If you’re forced to cancel your upcoming trip due to fears about coronavirus, it’s possible that you may be able to get reimbursed for your flights or medical costs. Whether you’ll qualify depends on factors such as who your provider is, what type of card you have and where you’re planning to travel.
Keep reading to find out more about some of the common eligibility requirements you’ll need to meet to get the costs of your trip covered in the event that coronavirus interferes with your travel plans.
Disclaimer: While the information on this page is intended to be as accurate as possible, please keep in mind that conditions for travel insurance on your credit card may change as the current situation evolves. Please refer directly to your credit card provider for the most up to date information about your coverage.
Will my credit card travel insurance cover coronavirus?
There are many different types of credit card travel insurance – what’s covered for each type will depend on your provider and the type of card you have. Many premium credit cards will offer comprehensive travel insurance in return for an annual fee (usually exceeding $120 per year). Most basic and fee-free cards won’t include this type of coverage.
In the happy event that your credit card does have travel insurance, it’s important to note that you may still need to meet several conditions to qualify for a reimbursement.
Sudden and unforeseeable cause. Insurance is often provided given that the cause of loss was sudden and unforeseeable. If you were about to travel, but coronavirus made your plans impossible, then you may be covered. On the other hand, say you had to cancel a trip after booking a flight to a region known to have a lot of infected people – it’s unlikely you’d be covered, because you knew the risk your were taking when you booked the trip.
Travel costs fully charged to your card. You had to have charged the entire cost of your trip to your credit card before you can take advantage of any type of credit card travel insurance coverage.
The right type of travel insurance. For trip cancellations, you’ll need to make sure that your travel insurance includes “trip cancellation or interruption insurance.” For medical claims due to contracting coronavirus, you’ll have to make sure that you have travel medical insurance on your card.
Credit card companies usually offer insurance through outside insurance providers. Contacting these providers directly may be able to help clear up questions on the coverage you’re eligible for. Visit your credit card company’s website to find out which provider underwrites their travel insurance.
The Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association has a list of most insurance providers in Canada. Check out the list to access the provider underwriting your credit card insurance, so you can find out exactly what coverage you’re eligible for.
If I get infected with coronavirus, will I be covered?
You may be able to qualify for trip cancellation insurance if you test positive for coronavirus and need to isolate yourself at home. You may also be able to get coverage if you’ve recently travelled overseas and are worried that you’ve contracted coronavirus.
Additionally, you could qualify if a family member or close associate has tested positive for COVID-19, and you’re required to quarantine yourself at home. For further details and eligibility requirements, you’ll need to contact your credit card provider for more information.
If I cancel my trip as a precautionary measure against coronavirus, will I be covered?
Unless you are able to prove you’re sick or a doctor has ordered you to avoid travel, your credit card travel insurance likely won’t cover coronavirus.
That means if you’re avoiding travel for the good of your health and others – but you’re otherwise healthy – you won’t receive coverage.
How do changing travel advisories affect my coverage?
It’s important to note that as of March 13, 2020, the Canadian Prime Minister has urged all Canadian citizens to return to Canada from abroad. The Government of Canada has also listed a Level 3 travel advisory for all countries worldwide.
There are a number of conditions you may be required to meet before you can get a refund or reimbursement for cancelling or changing your flights or other travel plans due to the coronavirus (COVID-19). Some of the conditions you might need to meet to get covered are included below:
You booked the full cost of your flight on your credit card.
Most credit card insurance policies stipulate that you must charge the entire cost of your travel arrangements to your card to be eligible for coverage. If you fail to meet this requirement – including if you only charge a portion of the cost to your card – you won’t be insured.
You have trip cancellation, trip interruption or travel emergency medical insurance.
The next thing you’ll want to do is check what type of credit card travel insurance you have. In most cases, you’ll need to have “trip cancellation and interruption” insurance to qualify for any type of reimbursement if you have to cancel your flight or make flight changes due to coronavirus. If you catch coronavirus while travelling, you could be eligible for coverage with emergency travel medical insurance.
Your credit card travel insurance covers pandemics.
You’ll also need to check the fine print for your insurance to see whether you’re able to cancel due to widespread health concerns. Most providers are making provisions for coronavirus, but your travel dates and when you booked your ticket will likely factor into any decision that your provider makes about whether you’re eligible for coverage.
Your destination has a Level 3 or 4 travel advisory from the Government of Canada.
You’ll typically only be able to qualify for trip cancellation/interruption insurance if your flight was booked to a country with a Level 3 or 4 travel advisory in place from the Government of Canada. As of March 13, 2020, the Government of Canada has posted a Level 3 “Avoid non-essential travel” advisory for all countries and is advising all Canadians to return home from overseas. For this reason, you’ll need to check with your credit card provider to see which countries are currently being covered according to its policies.
