Credit card trip-cancellation coverage

This item appears on page 34 of the April 2019 issue.

ITN subscriber Carol Anderson of Delray Beach, Florida, alerted us to a major policy change regarding the trip-cancellation/interruption insurance coverage provided by the United MileagePlus Explorer Visa card from Chase.

Before the change, the Chase United credit card provided the cardholder coverage up to $10,000 per trip for travel arrangements paid for with the card (including airfare, hotels and tours). However, an email from Chase in May 2018 informed cardholders that, as of June 1, "You can be reimbursed for up to $1,500 per trip for your pre-paid, non-refundable passenger fares, if your trip is cancelled or cut short by sickness, severe weather and other covered situations."

Carol had this question for ITN readers: "Are there any cards that do trip-cancellation coverage better?" So we asked subscribers to write in who have credit cards that offer comprehensive trip-cancellation/interruption insurance coverage on travel services purchased with the cards. We requested that they each include the type, title and level of card they have. In the responses received and printed here, wherever a card's written or posted insurance benefits language (fine print) was included, it has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Carol Anderson asked, "Are there any cards that do trip-cancellation coverage better" (than that provided by the United MileagePlus Explorer Visa card from Chase)? Yes, I know of one that's better, but it's very pricey: the United MileagePlus Club Visa card from Chase.*

At $450 a year, this card has a hefty annual fee, but among its many perks is a one-year membership to all the United Club airport lounges, which was important for my husband and me when the lounges at Newark Liberty International Airport were being renovated and not allowing anyone but members in. (A membership in the United Club alone costs $550 plus a $50 initiation fee! A pass to get into the Club for one person one time costs $59.)

You can sometimes get deals for the first year of the Club card. For example, the card's annual fee could be free for that year or, if you make the $450 payment, you may be eligible for an award of bonus miles. Currently, it appears the bonus offer is for 50,000 miles after you spend $3,000 in the first three months after your account is opened. (See

Sometimes, but not always, you have to be targeted to get one of these special offers. In January of 2018, I was targeted with the offer of getting the card for free for the first year, so when it came time to renew, we had to decide whether to cancel or pay the annual fee. We decided to keep the card for at least one more year, effectively reducing our annual cost for the two years to $225 per year.

Also, Chase offered me a loyal-customer rebate of $60 on the renewal, thus the cost of the card for each of the first two years is $195, which is much less than what we would pay to use the Club for a year, given that in any year we make six visits to a United Club. At $59 per person per visit, that comes to $708 annually.

During busy hours, Newark's United Clubs sometimes deny entry to those with one-day passes, two of which are awarded annually to United MileagePlus Explorer cardholders, or to those who want to purchase entry. The United MileagePlus Club card's unfettered access to the Club, along with the travel insurance and the additional mileage-earning power, made renewing the Club card a no-brainer for the time being.

One final thing I learned — if you cancel the United MileagePlus Club Card, you are still covered for the travel-insurance benefits if the card was active when you purchased the trip or paid for the hotels with the card.

I should add that I am skeptical about credit card travel insurance. We always buy travel insurance from the travel insurance broker Dan Drennen (Omaha, NE; call 866/979-6753 or email dan@travelinsurance, who we found by way of the wonderful insurance articles in ITN. By buying additional insurance, we may be spending more than we need to, but I feel more secure that way, especially when it comes to emergency-medical evacuation.

Jane B. Holt
Hinesburg, VT

*The Chase United MileagePlus Club Card's description of benefits explains that if your trip is canceled or cut short by sickness, severe weather or another covered situation, you, your spouse/domestic partner and your dependent children can be reimbursed up to $10,000 per trip for your prepaid (on the card), nonrefundable travel expenses, including passenger fares, tours and hotels.

In fall 2017 a friend called me, as I live near SeaTac airport. He and his wife had been on the plane there, ready to depart for Amsterdam, when his wife had excruciating pain. He and his wife were removed from the plane, and she was rushed to the hospital with appendicitis. He wanted to stay with us.

