Putting Built-In Credit Card Travel Medical Emergency Coverages to Use

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I’ve written numerous times about how rewards credit cards can do so much more for you than just earn miles and points. They help can help you easily save money on items when the price drops after the purchase, replace phones when they are broken or stolen, cover trip change or cancellation expenses when kids get sick at the last minute, provide primary car rental coverage, and so much more. If you are only using your rewards credit cards to earn points, you really are missing out on some other built-in protections that they can provide for your family.


These details can be found in the card specific benefits guide that often comes with the physical credit card, or they can also be found online with a little google searching. For example, you could search “Chase Sapphire Reserve Benefits Guide” and the online benefits guide should come right up in your search results. Because of these built-in benefits, I am very thoughtful about what card I use to pay for our flights, or even to just pay the taxes in the event we are using miles, as I want to use the card that will give me the best protections in the event of problems. Most card benefits require that you use that specific card to pay for the airfare or other common carrier transportation for that trip in order for the benefits to kick in.

I typically use either my Chase Sapphire Reserve or a Citi card such as the Citi ThankYou Premier Card to pay for our flights as I have found they offer better than average built-in trip protection coverages when you charge the flights to that card. Note that The Platinum Card® from American Express has fantastic emergency medical evacuation coverage as a built-in card benefit that will get the card member or covered family member from point of injury or illness (if 100+ miles away from home) to a “more appropriate medical facility or to a hospital near the person’s home as determined by the Premium Global Assist Hotline designated physician” for no fee for the transportation – it does not cover the medical costs incurred. This can be huge and is a built-in perk that is worth remembering – it also will pay to fly kids ages 16 and under back home for no fee if the parents’ illness and evacuation renders them otherwise unsupervised. It also will cover a round trip ticket for a family member to come be with the card member at the place of treatment if it is expected they will be there 10 days or more without someone over 16 years of age with them. Of course all of these benefits have caveats and limitations, so you can read more here.

I’ve thankfully never used a credit card’s medical evacuation coverage or an emergency medical benefit while on a trip (though maybe I should have!), but a Mommy Points reader recently had to use an emergency medical benefit not once but twice for their kiddos on a recent trip to New Zealand. Thankfully, they were willing to share their story here as a reminder to others to put those built-in card benefits to use when you need them. Here is their story…

During the first week of a one-month trip to New Zealand, my 5 year old son came down with a prolonged fever of >104 F. Because we were out of the country I knew that my medical insurance wouldn’t apply, and so called American Express Global Assist (courtesy of the Amex Platinum card) who gave us two recommendations of hospitals/urgent cares in the Queenstown area. While having your children sick when out of the country can be stressful, it was a tremendous relief to not have to search around and to have an immediate list of reputable medical locations in the area.

I also remembered that my Chase Sapphire Reserve card I had used to pay the taxes for our flights had an Emergency Medical/Dental Benefit. Fortunately, my son had just come down with a fever while traveling, and after the doctor verified that nothing else was unusual and he recovered quickly. The Urgent Care we visited cost around $230 NZD.

The last week of our trip, our 9 month old daughter then came down with a sickness as well, and because of her young age, we didn’t want to risk it getting worse while we were traveling back to the US. We visited the ER recommended by Global Assist and they were able to watch her during the night to make sure she didn’t get worse. Fortunately she recovered quickly by the next morning and we were able to resume our trip without any delays. Unfortunately, however, the hospital visit cost upwards of $800 NZD.

After our return I called the Chase Benefits line who quickly opened a case for each of our children. While I had booked our flights using our Virgin America Elevate points, I had fortunately paid the taxes using my Chase Sapphire Reserve. The agents confirmed that as long as some portion of the flight was paid for using the card, our trip would qualify for the Emergency Medical/Dental Benefit. After submitting the doctor notes, receipts, and flight information, we received a check for the total cost of medical care for both children (less a $50 deductible). I can’t express how much peace of mind I had during the trip knowing that should something go wrong we could visit the doctor without being worried about the extra cost. This benefit alone easily covered the cost of the annual fee, and makes this card a keeper.