You didn’t book your tickets after WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic.
You’ll typically be able to qualify for coverage as long as you meet the conditions above, and you didn’t book your flights after March 13, 2020 when Canadians abroad were told by the government to return home. Many insurance providers will not ensure “known threats” and have put in place provisions to protect against claims for travel booked after the COVID-19 pandemic came to the forefront of mainstream media. Some providers have even cited earlier dates for exclusions, so it’s best to check your provider’s policy for more information.
You qualify for credit card travel insurance coverage.
You’ll need to make sure that you meet your provider’s eligibility criteria for coverage outside of COVID-19. For example, your policy may only cover you if you’re under the age of 65 or don’t have any underlying health conditions. Your best bet is to contact your credit card provider directly for more information if you’re uncertain about your eligibility.
Types of travel insurance
Disclaimer: The information on this page is meant to summarize and represent how some insurance providers could define different types of coverage. It is not meant to show any actual terms or policies offered by real providers. Coverage details (including type, extent, conditions, exclusions etc.) vary between products and providers, so contact your card issuer to find out what type of insurance is available to you.
Emergency travel medical. A travel medical emergency refers to any unforeseen or accidental illness or injury that requires immediate, professional medical attention.
Travel accident. Popular for those travelling to unsafe regions, this covers costs related to accidental death and dismemberment while travelling. Covered costs could include medical treatment, evacuation, funeral expenses and transportation of remains.
Trip delay. Reimburses you for flight costs if a doctor recommends delaying travel, because you (or possibly a travel companion or member of your immediate family) accidentally die or get sick or injured.
Trip cancellation. Covers losses from having to cancel a trip before the departure date due to illness, injury or a family emergency. A doctor’s note may be required.
Trip interruption. Covers losses from having to call off a trip while travelling due to illness, injury, a family emergency or a financial crisis. Depending on the reason, a doctor’s note may be required.
Flight delay. If the departure of your flight is delayed by a minimum number of hours (often 4-6 hours), you’ll be reimbursed for any necessary and reasonable costs that result. Costs could include hotels, meals, personal hygienic products and sundry items.
Flight cancellation. Covers the cost of your flight if you have to call off a trip due to illness, injury, a family emergency or a financial crisis. Depending on the reason, a doctor’s note may be required.
Lost, damaged, stolen or delayed baggage. Covers losses if your checked-in or carry-on luggage ends up on the wrong plane, isn’t transferred to your connecting flight, gets stolen, is destroyed or is lost in some other way that you couldn’t control.
Delayed baggage. If your baggage ends up on the wrong flight, isn’t transferred to your connecting flight or is delayed for some other reason and doesn’t show up at your hotel for a minimum number of hours (often around 6 hours), this insurance reimburses you necessary and reasonable costs incurred as a result.
Common carrier insurance (sometimes considered the same as travel accident insurance). Covers costs related to accidental death or injury while travelling on a common carrier (policies may differ on the definition of a common carrier, but, generally, this refers to a person, thing or company that provides paid public transportation by land, sea or air).
Rental car theft/damage. Covers costs associated with rental vehicle damage as long as it wasn’t damaged because you broke the law. Possible costs could include towing and storage fees, administrative fees, and/or diminishment of value. There may be a deductible.
Rental car accident. If you get in an accident while driving a rental vehicle, this insurance covers the resulting costs to you and your passengers. Covered costs could include expenses related to accidental death, medical treatment, ambulance transportation and the loss of personal effects.
What if I get sick with coronavirus while I’m travelling?
If you test positive for COVID-19 while you’re travelling, you may be able to get help with your travel medical expenses. You’ll typically need to meet most of the eligibility criteria outlined above to get coverage on your credit card. The only difference is you’ll need to make sure you have emergency medical insurance included with your card instead of trip cancellation or interruption insurance.
Your destination will also typically not factor into whether you can qualify for assistance, though you may be excluded from coverage if you’re travelling to a country with a Level 3 or Level 4 travel advisory.
Before you can qualify for coverage, you’ll also need to make sure that you’re still travelling within eligible dates for your trip. For example, some credit card companies will only accept your claims for the first 15 days of your trip, while others might insure up to 31 days of travel. You’ll need to look into your specific policy for more information about eligibility criteria.
What other options do I have to cover my trip?
Before you cancel your trip overseas and try to make a claim on your credit card insurance, you should reach out to your travel provider. Many airlines, cruise companies and hotels are offering extremely flexible cancellation policies for upcoming trips due to coronavirus concerns.
You may also be able to contact your provider and ask to reschedule your trip to another time of the year if you’re having trouble cancelling your travel plans outright.
