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Traveling Abroad? These Credit Cards Offer the Best Emergency Medical Coverage

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Imagine you’re hiking in the Himalayas or on a rural safari in Kenya, enjoying the scenery, and you become severely injured. The closest medical facility is hundreds of miles away, so you need medical evacuation services. An air ambulance comes and gets you to the nearest hospital — and slaps you with a five-figure bill.

Even if you’re not an adventurous traveler, you could still become seriously ill while traveling, and a lengthy recovery time paired with your fragile health might require an expensive evacuation to the nearest medical facility. Luckily, choosing the right credit card can come with more than lucrative travel rewards: it can also help pay for your medical evacuation and emergency transportation.

In fact, from concierge services that can help you get a prescription replaced while abroad to lost luggage insurance, the best travel credit cards come with plenty of protections to ensure your trip goes smoothly — and cover you when it doesn’t.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® and the Citi Prestige® Credit Card are two of the best credit cards on the market when it comes to emergency medical and travel protections. While they come with higher annual fees than most credit cards, they also come with generous travel insurance and medical evacuation policies that can save you money, along with a range of premium perks and travel rewards. Terms apply.

Comparing top 2 cards’ medical and travel protections

Chase Sapphire Reserve® vs. Citi Prestige® Credit Card
Chase Sapphire Reserve® Citi Prestige® Credit Card
Medical evacuation Up to $100,000 Up to $100,000
Emergency medical/dental benefit Up to $2,500 None
Travel accident insurance Up to $1,000,000 for the loss of life, loss of sight in both eyes, loss of two limbs, or a combination of at least two of the following: loss of speech, loss of hearing, loss of sight in either eye, loss of one limb; up to $500,000 for the loss of hearing, loss of speech, loss of sight in one eye, loss of one limb; up to $250,000 for the loss of both a thumb and index finger that are on the same hand Up to $1,000,000 for the loss of life, sight in both eyes, two limbs, one limb and sight in one eye, or all hearing and speech; up to $500,000 for the loss of all hearing, speech, sight in one eye, or one limb; up to $250,000 for the loss of both a thumb and index finger that are on the same hand
Trip cancellation and interruption protection Up to $10,000 for each covered trip of 60 days or fewer Up to $5,000 for each covered trip
Trip delay reimbursement Up to $500 per covered ticket for reasonable expenses (such as food, accommodation, and toiletries) during delays of more than 6 hours Up to $500 for each covered traveler, per trip for reasonable expenses (such as food, accommodation, and toiletries) during delays of 3 hours or more

How credit cards can come to the rescue when traveling

Most travel credit cards come with an array of protections that can help you get out of sticky situations when traveling. Here are a few of the most commonly offered benefits.

Baggage insurance

Baggage delay insurance typically covers any reasonable purchases you need to make, such as toiletries or clothing, if your bags are delayed for more than a certain amount of time. Lost luggage insurance reimburses you for purchases made in order to repair or replace damaged or lost luggage and the items within. In both cases, any protection offered by the airline or your travel insurance will need to be used before you can use the coverage offered by your credit card.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve®, for example, covers up to $100 per day for up to five days if your baggage is delayed by at least six hours. If your luggage is lost or damaged, it will cover up to $3,000 for each insured person for each trip, as well as up to $500 for jewelry and electronics.

Trip cancellation/interruption protection

Trip cancellation and interruption insurance reimburses you for any nonrefundable, prepaid trip expenses, such as hotels or tours, that were placed on your card in the event that you can’t begin or complete your trip for a covered reason. Covered reasons for trip interruption or cancellation typically include death or accidental injury or illness of you, someone traveling on your reservation or an immediate family member, as well as severe weather, flight delays, terrorist acts, jury duty, military orders, uninhabitable accommodations, quarantine or financial insolvency of the travel company with which you booked your trip.

Concierge services

The concierge services offered by most premium travel rewards credit cards — such as the travel and emergency assistance services offered by the Citi Prestige® Credit Card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve® — are useful for more than just travel booking and dinner reservations. You can also call up these hotlines for assistance with finding a nearby English-speaking clinic, hospital, physician or dentist, and they can also help you refill or replace a prescription.

Emergency medical/dental insurance

This benefit isn’t offered by the Citi Prestige® Credit Card. However, the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, does offer an emergency medical/dental benefit that may reimburse you for up to $2,500 for necessary emergency medical or dental treatment during your trip. Your trip must be at least five days and less than 60 days, and you must be traveling at least 100 miles away from your primary residence.

