How Does Credit Card Travel Accident Insurance Work?

Know the key coverages before you leave

A kayaker enjoys a trip down a winding river.
•••

Ippei Noei / Getty Images

We already know that travel is stressful. From planning to budgeting to packing, going on a trip involves a great deal of effort. Although it’s worth it in the end, juggling all the details can leave you feeling overwhelmed—especially when things go awry. 

Fortunately, certain credit cards can offer aid in these circumstances. Depending on your card issuer, you may be eligible for credit card travel accident insurance. This insurance will cover you and your immediate family members in case of severe injury or death while you travel.

What Is Travel Accident Insurance?

Credit card travel accident insurance is a benefit offered by a variety of card issuers. This insurance offers a payout in cases of severe injury or death for you and your family members while traveling. The maximum benefit varies based on the card you have, how you sustain your injuries, how severe those injuries are, and if you sustained them in transit or during a non-travel period of your trip.

Issuers That Offer Cards With Travel Accident Insurance

Chase offers travel accident insurance on many of its travel cards. The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers a maximum payout of up to $1 million depending on when and where the accident happens. Other Chase cards provide coverage up to $500,000:

Capital One’s Visa Signature cards offer up to $250,000 in coverage, while its World and World Elite Mastercard options provide up to $1 million.

Barclays credit cards provide travel accident insurance, but the coverage amounts and benefits vary based on which network (Visa or Mastercard) the card is part of, a Barclays representative told The Balance by email.

Most credit card policies offer “common carrier” travel accident insurance, which covers you while you’re entering, exiting, or riding as a passenger on a common carrier (plane, bus, taxi, courtesy shuttle, etc.). Chase Sapphire cards, however, offer 24-hour travel accident insurance. This insurance continues to cover you during the first 30 days of your trip. For trips longer than 30 days, check your guide to benefits for coverage limits.

How Does Credit Card Travel Accident Insurance Work?

Not every credit card has travel accident insurance. To find out if yours offers this service, check the guide to benefits that comes with your credit card. Within it, you’ll find all the perks your card offers, including travel accident insurance—if it’s available.

Fortunately for cardholders, it’s simple to qualify for your credit card’s travel accident insurance: Pay for the trip with your card. Some cards may specify that you’ll need to pay for the trip in full with your card, so splitting payments with other travelers may disqualify you. This doesn’t necessarily apply to using points or vouchers, so you can combine those with your card payment and still be eligible for travel accident insurance.

If you are involved in an accident while traveling or preparing for transit to and from your destination, you’ll need to file a claim with the credit card issuer’s benefits administrator. If the benefits administrator approves your claim, you or your beneficiaries will receive a cash benefit within the limits of the benefit. 

What Does Credit Card Travel Accident Insurance Cover? 

Warning: The following section contains information some readers may find disturbing.

In general, credit-card travel accident insurance covers accidental loss of life, limb, sight, speech, or hearing. Credit card issuers tend to have very specific rules for the maximum benefit you can receive based on when injury or death occurs.

For example, Chase travel accident insurance covers: 

  • Loss of at least four fingers above your middle knuckle, even if the fingers are reattached.
  • Loss of at least three fingers and your thumb above their middle knuckles, even if the fingers are reattached.
  • Permanent loss of vision in one or both eyes, where remaining eyes have 20/200 vision or worse.
  • Loss of feet severed at or above the ankle joint.
  • A death that occurs during travel, or that occurs because of the accident within 365 days of the incident.
  • Injury caused by accidental consumption of a substance contaminated by bacteria.

Coverage amounts for each injury depend on the severity of the injury. Travel insurance available on Capital One Visa Signature cards pays out the full $250,000 for accidental loss of life, two or more body parts, and sight in both eyes, but only pays $125,000 for the loss of one body part, sight in one eye, and speech or hearing.

Your card’s guide to benefits has all the specific details about what is covered and coverage amounts. If you have any questions, call the benefits administrator listed in the benefits guide.

What Does Credit Card Travel Accident Insurance Not Cover?

In most cases, your travel accident insurance won’t cover injuries or death that happen during certain types of activities. 

Capital One Visa Signature cards don’t cover death or injury resulting from war, acts of terrorism, travel between your residence and work, and flights on planes owned by Capital One Financial. 

The Chase Sapphire Reserve doesn’t cover death or injury resulting from the commission of an illegal act, parachute jumping and vehicular races, sporting events in which there is a cash prize, and trips taken on aircraft that don’t have government registration or certification. 

Neither  Capital One nor Chase cover the cost of emotional trauma, mental illness, disease, pregnancy, childbirth, or miscarriage.

How To File a Travel Accident Claim

If you find yourself in an accident resulting in an injury severe enough to warrant using your travel accident insurance, then you’ll need to file a claim. The process for filing a claim varies by card. Chase and Capital one, for example, both require you to file a written claim within 20 days after your accident. 

Credit-card issuers typically use a third-party insurance company to handle travel accident claims. The company's contact information should be available in your card’s benefits guide.

The benefits administrator or insurance company will send you forms within a defined period. You’ll need to return them soon thereafter to receive your payout, although you may get leeway if you aren’t able to respond quickly because of your injuries. Documents you may have to provide include: 

  • Completed and signed claim form
  • Travel itinerary
  • Police report confirming the claimed accident
  • The credit card account statement showing the charge for the common carrier or scheduled airline fare
  • Copy of the death certificate

Be sure to check with your card issuer for specific details about filing a travel accident claim. 

Finally, be aware that filing a claim for your travel accident insurance isn’t affected by any other health or travel insurance that you possess. You’ll receive your payout regardless of other coverages you have.

Do I Need Travel Accident Insurance on My Credit Card?

Since credit card travel accident insurance covers instances of severe injury or death, it may make sense for you if you’re a frequent traveler and would like a supplement to a life insurance policy. 

If that doesn’t sound like something that applies to you, you may want to look for a credit card that provides a different type of travel insurance. Cards like the Platinum Card from American Express offer benefits such as a global assistance hotline through which you can arrange for emergency medical evacuation at no cost to you. Additional types of insurance include trip delay or trip cancellation insurance, which can reimburse in the case of lost luggage, missed flight connections, or delayed flight departures.