If you booked independent travel insurance from a company like CAA or Manulife Insurance, you may be able to file a claim through them as well. You’ll just need to reach out to them for more details about your specific policy and the eligibility criteria you’ll need to meet for coverage.
As per government directive, only 4 airports in Canada’s major cities will receive incoming flights during the coronavirus outbreak: Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal. On top of this, airlines have been scrambling to cancel and reroute flights as needed to prevent the spread of the virus. Subsequently, large numbers of travellers have been left to figure out what to do now that their trips have been nixed.
According to the Canadian Transportation Agency, airlines don’t have to compensate travellers for inconvenience caused by flight disruptions, because disruptions caused by government travel advisories related to coronavirus are “outside of the air carrier’s control.”
Nevertheless, many airlines are reaching out to travellers who booked flights before, or during, the outbreak, offering free flight changes and other solutions to make things a little easier.
You could be able to cancel your flight and get a credit to use towards a future trip. If you use the credit on a less expensive flight, you won’t be refunded the difference, and if the flight is more expensive, you’ll have to pay the difference.
Travellers who made flight bookings before March 31, 2020 for travel until December 31, 2020 can cancel their flights for free and rebook anytime before March 31, 2021. Eligible flights must have been purchased directly through Air Canada, Kayak, Google Flights, Skyscanner or your travel agent. If you booked through a travel agent or online travel agency, you have to contact these services (not Air Canada) to change or cancel your flight. See Air Canada’s website for more information.
Travellers can get a $0-fee waiver for eligible flight changes or cancellations made at least 2 hours prior to departure. The value of cancelled flights will be refunded as a credit to your travel bank. If you change to a less expensive flight, the difference in price will be credited to your travel bank.
Travellers who made new flight bookings between March 3, 2020 and March 31, 2020 are eligible for a one-time change fee waiver as long as changes or cancellations are made more than 24 hours before departure. Travel booked through third parties will need to be cancelled through your travel agent. See Westjet’s website for more information.
Flights departing between March 17, 2020 and April 30, 2020 will be cancelled, and travellers will automatically receive a credit to be used on a future Sunwing flight up to 24 months after their original departure dates. For flights leaving May 1, 2020 and onwards, standard policies apply to changes and cancellations. Visit Sunwing’s website for more information.
COVID-19 updates from major credit card providers
if you want to know more about an issuer’s travel insurance policies, you can check out our guides below. You can also check out each bank’s resource page for the latest updates for each issuer regarding the coronaviurs.
To receive reimbursement for a canceled trip, you’ll need to file a claim with your issuer. The process can vary slightly from issuer to issuer, but, generally, the process is as follows:
Notify your card administrator within the time period stipulated in your policy. The time period will likely start when you realize you’re ill or get diagnosed by a doctor.
Your administrator will send you claim forms.
Fill out these claim forms and attach the required proof of loss documents. In the case of the coronavirus, this will be a doctor’s note indicating illness.
Attach other documents as requested, such as your common carrier tickets or your credit card billing statement.
Send these documents by mail or electronically to the required party (acceptable methods of submission will be stated by your administrator).
You’ll receive compensation in accordance to your issuer’s stated timeline.
Keep all your travel-related receipts and bills – including those from bookings and purchases made before your departure date – and store them in a safe, accessible place. You’ll want these documents handy should an insurer want to see proof of your costs before agreeing to reimburse you.
You may be able to get reimbursed by your credit card if you need to cancel your trip due to coronavirus, depending on what type of coverage you have. You may also be able to qualify for travel medical insurance if you contract coronavirus while overseas. That said, every provider is different and coverage isn’t guaranteed. You should contact your credit card company directly for more detailed information about your specific policy.
That depends on which card you have. Many premium cards offer credit card travel insurance, though it’s not guaranteed that you’ll be covered for trip cancellation or travel medical. Most fee-free cards won’t have any additional travel insurance coverage. You’ll need to check with your credit card provider about your specific card for more information.
If you can’t cancel your trip, you may be able to change the dates at no extra cost. You’ll need to speak directly with your travel provider to find out whether they can help you rebook your trip.
There’s a high chance that your credit card company is experiencing higher than usual call volumes due to concerns over coronavirus. If you can’t get through immediately, your best bet is to exercise patience, and try sending your information via email as a starting point. You may also be able to visit a branch for more information if your credit card is held by a major Canadian bank.
Claire Horwood is a writer at Finder, specializing in credit cards, loans and other financial products. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Gender Studies from the University of Victoria, along with an Associate's Degree in Science from Camosun College. Much of Claire's coursework has focused on writing and statistics, with a healthy dose of social and cultural analysis mixed in for good measure. She has also worked extensively in the field of "Blended Finance" with the Canadian government. In her spare time, Claire loves rock climbing, travelling and drinking inordinate amounts of coffee.
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