About once a month, I’ll get an e-mail from a reader asking about the best credit card travel insurance for seniors. It’s a great question since having travel medical insurance is a must whenever you leave your home province. But figuring out which card is the best can be a bit tricky. You need to factor in how much coverage you need, how long you’ll be travelling for and what the conditions are for your insurance to apply.
Travel Insurance for Seniors
Although many of the best travel credit cards in Canada include great travel insurance, many of them don’t really help seniors in a meaningful way. In this article, I’ll go over everything you need to consider when choosing a credit card with travel insurance for age 65+ and why you may still want to consider purchasing an outside policy. A reminder, regardless of what you go with, you need to read your policy to find out exactly what you’re covered for.
Age and length
When looking at credit card travel insurance for over 65, you could argue that the most important thing to look at is how many days you’re covered for your age. Many credit cards give 15 – 25 days if you’re under the age of 65, but if you’re 65+, those same cards typically only give you about 3 days of coverage – which isn’t very helpful.
There are a few exceptions that will appeal to seniors. The
If you have the
All of these credit cards with travel insurance for age 65+ are not bad, but many seniors travel for more than 15 days which could be problematic. Of course, the simple solution is to extend your coverage, but then you need to pay out of your pocket.
Another thing that people consider when looking at credit card travel insurance for over 65+ is the amount you’re covered for. Regardless of your age, your credit card with travel medical insurance will insure you for the same amount. Most of the time it’ll be for $1,000,000 but there are a few cards that give you $5,000,000 in coverage including the American Express Platinum Card which is what I use personally (I love unlimited lounge access). Unfortunately, the Platinum Card travel insurance only covers you up to the age of 65.
The good news is that the National Bank World Elite MasterCard and the Desjardins Odyssey World Elite MasterCard also give you $5,000,000 in travel medical coverage so overall, they both offer the best credit card travel insurance for seniors. That said, the Desjardins Odyssey World Elite MasterCard doesn’t come with flight delay insurance while the National Bank World Elite MasterCard lacks hotel/motel burglary and travel accident insurance.
Charging your travel expenses to your credit card
Here’s the interesting about travel medical insurance. You don’t need to charge any of your travel expenses to your credit card for your policy to apply. As long as you’re a cardholder, your travel medical policy would apply (assuming the reason you’re making a claim is valid).
On the flip side of things, all of your other travel insurance such as trip cancellation or lost luggage usually requires you to charge 75% – 100% of your trip expenses to your credit card for your policy to be valid.
For example, this is what the National Bank World Elite MasterCard shows for trip cancellation or interruption insurance.
“Trip cancellation or delay (up to $2,500 per insured): In the event of a trip cancellation or delay before departure, the following expenses will be reimbursed, provided that a portion or the entire cost of the trip was charged to the account.”
That basically means you only need to charge a portion of your trip expenses to your card for the trip cancellation to be valid. However, if you look under the vehicle rental insurance, it states the following:
“Eligible vehicle rental by the cardholder, paid for entirely with the card or rewards points earned with the card. Coverage applies anywhere in the world except locations where this coverage is prohibited under local law or rental agency policy.”
What that means is you need to charge the entire amount of your vehicle rental to your National Bank World Elite MasterCard for your vehicle insurance to be valid. In addition, you need to decline the car rental agency’s optional insurance.
You really need to read the fine print to find out what the conditions are for your travel insurance to apply.
Related: Life Insurance Options for Seniors
Why you may still want a separate insurance policy
Although the credit cards I’ve mentioned above may suit your needs, there’s one thing you must know about your policy. Credit card travel insurance is underwritten when you make a claim which could potentially leave you exposed.
For example, let’s say you’re on holiday and you go to the hospital due to some chest pains. The doctors there diagnose you with a minor heart attack which requires a few days of overnight monitoring and some drugs. Now let’s say you went to your family doctor four months earlier with complaints about chest pains and you’re diagnosed with indigestion. Since you had complained about a loosely related issue before, your travel insurance provider could deny your claim on grounds of a pre-existing condition.
A better solution might be to buy a multi-trip insurance policy at the start of the year. When you buy a travel insurance policy, the underwriting is done at that time. That means if you had stable health which includes no dosage changes to your medication in the last six months, you’d likely be insured for any medical treatment abroad during the time of your policy.
There are still some exceptions such as pending diagnostics or travel to destinations with a travel advisory, but the point is the underwriting is done at the time of purchase, so you’ll have a much clearer idea of what you’re insured for.
The cost of a multi-trip travel insurance policy can vary depending on your needs, but it can be quite reasonable. Yes, it’ll likely cost you more than the annual fee that comes with a credit card that includes travel insurance, but you’d probably get better coverage.
Although travel insurance included with some credit cards may be adequate for some seniors, getting a separate plan gives you better protection. This doesn’t apply to just people over the age of 65, anyone who is relying strictly on their credit card travel medical insurance may want to consider other options.
Barry Choi is a personal finance and travel expert at MoneyWeHave.com. He has been quoted by media in Canada and the United States, including The Financial Post, The Toronto Star, Business Insider, The Globe and Mail, and has appeared on HuffPost Live. You can follow him on Twitter: @barrychoi