What's the added value of a credit card with travel insurance?
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Updated: May 30, 2023
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Most of us know that we should have travel health insurance before we depart, but we’re not all aware of the fact that travel insurance can cover us for much more than just medical expenses. What are the different components of travel insurance, and which Canadian credit cards offer what?
Summary of travel insurance coverage per credit card
†Terms and conditions apply.
TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite* Card offer is not available for residents of Quebec.
Best credit cards for travel insurance
TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Card
Standard purchase ARP: 20.99%
Balance transfer ARP: 22.99%
Cash advance ARP: 22.99%
Current promotion expires: September 5, 2023
Credit score required: Good-excellent
Minimum personal income required: $60,000
Annual fees: $139
The TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite* Card is very popular among fans of the Aeroplan program, who flock to the card’s big sign-up bonus and high earn rates on grocery and gas spending. But the below-the-radar standout feature of the TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite* Card is its well balanced insurance package, which offers good coverage levels in every category travellers care about, and particularly impressive coverage against hotel/motel burglaries†—an insurance category that’s often left out from other travel cards.
Most of the below coverages apply to the Primary Cardholder + their spouse and dependant child. An Additional Cardholder (supplementary cardholder) can also be covered when travelling on the same trip as the Primary Cardholder. Unless otherwise noted, most coverages apply if at least 75% of trip costs are either charged to the TD card and/or paid for with Aeroplan points.
- Welcome Bonus: Best Offer yet for the TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite* Card: Earn up to $1,600 in value† including up to 70,000 Aeroplan points†. Conditions Apply. Must apply by September 5, 2023.
- Earn Rates: 1.5 Aeroplan points per $1 spent on eligible groceries, gas, or on aircanada.com†. Every other purchase earns 1 point per $1 spent†.
- Extra Travel Features: Share free first checked bags with up to 8 travel companions†
Click here to apply or learn more by reading our complete TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite* Card review.
This offer is not available for residents of Quebec.
†Terms and conditions apply.
Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite Card
Minimum credit score: Excellent
Minimum income: Minimum annual income of $60,000 or a minimum household income of $100,000 or minimum assets under management of $250,000.
Age: Age of majority in your province or territory
Residency: Canadian citizen or permanent resident
Other: No bankruptcies in the past seven years
The Scotiabank Passport® Visa Infinite* Card is prized for its comprehensive travel insurance offerings, which include a delayed luggage benefit of $1,000 if your checked bag is delayed four hours or more (many other cards make you wait at least six hours before your delayed baggage insurance kicks in).
Note that Scotia made some changes to previous details of the coverage. The emergency medical coverage went from covering people 65 and over for 10 days down to a mere three consecutive days, which is certainly not a good change for older Canadians. On a more positive note, however, the maximum amount of medical coverage was increased significantly from $1,000,000 to $2,000,000. Coverage includes the cardholder, their spouse and dependant children. You must charge at least 75% of the trip to your card unless otherwise noted.
- Welcome Bonus: Earn up to $1,100* in value in the first 12 months, including up to 35,000 bonus Scene+ points and first year annual fee waived on your first supplementary card.¹ Offer ends October 31, 2023.
- Regular Earn Rates: Earn 3X Scene+™ points on every $1 you spend at Sobeys, Safeway, IGA, Foodland & Participating Co-ops, and more eligible grocers.¹ Earn 2 Scene+™ points on every $1 you spend on other eligible grocery stores, dining, entertainment purchases, and daily transit purchases (including buses, subways, taxis and more), and earn 1 Scene+™ point on every $1 you spend on all other eligible purchases
- Extra Travel Features: No foreign transaction fees; complimentary Visa Airport Companion Program membership plus six complimentary lounge visits per year from the date of enrollment; Avis rental car discounts and complimentary upgrades in Canada and U.S.
Click here to apply or learn more by reading our complete Scotiabank Passport® Visa Infinite* Card review.
¹ Conditions Apply. Visit here for the Scotiabank Passport® Visa Infinite* Card to learn more.
Desjardins Odyssey World Elite Mastercard
Minimum credit score: Good-excellent
Minimum income: $80,000 individual or $150,000 household
Age: Age of majority in your province or territory
Other: Canadian credit report that is at least 3 years old
The Desjardins Odyssey World Elite Mastercard really stands out because of its comprehensive medical coverage for those 65 and older. While most credit cards don’t provide any coverage for older Canadians, the Desjardins Odyssey World Elite Mastercard gives those aged 65 to 75 up to $5,000,000 worth of emergency medical coverage (one of the highest amounts in Canada) for up to 15 consecutive days. Equally wow-worthy is the card’s sixty days of coverage for those under the age of 60 and 31 days for those 60 to 64, some of the longest coverage lengths out there for travel medical.
