Last year, I went on a tour with G Adventures to Southeast Asia, and one of the requirements of the trip was to have proof of emergency medical insurance. I initially thought the emergency medical credit card benefit on my Chase Sapphire Preferred would be sufficient. However, as I started to dig deeper, I realized that it was complicated, especially with all the restrictions. To make a long story short, I ended up buying a cheap travel insurance policy that met my tour’s requirements. Though I wanted to share what I learned when digging deeper into the topic.
Why You May Need Emergency Medical Coverage
First, I think it’s important to acknowledge that medical and dental emergencies do happen when traveling. This is especially true if you’re an active traveler. Therefore, it’s important to have the right coverage when traveling away from home.
Most premium travel cards list an emergency medical and dental benefit as one of their travel perks. For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve includes reimbursement for up to $2500 for emergency medical and dental expenses if you are sick or injured during your trip. The benefit also provides up to $75 per day at a hotel if recovery is necessary (and prescribed by a doctor). The terms and conditions state that you have to be more than 100 miles away from home on a trip that is between 5 to 60 days long. Also, the card had to be used for the travel purchase or points redemption.
This sounds great, and for some trips, it might be all you need. Though there are some stipulations that you should keep in mind.
Things to Consider
1. Coverage is secondary:
The credit cards will only pay the benefit above and beyond other insurance. For example, if your medical insurance covers you while traveling, then the credit card’s coverage kicks in after your medical insurance is exhausted. If you don’t have medical insurance coverage while traveling, then the credit card coverage should substitute as your primary coverage.
2. Coverage is limited to traditional medical services:
Anything outside of normal medical treatment is likely outside of coverage. This includes homeopathic or herbal treatments, even if they are widely accepted as valid medical treatments at your travel destination. A general rule of thumb for coverage is that the service must involve a doctor and occur in a hospital.
3. Coverage excludes specific high-risk activities and destinations:
The coverage excludes activities like skydiving, scuba diving, hang gliding, and rock climbing. Also, countries deemed unsafe by the US Government are excluded from coverage. To check your destination, check the State Department’s travel site and enroll in the STEP program. For more information, see our video/post on the STEP program.
4. Coverage only extends to spouses, domestic partners, and children:
If you’re traveling with extended family members or friends, they won’t be covered even if you paid for their travel on your credit card. Also, children are only covered up to age 18. The only exception for extending coverage is if they are authorized users on your account. In this case, the benefits will extend to them as well.
5. Be aware of limited dental benefits:
Keep in mind that certain dental situations are not covered by the benefit. For example, an emergency tooth extraction is not in coverage. However, losing a filing or having a crown fall out is in coverage.
6. Medical evacuation coverage is often lacking:
In the event that you require physical transport because of an injury or worse, then you’ll need evacuation coverage. Most credit cards cover the evacuation to a major hospital, but not necessarily the transport back to your country. This is typically a requirement when booking a tour with a multi-day tour company, like G Adventure or Intrepid.
7. Call the issuer immediately:
If you encounter a medical emergency situation, you’ll need to contact the issuer as soon as possible. It’s worth getting confirmation of the coverage before getting the treatment, though only if the situation is not critical or life-threatening.
As you can see, there are a lot of rules and exclusions to this benefit. Given what I know about the benefit, I think you might be better off buying a cheap travel insurance policy before your trip. It’s better peace of mind knowing that your coverage is sufficient in case of an emergency.
There are many travel insurance providers out there. We have used World Nomads on several trips, and have always found their policies to be inexpensive and comprehensive. As a result, we have partnered with them on our site to offer travel insurance to our audience. We do get a commission if you use our link. We believe that World Nomads offers great value and service, and would highly recommend them to travelers. Our promise is that we only recommend services and products that we personally use and enjoy.
Have you ever used your credit card’s emergency medical benefit?
- “Putting Built-In Credit Card Travel Medical Emergency Coverages to Use” (Mommy Points)
- “Do You Have the Medical Evacuation Coverage You Think You Have?” (Huffington Post)
- “Do you really need travel insurance — or is credit card coverage enough?” (Today)