Overseas travel insurance – are you covered?
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Overseas travel insurance – are you covered?

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Finding and buying travelling insurance is usually the least exciting part of taking a trip. Spending hours sunning yourself on a tropical beach certainly sounds appealing. Spending hours comparing travel insurance options and reading small print legalese? Not so much. But for some, the process of buying travel insurance is not only unexciting, it’s also unimportant.

According to a survey carried out by the Insurance Council of Australia and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 8% of Australian adults travelled outside Australia without insurance in the previous 12 months, while 31% did so in the previous three years. Unfortunately, that’s not the only problem the survey picked up.

Apparently, for those travellers who do take the time to buy travel insurance, many neglect to check whether the policy they choose actually offers the cover they need. Around one third simply pick the policy that’s cheapest without reading the small print, and more than half do not look at their exclusions.

So, how much of a problem is this? Well, the survey showed that 41% of Aussies travelled overseas within the previous 12 months, which works out to be just under 10 million travellers. If 8% of those were uninsured, that means just under 850,000 Australian adults took a trip outside the country without proper cover to protect them if something bad happened.


source: https://smartraveller.gov.au/guide/all-travellers/insurance/Documents/survey-travel-insurance-behaviour-web.pdf

What’s the solution? For some travellers, credit card travel insurance can provide the answer. Instead of having to find and buy standalone cover for each trip they take, these travellers take the time to find the right credit card with the right credit card travel insurance for their needs, making sure it offers cover for their travels, while understanding how their cover is activated.

Sure, there is still the process of comparing the options and making sure the cover offered provides the right fit, but if you choose the right card and the right cover, you could save yourself heaps of time and money compared to standalone policies. Of course, as with anything that has small print, there is plenty to consider when choosing credit card travel insurance.

In this article, we’re going to look at what credit card travel insurance has to offer, who it works best for, and what you need to look for when comparing the options. So, let’s get into it.

What is credit card travel insurance?

Credit card travel insurance is a feature offered on some credit cards, and is usually designed to attract new cardholders. Working in much the same way as standalone travel insurance, this added extra can offer cover while travelling overseas or at home, covering events such as travel delays, lost luggage and medical emergencies.

Similar to standalone travel insurance, credit card travel insurance offers varying levels of cover. The cover provided typically depends on the credit card, with higher-end credit cards – generally those that have higher annual fees – often providing higher levels of cover. That means, before relying on credit card insurance, it’s important to understand what’s covered – and what’s not.

Some credit card travel insurance policies will only offer cover for the primary cardholder, while other policies offer cover for family members travelling with the primary cardholder, and any additional cardholders. What’s important to understand here is what is required to activate that cover for each trip.

What does credit card insurance offer?

So, why would you choose credit card travel insurance? To answer that, let’s ask why you would purchase any type of insurance. Buying insurance allows us to protect ourselves in case something bad happens. By choosing a credit card with travel insurance that offers suitable cover for your needs, you can protect yourself should something bad happen to you while travelling.

Of course, this also offers you peace of mind. For some people, travelling can be stressful. Whether it’s the stress of remembering to pack everything you need, the fear of flying, or the worry associated with going into the unknown, taking a trip can cause anxiety. Having the right insurance, however, can help to remove some of that stress, knowing it’s there as back-up.

Credit card travel insurance can also save you money. Instead of paying for standalone insurance for each trip you take, or annual cover each year, you could benefit from having the cover you need included in your credit card. Of course, you are likely paying an annual fee for that credit card, but if you choose the right card, the value of the features on offer should outweigh the cost of that annual fee.

Lastly, credit card travel insurance can save you something very precious indeed: time. If every time you take a trip, you have to compare standalone travel insurance policies, those hours will really stack up. Instead, with credit card travel insurance that you know and trust, you could enjoy cover on each and every trip, without all that comparison time.

What does credit card travel insurance cover?

If you have spent time comparing standalone travel insurance policies, you’ll know that there are different levels of cover: basic, mid-range and comprehensive. The same can apply to credit card travel insurance. Just as with standalone cover, the more cover offered, the more expensive it tends to be.

Basic credit cards with lower annual fees may offer basic travel cover, mid-range cards with slightly higher annual fees may offer mid-range cover, while premium cards with even higher annual fees may offer something more like comprehensive cover. However, it’s worth pointing out that this is not always the case, so you need to compare the options and read the product disclosure statement (PDS) to find out exactly what cover is provided.

Cover and limits will vary from card to card, but you may find credit card travel insurance offering:

  • Emergency medical expenses while travelling overseas.
  • Loss, theft and damage cover for luggage and other personal belongings.
  • Compensation for unavoidable trip cancellation or missed connections.
  • Compensation for delay, such as delayed flights.
  • Car rental insurance excess waiver (this mostly covers car hire overseas only, but some policies cover this in Australia as well).
  • Accidental death, permanent disability or loss of income.
  • Personal liability while travelling.

