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Credit Card Travel Insurance & COVID: January 2022 Update
Smart Money

Credit Card Travel Insurance & COVID: January 2022 Update

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Back in March 2020, Australia’s international borders closed. For many, it’s been a long 2 years of not being able to travel, missing out on important events overseas, and not being able to see loved ones.

Now though, there is light at the end of that tunnel, with the lifting of the travel ban and quarantine requirements for some states.

In line with the National Plan, states and territories can open up to international travel as they reach 80% double dose vaccination, welcoming back Aussies stranded overseas, while allowing their own fully vaccinated citizens and residents to travel abroad.

And, as home quarantine trials for vaccinated travellers continue, those returning to Australia should be able to complete a seven-day quarantine at home, rather than shelling out for 14 days in hotel quarantine. Check your individual state rules before travelling!

Making Travel Plans

“The government’s intention is that once changes are made in November, the current overseas travel restrictions related to COVID-19 will be removed and Australians will be able to travel subject to any other travel advice and limit,” Mr Morrison said in a statement.

So then, where can you go? Currently, the travel ban is still in place. That means – with the travel bubble with New Zealand still on pause – the only way you can travel overseas at the moment is with an exemption granted by the Department of Home Affairs.

In his statement, Mr Morrison indicated the travel ban would be lifted in November. Although the exact date is yet to be announced, it will likely be in line with Australia reaching 80% double dose vaccination, which is projected to be on November 7.

From there, it will be up to each state and territory to reach that 80% target among their own residents, which will then allow them to make their own plans to open up.

It’s expected NSW will open up first, with their 80% target projected for October 20, and home quarantine currently being trialled there. The ACT is predicted to reach 80% one day before NSW, while Victoria is on track to hit 80% on November 11.

The remaining states and territories have been less forthcoming about their plans to open up both their internal and external borders – with some saying they will wait until they reach a 90% vaccination rate instead.

Nevertheless, Tasmania is projected to reach 80% vaccination by November 11, South Australia by December 2, Western Australia by December 8, Queensland by December 10, and the Northern Territory by January 7.

sydney harbour bridge

What’s Next?

Keen to travel overseas? After pencilling in December 18 as the date it would restart international flights, Qantas brought forward its new international flight schedule following the Prime Minister’s announcement.

“Assuming current projections hold and the 80% vaccine threshold is met, Qantas and Jetstar plan to trigger a gradual restart as outlined below. If those assumptions change or dates move, the restart plans will adjust accordingly,” a statement from the airline said.

  • Sydney to London: Flights to resume on November 14
  • Sydney to Los Angeles: Flights to resume on November 14
  • Melbourne to London: Flights to resume on December 18
  • Melbourne to Los Angeles: Flights to resume on December 19
  • Brisbane to Los Angeles: Flights to resume on December 19
  • Sydney to Honolulu: Flights to resume on December 20
  • Sydney to Vancouver: Flights to resume on December 18
  • Sydney to Singapore: Flights to resume on December 18
  • Melbourne to Singapore: Flights to resume on December 18
  • Brisbane to Singapore: Flights to resume on December 19
  • Sydney to Tokyo: Flights to resume on December 19
  • Sydney to Fiji: Flights to resume on December 19

A further statement issued by Qantas mentioned its plans to reroute its Melbourne to London flights through either Darwin or Singapore, due to border closures in Western Australia.

Aside from Qantas, other global airlines, including Emirates, Singapore Airlines and Qatar Airways, are also offering flights to major destinations from November. How many flights there are – and what availability they offer – will likely depend on how long it takes the Australian government to provide a firm date for opening up, and also provide detail on the lifting of travel caps.

In other good news though, late last month Trade Minister Dan Tehan said Australia could potentially form travel bubbles with similar nations – such as New Zealand, the Pacific and Singapore – to enjoy quarantine-free travel once vaccination rates hit 80%.

Aren’t We Forgetting Something?

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the past 19 pandemic-stricken months it’s that things don’t always go according to plan. Especially when it comes to travel.

With borders opening and shutting, opening and shutting, booking travel has become something of an extreme sport here in Australia. You book, then you wait anxiously with everything crossed, hoping that borders will stay open long enough for you to get away and enjoy your trip, without getting hit by some kind of lockdown.

So, what’s to say that won’t happen with international travel?

While no one knows exactly what will happen, the National Plan indicates that when states and territories reach 80% vaccination, there will be no need for sweeping state-wide lockdowns.

