Planning a local or overseas trip is an enjoyable experience, but there is always one additional cost that can add up: travel insurance. This is where credit cards offering complimentary insurance can come in handy for many Australians. 

Free travel insurance perks are normally available on rewards credit cards and travel credit cards and are not common on low-rate cards.

The amount of insurance offered, as well as the terms and conditions of the insurance, will vary from card to card. Some cards may offer only domestic travel insurance, while premium cards with a higher annual fee may offer both domestic and international. The insurance coverage will also vary depending on the card and the card provider.

Here is everything you need to know about complementary travel insurance.

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Why do credit cards offer free travel insurance?

Put simply, Australian credit card providers offer complimentary credit card insurance as a perk on platinum, reward, frequent flyer and travel cards as it encourages spending on these cards.

Many credit card providers require that the expenses of the trip be booked on the credit card to fall under the insurance coverage. Furthermore, for insurance on specific items, card providers often require the items to be bought on the card as well. Depending on your financial situation, this can result in a high outstanding card balance. 

It is important to remember that credit providers often charge fees on overseas credit card use, so the cost of the ‘free’ insurance can really add up. You may also need to spend a certain amount or meet certain criteria for for travel insurance activation. 

The free travel insurance is normally only given for trips under a certain period of time, which means consumers looking to take longer trips need to check the terms and conditions of the coverage before taking advantage of the insurance.

How to qualify for credit card travel insurance

Insurance policies come with conditions and eligibility criteria that the credit card provider and/or insurer will require you to meet to qualify for your travel insurance. 

These conditions may include:

  • Travel spends. You may need to spend a certain amount on prepaid travel costs with your credit card before you leave. This may include plane tickets, accommodation, rental cars etc.
  • Booking through one card. Some policies require you to make all of your travel bookings through the one Visa, Mastercard or American Express (AMEX) credit card to qualify for coverage. If, for example, you booked a train ticket through a friend’s debit card and the train trip was delayed, you may not qualify for compensation for this missed trip from your credit card travel insurance.
  • Pre-existing conditions. Pre-existing medical conditions, such as cardiac issues or pregnancy, may limit or prohibit your coverage.
    Residency. Coverage may only cover you if you’re a permanent resident in Australia or hold a valid Visa.
  • Age limits. The complimentary insurance policy may only cover travellers aged 80 and under 

For a full breakdown of the total coverage a credit card may provide, take time to read the Product Disclosure Statements carefully.

Who qualifies for credit card travel insurance?

Travelling with family or friends? Some credit card travel insurance may only cover the cardholder, but most will typically cover your spouse and dependent children.

  • Spouse, may include a married or de-facto partner living at the same address as you at the time of your departure – sometimes for at least a period of months beforehand.
  • Dependent children, may generally refer to any children aged 18 years or younger. Some policies may extend coverage up to age 24 for children enrolled in full-time higher education.

You all may need to tick a few insurance boxes to qualify for coverage. This may include the conditions listed above, as well as spending 50 per cent or even the full trip with your family members. Some may also require you to be on the same return tickets to qualify.

What does free domestic travel insurance cover?

While different credit cards offer different levels of coverage, free domestic travel insurance generally includes:

  • Luggage cover: For loss, theft or damage to personal items
  • Luggage delay: For purchasing essential items if your luggage is delayed or misplaced
  • Cancellation fees: For rearranging or cancelling flights due to injury, accidents, extreme weather, unforeseen circumstances etc.
  • Flight delays: For accommodation expenses if you experience extended flight delays
  • Personal liability: For if you accidentally cause injury or damage to another person or their property
  • Rental vehicle cover: For excess payments on a rental vehicle’s insurance if an accident or theft occurs
  • Additional expenses: For miscellaneous travel and accommodation expenses if you’re no longer able to travel

While free domestic travel insurance is an attractive credit card feature, it often means paying a higher annual fee. What’s more, exclusions often apply to the insurance, so it’s important to always read the terms and conditions and product disclosure statement (PDS) before applying.

