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Some credit cards offer travel protections that can save you significant money if something goes wrong. For example, the travel protection benefits provided with select cards can reimburse you for expenses when your baggage is lost or delayed, when you’re stranded overnight due to a flight delay or cancellation or when you have to return home to handle a family medical emergency.

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of booking a trip and forget to use the credit card that provides the best trade-off between earning points and getting the protections you might need. So, this guide compares the earning and protections provided by six of the top cards for travel purchases. Three of these cards even have annual fees of less than $100.

Since most, but not all, travel protections are related to common carrier travel — such as planes, trains and buses — this guide focuses on the protections related to these purchases. Unless otherwise noted, you’ll need to put some of the common carrier fare on your card in order to be eligible for the card’s protections.

Photo by Brian A Jackson/Getty Images
Photo by Brian A Jackson/Getty Images

In This Post

What Travel Protections Are Offered?

Travel rewards credit cards often offer the following types of travel protections. See the links below for more information on these types of protection as well as the best cards for each type of protection.

The types and levels of protection vary across credit cards. So, in the remainder of this guide I consider the merits — and missing protections — of the following travel credit cards that earn transferable currencies.

Card Bonus for Airfare Purchases/Return Based on TPG Valuations Protection Notes Annual Fee
Chase Sapphire Reserve 3x points/6% Good protection in all areas, biggest flaw is low limit for high-risk items under the lost/damaged baggage protection $450
Citi Prestige (not currently available for sign-up) 3x points/5.1% Good protection in all areas, biggest flaw is failure to provide trip delay coverage when a delay of less than 6 hours causes a misconnection of more than 6 hours $450
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card 2x points/4% Weaker across the board than the Chase Sapphire Reserve, but good enough for most situations $95 (waived the first year)
Ink Business Preferred Credit Card 3x points/6% Weaker across the board than the Chase Sapphire Reserve, but good enough for most situations $95
Citi Premier Card 3x points/5.1% Weak in the areas you’re likely to use: trip delay and baggage delay $95 (waived the first year)
The Platinum Card® from American Express 5x points/9.5% Doesn’t offer trip delay, baggage delay or trip cancellation/interruption protections $550 (See Rates & Fees)

Chase Sapphire Reserve

After the Citi Prestige devalued its travel protections, the Chase Sapphire Reserve became my go-to card for travel expenses. This card offers 3 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on all travel and dining purchases. Based on TPG’s latest valuations this means an effective 6% return on travel and dining purchases. Due to this return and the card’s excellent travel protections, I purchase most of my flights using my Sapphire Reserve.

Protection Details
Baggage delay Up to $100 reimbursed per day for up to 5 days if your baggage is delayed more than 6 hours
Lost/damaged baggage $3,000 per passenger, but only $500 per passenger for jewelry, watches, cameras, video recorders and other electronic equipment
Trip delay reimbursement Up to $500 per ticket if you’re delayed more than 6 hours or require an overnight stay
Trip cancellation and interruption protection Up to $10,000 per person and $20,000 per trip for prepaid, non-refundable travel expenses
Medical evacuation benefit Up to $100,000 for medical services and transportation in the case of emergency evacuation when on a trip of five to 60 days and traveling more than 100 miles from home
Travel accident insurance Accidental death or dismemberment coverage of up to $1,000,000
Emergency medical and dental benefit Up to $2,500 for medical expenses when on a trip more than 100 miles from home

For more information on the Chase Sapphire Reserve, check out the following articles:

Citi Prestige Card

The Citi Prestige Card was my go-to card for flights and common carrier travel until the card devalued its trip delay protection. Although the card’s travel protection benefits are still good, the card’s trip delay protection contains some concerning exclusions. For example, the card’s trip delay protection doesn’t cover cases where a delay of less than 6 hours causes you to misconnect.

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

The Citi Prestige Card hasn’t been available for applications for the last several months, but it will be coming back in January 2019 with better travel earning and some changes to benefits. Although the card’s travel protections may change when it relaunches in January, here are the card’s current travel protections.

Protection Details
Baggage delay Up to $500 reimbursed per traveler per trip if your baggage is delayed more than 6 hours
Lost/damaged baggage Up to $3,000 per passenger per trip ($2,000 per bag for NY residents), up to $10,000 total for all travelers
Trip delay reimbursement Up to $500 per traveler for expenses while you wait if you’re delayed more than 6 hours, if a delay of less than 6 hours causes you to miss a connection you won’t be covered
Trip cancellation and interruption protection Up to $5,000 per trip for prepaid travel expenses, capped at the amount charged to the card including ThankYou points
Medical evacuation benefit Up to $100,000 for medical services and transportation in the case of emergency evacuation while on a trip
Travel accident insurance Up to $1,000,000 per person, must use Citi Card and/or ThankYou points for entire common carrier fare
Emergency medical and dental benefit Not offered

For more information on what we know about the new Citi Prestige Card, check out the following articles:

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is one of the best credit cards for infrequent travelers because it provides solid earning at home and on vacation. You’ll earn 2 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on travel and dining purchases. This 4% return on travel purchases is the worst of the cards discussed in this guide, but it’s not bad considering the card’s modest $95 annual fee (which is waived for the first year) and decent travel protections.

