Credit Card Travel Insurance May Not Do What You Think

The high price of premium credit cards like Avion, Aerogold, Infinite, Aventura, etc.,– the ones that go for $120 a year and require a substantial household income–all promise travel medical insurance coverage. But before you rely on them for your next international trip, check them out. You may be unpleasantly surprised.

Since free or low-priced credit cards got out of the business of insuring you for out-of-country medical emergencies (now the most they will do is offer “medical assistance” which means helping you find a doctor in Dublin but not paying his bill), the market has been left to high end cards. But if you expect them to cover you unconditionally, anywhere you go—Beirut or Singapore—get out your reading glasses.

Most of these plans will cover you only for a very limited number of days—15 is quite routine.  Then to make sure they don’t pile on the risk, most won’t cover anyone 65 or over (the most travel-friendly demographic in our society), and no way will they cover anything resembling a pre-existing condition.

And they define what a pre-existing condition is:  not you, not your dictionary, and certainly not your doctor—but then all travel insurers do that.  That leaves out a lot of people.

Dedicated, or stand-alone travel insurance, the kind you buy from banks, credit unions, travel insurance companies, travel agents, brokers, motor leagues, and the plans you find advertised on this website,  allow you to buy coverage that takes your own health status into consideration:  How many medications do you take for your high blood pressure? When was your last heart attack?  Is your diabetes controlled by diet and exercise?  Questions like these allow your insurer to provide options that fit your health profile. You may have to pay a little more if you’re in less than perfect health than if you’re a young athlete, but you have the as assurance that you are covered for the person you are.

That’s what differentiates the dedicated travel health insurance plans from those that offer out-of-country medical coverage as “add ons.” Until you see a schedule of benefits, limitations, exclusions and eligibility requirements and how they specifically apply to you and your age and health condition, assume you don’t have coverage.

If you’re not prepared to do a little homework to find out what you are getting in return for what you are paying: stay home.

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