What does international travel insurance cover?

As well as what was mentioned above, complimentary overseas travel insurance may also cover:

  • Emergency medical expenses, such as hospital expenses.
  • Cancellation and delays (relating to delayed flights, missed connections etc).
  • Luggage and personal belongings coverage, including loss, theft and damage.
  • Rental car excess costs.
  • Accidental death, disability and/or loss of income.

The level of coverage an insurance provider will offer is based on risk. If you were to engage in potentially dangerous activities, it’s likely that an insurer won’t cover you in the event of an accident. 

For example, if you were to get on a motorbike or moped in Bali, your insurer may not cover medical bills in the event of an accident if you don’t have an international drivers licence or a motorbike licence.

Is credit card travel insurance really free?

While you may not be paying outright for insurance like you may normally, the cost of travel insurance is typically included in the interest rates or fees of the card.

Credit cards with complimentary travel insurance typically fall under the rewards, travel or premium credit card umbrella. These types of credit cards often have moderate to high annual fees, which help to pay for the bonuses and perks that standard credit cards may not offer.

Determining whether or not complimentary travel insurance is worth the cost depends on your own personal and financial needs. You should also keep in mind that travel insurance exclusions and an excess may apply for any claims you attempt to make on your policy.

If you rarely travel, or can no longer travel for whatever reason, paying extra for features you don’t need may be a financial strain. It may be worth considering switching to a standard credit card with low or zero annual fees.

However, if you’re an avid traveller who is always finding themselves forking out hundreds, if not thousands, on travel insurance, or have a big family holiday coming up, these type of credit cards may help keep costs down.

Pros and cons of free travel insurance

  • Frequent travellers may save on travel insurance
  • You can often get the same benefits as standalone policies, for less
  • It takes the hassle out of comparing travel insurance policies
  • Different card options can give you control over your coverage and how much you spend
  • Many policies also cover your spouse and children when they travel with you
  • Your card policy may cover you for the same price at any age, unlike standalone policies which can charge higher premiums for younger or older travellers
  • A range of destinations may be covered for the same price, unlike some standalone travel policies
  • A wide range of terms and conditions can mean you’re not covered for certain situations
  • You’ll typically pay a higher annual fee for the credit card to cover the ‘free’ insurance
  • To be eligible for the travel insurance, you often have to activate your policy or use your card in a certain way – so always check your card’s terms and conditions
  • If you don’t travel frequently, the insurance might not be worth paying the higher card fee
  • Certain exclusions and excess payments can still apply, hitting you with unexpected costs
  • Credit card travel insurance policies generally cover trips of a certain length (e.g. up to 31 days or three months)
  • Standalone travel insurance policies can be more extensive (e.g. offering broader insurances up to higher amounts)

How to compare credit cards with free travel insurance

As well as looking at the free insurance coverage offered with the credit card, including what is and isn’t covered, plus any terms and conditions, it’s important to consider the credit card’s other features, benefits, fees and charges, including:

  • Interest rates: How much extra you may be charged on purchases
  • Annual fees: What you’ll pay each year for access to your credit card
  • Interest free days: How long you’ll have each billing cycle (often monthly) to clear your credit card debt, before you’ll start being charged interest on your purchases
  • Rewards programs: Will you earn rewards points on your credit card spending to redeem on special discounts, products and services?
  • Other fees and charges: Find out if you’ll need to pay extra for overseas spending, currency conversion, or making cash advances

Frequently asked questions

How easy is it to get a credit card?

For most Australians, there are no great barriers to applying for and getting approved for a credit card. Here are some points that a lender will consider when assessing your credit card application.

Credit score: A bad credit score is not the be all and end all of your application, but it may stop you being approved for a higher credit limit. If your credit score is less than perfect, apply for the credit limit that you need, rather than the one you want.

