Free insurance is a popular credit card feature that can cover you when you travel overseas and also when you make purchases with your card. If you are already using your credit card, it is an easy way to save time and money organising separate insurance. While free credit card insurance can save you money on buying cover upfront, there are still eligibility requirements to meet before you are protected.
Use this guide to compare credit cards that offer free travel insurance, what to consider when comparing, what you need to do to get cover and how to make a claim. We also outline alternative forms of insurance that you may be able to take advantage of with certain credit cards.
You can usually find gold, platinum and black credit cards with free insurance. These cards often include a range of extra perks that standard products do not have, so they may have higher annual fees to reflect this. However, the savings you receive from free insurance could potentially outweigh the cost of the card, which is a consideration when comparing your options.
Free travel insurance refers to the insurance cover that is included with some credit cards. The travel insurance could be an included feature of the card, but that doesn’t mean it’s exactly free. Technically, it comes at the cost of the card, which could have an annual fee and interest rates. Some travel insurance covers can only be activated once you’ve met specific spend requirements, as well.
Having said that, free or included insurance doesn’t have its own fee, which means it is at “no extra cost”. So this type of credit card extra can save you the time and money that comes with organising standalone travel insurance. It can also reduce the cost of any unforeseen emergencies that may pop up while you’re overseas.
Is free travel insurance similar to a standalone policy?
Different credit cards provide different levels of complimentary travel insurance. It is important to look at the terms and conditions of the card to ensure you know what you are covered for and how much coverage applies. The cover will vary according to which card you use and the policy itself, so make sure you look at the overall cover, coverage limits and any excess applicable to decide if it’s suitable for your trip. Different types of complimentary travel insurance include:
Medical and hospital expenses incurred overseas. This insurance helps cover the cost of medical fees and hospital bills if you require emergency treatment when you are overseas. Generally, exclusions for this type of travel insurance include pre-existing medical conditions, conditions already covered by a private medical fund or government funds, or treatment that is not administered by a medical professional.
Loss or damage to personal property. This cover is designed to offer you compensation for your luggage and other personal items are lost, damaged or stolen. It usually has a maximum limit per person, per trip, and will generally require the submission of a policy report before you are approved for a claim.
Cancellation of travel arrangements. This insurance usually covers travel cancellations that may be due to unforeseen circumstances such as the accidental death of a relative, the sudden illness of a family member, or a natural disaster at the destination or near your normal residence.
Travel inconvenience cover. With this insurance, additional meals and accommodation costs are covered if the delay of flight is more than a few hours. Flight cancellation, delayed flight boarding and loss of luggage may also be covered.
Legal liability cover. Some cards also provide legal liability cover which can settle or defend a claim in case of bodily harm or damage of property caused to someone other than cardholder.
Are you eligible for free credit card travel insurance?
The eligibility requirements for complimentary credit card insurance vary depending on the specific policy, the provider and the insurance company involved in underwriting it. You can find specific details in the provider’s Credit Card Insurance Booklet. But in general, the most common conditions include:
Spending requirements. Whether it is travel insurance or purchase coverage, you usually have to pay with your credit card to be eligible. For example, if you want overseas travel insurance, you may be required to pay for some or all of your return ticket with your credit card before you leave. Similarly, if it is purchase cover, you will have to buy the relevant item with your card.
Policy activation. In some cases, you may also have to “activate” the included insurance to be eligible for cover. For example, BNZ Gold credit cardholders have to activate their travel policy by paying a minimum of $500 travel costs with their card; or use Airpoints to pay for the return flights and charge any other related costs to their Gold card, eg surcharges.
Age requirements. This typically relates to travel insurance, where people over a certain age (e.g. 80) may not be eligible for cover.
Pre-existing medical conditions. Similar to most standalone travel insurance policies, pre-existing medical conditions usually aren’t covered by complimentary overseas credit card insurance. However, depending on the insurer, you may be able to get approval for a pre-existing medical condition through an extra application. Fees usually apply for these requests and not all credit card insurance allows it, so check the insurance policy booklet to see if this is possible for any card you are considering using.
Partners and/or dependent children. Complimentary travel insurance often covers your spouse and/or dependent children that are travelling with you if they meet the eligibility requirements.
What should I be wary of when comparing free travel insurance?
Some of the other factors you’ll want to take into account with complimentary credit card travel insurance include:
Eligibility and activation of insurance. Make sure that you’re eligible for the cover and that the terms and conditions of the policy suit your needs. Credit card providers may also require you to activate the policy in some way. For example by purchasing your return travel ticket using your credit card. Others may require you to log in to your account online and fill out a simple form to activate your policy before each trip.
Length of travel. Most credit card complimentary travel insurance policies will cover trips up to several months in length. Make sure you consider the specific coverage length offered by your card when you first start planning your trip. If you plan to travel for longer, you may be able to request an extension or might want to consider an alternative option.
Levels of coverage. Some credit card companies provide travel insurance for several cards, and offer different levels of coverage based on the account you have. For example, ANZ Premium Card Travel Insurance will offer different cover types with a Gold and a Platinum Card. Make sure you check what level of coverage your card offers when referring to the insurance policy booklet.
Excess costs. If you make a claim against a complimentary credit card insurance policy, you may have to pay a specified amount before you are entitled to get any money back. For example, if you submit a claim for emergency overseas medical costs, you may have to pay $500 (once approved) for the claim to be processed. This is known as the excess, and is common with travel insurance (both overseas and domestic).
Exclusions. As well as looking at what cover is provided, make sure you are aware of what isn’t covered by a complimentary credit card insurance policy.
