Travel Insurance Showdown: Reserve vs Prestige vs Platinum

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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.

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