Travel Insurance Showdown: Reserve vs Prestige vs Platinum

Last week I reviewed the Chase Sapphire Reserve card’s travel insurance.  I was impressed with how favorably it compared to the lower cost Sapphire Preferred card.  But, how does it compare to travel insurance provided by other ultra-premium cards?

I created a new resource page: Ultra-Premium Credit Card Travel Insurance to answer that question.  There you’ll find a side by side comparison of the travel insurance benefits automatically provided by the Chase Sapphire Reserve, Citi Prestige, and Amex Platinum cards.  In the future I plan to add the Altitude Reserve as well.

Caution: I’m far from an expert on this stuff. I did my best to read through the benefit guides to figure out what was covered and when, but I can’t promise that I got all of the details correct.

At the time of this writing, the comparison chart looks like this (click through for an up-to-date view):

A few things stood out to me as I compiled the data for this page…

The Citi Prestige offers the best all-around coverage

I already knew that the Prestige card offers terrific protection for trip delays and bag delays (3 hours vs. 6 hours with the Sapphire Reserve).  But, I didn’t know that the Prestige card matches the Sapphire Reserve’s emergency evacuation coverage, and that Citi often matches Chase’s option to pay in part with your card in order to get full coverage (one big exception is with trip cancellation and interruption insurance which is fully covered when you pay in-part with Chase, but not with Citi).

Additionally, the Prestige card offers the best Roadside Assistance benefit of the three.  With Citi, there doesn’t appear to be a limit to how many times you call for a tow, a flat tire change, lockout service, etc.  And the cost of the service is fully covered (unlike with Chase were they pay up to $50 per service).

Amex offers the best emergency medical evacuation coverage

Amex hides this benefit under the title “Premium Global Assist Hotline”.  All three ultra-premium cards offer travel assistance hotlines, but only Amex’s hotline will pay for any of the services they help you with.  Specifically, they’ll pay for emergency medical evacuation and transportation, and repatriation of remains.

Amex’s version of this benefit has two fantastic aspects:

  1. Unlike with Chase and Citi, there is no cap for this benefit.
  2. You do not have to pay for your trip with your Amex card. You get this benefit simply for having the card.

Full details can be found at the bottom of our Ultra-Premium Credit Card Travel Insurance page.

It’s possible to mix and match

Let’s say you have all three ultra-premium cards.  Which should you use in order to get the best travel coverage?  Here are my recommendations for maximizing coverage (but not considering how many points are earned):

If you need:

  • Roadside assistance: Call Citi at 1-866-506-5222
  • Emergency Evacuation: Call Amex at 1-800-345-AMEX (2639) or Direct Dial Collect: 1-715-343-7979

When paying for travel, use the following cards:

  • Car rental: Pay with Sapphire Reserve for primary coverage.  The Prestige card works too for primary coverage outside of the US.
  • Flight, Cruise, or Train: Pay with Prestige card in order to get 3 hour trip delay and bag delay coverage
  • Hotel or Tour: Pay at least in part with your Sapphire Reserve. This will give you full Trip Cancellation and Interruption coverage and $2,500 per person Emergency Medical and Dental coverage. Chase requires that you pay any portion of your travel arrangements to get this coverage, so a hotel or tour charge should count.

What if you want to maximize point earnings?

The Amex Platinum card offers 5 points per dollar for flights purchased through Amex Travel, or directly from the airline (not counting the Business Platinum for this last part).  Unfortunately, though, paying for airfare with your Platinum card doesn’t help with your travel insurance coverage.  I think it’s worth paying with the Prestige or Sapphire Reserve card (both of which offer 3X rewards for flights) in order to get better coverage (unless you already pay for supplemental travel insurance).

The Citi Prestige card offers 3X for airfare, hotels, and travel agencies.  If you book tours, cruises, or trains through other means, you’ll only earn 1X.  The Sapphire Reserve meanwhile offers 3X for all travel.  I’ve already recommended, above, using the Sapphire Reserve to pay for tours, but what about cruises or trains?  If you use your Sapphire Reserve you’ll earn 3X rewards, but you’ll be stuck with 6 hour trip delay and baggage delay coverage rather than the 3 hours that the Prestige card covers.  In this case, personally, I’d go for more points over better coverage.

That leaves us with the following recommendations for which card to use and when:

  • Car rental: Sapphire Reserve
  • Flight: Prestige
  • Cruise, Train, Hotel, or Tour: Sapphire Reserve

Wrap Up

Both the Sapphire Reserve and the Citi Prestige offer a nice collection of automatic travel protections when you pay at least in part for travel with those cards.  Either card can be used as a substitute for purchasing travel insurance.

If you want more than $100K of emergency medical evacuation coverage, then you’ll also want to carry an Amex Platinum card.  You don’t have to pay for your trip with this card, just keep it with you in case of an emergency.