Terms and conditions. While this may be a tedious practice, reading the terms and conditions is crucial to ensure you understanding the opportunities and boundaries of your insurance. If you have any doubt about your cover after referring to such documents, you may wish to contact the insurance provider directly.
How to make an insurance claim
The claim process for complimentary credit card insurance products varies depending on the provider and the insurance company that has underwritten the policy. In general, you will need to submit your claim directly to the insurance provider over the phone, online or by completing and posting a claim form.
As with standalone insurance policies, claims must be made as soon as possible after the incident and within the specified timeframe to be eligible for cover. You may also be asked to submit supporting documentation for your claim, including:
Your credit card statement showing the relevant purchases required to activate the policy (ie a travel ticket)
A copy of a police report, if you are claiming for lost or stolen items
Proof of ownership for lost, stolen or damaged items
Flight itineraries and letters from carriers detailing delayed flights or unexpected events
How to compare credit cards that include travel insurance
If you’re interested in getting a credit card with complimentary travel insurance, make sure you also consider the following factors:
Annual fee. Credit cards that offer a lot of perks, including complimentary insurance, tend to have higher annual fees than low rate or no-frills options. While these benefits can offset the cost of the annual fee, remember that they will only add value if you actually use them.
Interest rates. Standard variable interest rates on credit cards with travel insurance may vary widely. Make sure you factor in the potential cost of both the purchase rate and cash advance rate – especially if you have to purchase your travel to activate the policy or if you think you may carry a balance from time to time.
Travel insurance policy details. The type of coverage, eligibility and activation requirements are all important factors to consider when you’re comparing cards that offer travel insurance. Reading through the policy details provided for each credit card you consider can help you choose a credit card that will offer the right level of coverage for you.
Currency conversion fee. If you also plan to use your credit card overseas, make sure you check the currency conversion or international transaction fee. This is usually a charge worth 2-4% of each transaction made in another currency, so the costs can quickly add up.
Rewards. There are rewards credit cards that also offer complimentary travel insurance, such as Airpoints credit cards. These products earn points or reward dollars for your everyday card spending, which could then be redeemed for flights, fare upgrades or a wide range of other rewards.
Other extras. Credit cards that include travel insurance may also provide complimentary insurance for purchases, interstate flight inconvenience insurance and price-matching services. Some top-end platinum and black cards also provide travel benefits such as airport lounge access that can add even more value to the card you choose. Just remember to consider the card costs when factoring in these perks.
What are the pros and cons of travel insurance credit cards?
Provides essential travel cover. If you’re travelling overseas, you’ll need to organise travel insurance. Complimentary insurance could provide you with the cover you’ll need if you run into an unforeseen emergency while overseas.
Save time and money. If you decide to take advantage of your card’s free travel insurance, this can save you the time and money required to organise external cover.
Cover for family. Most credit cards with included travel insurance will also cover your spouse and any dependents travelling with you, providing they also meet the activation requirements of the policy.
Higher price tag. Most credit cards that offer complimentary travel insurance are premium products that have high annual fees when compared to other options. Plus, you may be required to use your card to pay for a certain amount of the trip to activate the insurance.
Less value for infrequent travellers. If you only travel every now and then, the cost of the annual fee could outweigh the value you get from the complimentary insurance. Before choosing this type of card, consider how frequently you will use it and whether a standalone policy could be more cost-effective based on your travel habits.
Exclusions and excesses. Just as with any insurance policy, there are exclusions and excesses that may apply for complimentary credit card travel cover. Always read the policy documents beforehand, so you know what you are covered for and how much you will have to pay if you need to make a claim.
Frequently asked questions
Most credit card travel insurance will cover you and your partner, but you will need to consider the length of your trip as well. More premium cards will typically offer a greater length of coverage. You may also consider whether you’ll have complimentary insurance for any dependent children.
If you’re not planning to travel in the next few years, it may be worth considering credit cards that offer value in the form of lower rates and fees. If the savings you get from a lower cost card outweigh those of your current card, you could find that it’s better to switch and simply buy travel insurance if and when you need it.
It is always advisable to read all the terms and conditions before choosing a card. However, you can speed up the process by focusing on the key policy details. In general, the most important travel insurance cover to look for is medical and hospital, bag and luggage cover and travel cancellation cover. You can quickly check the policy details for these covers before making a decision, and then take your time reading over the policy for the card you choose.
Another option is to call the enquiry number in the credit card insurance policy booklet and speak to a customer representative. This gives you the chance to ask any specific questions you may have.
If you find that the travel insurance included with your credit card does not cover everything you need, it may be more suitable to opt for a standalone travel insurance policy. Our guide on travel insurance will help you compare your options so you can find the right policy to suit.
Other types of free credit card insurance
In addition to free travel insurance, you may also have access to other types of insurance.
Purchase protection insurance. Purchase protection insurance can cover the cost of theft, accidental damage or loss of items paid for with an eligible card for up to 90 months from the time of the purchase.
Extended warranty insurance. This cover offers an extension on the manufacturer’s warranty for eligible items purchased in New Zealand. Usually, this insurance extends the warranty for up to 12 months as long as the original warranty period is at least six months. For example, if you bought an item with a one-year manufacturer’s warranty, the cover would allow you to receive insurance for a total of 24 months.
Price protection cover. Also known as a “shopper’s protection”, this insurance refunds the difference in price if you buy an item and then find it at a lower cost somewhere else (in the same geographic area). Usually, the lower price must have been advertised within 30 days of your purchase and you must make a claim within 14 days.
Andrew Munro is the global cryptocurrency editor at Finder. After previously writing about insurance and other areas, he now covers the latest developments in digital assets and blockchain and works on Finder's comprehensive range of guides to help people understand cryptocurrency.
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