Like me, he never buys travel insurance, so he was ready to absorb the full cost of his flight and the cruise from Amsterdam. A few days later, I happened to read the benefits included in the Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi* and saw where it covered travel expenses prepaid on the card for up to $3,000 per person for all accompanying family members, up to a maximum of $6,000.**

From an earlier conversation, I knew that he had that card, so when I saw the information for travel on the Costco Anywhere card website (, I immediately sent him an email with a link.

He contacted the credit card company and ultimately got back $6,000 with no hassle.

Elston J. Hill
Burien, WA

*Citi's "Guide to Protection Benefits" states that if a trip is canceled, interrupted or extended for a covered reason, you may be reimbursed up to $5,000 per trip. To be eligible for coverage under this benefit, your Citi Card must have been used to purchase at least a portion of the trip. Only the amount charged to your Citi credit card is covered.

Parties covered are you and any family members traveling on the trip: spouse, fiancée, domestic partner, children, parents, grandparents, siblings, in-laws, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews.

The coverage provided by this benefit is secondary, meaning that this benefit will only cover expenses not reimbursed by a primary insurer.

**In July 2018, Citi reduced its maximum coverage for all family members from $6,000 to $5,000 total per trip.

Carol Anderson wanted to know which credit cards offer greater trip-cancellation insurance coverage than the United MileagePlus card. Here are the trip-cancellation insurance benefits of some cards. (Of course, there is always the fine print to review.)

Citi (American Airlines) AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard* offers up to $5,000 in trip-cancellation coverage per year, with a $99 annual fee.

Chase Sapphire Preferred** insures you up to $10,000 for covered trip expenses or you and family members up to $20,000 per trip, up to a maximum of $40,000 per year, with an annual fee of $95.

Chase Sapphire Reserve** covers you up to $10,000 for covered trip expenses or you and family members up to $20,000 per trip, up to $40,000 per year, with an annual fee of $450. It also offers a $300 travel credit.

Hope this is helpful.

Cathie Sundry
Chula Vista, CA

*The Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard's "Guide to Protection Benefits" states that their trip-cancellation/interruption insurance covers travel expenses for you and your immediate family members on purchases made with the card up to a maximum reimbursement of $5,000 per trip.

**The Chase Sapphire's "Guide to Protection Benefits" for both their Preferred and Reserve cards states that trip-cancellation insurance will reimburse up to $10,000 per trip for the cardholder or up to $20,000 for all covered family members on the same trip (with a maximum of $40,000 in a 12-month period) if a covered loss prevents the cardholder or his immediate family members from traveling on or before the departure date and results in cancellation of the travel arrangements.

The trip-cancellation benefit "is excess" over any travel insurance purchased by the insured person or any other indemnity paid for by a travel company for the same covered trip.

My wife and I have separate Chase Sapphire Reserve Visa credit card accounts. Each provides trip-cancellation insurance of up to $10,000 per trip for the account holder or up to $20,000 if there are additional family members on the same trip. It provides the same benefits for trip-interruption insurance.

Fortunately, we have not had to file a claim, so I do not know how difficult it would be to make a successful claim.

The card has an annual fee of $450, but they refund up to $300 for travel expenses, making the equivalent cost $150 a year.

Out of curiosity, I asked a Benefits Administrator, "If we used both of our Chase Sapphire cards (tours on one card and flights on the other), would that increase the insurance to a limit of $40,000?"

The answer was "No, the insurance is limited to $20,000 per trip."

We originally applied for separate accounts so that we each would receive bonus reward points, but we also were thinking we would have a total of $40K of travel insurance. Since we don't, we probably will cancel one of the cards when the annual fee is due.

Homer O. (Hop) Porter
San Diego, CA

I am aware that the Chase Sapphire Reserve card offers the cardholder trip insurance coverage of up to $10,000 per trip (limit $20,000 when including additional family members). And there is another card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred, that has it as well.

Even if you use a credit card with trip insurance benefits, you might want to supplement it with a little bit of other trip insurance coverage because, to me, the most important part of trip insurance is the medical, especially emergency-medical-evacuation coverage.

My husband and I always use Travelex Travel Insurance. It is a very good company to work with, but the cost is high.

If you do supplement the travel insurance, it should be "primary" coverage. When you purchase a primary-payer insurance policy and have to file a claim, you will find it is much easier to deal with than a secondary-payer plan, like from a credit card.