Annual income: Most credit cards have minimum annual income requirements. Make sure you’re applying for a card where you meet the minimum.

Age & residency: You need to be at least 18 years old to apply for a credit card in Australia, and most require that you are an Australian citizen or permanent resident. However, there are some credit cards available to temporary residents.

Can a pensioner get a credit card?

It is possible to get a credit card as a pensioner. There are some factors to keep in mind, including:

  • Annual income. Look for credit cards with minimum annual income requirements you can meet. 
  • Annual fees. If high fees are a concern for you, opt for a card with a low or $0 annual fee. 
  • Interest rate. Make sure you won’t have any nasty surprises on your credit card bill. Compare cards with a low interest rates to minimise risk.

How do you use credit cards?

A credit card can be an easy way to make purchases online, in person or over the phone. When used properly, a credit card can even help you manage your cash flow. But before applying for a credit card, it’s good to know how they work. A credit card is essentially a personal line of credit which lets you buy things and pay for them later. As a card holder, you’ll be given a credit limit and (potentially) charged interest on the money the bank lends you. At the end of each billing period, the bank will send you a statement which shows your outstanding balance and the minimum amount you need to pay back. If you don’t pay back the full balance amount, the bank will begin charging you interest.

What should you do if your credit card is compromised?

Credit card fraud is a serious problem. If your credit card is compromised and you’re wondering what to do, here are a few precautionary steps to take.

Contact you credit provider – Get in touch will your credit card provider. If you feel your card has been compromised, you should be able to lock or block it.

Monitor your accounts – Keep an eye on your credit card accounts. Any unauthorised transactions could be a sign your credit card has been compromised.

Check your credit rating – It’s also important to check your credit rating, to ensure you’re not a victim of identity theft or some other financial mischief.

What should you do when you lose your credit card?

Losing your credit card is a serious situation, and could land you in financial trouble. Here is a simple guide detailing what to do when you lose your credit card.

Lock you card – Contact your provider and inform them about your lost credit card. From here lock, block or cancel your card.

Keep track of transactions – Look out for unauthorised credit card transactions. Most banks protect against fraudulent transactions.

Address recurring charges – If your card is linked to recurring charges (gym membership, rent, utilities), contact those businesses.

Check credit rate – To ensure you’re not the victim of identity theft, check your credit rating a month or two after you lose your credit card.

How to get a credit card for the first time

A credit card can be a useful financial tool, provided you understand the risks and can meet repayment obligations.

If you’re a credit card first-timer, review your options. Think about what kind of credit card would suit your lifestyle, and compare providers by fees, perks and repayments.

Once you’ve selected a card, it’s time to apply. Credit card applications can generally be completed in store, online or over the phone.

When you apply for a credit card for the first time, you must meet age, residency and income requirements. As proof, you must also provide documentation such as bank account statements.

Should I get a credit card?

Once you've compared credit card interest rates and deals and found the right card for you, the actual process of getting a credit card is quite straightforward. You can apply for a credit card online, over the phone or in person at a bank branch. 

How do you use a credit card?

Credit cards are a quick and convenient way to pay for items in store, online or over the phone. You can use a credit card as a cashless way to pay for goods or services, both locally and overseas. You can also use a credit card to make a cash advance, which gives you the flexibility to withdraw cash from your credit card account. Because a credit card uses the bank’s funds instead of your own, you will be charged interest on the money you spend – unless you pay off the entire debt within the interest-free period. If you pay the minimum monthly repayment, you will be charged interest. There are many different credit card options on the market, all offering different interest rates and reward options.

What's the best credit card for rewards?

There is no one-size-fits-all best rewards credit card. It's best you research what type of rewards program you'd like, as well as the fees, interest rate and conditions associated with those types of cards before making a choice. 

