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Travel is never cheap, and that’s especially true if you’re flying to a destination far from home. For that reason and plenty of others, savvy consumers tend to pay for travel insurance before they even head to the airport.
With a travel insurance plan, you can buy coverage that will reimburse if you if your trip is canceled or delayed for a covered reason beyond your control. You can even purchase “cancel for any reason” policies that let you back out of your trip any time you want.
Other inclusions travel insurance policies offer include medical coverage, baggage delay coverage, lost luggage insurance, travel accident insurance, and more.
Many consumers lean on the free travel insurance their credit cards provide — and that can sometimes make sense. After all, premier travel credit cards offer most of the coverage you get with a travel insurance policy for free. And if you can get insurance for free, why pay for it?
The reality is, there are a ton of reasons to buy travel insurance even if you get some coverage with a credit card. Here are a few of the most important details to consider as you plan your next trip.
Pay for sufficient medical coverage
Even though travel credit cards are pretty good about offering perks like trip cancellation/interruption insurance and baggage delay coverage, they’re notoriously bad when it comes to offering medical coverage. That’s a real problem if you’re traveling to a destination where your own health insurance coverage won’t work, such as any trip abroad.
With travel insurance, however, you can buy a policy that offers a much higher limits for medical expenses. It wouldn’t take long to rack up huge medical bills if you wind up in the hospital due to illness or broken bones during your trip, but you can protect yourself with adequate travel insurance coverage that includes coverage for medical bills. (See also: How Emergency Medical Coverage Could Save Your Vacation)
You need medical evacuation coverage
In addition to medical coverage, you’ll want to make sure you have adequate coverage for medical evacuation. This type of coverage will kick in if you become injured or ill and require emergency transportation to get back home. This could mean emergency evacuation in a plane or helicopter with a full medical team, so it’s easy to imagine just how much you’d be stuck paying if you didn’t have this type of coverage.
Most credit cards don’t offer emergency evacuation coverage and ones that do may not offer high enough limits to help you sleep well at night. If you’re worried about the high cost of medical evacuation if you were to become sick or injured overseas, you’ll want to buy travel insurance that includes this benefit.
Credit card coverage may not even apply
Also note that some credit card insurance coverage may not even be applicable to you. Primary auto rental coverage, which is a popular credit card benefit, is a great example of coverage that doesn’t always work.
Many credit card auto insurance policies only cover certain types of cars for certain amounts of time. For example, some cards only offer insurance for rental periods of 31 days or less. And some credit card auto insurance policies also limit the number of countries you can use your coverage in, meaning it may not work at all depending on where you travel to. (See also: 7 Times Travel Insurance Is Worth It)
You may want higher coverage limits
A final reason to purchase travel insurance is the fact that you get to select your coverage limits. This is unlike credit card coverage since it gives you whatever limits your credit card issuer decides.
For example, some cards offer free baggage insurance that can cover you if your baggage is lost by a common carrier. However, this benefit sometimes includes limits on the cost per person, per trip for carry-on baggage and checked bags, which may not be enough if you have brand-name luggage that would cost a lot more than that to replace.
The same is true with trip cancellation/interruption insurance, which is one of the most important valuable travel benefits you can buy. Travel credit cards that offer this perk tend to limit it to $10,000 per person and $20,000 per trip, which may not be enough if you splurged for a luxurious trip of a lifetime.
The bottom line
There are times when it makes a lot of sense to rely on your credit card’s insurance coverage, but you have to make sure you have the coverage you need with high enough limits to count. In many cases, credit card travel insurance just isn’t enough.
If you’re on the fence about whether you have the coverage you need to protect yourself, you may want to buy a travel insurance policy just in case.