We all have credit cards. While most used to offer some out-of-country emergency medical coverage, that’s no longer the case. Unless you know specifically what travel medical benefits your credit card covers and you see it in writing, you must assume you are not covered.
Today, only such high-end cards like CIBC Visa Infinite (for which you pay $120 a year and must have a relatively high income to qualify) cover the costs of doctors or hospitalizations while you travel out of the country. But even its health benefits are limited to the first 15 days of your trip, if you are 64 or younger. And, like most other travel insurance plans, it doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions, symptoms that required treatment, referrals to specialists, tests, or changes in medication within the 90 days before your departure.
Other more modest credit cards don’t normally cover the costs of overseas medical services any longer. They limit themselves to offering referral services or emergency assistance if you need medical care—but that simply means they will help you get the care you need, or direct you to it. They will not pay for it. Or, if they do, the benefits will be very limited.
With hospital costs running into the thousands of dollars per day, anywhere in the world—not just the United States—you need a minimum of $1 million in coverage, air ambulance repatriation to a hospital in your home community (if necessary), and direct payment to foreign hospitals and doctors. Anything less is not acceptable.
Unless your credit card guarantees you that minimum coverage and you see all of the benefits and exclusions in writing, leave your credit card for everyday purchases or other benefits, and buy stand-alone, single- or-multi trip insurance designed exclusively for out-of-country travel. That too will have limitations on pre-existing conditions, and it may require you to answer health questions or even complete a questionnaire. But at least you will have a contract that clearly shows you what you are covered for before you start your travels.
That’s a lot better than finding out (after the fact!) that because of your health, or your age, or the length of your trip, you don’t qualify for benefits. And that hospital bill of $200,000? It’s yours to pay.
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