Travel insurance & COVID: What do credit cards cover (and miss)?

A handful of credit card travel insurance policies cover COVID-related costs, but there are some exclusions to watch out for.

International borders are finally open in Australia after 2 years of lockdown, with nearly 50% of Australians planning to travel in the next 12 months, according to a February Finder survey.

However, a lot has changed since we last left Australian shores.

While Smartraveller has always advised Australians to take out travel insurance, it’s now compulsory when you go to certain countries.

COVID is also top-of-mind for people when traveling now. A 2022 Finder survey found that Australians ’biggest travel concerns were catching COVID-19 while overseas and having to quarantine after their trip.

Can credit card travel insurance cover COVID-19?

In the past, pandemics were generally always excluded from cover – that’s no longer always the case.

Finder looked at 32 credit cards that include travel insurance and found 17 that include some form of COVID cover. The 3 providers offering COVID cover are American Express, Qantas and ANZ.

What COVID-related costs can it cover?

COVID-related cover can include:

  • If you need to amend or cancel your trip because you, your traveling companion, close relative or a person you’re visiting is diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • If the country you’re traveling to is not on the government’s “Do Not Travel” list and the borders are open.
  • Medical expenses if you’re diagnosed with COVID-19 during your trip.

American Express and Qantas Premier Platinum cards can cover international border closures as well.

The American Express website says it can cover you “if you need to amend or cancel your trip as a result of border closures or upgraded travel advisory warnings related to COVID-19 that occur after you made your booking”.

What COVID-related costs aren’t covered?

It’s not all good news, though. This inclusion does not apply to domestic travel. If there’s a border closure related to COVID-19, you won’t be covered for cancellation or rearrangement costs.

In general, you also won’t be covered for:

  • Going to a country with a “Do Not Travel” warning (you can find these on Smartraveller).
  • Journeys where the borders are closed before your trip starts – even if you have an Australian government travel exemption.

You won’t be able to make a successful claim either if you travel against a doctor’s advice or you receive a refund or voucher for the amounts you’re claiming.

How does it compare to standalone travel insurance?

While a small handful of credit cards come with travel insurance COVID cover, most do not.

If you don’t plan to get a credit card, or your current card doesn’t come with travel insurance for COVID, standalone travel insurance might be a better option.

If you’re not sure if your credit card covers COVID-19, call your provider or check the product disclosure statement.

There are currently 19 travel insurance providers offering some kind of COVID cover. In most cases, it’s the same as what the top credit cards’ policies cover – with the exception of border closures.

Be careful if you have a credit card travel insurance policy and booked an expensive trip. They often come with a cap on how much you can claim. For instance, ANZ’s Platinum Business card has a $ 20,000 cancellation cover limit.

In many cases, this will be enough to cover your trip. However, a standalone comprehensive travel insurance policy usually doesn’t cap how much you can claim.

Tips from Finder credit card expert Amy Bradney-George:

If you plan to take out travel insurance through a credit card:

  • Check how you get cover. Most credit cards with travel insurance give you cover when you use the card to pay for some or all of your return travel ticket. Travel periods typically range from 3–6 months.
  • See if pre-existing conditions are covered. Even if the policy gives you some COVID cover, it could be overruled if your pre-existing health condition isn’t covered. You can often get a condition approved, but may need to apply before you travel.
  • Keep the details handy. Have things like the insurance provider’s phone number, credit card details and proof of travel ticket purchases on hand.
  • Remember you’ll need to pay the costs before a claim is approved. If you’re using your credit card, pay it off as soon as possible to save on interest charges (or avoid them completely if you’re eligible for interest-free days).
  • Compare policies. If there’s a cover you really want for your trip, look at the credit card insurance policy booklet and compare its cover to a retail policy. Sometimes it will be enough, but sometimes paying for a standalone policy will be worth it if it gives you greater peace of mind.

If you are considering a credit card because of its complimentary travel insurance, make sure that it’s the right deal for your situation. If it isn’t, consider a standalone travel insurance policy that covers COVID.

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