The card’s insurance coverage includes the cardholder, their spouse and dependant children, as well as grandchildren when they are traveling together. Unless otherwise noted, there is no specific mention of how much of your trip you must charge to the Desjardins Odyssey World Elite Mastercard to be eligible for coverage (so contact the insurer to be certain).
- Welcome Bonus: None
- Earn Rate: Earn 3% in BONUSDOLLARS for groceries, 2% BONUSDOLLARS on restaurants, entertainment and transportation and 1.5% BONUSDOLLARS for all other purchases. Note that BONUSDOLLARS are not cash back as they might imply but can rather be redeemed for a variety of items like travel and merchandise.
- Extra Travel Features: 8 free annual passes to the Desjardins Odyssey Lounge at Montréal-Trudeau Airport; car rental discounts
Click here to apply or learn more by reading our complete Desjardins Odyssey World Elite Mastercard review.
Rogers World Elite Mastercard
Minimum Credit Score: Good-Excellent
Minimum Income: $80,000 individual or $150,000 household
Age: Age of majority in province of residence
Other: No bankruptcies in the past seven years
Despite having no annual fee, the Rogers™ World Elite® Mastercard is one of the few Canadian credit cards that provides at least some travel insurance for those over the age of 64, offering 3 days of coverage for Canadians aged 65 to 75. The card also comes with trip interruption and cancellation insurance, as well as an impressive 31 days of rental car insurance—not bad for a no-fee card.
Coverage with the Rogers™ World Elite® Mastercard includes the cardholder, their spouse and their dependant children. Unless otherwise noted, you must charge the full cost of your trip to the card to be eligible for coverage.
- Welcome Bonus: Earn $25 in cash back rewards after making an initial purchase within 3 months of receiving card.
- Earn Rate: 3% unlimited cash back on purchases made in U.S. dollars, 1.5% unlimited cash back on all Canadian dollar purchases
- Extra Travel Features: Access to LoungeKey airport lounges with Mastercard Airport Experiences (but note that the membership does not include any free passes); free Boingo Wi-Fi at over 1 million hotspots worldwide
Click here to apply or learn more by reading our complete Rogers™ World Elite® Mastercard review.
BMO Ascend World Elite Mastercard
Minimum Credit Score: Excellent
Minimum Income: $80,000 (individual) or $150,000 (household)
Age: Age of majority in your province or territory
At first glance, the BMO Ascend™ World Elite®* Mastercard®*’s insurance offerings may appear middle-of-the-road for a premium card (especially for a card with an annual fee of $150). While it offers an impressive two million in emergency medical insurance, there is no coverage whatsoever for those 65 and older. Furthermore, the card doesn’t come with any hotel burglary insurance, which is arguably coverage you’d expect from a travel credit card with a higher-than-average annual fee, and you must wait 12 hours before you’re eligible for the baggage delay insurance. Where the card’s insurance offerings really shine is when it comes to coverage of personal effects—it’s one of the few cards in Canada that covers theft or damage to personal effects as part of its rental car insurance.
The card’s insurance applies to the cardholder, their spouse and dependant children. Unless noted otherwise, you must charge the full or partial cost of your trip to your BMO Ascend™ World Elite®* Mastercard®*. Note that the Certificate of Insurance does not define what “partial cost” means so it’s advisable to confirm how much you must charge to be covered with your provider.
- Welcome Bonus: Get up to 60,000 points and the annual fee waived in the first year for both the primary cardholder and authorized users.*
- Earn Rate: 5x the points for every $1 spent on eligible travel purchases,* 3x the points for every $1 spent on eligible dining and entertainment purchases and recurring bill payments,* 1 point for every $1 spent everywhere else.*
- Extra Travel Features: Complimentary membership in Mastercard Travel Pass provided by DragonPass,* with four annual complimentary passes.; access over 1 million Wi-Fi hotspots around the world – all at no added cost, and no added fees or roaming charges*
Click here to apply or learn more by reading our complete BMO Ascend™ World Elite®* Mastercard®* review.
*Terms and conditions apply
The Platinum Card
Minimum credit score: Good-excellent
Minimum income: N/A
Age: 18+/Age of majority
Residency: Canadian Resident
The Platinum Card® from American Express offers particularly strong coverage in two categories: Its rental car coverage is some of the best in Canada, in that it covers vehicles with an MSRP of up to $85,000; most cards only cover vehicles up to $65,000. And its $1,000 in coverage for flight delays of four hours or more is also quite appealing, considering that will be one of the most frequently invoked claims for any regular traveller.