I’m so glad that both of these kiddos recovered quickly, and I am also thankful for the reminder that these built-in coverages are there for you to use. If you travel enough, it is simply just a matter of time before someone in your crew gets sick or injured on a trip, and it is reassuring to know that even if you don’t purchase a separate medical coverage or trip insurance plan that you can leverage credit card perks to give you some coverage. Note that these credit card coverages typically have maximum benefits, and in the case of the Sapphire Reserve as used in the example above, the benefit limit is $2,500 for Emergency Medical/Dental coverage on a trip (with a $50 deductible). In other words, it wouldn’t fully cover a true catastrophic medical event, but it does have your back for incidents like the ones outlined above.

Have you ever used one of your cards’ built-in trip emergency medical or evacuation coverages?

Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.


  1. […] Travel Medical Emergencies Covered By Credit Cards:  No one likes to think about potential medical emergencies while traveling.  After all, vacations are supposed to be a relaxing, fun time.  The reality is that medical emergencies could strike when you’re abroad and could cost a fortune if you’re not prepared.  The good thing is that many credit cards cover travel medical emergencies and could totally save you financially if you’re ever caught in one of those situations. […]


  1. I’m taking my elderly father to Europe/Israel next yr. I can use my Amex Plat but what about serious hospital stays. Do you recommend these travel health insurance plans that are so common?

  2. Does the emergency coverage continue after you have reached the destination? When does it end?
    If I have a one way ticket to Bali and then get sick there and need evacuation, am I covered?
    Or do I need a round-trip ticket to be covered there.

    • You really just have to read your specific benefits guide carefully as the rules are different card to card and even can vary from benefit to benefit. For the Chase Sapphire Reserve Emergency Medical benefit it says:

      This benefit applies when You use Your Account to pay for a Trip via a Common Carrier that is greater than five (5) consecutive days but less than sixty (60) consecutive days, and is in excess of one hundred (100) miles* from Your place of Residence.

    • I think there is real value in travel insurance plans, but I know not everyone gets them, so the built-in card protections are a good compliment or way better than nothing.

  3. As someone who has recently experienced a prolonged hospital stay abroad, $2500 is just not enough for my comfort level. It’s certainly better than nothing, but I won’t travel without more comprehensive travel medical insurance. It’s a low cost/high upside purchase in my opinion.

    • For sure – it isn’t going to cover medical disasters, but is way better than nothing and certainly something to be aware of. I think the best course is to take a close look at your health insurance plan to see what it does and does not do away from home, look at what your credit cards can offer you, and if there is a gap you are not comfortable with, then turn to a third party insurance plan.

  4. So…. I book a car in April using Chase points. I’m on my July vacation and end up in the ER. Cut the trip short by 15 days. I call Chase and Alamo to tell them I’m returning the car 15 days sooner than planned. Alamo says call Chase. Chase says call Alamo. Whatever.
    Now …. I thought the card protected me if I had a medical emergency. BUT …. Because I didn’t book a “vacation package” using the card they will not refund my points. So I lose about 30,000 unused points. And this is supposed to be the awesome card that every traveler should have?

    • The card you put your airfare/train ticket/other scheduled transportation on should be the one that protects you. Did you have a flight or similar as part of your journey?

  5. While I’m traveling to Cancun from Massachusetts I had to delay my flight twice because I was so sick. I injured my shoulder also that possibly might need surgery. I got a bad gastro-intestinal infection which lated to my sugar spiking and blood pressure out of control seizures e t c. I was trying to stick it out but finally on Friday June 1st 2018 I knew I had to go to the hospital because I would not have made it through the airport. I was severely dehydrated because I couldn’t eat or drink for over a week. I used my Jet Blue Plus card every portion of my vacation. I also had Alliance but only until May 19th and I changed my flight because I wasn’t well enough to travel. does anybody have any idea on what my next step will be. while I was in Cancun the hospital wanted to admit me for 3 to 5 days on Friday. I refused because I was just trying to get home to see my own doctor I left on Saturday June 2nd. tomorrow I need to see an Orthopedic surgeon for my left shoulder. I was advised to do so by my primary doctor who I saw today

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