Travel accident insurance

This benefit, otherwise known as common carrier insurance, pays out to you or your beneficiaries in the event of an accident — defined as death or loss of speech, hearing, sight or limb — while you are or an accompanying family member is in transit on a plane, ship, train, bus or shuttle. The trip must have been purchased using your credit card or using rewards earned from your credit card.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® covers the widest range of people, including not only you, your spouse or domestic partner and your dependents, but also adopted children, stepchildren, siblings and siblings-in-law, parents and parents-in-law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, grandparents, and grandchildren.

While these services and protections can be helpful if you find yourself ill or injured while abroad, in more dire emergency situations, you’ll likely need to get emergency medical treatment and get home as soon as possible. That’s when emergency evacuation and emergency transportation come in handy.

What does emergency evacuation/transportation typically cover?

If you end up needing an emergency evacuation while abroad, that’s when bills start to get really costly.

Credit cards that offer this benefit will cover a portion or all of the cost of transport that has been deemed as required by a medical professional in order for you to receive care for an injury or illness. It usually has to be pre-approved and arranged by your credit card’s benefits administrator.

In addition to transport, any medical supplies and services given in connection with your evacuation are covered, but the medical treatment you receive upon arrival is not.

This situation might not be as uncommon as you’d think. An emergency evacuation might occur if you’re severely injured or ill and the local medical facilities where you’re traveling are deemed inadequate to treat you. It may also be required after you’ve received treatment at a local facility but need to return to your residence for a recovery period.

Even with an injury as basic as a broken ankle, an emergency evacuation might be necessary if you’re hiking in a rural area with no other way to get to a medical facility. Finally, this benefit also covers the return of your remains to your home in case of death.

Aside from the primary cardholder, this benefit can also cover immediate family members, such as a spouse, domestic partner, and dependents under the age of 18 or 23. Some cards may cover dependents up to age 26 if they are full-time students. All or a portion of the trip must have been paid for with your credit card.

Emergency transportation, on the other hand, is a benefit that will cover a flight for a relative or friend to come visit you if you’re hospitalized for more than a certain amount of time. The Chase Sapphire Reserve® allows you to use this benefit if you’re hospitalized for more than eight days.

This benefit can also cover flights home for any dependents who are traveling with you and left unattended due to your injury or illness.

Do you get reimbursed or get a statement credit?

In most cases, your credit card’s benefit administrator will arrange for emergency evacuation and pay for the cost directly, so you never have to worry about getting reimbursed. This is why it’s crucial to have any emergency transportation approved and arranged by your benefits administrator beforehand in order to receive the benefit.

For most other travel-related benefits, such as emergency medical and dental insurance, lost and delayed baggage, trip delay reimbursement and trip cancellation or interruption insurance, you’ll need to pay out of pocket and be reimbursed later after filing a claims form and providing receipts.

Are there exclusions/limitations?

To take advantage of your credit card’s travel-related benefits, you’ll need to have purchased your travel with your credit card. Additionally, any additional coverage you have that’s applicable, such as travel insurance, health insurance, protections offered by your airline or government benefits will need to be applied first before you can use the insurance offered by your credit card.

For emergency evacuation, you must be traveling at least 100 miles from home for the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, and 75 miles from home for the Citi Prestige® Credit Card. Your home is typically determined by your billing address. The Chase Sapphire Reserve® requires your trip to be more than five days but no longer than 60 days, and the Citi Prestige® Credit Card requires your trip to be less than 60 days.

There are a number of exceptions that aren’t covered by your emergency evacuation benefit. The biggest is anything not deemed a necessary emergency by your benefits administrator and a medical professional, and pre-existing conditions.

Other common exceptions include trips taken for the purpose of medical tourism, illness or injury that is self-inflicted or a result of illegal activity or war, and travel to countries deemed unsafe by the U.S. government.

Bottom line

If you ever end up having a medical emergency when traveling, your credit card could be your saving grace. Not only can an emergency evacuation benefit save you thousands of dollars, but emergency transportation can make sure your loved one is by your side if you’re stuck in a foreign country with a serious injury or illness. Insurance for trip cancellation and interruption, baggage delay and loss, and emergency medical care can also be a big money-saver. The next time your vacation goes awry, check to see if your credit card can help you out.

The information related to the Citi Prestige® Credit Card has been independently collected by LendingTree and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.