That said, when you’re shelling out $699 for a card, you expect it to have top-tier insurance offerings that blow other travel credit cards away in every single coverage category. And while the The Platinum Card® does deliver comprehensive insurance, it should be even better given its premium price tag. Personally, while the $5M worth of emergency medical coverage is noteworthy, I would much rather have one or two million dollars’ worth of coverage but for a longer amount of time, and for a wider range of ages.
The American Express Platinum Card’s coverage applies to the cardholder, a spouse and dependant children. You must charge the full amount of your trip to your card unless otherwise noted.
- Welcome Bonus: Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points – that’s $800 towards a weekend away. New Platinum® Cardmembers, earn 80,000 Welcome Bonus points after you charge $7,500 in net purchases to your Card in your first 3 months of Cardmembership. Conditions apply.
- Earn Rate: Earn 3 points for every $1 in Card purchases on eligible dining and food delivery in Canada, 2 points for every $1 in Card purchases on eligible travel, and 1 point for every $1 in all other Card purchases
- Extra Travel Features: $200 CAD annual travel credit; unlimited free access to eligible airport lounges in he American Express Global Lounge CollectionTM (including the highly regarded Centurion® lounges); complimentary valet parking, parking discounts and priority security screening at Toronto Pearson airport; variety of hotel benefits like free room upgrades
Click here to apply or learn more by reading our complete review of The Platinum Card®.
What to consider when using travel credit card insurance
Before we get into the nitty gritty details of the different kinds of travel insurance out there, let’s make sure we understand the essentials:
Charge travel expenses to the right card
With most credit cards, travel medical insurance kicks in regardless of whether or not the cardholder charges their travel-related expenses—e.g. flights, accommodations, and car rental—to the credit card with the travel insurance. However, for additional travel insurance benefits to apply, such as trip cancellation, flight delay, car rental, etc., you must typically charge 75% – 100% of your travel expenses to your card. If you happen to have two credit cards that offer travel insurance, then use the card that gives you better coverage when you’re ready to pay.
Try not to double up on what you already have
When making your decision about which card is best for your needs, consider what coverage you already have. E.g. if your current car insurance policy already covers you for car rental insurance, then you shouldn’t get a travel credit card that offers car rental insurance as its primary perk.
Keep in mind that your credit card travel insurance will not cover any pre-existing condition you have. Nor will your protection apply if you’re doing anything extreme such as bungee jumping or diving. Pregnant women should also be aware that certain conditions apply to them. If you fall into one of those categories, you’ll need to purchase an outside travel health insurance plan as credit card travel insurance is not designed for those scenarios.
Be aware of ageism
The coverage available to you is dependant on the length of your trip and your age. If you’re under age 65, the cards we recommend will cover you from 10-60 days of travel (depending on the card). However, if you’re over the age of 65, the longest amount of coverage offered is just 15 days. And, unfortunately, no card that we feature covers anyone over the age of 75. If you need additional coverage, you’ll need to call your credit card provider to see if you can pay to get it extended or you’ll need to purchase a separate travel insurance package for any days in which you’ll be travelling beyond your card’s coverage limit.
Types of travel insurance provided by credit cards
The travel insurance lexicon can be confusing for those who are new to travel credit cards, and even for those who have had a travel card for years. We’ve translated everything into plain English so that you’ll know what you’re getting (and what to look for) with each type of coverage.
Lost, stolen, or delayed luggage insurance
In my opinion, the best travel insurance packages should include lost, stolen, or delayed luggage insurance since there’s a good chance regular travellers will need to make a claim for this at some point.
This type of insurance allows you to claim essential items if your luggage is delayed for a specified period of time. The term ‘essential item’ is somewhat ambiguous, but generally speaking, you should be able to purchase any clothing you need—including business attire—until your luggage is returned to you as long as the total doesn’t exceed the amount that you’re covered for.
If your bag is lost or stolen, the same maximum amount provided by your insurance applies, but it would only be relevant to what you lost. There’s often a line in the fine print that limits the maximum amount per item, so if you’re carrying any valuables, it’s best to keep them in your carry-on luggage.
If you feel that this type of insurance is important to you, then consider the Scotiabank Passport® Visa Infinite* Card. It offers up to $1,000 in reimbursement for baggage delayed for a period of only four hours or more—most policies require a delay of at least six hours or more.