I know that additional travel insurance is not cheap, but if you ever need it, you will find that you will be glad you purchased it. Travel insurance does afford a bit of peace of mind. I have had to file claims several times and was so thankful that I did have coverage. I, personally, would never step outside the USA without it.

Vicki Stowell
Ventura, CA

The note about the Chase MileagePlus card changing their trip-cancellation coverage from $10,000 to $1,500 caught my eye. I use a Chase Sapphire Preferred card, which still has the $10,000 coverage and an annual fee of $95.

By the way, Chase also has a Chase Sapphire Reserve card that has a $450 annual fee and a ton of benefits. This card also has the trip-cancellation protection up to $10,000. I don't think the added cost of the Sapphire Reserve is worth it for me, but I am sure that it is a good deal if you travel much more than a couple of times a year.

Thank you, Carol Anderson, for alerting us that there may be changes and we need to keep informed.

Tom Selgas
San Diego CA

There is $10,000 worth of trip-cancellation coverage provided at no extra cost when purchasing trip arrangements with the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. The fee for the card is $95 per year. I've not used the benefits, so I don't know how their claim process is, but the policy seems to be a pretty standard one.

Carol Baker
El Paso, TX

My husband and I stopped using our Chase United MileagePlus Explorer credit card in late summer 2018 specifically because of the change in trip-cancellation/interruption insurance. We now use the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, which, as of this writing, still has trip-cancellation insurance coverage of up to $10,000.

United's reason for no longer providing this coverage was ridiculous. They said it was because people weren't using it. That's a GOOD thing; it's insurance! It doesn't mean that it wasn't valued.

Julie DeWalt Adamik
Carlsbad, CA

I have been a longtime user of the United MileagePlus Explorer Visa card, and I was very disappointed when Chase devalued its trip-cancellation coverage to a paltry $1,500. It is no longer my go-to credit card when I book travel.

Meanwhile, on July 29, 2018, my Citi (American Airlines) AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard increased their trip-cancellation insurance coverage to $5,000. The annual fee is $99. The card earns you points for American Airlines.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve Visa offers the cardholder trip-cancellation/interruption coverage of up to $10,000 per trip. When including all those traveling with the cardholder who qualify as immediate family members, that coverage level goes up to a total of $20,000 per trip, provided all terms have been met and cancellation or interruption was due to a covered reason.

I was told by a Chase representative that when more than two family members are traveling together, the maximum benefit amount will be equally divided proportionally among the insured persons.

As for what qualifies as immediate family, I followed up by asking about a grand niece I travel with. It turns out my nephew would be covered but not his daughter, my grandniece. Bummer.

There are many other perks to the Chase Sapphire Reserve card that make it a value, even with its $450 annual fee, including $300 annual travel credit, Priority Pass for airport-lounge access and $100 fee reimbursement for Global Entry/TSA Preferred applications (you must reapply every four years).

The Sapphire Reserve also earns versatile Ultimate Rewards points that can be used for purchasing travel with one of their many partners.

When charging my trip expenses, being aware of which card provides for me the best benefits and protections while I travel has become an art.

Patricia Bunyard
Cambria, CA

I'm the person who asked others to write in about credit cards offering trip-cancellation coverage on purchases of travel arrangements. I believe I solved my own concerns about this subject, and I want to pass on this information to my fellow ITN subscribers.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred card, which has a $95 annual fee, has the benefits formerly provided by the Chase MileagePlus Explorer: $10,000 maximum for one person on one trip or a maximum of $20,000 for two or more related people on one trip, up to a maximum of $40,000 per year.

According to a Chase Benefits department representative I spoke to, their definition of "trip" is travel from and to home, and the maximum term is 60 days. So if I put together two tours and a cruise that lasted 90 days, they wouldn't cover that at all. And the $10,000 limit is for the entire 60 days, not separate bookings within that time.

Despite the increased coverage, this doesn't cover everything that could happen, so a separate trip-insurance policy, covering medical expenses, would still be a wise purchase.

I am keeping my Chase United MileagePlus Explorer Visa card, as it carries benefits when I fly United. If I find I don't fly United very often, I'll cancel it later.

Carol Anderson
Delray Beach FL