emergency toiletries and clothing resulting from your lost luggage.
If you need to file a claim for a canceled trip, you’ll need:
- proof from the airline that the trip was canceled or
- a doctor’s note (in the case of a medical emergency) or
- a death certificate (if your trip was canceled due to a death in the family).
Show your receipts for hotel rooms and meals. Most policies do not cover lost wages or other financial losses as a result of a delayed trip.