Credit card vs annual multi-trip travel insurance

The main differences between credit card and multi-trip travel insurance and which might suit you best.

Compare the pair

Combing comparison sites, handing over personal details and forking out for travel insurance can sap the fun and shrink the budget of a long-anticipated holiday. But you've got to get it, so what else can you do?

How about your credit card? You might be eligible for free, ready-to-go travel insurance if you pay for some or all of your trip on your credit card. But just how does it compare to 'normal' travel insurance? That's one of the most common questions we field about travel insurance at CHOICE, so we decided to find out.

Important: Remember that credit cards come with high interest rates and fees. Factor those costs in if you're considering one of these cards and consider the financial risk if you can't afford to pay your balance right away. The average credit card holder pays $700 in interest a year if their interest rate is between 15 and 20%, according to ASIC.

How many days' travel is included?

If you're a regular traveller, either an annual multi-trip policy or travel insurance on your credit card can provide a good-value solution. Both provide year-round cover for a set annual fee, for a limited period of travel per trip. But for annual multi-trip travel insurance, the typical coverage period ranges from 15 days to three months, while credit card travel insurance ranges from 45 days up to a year.

Tally: Credit card travel insurance 1 – Annual multi-trip travel insurance 0

How much is the excess?

The standard excess for credit card travel insurance (what you'll pay for making a claim) is about $250. That's double the usual excess for annual multi-trip travel insurance of $100.

Tally: Credit card travel insurance 1 – Annual multi-trip travel insurance 1

How much cover?

The medical expenses you can claim are mostly unlimited for both types of cover. But credit card policies come out ahead for cancellation expenses, which are mostly unlimited. The item sub-limits for baggage can be five times higher with credit card policies (meaning you can get back a maximum of $5000 instead of $1000 per item). Although the limits for baggage lost temporarily are generally lower (maximum $1600 instead of $5000 for families).

Tally: Credit card travel insurance 2 – Annual multi-trip travel insurance 1

What's the price?

Technically there's no premium for credit card travel insurance but you'll pay an annual credit card fee and often have to pre-pay minimum travel costs of $500 to activate your travel insurance.

To get a comparable number we assume the traveller pays the required minimum of $500 with their credit card and doesn't pay the amount off for a year. After adding that interest charge to the annual credit card fee, almost all of the credit cards in our review are cheaper than the highest scoring annual multi-trip policy from Good2Go with a premium for a couple travelling world wide of $765.

Tally: Credit card travel insurance 3 – Annual multi-trip travel insurance 1

How's the claiming experience?

Many of the credit card policies share the same provider, underwriter and claims centres as the stand-alone travel insurers, so the claims experience depends on each insurance provider and not whether it's a credit card or stand-alone policy.

Tally: Credit card travel insurance 3 – Annual multi-trip travel insurance 1

The verdict

If you already have a credit card and use it regularly, the free comprehensive travel insurance on your card can save you money for your travels. And if you're a regular traveller without a credit card, it's worth considering if you travel at least once a year or every second year internationally.

Even with paying the credit card and interest fees we've calculated, you can save $461 if you use the cheapest recommended credit card, the NAB Premium Card, instead of the cheapest recommended annual multi-trip policy, Travel Insurance Cover.

This is presuming you don't go wild with spending on your travels, though. If you're tempted to whip out the plastic and spend beyond your means then cancel your card and find the best value single trip or annual multi-trip travel insurance policies, without the financial stress.

Read more on the pros and cons of travel insurance that comes with credit cards in our credit card travel insurance buying guide.