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Travel is one of life’s great pleasures but can be both stressful and expensive when things go wrong. When trips are canceled or interrupted, your bags are lost or delayed, or worst of all, you or one of your traveling companions falls ill or is injured, how will you handle the inevitable, unplanned-for and often significant expenses?

In this article, we will compare the following five options for insuring travel expenses:

  • a budget travel insurance policy,
  • a deluxe travel insurance policy,
  • a no-fee credit card with high cash back,
  • a no-fee credit card with lower cash back, and
  • a premium travel credit card with a very high annual fee ($550).

We will also compare the insurance coverage needs for two kinds of trips, a long weekend driving trip for two people and a two-week international family vacation for four.

We will first consider how each of the five options covers important and most-requested features for travel insurance, including:

Trip Cancellation

Trip Cancellation: reimburses the cost of the trip if it is canceled because of circumstances outside of the traveler’s control. The options range from no coverage to 100%.

  • Budget travel insurance: 100% of trip cost (10-15 covered reasons)
  • Deluxe travel insurance: 100% of trip cost (25-30 covered reasons)
  • No-fee credit card #1: $0
  • No-fee credit card #2: $1,500 per person, maximum of $6,000 per trip (limited covered reasons)
  • Premium travel credit card: $10,000 per person, maximum of $20,000 per trip (limited covered reasons)

Trip Interruption

Trip Interruption: a trip may be interrupted for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to transportation failure, issues with lodging and disruptions because of natural disasters. Trip interruption will cover your expenses if something disrupts your trip while you are traveling. Having to book last-minute air tickets, lodging and rental cars can be expensive, so some interruption coverage is greater than the cost of the trip. The options here range from nothing to 150% of the cost of the trip.

  • Budget travel insurance: 125% of trip cost (10-15 covered reasons)
  • Deluxe travel insurance: 150% of trip cost (25-30 covered reasons)
  • No-fee credit card #1: $0
  • No-fee credit card #2: $1,500 per person, maximum of $6,000 per trip (limited covered reasons)
  • Premium travel credit card: $10,000 per person, maximum of $20,000 per trip (limited covered reasons)

Trip Delay

Trip Delay: transportation delays can lead to additional expenses for transit, lodging, meals and more. The options considered here range from no coverage to $2,000 per person for unplanned delay-related expenses.

  • Budget travel insurance: $750 per person
  • Deluxe travel insurance: $2,000 per person
  • No-fee credit card #1: $0
  • No-fee credit card #2: $0
  • Premium travel credit card: $500 per person

Baggage Delay

Baggage Delay: when baggage is delayed, travelers must often purchase clothes, toiletries, and other things. The coverage here ranges from no coverage to $500 per person.

  • Budget travel insurance: $400 per person
  • Deluxe travel insurance: $500 per person
  • No-fee credit card #1: $0
  • No-fee credit card #2: $0
  • Premium travel credit card: $100 per person per day, $500 maximum

Lost Luggage

Lost Luggage: this coverage provides money to replace the items lost in travel. Coverage ranges from $0 to $3,000 per person.

  • Budget travel insurance: $2,000 per person
  • Deluxe travel insurance: $2,500 per person
  • No-fee credit card #1: $0
  • No-fee credit card #2: $0
  • Premium travel credit card: $3,000 per person

Medical Evacuation

Medical Evacuation: while this type of coverage is often not even thought about and rarely used, it is extremely important. If you have a serious medical emergency while traveling, this coverage will provide for you to be transported safely to the nearest adequate medical facility or home in an air ambulance, medical plane, or other vehicle as needed. This kind of transportation can be very expensive, and coverage ranges from nothing to $1,000,000 per person.

  • Budget travel insurance: $500,000
  • Deluxe travel insurance: $1,000,000
  • No-fee credit card #1: $0
  • No-fee credit card #2: $0
  • Premium travel credit card: $0

Emergency Medical

Emergency Medical: medical treatment while traveling is sometimes not covered under primary health insurance, especially when traveling abroad (and Medicare doesn’t offer coverage when abroad). This coverage provides up to $250,000 for emergency medical expenses.

  • Budget travel insurance: $100,000
  • Deluxe travel insurance: $250,000 per person (or more)
  • No-fee credit card #1: $0
  • No-fee credit card #2: $0
  • Premium travel credit card: $0

Accidental Death & Dismemberment (AD&D)

Accidental Death & Dismemberment provides a cash payment if a traveler is injured or dies while traveling. Different injuries pay different amounts, with coverage up to $100,000.

  • Budget travel insurance: $10,000
  • Deluxe travel insurance: $100,000
  • No-fee credit card #1: $0
  • No-fee credit card #2: $0
  • Premium travel credit card: $0

Rental Car Damage

Rental Car Damage: this covers damage to any cars you rent, up to $75,000 depending on the policy.

  • Budget travel insurance: $35,000 (optional coverage)
  • Deluxe travel insurance: $50,000 (optional coverage)
  • No-fee credit card #1: $0
  • No-fee credit card #2: value of the vehicle, subject to limitations
  • Premium travel credit card: $75,000

The Cost of Covering Two Very Different Trips

To facilitate a practical comparison of these options and their coverage and cost, we will look at the expense of insuring two different trips with these products. The first trip is a long weekend driving trip for two people, with a total cost of $1,000. The second trip is a two-week vacation to Italy for an American family of four, with a total cost of approximately $15,000.

Trip #1

For the $1,000 long weekend for two people, the basic insurance policy is very inexpensive. It is estimated at $24.05, with optional travel accident (+$1.08) and car rental coverage (+$4.57), for a total basic-level comprehensive travel insurance cost of $29.70. The extended coverage of the deluxe package is not needed for this short, inexpensive trip. Card #1 provides no coverage, Card #2 provides some coverage, and the Premium Card provides a lot of coverage (though not comprehensive and with limited covered reasons) but at a steep price of a $550 annual fee.

Trip #2

For the $15,000 two-week vacation to Italy for a family of four, the deluxe insurance policy is $482, with an additional $200 for car rental coverage. The car rental coverage may be separately covered by a credit card, though. Again, Cards #1 and #2 provide minimal to no coverage, and the Premium card provides significant (though not comprehensive and with limited covered reasons) coverage at a premium price ($550 annual fee).

Final Analysis

While there is some value to the coverage provided by Card #2 and the Premium Credit Card, both fall short of comprehensive coverage. The negatives are that Card #1 provides no coverage, Card #2 provides only minimal coverage in a few categories, and the Premium card is expensive ($550/year), has far less covered reasons than a travel insurance policy and does not cover medical evacuation and emergency medical care.

For a reasonable price, comprehensive travel insurance can provide strong coverage for unforeseen situations that might come up before your trip or while you are traveling. Using a basic travel policy for shorter, less-expensive trips and a deluxe policy for longer, more expensive trips would give you the best coverage at the best price. Having a no-fee credit card that covers rental cars is also valuable since it can save you from having to pay the optional additional fees on your travel insurance policy.

For the example trips and travel insurance policies described here, the premiums are only about 3% of the cost of the trip! This is a very small price to pay to ensure that you and your traveling companions are covered for a large amount of unexpected circumstances before or during your trip. It makes sense to protect yourself and your traveling companions (and your finances) with a comprehensive travel insurance plan.


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