And, finally, if you don’t have AAA and you need a tow, help changing a tire, an emergency gas fill-up, etc., you’re covered with any of these cards.  The Prestige has the best roadside assistance terms, followed closely by Amex.

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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Comments

  1. Very useful. And sobering for those of us who are pushed to Amex Travel by some of the very good deals/discounts for Platinum card users (sometimes discounted J/F fares, 50% then 35% back with Business Platinum). Had some great tickets booked that way with Amex last month and came *this close* to missing outbound flights for reason covered by normal postponement/cancellation reasons… Still, it’s hard not to go for the cheaper flights and more points using some of the Amex scenarios.

    On the Chase side, you might want to add in the Ritz-Carlton Visa. It is also similarly priced, and while the $300 travel benefit is too iffy to steer one routinely onto flights the way the travel benefit does for CSR and Citi Prestige, on lower price fares for couples, the $100 discount tends to move me that card for a lot of travel. A quick check suggests benefits are like those of CSR.

  2. Surprised to see the huge coverage qualifier on Citi Prestige on Trip Cancellation and Interruption needing to be paid in Full while Trip Delay is only a partial payment.

    I thought there was coverage on Trip Cancellation even if award fees were charged. Very interesting to see Citi Prestige have coverage for Trip Delay but not Trip Cancellation on Award fees being charged to the card.

  3. Is the coverage of the Saphire Preferred the same as the Saphire Reserve? Since it looks like many will have to choose one or the other, it could be worth considering.

  4. Many US based personal car insurance policies (full coverage not just liability) will provide rental car coverage for domestic rentals so that helps the Citi card in some cases.
    Seems to me if you have a cruise, flight, tour etc. You might want to pay part with the reserve card and part with prestige to double up on some coverage and limits.

    • Yes, and the flipside: many US-based car insurance policies offer absolutely NO COVERAGE when overseas. I was surprised about this.

      This means, to me at least, that you should ALWAYS pay with a credit card that has some sort of coverage when travelling overseas. The whole PRIMARY versus SECONDARY coverage is actually a moot point when traveling overseas—at least for my car insurance

      Greg, do you know if this applies to some/most/all U.S. car insrance policies when used overseas?

  5. Nice, easy-to-read coverage. Thanks!

    We’re headed to an overseas trip shortly, and decided to bolster coverage with the Amerirprise Platinum for the very reason that it’s all (well, mostly all) award-based, so it wasn’t purchased with any other cards, and that way we’re somewhat covered. And best of all, the evacuation would be handled if we should need it. Even better, it didn’t cost anything. As I understand it, it’s probably even worthwhile to pick up one of those medical policies that aren’t really that expensive, as they cover not only evacuation, but actual medical coverage as well. But since we’re not going that far off the beaten path, we’ll risk it, for this trip at least.

    And the Premium Global Assist offered by the Platinum cards offers some extra benefits too, that I do not believe those medical plans provide…

  6. I believe the Chase Sapphire only offers roadside assistance if more than 50 miles from one’s primary dwelling, while the Amex offers it everywhere, even if one is a street away from one’s house. That is a BIG difference in the usefulness of the benefit.

    • Jeez, this is the sort of “fine print/gotcha” that I hate. I think I once used Amex Plat for towing and they wanted to reject it because I did not use a towing service provided by their network…IOW, I was supposed to call Amex Plat concierge desk for my towing needs. (I complained about this and then they gave me a “courtesy credit”)

      Greg, do you know if this is still the case for the 3 cards? In any case, you may want to add a “potential gotchas” line in your otherwise awesome post about the benefit comparison.

        • Curiosity got the best of me so I decided to answer my own question. I combed through the Prestige fine print and I don’t see anything that would indicate there is an away-from-home requirement.

      • You might also add the additional benefits you can purchase from Am Ex. I use their travel insurance that covers your property whether you lose it, break it or it is stolen. They automatically charge about $10 with each plane ticket purchased. I have had two claims and both were hassle free. Just great service.

  7. Do most of the Citi Prestige benefits also cover immediate family? And does the primary cardholder needs to be on that specific trip or driving that specific car to get the benefits?

    • Good question. I think the answers are:
      1. Yes, it covers immediate family; and
      2. The primary cardholder does not have to be on the trip (except with car rental)
      I’ll have to research it, though, to make sure. That info would be a great addition to the page!

  8. Wow! What a great post. I love to easily learn new info and not just the same stuff at multiple places. I will be printing some of this out as my cheat sheet.

    Thank You!

  9. Amazing post. Thanks for putting all of your time into this, Greg. I’ve been wanting to see a comparison for a long time.