With that being said though, localised lockdowns may still be used, which could prevent you from travelling. And, if you are unfortunate enough to be deemed a close contact, you will need to isolate for the recommended period of time, which could again, scupper your travel plans.

What’s the solution?

Remember travel insurance? Back in the day, when we could all travel wherever and whenever we wanted, we booked travel insurance to cover ourselves, our travel plans and our belongings.

When COVID hit, however, not only did travel go out the window, so did our cover. While some insurers paid out on lost travel bookings, others refused on the grounds that their policies did not cover ‘world events’ such as outbreaks of infectious diseases, pandemics or endemics.

The question is now – can you get cover for COVID as travel opens up overseas?

COVID Cover

To answer that, in this post we’re going to check out cover offered by credit card travel insurance, as well as other cover options provided via standalone travel insurance.

First up, let’s dip into cover offered on credit cards with regards to domestic travel.

✈️ Domestic Travel

Depending on where you live, you may still be able to travel within your state or territory – or even inter-state if you’re really lucky. So, what can you expect from your credit card travel insurance as you make these trips?

When it comes to travel insurance for international travel, the major drawcard is often the cover it provides on medical expenses. This type of cover is not required on domestic travel, as you should be covered anywhere in Australia thanks to Medicare, or your own private health insurance.

With that being said, domestic cover offered by credit card insurance tends to focus on the following:

  • Cancellation: Travel insurance could cover the costs of your travel arrangements if you have to cancel. This could be especially valuable if you spent a lot of money on your trip.
  • Baggage Cover: Travel cover could also allow you to make a claim on your belongings if they are lost, stolen or damaged while travelling in Australia. This could be worthwhile if you are travelling with expensive equipment or other valuables.
  • Car Hire Excess: Travel insurance can reduce the amount of excess you have to pay on your hire car in the event of an accident. This can also save you having to pay the extra amount car hire companies routinely charge to reduce this excess prior to hiring a car.

What To Be Aware Of:

  • While credit card insurance policies may offer cover on the above, there tend to be conditions involved. Read the PDS carefully to understand what is expected of you in order to activate the cover, what cover is actually offered, and what exclusions are in place.
  • You may find that while you enjoy cover on the above, COVID-related events are not covered. For example, if you have to cancel because borders close as a result of a COVID outbreak, your insurer may not pay out because COVID is a ‘known event’. For more info on this, see below.

✈️ International Travel

Now, onto the big stuff. International travel. Will your credit card travel insurance offer cover on COVID-related claims made on overseas travel bookings? Let’s take a look at what each of the three major underwriters for Australian credit card insurance have to say.

 

Allianz underwrites credit card insurance offered by ANZ, Bank of Melbourne, BankSA, Bendigo Bank, BOQ, Citi, Coles, HSBC, IMB, ING, NAB, St.George, Suncorp, Virgin Money and Westpac.

 

When COVID hit in March last year, Allianz’s stance was as follows:

“If you entered into a policy before 31 January 2020 – and your policy does not exclude claims arising from an epidemic or pandemic – you may be able to claim. However, if you entered into a policy after 31 January 2020, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to claim.”

Now, 19 months later, not much has changed. This is taken from Allianz’s FAQs on the subject.

 

After outlining what a General Exclusion is, what a pandemic is, and then confirming that COVID-19 is indeed regarded as a pandemic, the FAQs go on to answer questions surrounding whether its credit card insurance policies have a General Exclusion for pandemics.

“Terms, conditions and exclusions differ between policies.” In other words, what cover you enjoy will depend on the policy you hold.

If your policy contains a General Exclusion for pandemics, it essentially means any claim relating to COVID-19 will not be covered.

  • Travelling somewhere and you catch COVID? If your policy has a General Exclusion for pandemics, your medical costs will not be covered.
  • Want to cancel because of COVID? With that General Exclusion for pandemics in place, the insurer is unlikely to pay out on cancellation costs either.
  • Forced into quarantine as a result of COVID? Again, that General Exclusion for pandemics will mean you won’t be able to make a claim on loss of income, or other related claims.
  • Have to rearrange your flights because of COVID? You guessed it, if you have a General Exclusion for pandemics on your policy, you won’t be able to make a claim.

Even if your policy doesn’t have a General Exclusion for pandemics, “other exclusions, such as an exclusion for change of plans or an exclusion arising from government interference with your travel plans (such as by closure of borders) may apply”.

In saying all that, Allianz does say you may make a claim for consideration.

What’s the takeaway then? Read your PDS carefully, and follow up with your insurer if you have any questions before you rely on your cover.

