Today, we feature a special Pointshogger contributor, Luc Hamelin, who has been an Aeroplan member since the program was launched in 1984. He has learned through travel experience that reading the fine prints on travel documents can make a huge difference in outcomes and expectations. Recently, the focus of his interest has been on travel insurance associated with Canadian credit cards. He is not an insurance professional. Hopefully this FAQ for travellers will serve as an eye-opener. Bon voyage!
The information provided is for educational purposes only. It should not be relied upon and is not a substitute for careful review of insurance policies or consultation with qualified professionals.
Keep in mind that in all cases, it is assumed that you charged the specific expense towards the credit card in question to qualify for the travel insurance coverage.
1) Are Aeroplan award tickets booked with my credit card covered by travel insurance?
Unfortunately, most credit cards will not cover your Aeroplan trip for air accidents, flight cancellations, flight interruptions, flight delays, baggage delays, baggage damage, baggage theft, etc. However, you and perhaps family members travelling with you might be covered for Emergency Health Insurance. It depends on the wording of your insurance certificate. You may want to check the coverage for « insured » or « covered » persons as per the contract terms and conditions.
The following credit cards may cover your Aeroplan award booking if you used it to pay your taxes and fees (in alphabetical order):
- American Express Canada AeroplanPlus Gold – no coverage for emergency health insurance
- CIBC Aerogold Visa Infinite and Infinite Privilege
- Desjardins Odyssee – unlimited $ for trip interruption after departure: outstanding!
- TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite and Infinite Privilege
2) How does hotel insurance work on my credit card?
The following are credit cards that offer hotel insurance:
- Scotiabank American Express Gold
- American Express Canada SPG
- American Express Canada Gold
*Note that MBNA’s Best Western MasterCard (hotel credit card) does not provide hotel coverage.
Insurance certificates for credit cards refer to secondary insurance coverage for hotel room situations. In addition, items covered in hotel rooms are usually specific and limited, with lots of exclusions! An official police report from the local authorities may be required. What does that mean? It means that you need to report your loss to your home insurance first. Your home insurance is considered the primary insurer.
Reporting hotel theft to your home insurance company will impact your insurance record. Consequently, you will likely be impacted financially at home insurance renewal. Also, keep in mind that your home insurance has a deductible. Is the deductible amount worth the reporting process if you experience a hotel room event? It is therefore pertinent to do the math to get a clear picture of your situation when it happens.
In my opinion, hotel insurance is not value added. I have never heard of anyone using it. I do not consider this a perk even though credit card evaluations include this option.
3) Is my pet covered with travel insurance with my credit card?
The following credit cards have some coverage (in alphabetical order) :
- CIBC high end Cards (Infinite, Privilege or Gold card)
- Desjardins Odyssee
- National Bank World Élite MasterCard
If you have the National Bank World Élite MasterCard or Desjardins Odyssee card, medical emergency insurance will cover the cost to bring back the covered person’s pet to the province of residence, up to a maximum of $500.
If you have a CIBC high end card, there is no specific mention of coverage for the pet. However, the travel insurance contract has specified « kennels » costs as « incidental expenses ». CIBC incidental expenses also include house-sitting, child care. Incidental expenses cover a maximum of $300 in total.
4) Does my credit card cover accidents when travelling with public transportation?
You can be covered for Accidental Death/Dismemberment Benefits insurance with the following credit cards:
- American Express Gold – $500,000
- BMO- $500,000
- CIBC – $500,000
- Desjardins – $1,000,000
- Scotiabank Amex Gold – $500,000
- TD – $500,000
The following credit cards offer no coverage, unless there is an exception:
- Capital One – there is a specific exclusion clause for common carriers
- RBC – $500,000 – not covered since your trip is not outside your province
- RBC – $500,000 – not covered since your trip is not outside your province
Eastern Canada Example – Exception for RBC
In the National Capital Area (Ottawa/Gatineau): if you can prove that your trip was between Québec and Ontario, the RBC transaction could be covered since you travel outside your province of residence.
Western Canada Example – Exception for RBC
In Lloydminster: if you can prove that the purchase of your trip ticket was between Saskatchewan and Alberta, the RBC transaction could be covered since you travel outside your province of residence.
5) Does travel insurance on my credit card cover trips by boat or ferry?
You can be covered for Accidental Death/Dismemberment Benefits insurance.
Eastern Canada Example
If you plan to use the ferry between PEI (Souris) and the Magdalen Islands (Cap-aux-Meules), most credit cards will cover you, except National Bank World Élite MasterCard. If you plan to use the cruise ship from Montreal to the Magdalen Islands, National Bank of Canada World Élite MasterCard and RBC cards insurance will not cover you since trips within the same province are not covered for RBC customers.
Western Canada Example
If you plan to use the Black Ball Ferry between Port Angeles, WA, USA and Victoria, BC, most credit cards will cover you, except National Bank of Canada World Élite MasterCard. If you plan to use the ferry between Vancouver (Tsawwassen) and Victoria (Swartz Bay), National Bank of Canada World Élite MasterCard and RBC cars insurance will not cover you since trips within the same province are not covered for RBC customers.
6) How does medical emergency coverage on my credit card work?
Medical emergency coverage can be challenging to understand. Most Canadian websites evaluating credit cards their assessment on the eligibility period, e.g., 3 days, 15 days, 21 days, 31 days, etc. While this factor is to be considered, a basic question remains: « Will you be covered? »
Making a comprehensive matrix of it is a real challenge. Reading the fine prints of your travel insurance certificate may be needed here. To start, you may want to contact your credit card travel insurance hotline for clarification. Toll free numbers can be found in your credit card insurance booklet.