Emergency medical insurance
Without a doubt, emergency medical insurance is an essential type of credit card travel insurance you’ll absolutely need. Canadians are accustomed to getting free healthcare, but once you travel out of your province of residence or the country itself, the cost of medical attention skyrockets. A quick trip to the doctor overseas could cost you a few hundred dollars while a trip to the emergency room could be in the thousands. Yikes.
All of our featured credit cards offer at least $1,000,000 in travel health insurance per insured person, with most topping out at 25 days of coverage. Technically speaking, the more you’re insured for, the better, but to be realistic, $1,000,000 in coverage should be enough for even serious accidents. What you should look at before you pick a credit card with travel insurance are the other coverages listed on this page beyond emergency medical.
Trip cancellation/interruption insurance
Travellers often don’t understand how trip cancellation/interruption works. This type of insurance only covers the non-refundable portion of your unused travel arrangements, plus any transportation up to a fixed amount should your trip be interrupted or delayed for a covered reason.
In other words, you can’t just decide that you no longer want to go on your trip and then try to put in a trip cancellation insurance claim. Depending on the policy, you’ll likely be insured for many different reasons, so you’ll want to read the details before you commit, but some of the most common causes are as follows:
- The insured traveller, travelling companion, or a family member dies
- The insured traveller, travelling companion, or a family member suffers a serious, covered injury or illness
- The birth of an immediate family member which requires your attendance after your coverage has begun
- You or your travelling companion suffer a traffic accident on the way to the airport that needs immediate medical attention
- You or your travelling companion suffer a job loss through no fault of your own (conditions apply)
- Your carrier (airline, train, cruise, etc.) does not operate for at least 24 hours due to a strike, natural disaster, or suspended operations
- A natural disaster makes your home or destination uninhabitable
- A terrorist event happens within 30 days of your scheduled arrival at your destination
The best trip interruption policy is offered by the Desjardins Odyssey World Elite Mastercard, offering unlimited coverage. It’s hard to beat unlimited.
As for trip cancellation, the BMO Ascend™ World Elite®* Mastercard®* has a great maximum payout of $2,500 per person, and a group maximum of $5,000.
This type of insurance may seem trivial at first, but it can be very useful for travellers who have elderly parents at home, since it’ll help cover the costs in the event of an emergency that requires you to cut your trip short. Note that the definition of who is a covered ‘family member’ differs per policy, so you’ll need to read the travel insurance plan documentation to ensure your needs are met.
Flight delay insurance
Of all the credit card travel insurance benefits out there, flight delay insurance may end up being the one you claim first. Depending on which credit card you have, after a flight delay of 4-6 hours or more you’ll be able to claim all reasonable accommodations, meals, ground transit, entertainment, and personal items purchased up to a certain amount if no alternate flights are available.
Planes are often delayed or cancelled for a variety of reasons, and it’s in your best interest to make a qualifying claim since it’ll make your delay more comfortable. This is especially true if your flight is cancelled and you’re not able to fly out until the following morning. You can book a hotel of your choice, have a nice meal, and purchase some personal items instead of relying on whatever hotel and meal vouchers are thrown at you by the airline.
Rental car collision/loss damage insurance
Generally speaking, rental car collision/loss damage insurance covers you if your rental car is damaged or stolen while you have possession of the vehicle. Unless your regular auto insurance already covers car rentals, then having this type of insurance is a must when you’re renting a car during your travels.
Be aware that car rental insurance can have quite a few conditions relating to the type of car you’re renting and its current value. You won’t have any problem getting insured for a vehicle that’s available at all major car rental agencies, however, if you’re renting an antique, exotic, or expensive car, you may not be covered. As long as the value of the vehicle you’re renting—also called the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)—is less than the total insurable amount offered by your credit card travel insurance, then you’ll be fine.
Some rental car collision/loss damage insurance policies will cover any personal items that are lost when your vehicle is stolen (e.g. the BMO Ascend™ World Elite®* Mastercard®*, but they are unlikely to include liability insurance (if someone sues you due to an accident you caused in the rental car), so factor that in when you’re assessing your insurance needs.
For this policy to apply, you must decline the car rental agency’s insurance. It should also be noted that you’re responsible until the car rental agency has completed its inspection report, so avoid just dropping off your keys when you’re returning your vehicle.
The Platinum Card® offers the best value in this category, with max coverage of $85,000 for car rentals under 48 days.
Hotel/motel burglary insurance
In the event that your hotel room, motel room, homestay lodging, or cruise cabin is broken into and your possessions are lost or damaged, then your hotel/motel burglary insurance may reimburse you up to a certain amount.
