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What’s covered by credit card travel accident and emergency evacuation insurance?

Oct. 10, 2021
9 min read
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information.

Many ancillary perks available from your credit cards are well-known and well-utilized. However, benefits such as 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 updated benefits guide.

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Travel accident insurance

Often called common carrier insurance, this is a policy that pays in case of death, losing eyesight or losing a limb(s) while on a plane, train, ship or bus licensed to carry passengers and available to the public. A few cards also have travel accident insurance that offers protection for the entire duration of a trip (up to 31 days long) but pays out less than the common carrier insurance policies. 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 cardholder 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.

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 emergency evacuation insurance offered by credit cards that 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 benefits administrator. This is who you or your companions should call when things first start looking like you’ll need assistance. 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 U.S. 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 and medical care during transportation. You still need medical insurance to pay the doctors and staff who provide you care once back on the ground.
  • Some cards have country exclusions, so don’t expect to head into Syria or Afghanistan and rely on your credit card benefits administrator to get you to a hospital.
There’s no such thing as an affordable medical evacuation. (Photo via Shutterstock)

To get all of the relevant information, make sure you download and read the entire section of the benefits guide that pertains to these coverages. Here are a few cards that offer travel accident insurance and/or emergency evacuation insurance.

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Related: The best credit cards with travel insurance

The Platinum Card® from American Express

(Photo by Ryan Patterson for The Points Guy)

The Amex Platinum card removed travel accident insurance in 2020. However, the card offers one of the most generous emergency evacuation insurance of any card. There’s no cost cap and benefits are extended to immediate family and children under 23 or under 26 if enrolled full-time in school. Best of all, 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 not to 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 your Amex card’s benefits guide carefully.

Official application link: Amex Platinum.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers two different travel accident insurance benefits: common carrier travel accident insurance and 24-hour travel accident insurance. The former applies while riding as a passenger in, entering or exiting any common carrier. The latter applies any time during your trip — but you cannot be paid out on both the common carrier and 24-hour policies.

People eligible for coverage include “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 common carrier loss and up to $100,000 for a 24-hour policy loss based on the following table with $1,000,000 or $100,000 respectively being 100%.

(Screenshot courtesy of Chase)

Some interesting exclusions with Chase that would prevent a payout include 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.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve also offers emergency evacuation insurance. If at least a portion of your or an immediate family member’s trip was paid for with the card, you’re eligible for up to $100,000 in emergency medical evacuation. 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 benefits 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.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and United Explorer Card offer the same travel accident insurance as the Reserve, except with lower payouts on the common carrier policy. The benefits pay up to $500,000 for a common carrier loss and up to $100,000 for a 24-hour policy loss based on the following table with $500,000 or $100,000 respectively being 100%.

(Screenshot courtesy of Chase)

Official application link: Chase Sapphire Reserve.

United Club Infinite Card

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

The top-tier United Club Infinite card offers both travel accident insurance and emergency evacuation insurance. The travel accident insurance benefits pay up to $500,000 for a common carrier loss and up to $100,000 for a 24-hour policy loss based on the following table with $500,000 or $100,000 respectively being 100%.

The card carries the same benefit as the Chase Sapphire Reserve for emergency evacuation coverage, with up to $100,000 of coverage provided for evacuation.

Official application link: United Club Infinite.

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 my family or I need emergency evacuation. The benefit guides of all cards 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.

Additional reporting by Stella Shon.

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