ANZ: An Example

Time to check out an example of credit card insurance offered by Allianz via ANZ.
The following is lifted from ANZ’s FAQs on COVID coverage on its credit cards.
On the subject of exclusions:

“Whilst there is no General Exclusion for pandemic or epidemic mentioned in the Premium Cards Insurances, Insurance Policy Information booklet or the ANZ Business Black Travel Insurance Policy Information booklet, ANZ Eligible Cardholders should be aware that other exclusions have the potential to apply.

Other exclusions may apply depending upon the circumstances of an individual claim. General Exclusions include but are not limited to:
The customer failing to follow advice or act upon a warning:

  • from any government; or
  • from any official body; or
  • broadcast or published in mass media;

Any interference with your travel plans by any:

  • government; or
  • government regulation; or
  • prohibition or intervention; or
  • official authority

For example, if Smartraveller has a warning, ‘Do not travel’ due to the risk of COVID-19 infection for a destination and a customer chooses to ignore the warning and is infected with COVID-19, cover may be excluded.
Or if a government closes its borders to inbound travellers due to COVID-19 and you are unable to enter and follow your planned travel across the closed border, cover may be excluded.”
On the subject of cancellations:

Cancellation cover may be provided if the reason(s) for your cancellation are unexpected. However, cover will not be provided if the cardholder was aware of circumstances before becoming eligible of any reason that may cause the trip to be cancelled.
You therefore need to consider your own personal circumstances. We are not able to provide you with a cover decision. To receive a formal outcome, ANZ Eligible Cardholders must submit a claim.”

 

Chubb is the underwriter for credit card insurance offered by American Express, Macquarie Bank, Qantas Money and Woolworths.

Back in March 2020, Chubb’s stance was as follows:

If you entered into a policy after 2 March 2020, coverage is unlikely. Earlier timeframes apply for China but, aside from that, the insurer will assess claims on a case-by-case basis.

In a statement, Chubb provides the following updated info:

“We encourage our customers to submit a claim for consideration as each claim received by Chubb will be investigated and assessed in accordance with the terms, conditions, exclusions and limits of the policy.”

However, it goes on to explain that COVID-19 is a “foreseen circumstance”, and as such:

“There is no cover for trip cancellation or disruption if the policy was purchased after the customer became aware of circumstances which could lead to the cancellation or disruption of the trip (a “foreseen circumstance”).”

 

In relation to travel outside of Australia, Chubb considers COVID-19 to be a “foreseen circumstance” for policies issued and/or travel arrangements under an existing policy that are paid for where travelling to the following areas and after the following dates:

  • 5:00 pm (AEDT) on 22 January 2020 for Hubei province, China;
  • 9:00 am (AEDT) on 02 February 2020 for mainland China; and
  • 4:00 pm (AEDT) on 02 March 2020 for all other destinations outside Australia.

In relation to Australian domestic travel, Chubb notes that COVID-19 was declared a pandemic on 11 March 2020, and continues to be deemed one. The potential impact of the ongoing COVID-19 situation has been known since at least 11 March 2020 and therefore remains a “foreseen circumstance”.

Therefore, where a policy was issued and/or travel arrangements are paid for after the above dates, COVID-19 is considered a “foreseen circumstance” and as such claims for trip cancellation or disruption are unlikely to be covered by the policy.”

And for future travel bookings?

“We are monitoring the roll-out and success of the vaccination program around the world. In the meantime, we note the Australian Government is maintaining its ‘do not travel overseas’ advice, and domestic travel continues to be affected by local outbreaks.

It is still uncertain when COVID-19 will be contained to the point where the risk of further outbreak is no longer a foreseen circumstance.

We also note the risk of further outbreak is likely to continue even after government travel restrictions are lifted and if there are no local outbreaks – meaning that claims for trip cancellation and disruption will remain a “foreseen circumstance” (and so not covered under the policy) even in those circumstances.

Once the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak ceases to be a foreseen circumstance, but a customer still does not wish to travel, then Chubb may consider any cancellation of this travel to be a disinclination to travel which is not covered under the policy.”

The takeaway here? Chubb seems to be saying that as COVID is deemed a “foreseen circumstance”, any claims made relating to COVID will not be paid out. Much like claims for pre-existing medical conditions are typically not covered.

However, Chubb does suggest checking your policy wording for full terms, conditions and exclusions.
 

Zurich (Cover-More) underwrites credit card insurance for CommBank and Bankwest.

