What’s Covered by Credit Card Travel Accident and Emergency Evacuation Insurance?

Dec 22, 2018

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Many ancillary benefits available from your credit cards are well known and well utilized. Trip cancellation insurance, delayed baggage insurance, lost baggage insurance and trip delay protection can quite literally save the day and justify an annual fee. Today, I’ll explain a couple of lesser-known benefits that you hopefully won’t have to use but, if needed, can protect you from extreme financial hardship and ensure your family and loved ones are provided for if something happens to you. You can easily find the coverage and terms of any protection offered by your credit card by doing a quick web search for the card’s benefits guide.

Travel Accident Insurance

Often called common carrier insurance, this is a policy that pays in case of death, losing eye sight, or losing a limb(s) while on a plane, train, ship or bus licensed to carry passengers and available to the public. To be eligible, you typically have to pay for the entire fare with the credit card.

Cruises are common carriers for the purposes of travel accident insurance. (Photo by Linval Ebanks via Unsplash)

Different credit cards have different payment tables for how much your beneficiary would receive in case of death, losing one limb, losing two limbs, losing sight in one eye or becoming legally blind. Coverage is also typically extended to authorized users on the account, spouses, domestic partners and dependent children of the card holder on trips paid for with the card. By default, the beneficiaries in order of precedence are spouse, then children, then estate. You can submit a letter to the card issuer to establish another beneficiary.

Here are some of the cards that offer travel accident insurance:

Chase Sapphire Reserve

The Sapphire Reserve card offers the travel accident insurance benefit to the widest array of travelers whose fares have been paid with the card. Chase includes “you, your spouse, your spouse’s or domestic partner’s children, including adopted children or stepchildren; legal guardians or wards; siblings or siblings-in-law; parents or parents-in-law; grandparents or grandchildren; aunts or uncles; nieces or nephews.” Chase pays up to $1,000,000 for a loss based on the following table with $1,000,000 being 100%:


Some interesting exclusions with Chase that would prevent a payout include: if the insured person participating in a motorized vehicular race or speed contest, the insured person participating in any professional sporting activity for which they received a salary or prize money or if the insured person traveling or flying on any aircraft engaged in flight on a rocket propelled or rocket launched aircraft. That means your loved ones will not be eligible for coverage if something happens to you on your Virgin Galactic flight. As a final note, if you use your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to book your trip, you are covered under the card’s benefits.

Emergency Evacuation Insurance

In the past, when traveling to remote destinations like the Maldives and Fiji I bought third-party emergency medical evacuation insurance not realizing the cards I already had would have covered me. There are a few crucial aspects of this insurance you need to understand and follow so you don’t compound your medical situation with the stress of financial hardship.

  • Everything must be approved and coordinated through a benefit administrator. This is who you or your companions should call when things first start looking like you’ll need to be moved. Nothing that you decide to pay for on your own will be reimbursed.
  • Evacuation does not mean repatriation. You won’t be evacuated back to the US if you’re far overseas. Most policies state you’ll be moved to the nearest medical facility capable of proper care.
  • Pre-existing conditions may lead to your request for evacuation at the credit card provider’s expense being denied. Read the full terms and benefits guide for your credit card to see which exclude these conditions and the credit card’s definition of a pre-existing condition.
  • The coverage is only for the cost of evacuation, not medical care. You still need medical insurance to pay the doctors and staff who provide you care.
  • Some cards have country exclusions, so don’t expect to head into Syria or Afghanistan and rely on your credit card benefit administrator to get you to a hospital.
There’s no such thing as an affordable medical evacuation. (Photo via Shutterstock)

Here are a few cards that offer emergency evacuation insurance:

The Platinum Card from American Express

In my opinion, the most generous emergency evacuation insurance lies in the Platinum family of cards. There’s no cost cap; benefits are extended to immediate family and children under 23 or under 26 if enrolled full-time in school; and you don’t even have to use the card to pay for the trip. You must be on a trip less than 90 days in length and at least 100 miles away from your residence. A Premium Global Assist (PGA) administrator must coordinate everything in order to not incur any cost. The benefit will also pay economy airfare for a minor under 16 to be returned home if left unattended, pay for an escort to accompany that minor if required to get them home, and get a family member to the place of treatment if hospitalization of more than 10 consecutive days is expected.

Other American Express cards offer access to the Premium Global Assist Hotline, however anything they coordinate will be at your expense. Make sure you read the Amex benefits guide for your card carefully.

Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card

If at least a portion of your or an immediate family member’s trip was paid for with either of these cards, you’re eligible for up to $100,000 in emergency medical evacuation. (Note that the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card is no longer open for applications.) Your covered trip must be between five and 60 days, and be at least 100 miles from your residence. If you are hospitalized for more than eight days, the benefit administrator can arrange for a relative or friend to fly round-trip in economy to your location. You can also be reimbursed for the cost of an economy ticket home, if your original ticket cannot be used. In a worst-case situation, the benefit also pays up to $1,000 for the repatriation of your remains.

Bottom Line

I’d be perfectly happy to go through a lifetime of travels and never have to worry about either of these policies. That said, researching for this post has driven me to make sure my Amex Platinum is always in my wallet when I travel to provide peace of mind if I need to get to a hospital. Benefit guides are updated regularly, so make sure you don’t toss them in the trash when updates show up in the mail and read the online guides for the latest terms and conditions.

Featured image via Shutterstock.

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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.

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