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Thousands of flights are getting canceled this summer—here's how credit card travel insurance could help you

Credit card travel insurance can help offset the cost of a canceled flight. Here's what you need to know.

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Travel is returning this summer, but it hasn't been all smooth sailing for vacationers.

Commercial airlines were pushed to the brink of bankruptcy during the pandemic, and now they're confronting a myriad of issues, including both fuel and staffing shortages, as well as a lack of planes, which is making it hard for them to respond to the rising customer demand.

A combination of these issues led to thousands of Americans being stranded this past weekend, primarily American Airlines and Spirit Airlines passengers, when their flights were canceled or delayed. This snarl left many travelers in precarious situations, forced to foot the bill for hotels, meals and other incidental expenses.

A last-minute hotel room is costly, airport meals can be outrageously expensive and before you know it, travelers dealing with a delayed or canceled flight can find themselves spending hundreds of dollars they weren't planning to. However, the right travel credit card that includes some travel insurance can save you money on these unexpected expenses.

As long as you book your trip with a qualifying credit card and are able to show proof through receipts and travel itineraries, travel insurance programs offered by credit card issuers will reimburse consumers the costs that arise when they face delayed or canceled travel plans.

So before you panic the next time your flight gets canceled, Select is here to walk you through the different travel insurance policies that credit cards offer and how they work, plus the best credit cards offering these policies.

Travel insurance offered by credit cards

There are several different types of travel insurance included in certain credit card benefit programs, including trip cancellation/interruption insurance, trip delay insurance and baggage insurance. Along with this, many cards offer travel assistance service in case you need help with arranging new itineraries or accessing resources while you're away from home.

Here are the different types of insurance, and what each one covers.

Trip cancellation/interruption insurance

Trip cancellation/interruption insurance is a two-in-one policy, helping travelers when their itineraries are thrown off due to unforeseen circumstances such as weather, a medical emergency or even jury duty.

Trip cancellation insurance covers your losses if a qualifying event prevents you from traveling on or before the departure date and results in your trip being canceled.

Trip interruption insurance covers losses if your travel is interrupted on the way to the point of departure or after departure. This means that if you experience car issues on your way to the airport for example, or a serious injury during your trip, or any other event that interrupts your travel plans, you may qualify for coverage.

Travelers can also be reimbursed for expenses that pop up if a trip is postponed and they need to book an additional hotel room, rent a car or pay for extra meals.

Each credit card issuer has different terms and conditions, so makes sure to read the fine print carefully so you understand what is covered under your insurance and how much you could be reimbursed.

For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card provides up to $10,000 per person and $20,000 per trip for pre-paid, non-refundable travel expenses. This covers the cardholder and immediate family members, even if the primary cardholder is not traveling with them. So if you have to cancel your vacation to Cancun because of a hurricane, you can be reimbursed a portion, or all, of the cost of the trip.

Trip delay insurance

If you're vacation was ruined because of a canceled or delayed American Airlines or Spirit Airlines flight last weekend, you likely could have used some trip delay insurance.

The policy kicks in if your trip is delayed by a specified number of hours, or if it requires an unanticipated overnight stay.

You get trip delay insurance with the Platinum Card® from American Express, which kicks in if your flight is delayed more than six hours. You're entitled up to $500 in compensation per trip, which covers expenses like meals and lodging. The compensation is sent as a check via mail.

Baggage insurance

There were nearly 3 million mishandled bags among U.S. airlines in 2019, according to the Air Travel Consumer Report. While this may sound like a large number, over 480 million bags were checked, which means over 99% of bags made it to their final destination without issue. But for the less-than 1%, their bags were either misplaced, lost, damaged or stolen.

Credit card issuers typically offer two different policies: baggage delay insurance and lost luggage reimbursement.

Policyholders with baggage delay insurance will be reimbursed if they need to purchase essentials while waiting to get their bags back. For example, if you have a Chase credit card with baggage delay insurance, you can be reimbursed up to $100 a day for five days for essential items like toiletries and clothing.

If your bags are completely lost, Chase Sapphire Reserve® cardholders can get up $3,000 with their lost baggage reimbursement policy.

Travel assistance services

When system-wide issues happen across a specific airline brand or airport (whether it's a computer malfunction or bad weather), it puts a major strain on call centers. This can lead to customers facing long hold times, with no easy solution for getting on the next flight.

If your travel plans are derailed, see if your travel credit card offers travel assistance services. This is a hotline for credit card customers that can provide guidance about travel issues, medical/legal referrals, emergency ticket replacement, lost luggage locator service and other emergency resources.

These services are typically offered 24/7 and can be found on several travel credit cards including the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card, Chase Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card and the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card.

How to file travel insurance claim with a credit card

Insurance is great to have, but you hope you never need to use it. In the unfortunate circumstance that you do, here's how you can file a claim with each credit card servicer.

  • American Express cardholders: File a claim by calling Amex at 1-844-933-0648 or filing a claim on the app within 60 days of the incident.
  • Chase cardholders: File a claim by calling 888-320-9961 or online at at http://www.eclaimsline.com/
  • Citi cardholders: Call the benefits administrator at 800-847-2911
  • Visa Signature cardholders (including some Capital One cards): File a claim by calling 800-757-1274 within 20 days of luggage being lost.

When you submit the claim, you'll need to provide receipts and documentation of the incident, so make sure you gather your paperwork ahead of time.

The best credit cards with travel insurance

There are a handful of credit cards that offer travel insurance and most come with an annual fee. For frequent travelers, this can be worthwhile, but it's important to choose a card that works best for your financial situation.

Here are some credit cards that offer travel insurance.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred offers a long list of travel insurance coverage, including: trip cancellation/trip interruption insurance, rental car insurance, baggage delay insurance, trip delay reimbursement, lost luggage reimbursement and travel emergency assistance.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers the same travel insurance as the Sapphire Preferred.

The Amex Platinum offers trip cancellation/trip interruption insurance, rental car insurance, baggage delay insurance, trip delay reimbursement, lost luggage reimbursement and travel emergency assistance.

The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card offers the same insurance coverage as the Amex Platinum.

The American Express Business Platinum Card offers the same insurance coverage as the Amex Platinum.

The Bank of America Premium Rewards provides trip delay reimbursement, trip cancellation/interruption insurance, baggage delay coverage, lost luggage reimbursement, emergency assistance services along with emergency transportation coverage.

The Chase Ink Business Preferred credit card offers trip cancellation/interruption, rental car insurance, roadside dispatch and emergency assistance services.

FAQs about travel insurance

Does travel insurance cover medical expenses?

Depending on the policy, yes. If your policy has trip interruption/cancellation coverage, medical expenses incurred during the trip are likely covered, including if you fall ill due to Covid-19.

Additionally, cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card have accidental death and dismemberment (AD&D) policies covering eligible cardmembers up to $500,000.

Is travel insurance worth it?

Travel insurance offered through a credit card can save you potentially hundreds in the case your travel plans go awry. And not all travel credit cards with travel insurance have exorbitant annual fees, including the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, which offers robust travel insurance coverage along with other benefits for $95 per year.

How do I get travel insurance?

The easiest way to get travel insurance is to sign up for a credit card that offers it as a perk to customers. By simply using a card with travel insurance to make your travel purchases (including flight and hotel), your trip will automatically be insured.

However, if a travel credit card isn't best for you, you can buy coverage for your trip through third-party insurance policies. These can sometimes be expensive and difficult to use, so make sure to read the fine print before you purchase such a plan.

Information about the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card has been collected independently by Select and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.