As we mentioned previously, some credit card travel insurance will only cover the primary cardholder, while other more comprehensive policies may cover additional cardholders, and partners and dependents travelling with the primary cardholder.

How does credit card travel insurance vary?

One of the most important things to think about when choosing travel insurance of any kind is suitability. There’s no point having cover it doesn’t actually cover you. When assessing the level of cover, it can be helpful to check out the following factors:

  • Trip duration: How many days of travel will it cover? This includes looking at the number of days each trip can be, as well as how many days per year can be spent overseas.
  • Medical expenses: Is there a limit on the amount that will be paid out in the event of a medical emergency? What other medical events are covered and what are their limits? Do you have any pre-existing conditions, and will they be covered?
  • Luggage: Does it cover lost belongings, or only those that are stolen or damaged? What limits apply? Will it be enough to cover everything in your suitcase if it goes missing? What about high-cost items such as jewellery and electronics?
  • Cancellations: If the policy covers cancellations, what is the policy regarding cancellation fees?
  • Activities: What activities do you plan on doing overseas – and are they covered? Activities such as snow sports may require additional cover.

It’s also worth remembering that some credit cards offer travel insurance plus extras such as travel accident insurance and travel inconvenience insurance. On the other hand, some cards only offer accident and inconvenience insurance, and others only offer travel insurance. So what’s the difference?

  • Travel insurance: Travel insurance offered on credit cards usually only covers overseas travel, however, some also cover travel within Australia. Travel insurance typically covers overseas medical emergencies, lost or damaged goods, cancellation fees, rental vehicle excess, accidental death and more.
  • Travel accident insurance: This type of insurance generally covers accidental death and injury incurred as a passenger on transport such as a plane, bus, train or ferry.
  • Travel inconvenience insurance: This type of insurance generally covers typical ‘inconvenient’ travel events, such as flight delays, lost luggage, or forced arrangement cancellations. It may also cover funeral expenses in the case of accidental death while travelling.

Who would get the most out of credit card travel insurance?

There are many different types of traveller. While some love luxury, others prefer to keep things simple. While some can’t get enough of package holidays, others want to get off the beaten path. So, which type of traveller would benefit most from credit card travel insurance?

Frequent travellers may benefit greatly from credit card travel insurance, especially if they would typically use their credit card to cover their travel costs. These travellers can save time comparing standalone policies for every trip they take. They may also enjoy more opportunity to travel, with more days covered per year compared to standalone annual cover.

Money savers may also benefit from credit card travel insurance. Instead of paying extra for standalone insurance, these frugal types can enjoy cover included on their credit card. While they may be paying an annual fee for their credit card, if they have chosen wisely, they should be getting more back from the card’s features than they are paying out in annual fees.

Time-poor travellers can also reap the benefits of credit card travel insurance. We all know life is busy. For some people, comparing travel insurance options every time they go overseas takes too much time out of their busy schedules. Instead, they can check out the options for credit card insurance once, understand what cover they’ve got, to rely on that for all future travel.

People travelling with their partners or family could also benefit from credit card travel insurance. Instead of spending time and money sorting out cover for their partner or dependents when taking a trip, the right credit card travel insurance could cover them too.

Senior travellers may benefit from credit card travel insurance, as limits and exclusions can differ between standalone and credit card cover. Some credit card travel insurance policies can continue to offer cover for travellers as they age, while standalone policies may charge more in premiums for more elderly travellers.

Travellers visiting different destinations may save money with credit card travel insurance. While standalone cover typically charges higher premiums to visit countries such as the United States, credit card travel insurance can provide cover to those insured no matter where they go (some exclusions apply).

Finally, those who simply don’t get round to buying travel insurance may benefit most from credit card travel insurance. As long as they activate their cover properly, they could enjoy cover when they need it, without putting in the effort of finding and buying cover before leaving home. According the ICA study, failing to think about it was the biggest reason for not having travel insurance.


source: https://smartraveller.gov.au/guide/all-travellers/insurance/Documents/survey-travel-insurance-behaviour-web.pdf

How does credit card travel insurance work?

Understanding how your credit card travel insurance works is essential. If you don’t understand how it works, not only will you not know what your policy covers, you will also not know how to activate your cover, or how to make a claim when the time comes.

Choose the right card

The process of understanding your credit card travel insurance starts with choosing the right credit card. While it may take time, read the PDS carefully to ensure you choose the policy that provides the cover you need, taking time to note how cover is activated and how claims are made.

