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The coronavirus has put a temporary end to non-essential travel for Canadians, and many are scrambling to cancel or change their travel plans. Are there credit cards with trip cancellation insurance? Find out if your trip cancellation insurance credit card will reimburse your travel costs.

To say it’s been a stressful few weeks is the understatement of the year. From social distancing and quarantines to lay-offs and stock market crashes to kids homebound indefinitely, Canadians certainly have their plates full dealing with the economic crisis triggered by the coronavirus.

To add to that, travel lovers set to go on vacation may be worried about a financial hit from a cancelled trip. However, for those who charged a trip to a credit card that includes trip cancellation insurance, their credit card could be a lifeline. Some of the best Canadian credit cards feature impressive insurance packages as part of their perks. Here’s everything you need to know about trip cancellation insurance credit cards and coronavirus coverage.

How Does Trip Cancellation Work?

Trip cancellation insurance is a policy that covers a portion or all of the non-refundable travel-related expenses in the event that you need to cancel your travel plans. It’s not the same as trip interruption insurance, which kicks in after departure. Trip cancellation insurance is only applicable before your travel actually starts.

For credit cards that include this coverage, the amount of reimbursement varies by card, though on average coverage ranges from $1,500 to $2,500 per eligible person up to a max of $5,000 to $10,000 per trip. If you consider how much travellers spend on non-refundable flights and hotels, it quickly becomes clear why credit cards with trip cancellation insurance are so popular and can potentially save you thousands of dollars.

Some trip cancellation insurance policies often cover not only the cardholder but a travel companion (usually a spouse and/or dependent children who are travelling with you). Some policies may even cover grandparents, grandkids or family-in-law members so check your policy for details.

Of course, there are some catches. You will likely have to provide an acceptable reason for cancelling, backed by documentation (more on this later). Plus, aside from having an acceptable reason to file a claim, credit cards also have different rules and loopholes about when a trip’s expenses are eligible for reimbursement. For instance, some insurers require 100% of the eligible expenses to be charged to the card, while others just require that 75% of the eligible expenses be charged.

The bottom line? Read your policy and contact your credit card provider to ensure you understand the conditions.

What Are Covered Reasons for Trip Cancellation?

You can’t just cancel a trip and get reimbursed for any reason. Credit cards with trip cancellation insurance have very strict parameters about what is and what is not considered an acceptable reason to cancel a trip. Some examples of acceptable cancellation reasons may include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • An unexpected death, injury, or illness of the cardholder, an immediate family member, or travel companion. Note: you may be required to submit documentation/written confirmation from an authority figure.
  • Adverse reactions to a vaccination required for travel
  • Jury duty
  • An official government travel advisory against travel to your destination
  • A call to service
  • The conference or business meeting you were scheduled to attend is cancelled
  • Your travel provider goes bankrupt
  • A delay causing a missed connection due to weather, an accident, natural disasters, or mechanical failure

What is Not Covered by Trip Cancellation Insurance?

It depends on the policy offered by your credit card. But some examples of non-acceptable cancellation reasons include:

  • A pre-existing condition
  • Self-injury or suicide
  • Illness or injury due to alcohol or drugs
  • Acts of terrorism and war
  • Participation in a dangerous sport

An important note: some credit cards may not cover the loss of redeemed rewards. So, that if you used Aeroplan Miles or Air Miles to book a flight, it may not be possible to get back the value of the points that you lost. However, some loyalty programs are offering some flexibility for bookings. For instance, Aeroplan is allowing customers to cancel Aeroplan Flight Rewards online at no charge through March 31st. All of the Miles will be returned to your account, and any fees you paid for your booking will be returned to your original method of payment. So, you may not even need to file a claim via your credit card.

Is Coronavirus Covered By Trip Cancellation Insurance?

It’s not clear yet. So far, no Canadian credit card company specifically mentions pandemics—although policies are clear that insurance is intended to only sudden and unforeseen events. At this point, coronavirus could be considered a known event.

Some policies have clearer guidelines on what happens when a country issues travel advisories. Generally speaking, a cardholder will be covered if Canada or the destination issues an official travel advisory that states all non-essential travel is to be avoided. But this is the critical part: you will usually be eligible to file a claim only if you booked travel before an advisory was issued. If you book after a travel advisory is announced, it’s unlikely your travel costs will be reimbursed.

Luckily, most credit card providers have made efforts in the last couple of weeks to be as transparent as possible regarding how the coronavirus affects trip cancellation insurance. Here’s what we know so far:

  • RBC notes on their website that “if you booked your trip and paid for it on your RBC Credit Card prior to March 13, 2020, at 5:30 pm (EST), you may be eligible to submit a trip cancellation/trip interruption claim due to a newly issued travel advisory.”

  • BMO has issued a similar notice with the cut-off being March 13, 2020, at 5 p.m. ET.

  • Scotiabank is less clear in their statement regarding COVID-19, essentially noting that the trip must have been booked before the Canadian Government issued a travel advisory, but do not give a specific cut-off date.