  10. Just to confirm since, unlike the Reserve and Prestige, the Amex Platinum has both a Business and Personal version…do the benefits as described apply for both cards? Or, are there differences in coverage with the Business vs. the Personal? At the least it might be helpful to specify this as I would imagine it to be a common enough question. Thanks!

  11. Thank you for this article. I was going to cancel the CSR but it’s worth keeping for the 2500 medical since I have a high deductible plan and the extra point on all entertainment should make up for some of the fee too.

    Also insurance on award tickets.

  12. A couple more things to add to this excellent post: the likelihood that you will use one of these benefits and also the likelihood the company will hassle you when you try to cash in.

    I have all three of these cards, and have used the roadside and the delayed baggage coverages. These two events (along with delays) are probably the most common.

    For both of the events I experienced, I had to go back and forth with the underlying benefit insurance companies, because neither wanted to pay. Only when the holding bank (e.g., Citi) got involved did they pay.

      • For the likelihood of usage of benefit: that would be in some actuarial table that only the insurance companies have, I suspect.

        For the “hassle factor”: I’m guessing only data points from your readers. AMEX is well-known (at least in the past) for being good guys. Not sure about the company behind the Chase insurance. Citi has paid me on two claims (baggage delay and also price rewind), but it took a number of calls to make it happen.

        • Definitely agree with Ed here – hassle factor is important. I used the Citi damaged baggage once with my Prestige card and had an excellent experience. They reimbursed me without a ton of issues.

          Ed, which Citi card were you using at the time? I wonder if they treat Prestige customers better since it’s a high-end product (but it’s also quite possible the 3rd party administrator doesn’t even know/differentiate between high end and low end cards)

  13. Very good post, my question now becomes with the Sapphire card and Hotel cards. Does it make sense to pay for hotel with sapphire to get 3X points as opposed to hotel cards which gets you 5-10x points. Does any hotel cards offer trip cancellation? This would be a great perk now that most brands are doing 2 and 3 day cancellation periods.

    • I personally value 3X Ultimate Rewards points above 5X IHG, Marriott, or Club Carlson points; and even above 10X (Hilton) points. And I value 2X SPG and 3X Ultimate Rewards about the same. So, if you value the points similarly, I absolutely think it makes sense to use the Sapphire Reserve.

  14. RE the partial pay. I spend a bunch of time scouring the blogs about this a few months back and have read elsewhere that if paying for awards, neither Citi or Chase will give coverage if all you have paid is the taxes/fees. They expect that you pay at least a portion of the base fare (which of course is zero for awards).
    I also read at least one report that Chase had an exception to this rule if the award was with one of their partners (eg. BA, UA etc).
    I think this is critical information for those of us booking awards. In doing your research, did you reach out to Citi/Chase to confirm your findings above about coverage on award flights, or have you any real-life DP’s?

    PS – Great Post, really adds value. Loved the previous CSP-CSR compare also.

    • @Tom, for “partial pay”, Citi *will* cover even if it’s an award ticket—at least for the baggage delay. My recent check for $450 is proof. AND they paid it very fast (once I escalated it)

  15. I have always used the AMEX supplemental $17.95 car insurance when traveling in Mexico…it seems to cover everything except the Personal Liability Insurance so I pay the rental car exhorbitant fee for that.

    Should I be saving my $$$..is the Sapphire Primary coverage just as good overseas?

      • Just a reminder for a future post – Tire issues aren’t covered by these policies, just like they aren’t covered under a personal auto policy. CDW isn’t insurance, it’s an agreement between the renter and the rental company to cover any damage incurred. If you get a flat and don’t have CDW, the new tire/fix will come out of your pocket (at least the tow, or installation of a spare is paid if needed).

      • All the cards exclude Ireland and several other countries from coverage. Be sure to check with the card of choice to be sure they will cover you in the country you are visiting.

        • I’ve seen the country restrictions before but thought I had seen something about some card coverages dropping those restrictions so I decided to do some digging. I just searched the entire CSR benefits guide and there is no mention of Ireland – so what are you basing this on?

  16. Regarding the Citi trip delay/cancellation insurance and full-payment being required: did it change in the last year? In summer of 2016 due to the coup in Turkey, I changed my AA award tix origin from IST to BLQ, incurring a $150 change fee. Taxes were paid with Citi Prestige. I filed a claim with Citi and was reimbursed my $150.

    • How much were taxes? The way it works is that if you only pay part of the trip with your Citi card then they’ll cover you only for up to the amount you paid with the card. So, in the example you gave, you theoretically were covered only up to the amount paid in taxes.

      • That probably explains it. I couldn’t find all the details, but the total cost for the change for our party of four was actually $225, which is what I claimed and was reimbursed. But since the flight was IST-LHR-DFW-SFO (all in J, with IST-LHR on BA, and the rest on AA), I think the taxes for all 4 of us were well in excess of $225.