Refer to the definition section of your Travel Medical Emergency Insurance booklet. Start a detailed reading of the following: « insured person », « covered person », « stable » and « pre-existing condition ». Pay special attention to your contract definitions, including age. Health status prior to departure is critical. Reading the fine prints is key to determine whether you will be covered for medical emergency travel insurance or not. It will also detail if family members are covered or not. In a few cases, the insurance will cover family members even if you do not travel with them. Other times, specific conditions are indicated, such as every part of the trip must follow the exact same itinerary as your. Otherwise, you may not be covered! In general, most medical emergency travel insurance policies highlight the following:
- Have I sought the attention of a physician over the last 3 or 6 months?
- Was I investigated, diagnosed, treated, had treatment or gotten advice to further investigated or altered over the last 3 or 6 months?
- Has there been a change of prescribed medication over the last 3 or 6 months? IMPORTANT- a new medication or increase/decrease in dosage constitutes a change!
Go to the limitations and exclusions section of your Travel Medical Emergency Insurance booklet. Read every line of it.
Here are typical limitations and exclusions:
- Non-emergency treatment/medication
- Pregnancy and childbirth and neo-natal care (travel within 9 weeks of the expected delivery date)
- Participation in a criminal offence
- Self-inflicted injuries and suicide
- Emergency due to medication, drug, alcohol or other substance abuse
- Acts of terrorism
- Mental/emotional disorders
- Participation in certain high-risk sports -read the fine prints of your policy carefully! If you like to do certain sports on vacation, certain credit cards will not cover you!
7) Does my credit card travel insurance cover a scuba diving accident while outside of Canada?
Most credit cards consider scuba diving as a high-risk sport. If you have a medical emergency related to this sport, it may not be covered, unless you already hold a scuba designation from a certified school/certified body. Also excluded are sports like mountaineering, bungee jumping, parachuting, hang-gliding, skydiving, or other dangerous sports or activities. These sports are likely those we make time to do when on vacation. Bottom line, if you plan on doing sports and activities while on vacation, check the fine prints carefully before you depart. Call your credit card insurance in advance to check the coverage!
8) Does travel insurance on my credit card cover an airline strike or lockout on the day of my return?
Flight delays and cancellations due to labour relations issues are not covered by credit card travel insurance.
9) I had a medical emergency outside my province of residence. This condition prevents me from driving my vehicle home (or the one I rented). How is that covered?
If you have a medical emergency and become unable to return the vehicle to my residence or car rental agency, the following credit cards will cover you costs:
Best Credit Cards
- National Bank World Élite MasterCard – $5000 coverage
- Desjardins Odyssee – $2500 coverage
- American Express Canada high end cards – « reasonable » expenses
- Capital One – $1,000
- CIBC High End credit cards – $1,000
- RBC High End credit cards – « reasonable » expenses
- Scotiabank American Express Gold – $1,000
- TD Aeroplan – $1,000
10) How does credit card car rental insurance work for Quebec residents?
Most high end credit cards provide coverage for car rental collision/loss damage waiver (CDW/LDW) when the full cost of the car rental is on the credit card and decline the CDW insurance offered for a period up to 48 days. Unlike other Canadian provinces, Quebec is governed by the Civil Code. Following has been the result of my research for Quebec residents. If anyone has suggestions for other Canadian provinces, please share: CAAQuebec.
Check if you need an international driver’s licence. Carefully read the conditions of the car rental contract before you sign it. Check the fees that will be requested at the agency:
- time and place you will be picking up and returning the vehicle
- extra amount for eco-tax, airport fee, highway improvement tax, tourist tax, etc…
- extra amount for a second driver
- extra amount for a driver aged under 25
- civil liability
Civil liability is not covered by credit cards. This is the portion of your insurance policy that will cover compensation for the other party in the event of an accident. This coverage remains compulsory in many countries and states. In Europe, it’s usually included in the vehicle rental base price. If it isn’t, make sure to purchase it.
If you have your own auto insurance, you should already be covered for civil liability in Canada and the U.S. The minimum coverage amount probably won’t be enough, however. You should have it increased to at least $2 million for the duration of your trip. That way, you’ll be better protected in the event of a claim, especially in the U.S., where lawsuits are definitely not to be taken lightly.
If you have Quebec car insurance and will be renting in Canada or the U.S., three options are to be considered:
- Check whether your insurance policy includes Endorsement Q.E.F. 27, “Civil Liability For Damage to Non-Owned Automobiles.” If it is, you’ll be covered exactly as if you were driving your own vehicle, with the same options and deductible amount, and up to a specific amount.
- If you’ll be relying on the coverage included with your auto insurance or your credit card, ask the issuer of the insurance to send you the necessary proof in writing. (You’ll find the Q.E.F. 27 endorsement after the main section of your insurance contract; also, the reverse side of your proof of insurance document—the one you carry in your wallet—includes a summary of your coverage.) A printout of the conditions downloaded from the Web isn’t enough. If your policy is in French, ask for an English version as well, to show if needed.
- If you are charging the rental to your credit-card account, check whether insurance is provided by the card issuer.
- If neither of the above options is available to you, choose the insurance that the rental agency offers you.
If you’re renting a vehicle overseas (outside Canada or the US), two options are to be considered:
- If charging the rental to your credit-card account, check whether insurance is provided by the card issuer. If it is, you must refuse the insurance offered by the rental agency.
- If not, accept the insurance offered by the rental agency, because Endorsement Q.E.F. 27 does not cover you outside Canada and the U.S.
In addition, before you sign the contract, ask if you are allowed to drive the car outside of the state. For example, certain car rental agencies in Florida prohibit any travel outside that state. Also, if you want to travel to Mexico, ask if you are allowed to drive there.
Certain credit cards will cover for loss or theft of personal belongings in the vehicle, such as cell phones, portable computers, electronic and communication devices.