Protection Details
Baggage delay Up to $100 reimbursed per day for up to 5 days if your baggage is delayed more than 6 hours
Lost/damaged baggage $3,000 per passenger, but only $500 per passenger for jewelry, watches, cameras, video recorders and other electronic equipment
Trip delay reimbursement Up to $500 per ticket if you’re delayed more than 12 hours or require an overnight stay
Trip cancellation and interruption protection Up to $10,000 per trip for your prepaid, non-refundable travel expenses
Medical evacuation benefit Not offered
Travel accident insurance Accidental death or dismemberment coverage of up to $500,000
Emergency medical and dental benefit Not offered

For more information on the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, check out the following articles:

Ink Business Preferred Credit Card

The Ink Business Preferred Credit Card is a business credit card, but none of the travel protections require the purpose of the trip to be business. This card provides similar travel protections to the Chase Sapphire Preferred, but it offers better travel earning in the form of 3 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on airfare and everything else that Chase includes in its travel classification.

Photo by Hinterhaus Productions/Getty Image
Photo by Hinterhaus Productions/ Getty Images

 

Protection Details
Baggage delay Up to $100 reimbursed per day for up to 5 days if your baggage is delayed more than 6 hours
Lost/damaged baggage Up to $3,000 per passenger, but only up to $500 per passenger for jewelry, watches, cameras, video recorders and other electronic equipment
Trip delay reimbursement Up to $500 per ticket if you’re delayed more than 12 hours or require an overnight stay
Trip cancellation and interruption protection Up to $5,000 per trip for your prepaid, non-refundable travel expenses
Medical evacuation benefit Not offered
Travel accident insurance Accidental death or dismemberment coverage of up to $500,000
Emergency medical and dental benefit Not offered

For more information on the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, check out the following articles:

Citi Premier Card

Like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, the Citi Premier Card is great for infrequent travelers since it provides great earning at home and on the road. It earns 3x points on a wide variety of travel purchases (including most gas stations) and 2x points on dining and entertainment purchases with only a $95 annual fee (which is waived for the first year). But, it features worse baggage delay and trip delay protections than the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.

Protection Details
Baggage delay Up to $100 reimbursed per traveler per trip if your baggage is delayed more than 6 hours
Lost/damaged baggage Up to $3,000 per passenger per trip ($2,000 per bag for NY residents), up to $10,000 total for all travelers
Trip delay reimbursement Up to $500 per traveler for expenses while you wait if you’re delayed more than 12 hours, if a delay of less than 12 hours causes you to miss a connection you won’t be covered
Trip cancellation and interruption protection Up to $5,000 per trip for prepaid travel expenses, capped at the amount charged to the card including ThankYou points
Medical evacuation benefit Not offered
Travel accident insurance Up to $500,000 per person, must use Citi Card and/or ThankYou points for entire common carrier fare
Emergency medical and dental benefit Not offered

For more information on the Citi Premier Card, check out the following articles:

The Platinum Card® from American Express

The Amex Platinum provides an impressive 5x points for airfare booked directly through the airline or through Amex Travel and 5x points on hotels booked through Amex Travel. Using TPG’s latest valuations, this means you’ll get a 9.5% return on these purchases. But, there’s a reason I use The Platinum Card as a membership card and not a card for booking flights: the travel protections provided with the card are very limited.

Protection Details
Baggage delay Not offered
Lost/damaged baggage Up to $3,000 per traveler, but only $1,000 per traveler for high-risk items, must pay entire fare with your card and/or Membership Rewards points
Trip delay reimbursement Not offered
Trip cancellation and interruption protection Not offered
Medical evacuation benefit Offered with no cap on trips of less than 90 days but excludes pre-existing conditions, no requirement to put any trip expenses on your card
Travel accident insurance Up to $500,000 per person, must pay entire fare with your card and/or Membership Rewards points
Emergency medical and dental benefit Not offered

For more information on the Amex Platinum, check out the following articles:

Bottom Line

Many travelers love The Platinum Card’s impressive 5x points for airfare booked directly through airlines — until their bags get delayed or weather cancels their flights. Sure, points and miles serve as a great insurance policy, but I’d rather save these rewards and instead utilize the excellent travel protections that come simply by using my Chase Sapphire Reserve when booking flights and other common carrier travel. Or, if you can’t quite justify the Chase Sapphire Reserve’s $450 annual fee, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card also provides good travel protections for just a $95 annual fee that’s waived the first year.

For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum, please click here.   

Featured photo by mikkelwilliam/Getty Images

The Business Platinum® Card from American Express

Aside from the 75,000 points welcome bonus, Amex recently made huge improvements to the Business Platinum Card, including the fact that you will now earn 50% more points on purchases of $5,000 or more, earn 5x on flights and eligible hotels at Amextravel.com and cardholders will receive a $200 airline fee credit each year.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Welcome Offer: Earn up to 75,000 Membership Rewards® points.
  • Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $10,000 and an extra 25,000 points after you spend an additional $10,000 all on qualifying purchases within your first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com.
  • Get 50% more Membership Rewards® points. That's 1.5 points per dollar, on each eligible purchase of $5,000 or more. You can get up to 1 million additional points per year.
  • 35% Airline Bonus: Use Membership Rewards® Pay with Points for all or part of a flight with your selected qualifying airline, and you can get 35% of the points back, up to 500,000 bonus points per calendar year.
  • Enroll to get up to $200 in statement credits annually by getting up to $100 semi-annually for U.S. purchases with Dell. Terms apply.
  • Get one year of Platinum Global Access from WeWork. With this membership, you can access 300+ premium, inspiring workspaces in 75+ cities. To get this exclusive offer, enroll between 2/15/2019 and 12/31/2019.
  • Terms Apply
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
N/A
Annual Fee
$595
Balance Transfer Fee
See Terms
Recommended Credit
Excellent Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.