  • In an email correspondence, American Express Canada stated that “As of today [March 17, 2020], a Cardmember who booked a trip on an AMEX card that includes Trip Cancellation & Trip Interruption coverage may be covered if the trip was booked before any formal travel advisory against the destination country/region/city had been issued by the Government of Canada. Booking travel plans to a destination after it has received an advisory of ‘Avoid all travel’ or ‘Avoid non-essential travel’ can impact the travel insurance coverage.”

  • TD Bank states that “A customer may be eligible for coverage if they charged their trip (in full) to their TD Credit Card that offers Trip Cancellation Insurance, before an ‘Avoid All Travel’ or ‘Avoid Non-Essential Travel’ travel advisory was issued by the Government of Canada for their destination. However, please note that each Trip Cancellation claim is evaluated on an individual basis.”

  • CIBC has released a statement similar to TD and does not give a set deadline for which travel must have been booked prior to be eligibility.

Remember, the coronavirus crisis is constantly evolving, so be sure to contact your credit card provider to get the most accurate, updated facts. At worst, you can submit a claim and hope for the best.

Our Picks for the Best Credit Cards for Trip Cancellation Insurance

There are numerous travel credit cards in Canada with excellent cancellation insurance. But here are our choices for the best credit cards with trip cancellation insurance.

Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* Card

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The Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* Card is a good option if you want the frills of a premium card but without paying a hefty annual fee. The trip cancellation insurance is first-rate: cardholders are automatically insured for up to $2,500 per person for eligible expenses (maximum $10,000 per trip) when you charge at least 75% of such trip expenses to your card and are forced to cancel/interrupt your trip for eligible causes. Also covered by this policy are your spouse, one travelling companion, and your eligible dependent children travelling with you.

The Details:

  • Annual Fee: $139
  • Minimum Income Eligibility:  Minimum annual income of $60,000 or a minimum household income of $100,000 or a minimum assets under management of $250,000
  • Credit Score Required: Good to Excellent
  • Welcome Offer: Earn up to 30,000 bonus Scotia Rewards points in your first year (that’s up to $300 towards travel )‡
  • Earn Rate: 2 Scotia Rewards points on every $1 spent on eligible grocery stores, dining, entertainment purchases, and daily transit purchases. 1 Scotia Rewards point on every $1 spent on all other eligible purchases.
  • Additional benefits: Priority Pass membership + 6 free visits, no foreign transaction fees, travel insurance
  • Purchase APR: 19.99% | Cash Advance APR: 22.99%
Learn more about the Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* Card

The American Express® Aeroplan®* Reserve Card

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While this card does come with a hefty fee ($599 per year), when you combine the perks and the insurance coverage, you get one attractive package for frequent flyers.

Along with travel insurance coverage including emergency medical, trip interruption and car rental insurance, the American Express® Aeroplan®* Reserve Card comes with the trip cancellation insurance. You’ll get reimbursed for the non-refundable and non-transferable travel arrangements you paid for with your card. However, you must charge these items to your card before your departure date and your trip must be cancelled for a covered reason. The coverage extends to $1,500 per person, per trip, and goes to a maximum of $3,000 for everyone who is insured.

Perks include Air Canada Maple Leaf LoungesTM access, priority check-in, boarding, and baggage handling; an Annual Worldwide Companion Pass if you spend $25,000 in one year; and benefits at Pearson International Airport such as free valet parking, and 15% off parking and car care services.

It also offers a pretty sweet welcome offer: a $100 statement credit plus 65,000 Aeroplan points, which is enough for a round-trip flight to Europe.

The Details: 

  • Annual Fee: $599
  • Minimum Income Eligibility: N/A
  • Credit Score Required: N/A
  • Welcome Offer: Earn up to 65,000 Aeroplan points and a $100 Statement Credit
  • Additional Benefits: Comprehensive insurance, access to select Air Canada lounges and Priority Airport services, Annual Worldwide Companion Pass, access to exclusive American Express benefits, employee card misuse protection.
  • Interest on Purchases: 16.99%| Interest on Cash Advances: 21.99%

Learn more about the American Express® Aeroplan®* Reserve Card

What You Need to File a Trip Cancellation Insurance Claim

Once again, each credit card has different requirements when it comes to making a claim (that’s why you really should read your credit card’s certificate of insurance carefully). Overall, most require some or all of the following:

  • Official flight, hotel or travel agent receipt/invoices
  • Doctor’s note or death certificate if you are cancelling for a medical reason
  • Providers may request that you show some manner of proof that the costs would not be reimbursed by your flight or hotel company

Additionally, most insurance providers request that cardholders notify them immediately upon cancelling a trip. Many providers also have deadlines for submitting a completed claim, such as within 90 days of the cancellation.

Final Word: Is Trip Cancellation Insurance Worth Buying?

While travelling for pleasure is off-limits for Canadians right now, things will eventually return to normal. The coronavirus crisis highlights the value of having trip cancellation insurance and it’s a good time to research the best credit cards in Canada with travel insurance (and maybe other perks like lounge access too) work best for you.

Another good resource to consult when considering travel insurance—or any insurance for that matter— is InsuranceHotline.com. You can get online quotes from trusted Canadian insurance providers all at once through an easy-to-use search platform and a single search can save you some serious bucks.

If you’re still unsure about how the coronavirus will affect your trip cancellation insurance, the best thing you can do is take the time to familiarize yourself with your policy and contact your provider for specific answers.

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