When COVID hit Australia’s shores in March 2020, Zurich’s stance was as follows:

If you have travel insurance with Cover-More via your credit or debit card, this event is excluded and there is no cover.

We found a further update regarding COVID in December 2020 (and no more since), stating:

“If you have travel insurance with Cover-More via your credit or debit card, this event is excluded and there is no cover.”

 

The takeaway here? There seems to be no change on Zurich’s stance. What it essentially boils down to is if you have credit card insurance via Cover-More, any claims that relate to COVID will not be paid out.

An Example: CommBank

To back that up, let’s take a quick look at CommBank’s credit card insurance COVID FAQs.

Quoting the policy:

“We will not pay for claims caused by, or claims arising from, an epidemic, pandemic or outbreak of a contagious disease or any derivative or mutation of such viruses, or the threat or perceived threat of any of these.”

The FAQs go on to reiterate that there is no cover for cancellation, either if you:

• Cancel pre-emptively because you’re concerned about COVID,
• Your travel provider cancels as a result of COVID,
• Borders close or lockdowns are imposed as a result of COVID,
• You’re forced into self-isolation as a close contact, or
• You catch COVID and cannot travel.

In terms of medical coverage, the FAQs do not specifically say the policy won’t pay out if you catch COVID and require medical attention.

The FAQs do, however, say there is no cover for:

• The additional expenses involved in coming back to Australia as a result of COVID,
• The costs of quarantine overseas or on your return to Australia,
• The costs incurred as a result of delayed transport or missed connections as a result of COVID.

Summing Up

For the most part, it seems credit card travel insurance does not cover claims that relate to COVID in any way, shape or form. However, that may vary from policy to policy, so it’s worth checking your PDS and asking for more info if you’re unsure.

You may still be covered for non-COVID related events, however, such as medical costs, lost, stolen or damaged belongings and cash, travel delay, transport accidents and car hire excess. As long as your claim doesn’t involve COVID in any way, you could still enjoy valuable cover from your credit card insurance.

With that being said, it is worth finding out more about your policy before you travel. As we mentioned previously, the Federal Government still has a Do Not Travel advisory for all countries except for New Zealand.

If you travel under this ban, you may find you cannot make a claim, regardless of whether it relates to COVID. It’s a good idea to check out the Do Not Travel list before you book, and most definitely before you rely on your policy.

Can you get Standalone COVID Cover?

If you want more from your cover, you may want to look into standalone COVID insurance. This is being offered by a number of insurance providers now, and can cover travel in Australia and within overseas destinations deemed safe by Smartraveller.

While cover varies according to provider, you may find COVID-specific policies that cover:

  • COVID-19 Overseas Medical Costs (covering medical treatment expenses incurred overseas if you’re diagnosed with COVID-19 by a qualified medical practitioner while on your journey).
  • Cover for COVID-19 Cancellations (covering unforeseeable amendment and cancellation costs relating to COVID-19).
  • Cover for Additional COVID-19 Expenses (covering additional costs involved in cutting your trip short or changing your travel plans as a result of COVID).

It should be noted that cancellation claims and claims for additional expenses are typically not paid out if the claim is related to border closures or lockdowns. Claims will also not typically be paid out to cover costs relating to mandatory quarantine or isolation.

Insurers may also choose not to cover medical costs resulting from COVID if your claim is related to you having travelled on a multi-night cruise, or if you travelled to a country subject to Do Not Travel advice from Smartraveller.

💡 TIP: Some tour operators and airlines are currently offering complimentary ‘COVID insurance’ when you book travel with them. As with the standalone COVID cover mentioned above, this will likely come with plenty of exclusions, so read the PDS before you rely on the cover.

Photo source: Pexels
Pauline

Pauline Hatch

Pauline is a personal finance expert at CreditCard.com.au, with 8 years in money, budgeting and property reporting under her belt. Pauline is passionate about seeing Aussies win by making their money – and their credit cards – work smarter, harder and bigger.

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2 comments (showing the latest 10 Q&As)

Sandra

Sandra

28 May 2021
I have booked a cruise to New Zealand in December 2021 for my partner and self which I have paid a deposit on my Amex card. Full payment is due in August. Do I need to activate my credit card travel insurance before departure?
    Roland B Bleyer - CreditCard.com.au Founder

    Roland

    31 May 2021
    Hi Sandra, thanks for your question! If your American Express card has complimentary International travel insurance, then according to the Amex T&C’s the cover is “effective when You pay the full fare for a return Trip” . Please reach out to Amex by checking the contact number on the back of your credit card. Have a great trip!

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