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How Your Credit Card Can Protect You When You Travel

Every time you get ready to take a trip, you have to carefully choose what to pack. Take too much, and your bag can be cumbersome to carry and expensive to transport. But pack too little, and you could be stuck without something you really need. And although your credit card is one of the smallest things that you can take with you, it can be the most valuable. That's because some credit cards offer numerous travel protection benefits that you can rely on.

Here are some of the most valuable travel protections that your credit card can offer.

Find the best airline credit cards in Experian CreditMatch.

Rental Car Insurance

If you've ever rented a car, then you've probably experienced the hard sell when you've picked up the keys. This is when the staff implores you to pay $20 to $30 extra per day to insure the car you're picking up. But that's like paying $7,300 to $10,950 a year to insure a car. This is outrageous, especially considering that most major credit cards offer rental car insurance at no cost. To take advantage of your credit card's rental car insurance, all you have to do is pay with an eligible card and decline the optional coverage. Just note that these policies can have restrictions on the type of card and the locations where the coverage is eligible, so check with your card issuer to be sure.

The best type of coverage is primary, which doesn't require you to file a claim with your personal insurance. For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® card offers primary rental car coverage.

Trip Delay Coverage

One of the largest unexpected travel costs can happen when your travel plans are disrupted. Some airlines will pay a portion of your expenses, when the reason for delay is within their control. But you're often on your own when there's bad weather or when you're flying a budget airline. If your credit card has trip delay coverage, then you can have your expenses reimbursed.

For example, the Citi PremierSM Card offers $500 in coverage per traveler per trip for delays of at least 12 hours. Coverage can include meals, lodging, ground transportation and personal necessities such as toiletries. Coverage is valid when you are delayed by a common carrier; your passport, money or other documents are stolen; or you aren't able to board because of overbooking. This kind of coverage can also help when there's a delay due to bad weather, a natural disaster, a strike, a quarantine or hijacking.

Find the best airline credit cards in Experian CreditMatch.

Trip Cancellation and Interruption Coverage

There's no way to know when some strange or tragic event will cause you to cancel your trip, or return home immediately from a trip you're already taking. Thankfully, trip cancellation and interruption coverage can reimburse you for non-refundable expenses. Coverage varies depending on the card, but it can apply to cancellations and interruptions caused by things like illness, death of the traveler or family member, severe weather or natural disasters. Credit cards that offer this protection include the Citi PremierSM Card and the Chase Sapphire Preferred®. This coverage is also available on the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® and the Luxury Card™ Mastercard® Titanium Card™.

Baggage Delay Insurance

Have you ever found yourself waiting at baggage claim until the last bag has come and gone? When the carousel stops, it starts to sink in that your bag is missing. The airline may offer to reimburse you for your expenses while you wait for your bag, but that doesn't always happen. Baggage delay insurance offered by many credit cards will cover you if the airline doesn't. This coverage typically offers you $100 a day for delays of over six hours, in addition to compensation the airline offers, if any. Cards with this benefit include the Citi PremierSM Card and the Chase Sapphire Preferred®. Other cards with baggage delay insurance include the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® and the Luxury Card™ Mastercard® Gold Card™.

Find the best airline credit cards in Experian CreditMatch.

Emergency Assistance

There's no telling what can happen to you when you are traveling, especially in a foreign country. So it's nice to know that most credit cards have a service that assists you in the event of an emergency. For example, your card's 24/7 hotline could offer you medical and legal referrals or security and safety advice. The Discover Card's Travel Assistance service can even help you replace prescriptions and eyewear, advance medical expenses, or relay messages to your family in an emergency.

Roadside Dispatch and Assistance

Whether you're driving your own car or renting a car, your credit card can be a resource when you need help. Many credit cards offer roadside dispatch, which will send help when your car breaks down or runs out of gas, or if you get locked out. If the benefit just covers roadside dispatch, then you'll be responsible for payment of any services you receive. But some premium cards offer a complete roadside assistance benefit that includes the cost of many minor services.

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