      • I would think most of us following this blog fly with award miles most of the time. Am I interpreting it correctly that there’s no real protection from a credit card just used for the taxes? I don’t really care about being reimbursed just for the tax amount; it’s the big costs that matter

  17. Do you have a post that details how to get reimbursed/process/forms for the baggage delay/lost luggage (and the rest of the categories)? What qualifies for purchases that can reimbursed?

    Thank you.

    • @AC, IME, anything “reasonable”can be charged. Watch the fine print, though: must not be on layover, must not be on home leg, don’t expect more than the max per person, etc.

  18. thought this might interest some – I have a $ 50 off $150 purchase at WSJwine from Amex expiring tomorrow as I assume others do as well- Alaska air today offering 20 pts/$ at WSJwine through their shopping portal

  19. What type of trip cancellation coverage does the CSR offer for timeshare (TS) reservations, if any? This basically involves paying annual maintenance fees on the timeshare upfront, so they’re is normally no actual charges to the CSR at time of making a TS reservation itself.

  20. You might want to cover whether or not benefits apply when/if you are traveling on an award ticket (like many of us do) and using the card to pay the taxes and fees. We had trouble with Amex and weren’t covered when a certain airline lost our bag because it was an award ticket (fine print: ticket has to be paid in full on the card). Apparently though Citi does offer coverage in those circumstances? Still need to read the fine print on Chase.

  21. Also, important to note that CSR provides Trip Cancellation and Trip Interruption up to $10,000 (the legalese is hard to parse but I’m pretty sure this is per person) whereas Prestige is $5,000

  22. I have many flights booked on my Citi Prestige over the coming year but I still don’t understand what would be covered for me. Two additional dimension on the comparison that would be very helpful are “award flight (fees) vs full fare” and “one way vs round trip.” Regarding the Prestige I’ve heard that only some of the benefits apply to one way flights but I’m not sure which ones.

  23. Don’t know if it’s in the works already, but it would be awesome if you would update the list for how the coverage applies to award tickets for each issuer.

  24. It varies betwwwn nothing (Amex), everything, or only on points earned from our transfer partners (Chase) for awards.

  25. So you said “Hotel or Tour: Pay at least in part with your Sapphire Reserve. This will give you full Trip Cancellation and Interruption coverage”

    Can you elaborate on what you mean by this. Like lets say we have these two scenarios :

    Scenario 1:
    -Booked an award ticket using 70K AA miles. Paid for award taxes/fees of $125 on Citi Prestige
    -Booked a tour on some other random credit card for $300
    -Paid $800 for hotels using CSR

    Scenario 2:
    -Booked a $1,200 cash ticket using Prestige
    -Booked a tour on some other random credit card for $300
    -Paid $800 for hotels using CSR

    What do you think gets covered in these two scenarios?

    • Good question. I’m not at all confident about the answer, but here goes…

      I *think* that CSR will cover trip cancellation for everything in scenario 1 (flight, tour, hotel). If you lose AA miles, I think they would pay you at 1 cent per mile.

      In scenario 2 since you paid entirely with the Prestige card for the flight, the Prestige card will cover your flight cancellation. And I think that the CSR would cover your tour and hotel

  26. for anyone who cares about protecting their family in an emergency situation, i have kept my amex plat for the emergency medi evac reason alone. $550/year is a cheap ass insurance policy. i actually dont care too much about cost/benefit analysis of the plat nor do i care because the insurance policy is too valuable.

    want to know more? read this:
    http://viewfromthewing.boardingarea.com/2017/05/10/know-benefits-amex-platinum-medical-evacuation-claim-award-ticket-saves-275000

  27. I booked a cruise which included my mother-in-law. Paid initial deposit with Prestige and final payment with AMEX Platinum. She had a stroke 10 days before departure. Got 100% back from both cards although it took far longer and with more paperwork with AMEX, so, chart is wrong as to AMEX coverage on cancellation.

    Another point which needs to be emphasized in this thread is that normal medical expenses and some evac costs are not paid by these cc’s. The solution is a “bare-bones” ANNUAL policy which costs about $150 per person per year and ONLY covers medical and evac. This is less than most of the short term policies offered by cruise lines and short duration tour operators and you can get it for the entire year.

      • I looked back at my paperwork and I am embarrassed that what I initially said was mistaken. One payment was with Citi Prestige and the second was NOT AMEX, it was thru the Chase system, I believe it was a Chase Marriott, definitely not Sapphire. Sorry for the confusion.

  28. Great article! I am wondering about the benefits of the Altitude Reserve for cruises. I was thinking about getting the Ameriprise Plat since I don’t have Prestige or Sapphire Reserve, but I do have Altitude.

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