Activate your cover

How you activate cover varies from card to card. Generally credit card travel insurance is activated in one of four ways:

  • Purchase: You could activate your cover by making a travel purchase on your card. This may involve spending a certain dollar amount, covering a certain percentage of the travel costs, or purchasing a return ticket with your card.
  • Rewards point purchase: You may be able to activate your credit card’s travel insurance by making travel purchases with your rewards points.
  • Notification: Some cards simply require a notification of your travel plans to activate the cover on that trip. As an example, CommBank credit cards provide base travel cover, but cardholders can benefit from higher levels of cover by activating their policy prior to travel.
  • Book travel through a specific service: Cards that offer a dedicated travel service may offer cover activation by booking travel using that service. The Citi Travel Program is one example of this.

Make a claim

According to the ICA study, only half of those who experience an insurable event actually claim on their travel insurance. While this certainly seems to make the process of getting cover in the first place fairly pointless, it is still important to understand how to make a claim should you need to make one.

Again, this info should be in the PDS, however, claims typically need to be made directly with the insurance underwriter, not the credit card provider. It’s a good idea to take your policy details with you when you travel, as this will allow you to contact the underwriter when required to find out what you’ll need to make a claim, and what steps to take next.

Which cards offer credit card travel insurance?

As credit card travel insurance becomes an increasingly popular feature, it is found on more and more credit cards. You can find travel insurance included on frequent flyer credit cards, rewards cards and premium cards, as well as more basic options. It may be the case that basic cards offer more basic cover, but that may be exactly what you’re looking for.

Check out a great range of credit cards currently offering complimentary travel insurance on CreditCard.com.au.

Is it really complimentary?

Credit card travel insurance is often referred to as complimentary credit card travel insurance. But, is it really complimentary? It really depends on the way you think about credit cards and the features they offer. When you apply for a credit card, you typically get all the features on offer, included as the package, for which you pay an annual fee each year.

So, if the card includes a personal concierge, you get that personal concierge as a service offered on the card. The same applies for hotel stays, airport lounge access, travel insurance or any other feature offered. These services are ‘complimentary’ because, as a cardholder, you don’t pay any more for them, as they are included in the card’s range of features.

You may say that they are not complimentary because you are paying an annual fee for them. But, what we try to convey to all cardholders is the importance of choosing a credit card that gives more value in features than they pay in annual fees. By working out the value of the features they use, they can calculate whether that annual fee is worthwhile paying.

If you find a credit card offering travel insurance that provides the cover you need, you then save a certain amount of money on standalone travel insurance. Add that to the value of any other features on offer – that you actually use – and weigh that against the annual fee of the card. In this way, you can see whether those complimentary features really are ‘complimentary’.

What should you look out for when choosing credit card insurance?

When comparing credit cards with travel insurance, it can help to split your search in two parts. First, you may want to focus on the travel insurance side, looking at the various credit cards on offer by comparing their travel insurance offerings. Obviously, if travel insurance is just a nice extra for you, you can focus on the credit card itself first, to then look at the insurance on offer.

If you are comparing credit card travel insurance, here are some important factors to compare and contrast. All this info should be included in the card’s PDS.

  • Limitations: Check whether there are any limitations on the cover that may affect you or your family.
  • Duration: Look at the number of days covered on each trip, and within the year.
  • Pre-existing conditions: If you have any pre-existing conditions, check what’s covered on the policy. Ones to watch out for include pregnancy and mental health conditions.
  • Activities: Find out which activities are covered. If there are activities excluded from the cover, check whether you can add them at an extra cost.
  • Excess: Some policies charge an excess to make a claim. Factor this cost into your calculations to work out whether it still offers good value.
  • Exclusions: Be on the look out for any exclusions on the policy. These may include certain types of travel, certain destinations, or exclusions regarding the profile of the traveller.
  • Age restrictions: Check if there are any age restrictions on the policy. If the policy covers family members, ensure they are covered within any age limits.
  • Level of cover: Find out the dollar amount on each type of claim, for example on medical claims, belongings and so on. Work out what kind of cover you would need, and consider whether the cover offered is sufficient.
  • Activation: Make sure you understand how the policy is activated. For example, if you need to purchase your flights on your card to activate the cover, but you wouldn’t normally pay with that card, this may cause problems.
  • Claims process: Look at what you need to do to make a claim. Think about the ease of the claims process, how contactable the underwriter is, and what proof is needed to make a claim.

Looking a bit closer at some of those points, we’ll start with pre-existing medical conditions. These often trip travellers up, with both standalone insurance and credit card cover. A pre-existing medical condition is generally one that you are currently being treated for, or have been diagnosed with by a professional prior to the start of your trip. Common examples include:

  • Pregnancy
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Asthma
  • Ongoing dental work
  • Anxiety
  • Alcoholism or drug addiction
  • Psychological and psychiatric conditions

If you are unsure, check with the underwriter before you rely on the cover. Depending on the condition, you may still be able to benefit from coverage for any unexpected events that relate to it. You may find more info in the PDS as well, outlining specific coverage options for various pre-existing conditions, sometimes with an option to pay more for coverage on an upgraded policy.

