Credit Card Travel Insurance For Seniors

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 National Bank World Elite MasterCard and the Desjardins Odyssey World Elite MasterCard both give 15 days of travel medical insurance for those aged between 65-74.

If you have the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite or Scotiabank Platinum American Express, you’d get 10 days of travel medical coverage if you’re between the ages of 65-74.

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.

Insured amount

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.

Final Thoughts

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

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8 Comments

  1. Jan on January 6, 2020 at 8:53 am

    If I have eligible coverage from my credit card as well as a separate multi trip travel insurance policy, what happens if I need to make a claim? Which company will pay the medical and related expenses?
    Thanks

    • JayBee on January 6, 2020 at 10:20 am

      Go with the company that has the largest coverage for you and when you make a claim they will ask if you have other coverage. Just give them the info and they sort it out. In your example, probably the multi trip group.

    • Barry Choi on January 6, 2020 at 2:38 pm

      Jan,

      I would personally put in a claim with your outside plan (non credit card) as that policy will likely be better. That said, always read the fine print.

      Some people purchase just an outside travel medical insurance policy and then rely on their credit card for other travel insurance.

  2. JayBee on January 6, 2020 at 9:02 am

    I am fortunate enough to travel outside of my home province often and purchase policies (not credit card insurance). I’m not sure the writer has made it clear that even if you get an underwritten policy months ahead of your trip, up and until the day you leave, you must advise them of any medical changes…even if it’s an antibiotic for an infection, cold or otherwise. It wasn’t touched upon but everyone’s provincial health care covers them for their home province. Live in Ontario and go to Alberta and have to incur ambulance charges and other care… don’t assume your province will cover it all. Thanks for your blog!

    • Barry Choi on January 6, 2020 at 2:40 pm

      JayBee,

      That’s correct, any changes to medication could affect your coverage. Many people also assume your provincial healthcare carries to other provinces but not everything is covered.

  3. Mike Jeffries on January 6, 2020 at 12:16 pm

    I use the KISS principle so that I’m not tripped up! A credit card is for one simple purpose. It’s a convenient way to book flights + hotels. That’s it! Simple.

    If you need travel insurance buy it separately and when you do you know what you are getting.

    More important is health insurance. Buy it a day or two before your trip at an agency that *knows* what you need. It then will be current re: present health before the trip so that any health changes, new prescriptions *and* pending medical tests are known by you and the insurance company prior to your trip.

    Don’t depend on your credit card to do everything well! It usually won’t.

    • Barry Choi on January 6, 2020 at 2:42 pm

      Mike,

      Travel medical used to be a big deal for me when it came to credit card insurance but I don’t really rely on it anymore. I’ll definitely use my credit card insurance for trip delays and lost luggage, but when it comes to medical, an outside policy is what I prefer.

  4. fbgcai on January 21, 2020 at 8:41 am

    How about a follow up article on “outside” travel policies particularly for those of us over 65?
    The 15 day coverage by the credit cards is essentially useless save quick shopping trips.
    I thought I’d found a good “outside” policy in World Nomads however they only cover up to age 66 – whoppee!

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