For this type of insurance to apply, you need to take some reasonable precautions. For example, if you left your door unlocked, it’s unlikely you’ll be reimbursed if any of your things end up stolen. Checking into a hotel room at a destination that’s currently in a state of emergency/war/rebellion will also guarantee that you won’t be covered. Also, keep in mind that any lost cash or traveller’s cheques are not covered.
Given today’s ubiquity of staying in a privately-owned residence while traveling, it’s important to note that not all hotel/motel burglary policies will cover those types of lodgings. If you frequently use sites like Airbnb while traveling, a credit card’s hotel/motel burglary coverage may not be particularly valuable to you. If, however, you do rack up a lot of nights in hotels or motels, you might pay special attention to the TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite* Card. It offers some of the best hotel/motel burglary insurance available in Canada, since you can claim up to $2,500 in lost items†.
Travel accident insurance
People often mistake travel accident insurance as travel health insurance, but the former is more of a life insurance policy as opposed to covering you for any medical expenses.
Generally speaking, for the policy to be valid, you need to travel on a common carrier (plane, train, bus or ship) and charge your tickets to your credit card. The maximum amount listed in our chart refers to what you would get if you were to suffer a loss of life while travelling.
Also, your travel accident insurance gives you a smaller payout for the loss of any of the following:
- One or both hands
- One or both feet
- Total sight in one or both eyes
- Use of upper or lower limbs
- Use of upper or lower limbs on one side of your body
Obviously this is one insurance policy that you/your beneficiary never want to claim. If there’s one small consolation, your travel accident insurance is treated as a separate policy from your personal life insurance policy so your beneficiary could get paid out twice.
Not all of the credit cards we feature offer travel accident insurance—but those that do include the coverage typically have a max payout of $500,000.
How to make a credit card travel insurance claim
To be eligible for your credit card travel insurance, you usually need to charge the entire price of your common carrier (plane, train, bus or ship) expenses to your credit card. Some cards only require you to charge 75% of the price, but it’s best just to charge the entire amount to ensure there are no complications later. If by chance you’re going on a road trip with your own vehicle, filling up a tank of gas as soon as you enter a new province or state would make your travel insurance policy valid from that point.
When it comes to making a claim, generally speaking, you want to contact your insurance provider right away to start a claim file. In the case of emergency medical insurance, it may not be possible to do things right away, so inform your insurance provider as soon as you reasonably can.
If your insurance company accepts your medical insurance claim, then you may not need to pay any expenses out of pocket. However, if you’re claiming flight delay or lost luggage insurance, you’ll have to hang onto any relevant receipts and submit them before your insurer will issue you a cheque. For these delay claims to be valid, you would also need proof that your flight was delayed or cancelled. The easiest way to get that proof is to take a screenshot from the airline or airport website showing the delay.
Regardless of which credit card you choose, make sure you keep the insurance certificate somewhere handy so you can look up what you’re entitled to and what the conditions are in the event you ever need to make a claim.
You get what you pay for
I know, I know, we all hate paying an annual fee for a credit card. But sometimes it’s worth it. Although the majority of the recommended cards in this article do have a relatively high annual fee, the comprehensive travel insurance packages they offer easily offset those fees.
Just remember that having travel insurance is a must as soon as you travel out of your home province or the country. It doesn’t matter if you’re crossing the border just for a few hours to shop or you’re headed overseas for a vacation—it’s better to be safe than sorry. Which credit card you choose is ultimately up to you, but remember that there are enough options out there to make sure the protections you get line up with what you need.
*This post was not sponsored. The views and opinions expressed in this review are purely my own.
What's the best travel insurance to buy?+
You might already have a few different types of travel insurance via your credit card; in that case the best travel insurance to buy à la carte, i.e. directly from an insurance provider, is whatever coverage you don't already have. The most commonly used coverages are probably emergency medical, flight delay, and delayed/lost baggage.
Is credit card travel insurance any good?+
Yes, credit cards can provide very good travel insurance. And those who travel outside their province or outside Canada at least 2-3 times per year might actually pay less for a good travel credit card's annual fee than they would buying travel insurance directly from an insurer.
What travel insurance is best for seniors?+
The best travel insurance for seniors to buy is probably emergency medical insurance. This coverage is rarely provided by travel credit cards for people over age 65.
Does travel insurance cover cancellation for any reason?+
No, travel insurance will not cover trip cancellation for any reason; most insurance packages specify reasons for which the cancellation coverage can be used, such as a serious illness, death in the traveller's family, natural disaster, etc.
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