As for claims in general, these can provide a common sticking point for travellers holding either credit card travel insurance or standalone cover. According to a recent survey, almost half of all Australian travellers who could have made a medical-related travel insurance claim couldn’t be bothered to follow through on it. Why?

Forty-four per cent said they were unhappy with the amount of paperwork involved, 32% said only part of their claim was reimbursed the last time they claimed, and 31% blamed lengthy settlement times. If you are concerned about the claims process on your prospective policy, it may help to read online reviews of customers’ past experiences with that specific insurer.

What should you look out for when choosing a card with travel insurance?

Now you know what to look for when comparing travel insurance options on prospective cards, what about the card itself? When it comes to credit card comparison, it pays to look beyond one specific feature. While getting the travel insurance side of it right is important, it’s also a good idea to look at the card as a whole, in terms of what it’s offering and how much it costs.

  • Annual fees: Credit cards with travel insurance tend to have higher annual fees than more basic options with fewer features. As we mentioned previously, choosing the right card means finding one that offers the features you want, working out their value, and making sure the annual fee you pay is less than the value of those features.
  • Interest: Again, credit cards with travel insurance can often charge higher rates of interest. To get the most out of that travel insurance – and any other features on offer – it’s important to clear the balance before interest starts accruing. If you think you may carry a balance each month, a card with a low rate may be a better option.
  • Currency conversion fees: If you plan to use the card overseas, it’s a good idea to check the currency conversion fee. These fees typically range between 2-4%, which can really add up when using your card frequently. A card with 0% foreign transaction fees may be a better option for overseas purchases.
  • Rewards: If rewards are important to you, you will need to take a close look at the rewards program the card provides. Look at the earn rate on the card, and any limits that apply. Take into account the rewards on offer, and think about whether they offer value to you. You may also want to check whether using rewards points to pay for travel will allow you to activate your travel cover.

When is credit card travel insurance not a good option?

For some travellers, credit card travel insurance provides everything they need. For others, it may not be the best fit. While comparing the options is always a great starting point, if you cannot find the cover you need – whether in regards to trip duration, cover limitations or exclusions – it may be a better idea to look at standalone cover for a more personalised option.

Weighing up the pros and cons

With pretty much all of the important stuff covered, it’s time to do a final weigh-in, looking at the pros and cons of credit card travel insurance side-by-side.

Pros:

  • If you are a frequent traveller, you may be able to save money on standalone single trip or annual cover.
  • You may be able to save time on comparing standalone options each time you travel.
  • With varying levels of cover on offer, you may be able to find the right level of cover to suit your needs.
  • Your policy may cover your partner and children when they travel with you.
  • Your policy may provide cover for additional cardholders.
  • Credit card travel insurance policies can often continue to cover older travellers as they age, whereas standalone cover may charge higher premiums.
  • Travel insurance included on a credit card may cover a range of destinations for the same cost (your annual fee), whereas standalone policies will adjust the cost of the premiums according to the destination.

Cons:

  • Credit cards with travel insurance may charge higher annual fees.
  • Credit cards with travel insurance may charge higher interest. This can be avoided by clearing the balance before interest starts accruing.
  • Travel insurance activation varies from card to card. You need to make sure activating the policy suits your spending habits, and that you remember to do it correctly.
  • Some credit card travel insurance only covers overseas travel. It’s important to check what’s covered before relying on cover.
  • Cover may not be as extensive as standalone cover, for example, there may be lower dollar limits on claim amounts.
  • Exclusions and an excess may apply, however, this is also typical of standalone cover.
  • Infrequent travellers may not get the full benefit of the cover offered, as they are paying more in annual fees but not making use of the feature.

Time to compare the options

As with the comparison of any type of credit card, CreditCard.com.au is here to help you find the best travel insurance credit card for your needs. You can compare credit cards with travel insurance side-by-side, checking out important factors such as interest and annual fees, to then look more closely at the features on offer, such as travel insurance. We don’t think it could get much easier than that.

Founder - Roland B Bleyer

Roland Bleyer

Founder of Creditcard.com.au. Roland has extensive knowledge about credit cards in Australia. Known as a credit card expert, he has been featured on tv and in various publications. Some popular offers on our site right now include the St.George Vertigo. Ever popular with a low annual fee, purchase rate and 0% balance transfer. For those wanting a long balance transfer period. Have a look at the HSBC Platinum with no balance transfer fee, points earning plus both domestic and overseas travel insurance.
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