Rewards credit cards can also come with high annual fees that may end up nullifying the rewards, so think how often you use the card to decide whether the benefits outweigh the extra cost for you. A card with a lower annual fee might require a lot of spending to get any useful rewards, while another card with a higher annual fee might need fewer purchases to get a reward. 

How do you apply for a credit card?

You can apply for a credit card online, over the phone or in person at the bank. Once you’ve compared the current credit card offers, the application process is quick and easy. Before you get your application started, you’ll need to gather your personal information like proof of ID, payslips and bank statements, proof of employment and details of your income, assets and liabilities. To be eligible for a credit card, you’ll need to be an Australian citizen over 18 and earn a minimum of $15,000 each year. Once you’ve applied for a credit card, you should get a response fairly instantly. If your credit card application has been approved, you should receive a welcome pack with your new credit card within 10-15 days.

How do you cancel a credit card?

It’s important to cancel your old cards to avoid any additional fees. Unless you’re doing a balance transfer, you’ll need to pay the outstanding balance before you cancel your credit card. If you’ve opted for a card with reward points, make sure you redeem or transfer the points before you close your account. To avoid any bounced payments and save yourself an admin headache, redirect all your direct debits to a new card or account. Once you’ve done all the preparation, call your bank or credit card provider to get the cancellation underway. Once you receive a confirmation letter, destroy your card and make sure the numbers aren’t legible.

What is a balance transfer credit card?

A balance transfer credit card lets you transfer your debt balance from one credit card to another. A balance transfer credit card generally has a 0 per cent interest rate for a set period of time. When you roll your debt balance over to a new credit card, you’ll be able to take advantage of the interest-free period to pay your credit card debt off faster without accruing additional interest charges. If your application is approved, the provider will pay out your old credit card and transfer your debt balance over to the new card. 

How to make a credit card online

If you’re wondering about how to make a credit card online application, here are some steps to follow:

  • Test the market. Many credit card options are available online. Compare providers by fees, interest and perks to ensure you’re getting the best deal.
  • Complete the application. Once you’ve selected a card, head to the provider’s website and complete the online credit card application form. Forms vary by providers.
  • Provide details. Most cards require you to meet age, residency, income and credit status condition, and you need to provide details like a bank account statement to prove this.
  • Review details. Ensure the information you’ve entered is correct.

How to pay a credit card

There are a few ways to pay a credit card bill. These include:

  • BPAY - allows you to safely make credit card payments online.
  • Direct debits - set up an automatic payment from your bank account to pay your credit card bill each month. You can choose how much you want to pay of your credit card bill when you set up the auto payments.
  • In a branch.
  • Via your credit card provider's app.

Do you need a credit card to get a loan?

You do not need a credit card to get a loan, but you usually need to have a credit history. Without a credit history, a financial institution cannot assess your ‘credit worthiness’, or your capacity to pay off the loan.

If you don’t have a credit card, your credit history can reflect any record of paying off an asset. Without any credit credit history, you’re limited in the type of loans you can apply for. But you may be able to obtain a secured loan against an asset. For more information on improving your credit score, go here

Which credit card has the highest annual percentage rate?

The credit card market changes all the time, so the credit card with the highest annual percentage rate is also liable to change.

Keep in mind that credit card interest rates are expressed as a yearly rate, or annual percentage rate (APR). A low APR is generally good but also consider:

  • There can be different APR's for each feature of the card (e.g. purchases may have an APR of 14 per cent, while cash advances on same card could have an APR of 17 per cent.
  • Credit cards with a variable rate can change throughout the year, affecting your APR, so check the full details.
  • If you pay your balance in full every month, having the lowest APR is not as important as the other fees associated with the card. However, if you carry a balance from month to month, then you want the lowest APR possible.

How to get money from a credit card

You can get money from a credit card, but generally it will cost you.

Withdrawing money from a credit card is called a cash advance, as it operates more as a loan than a simple cash withdrawal. Because it is a loan, you may be charged interest on your cash advance as soon as you make the withdrawal. Interest rates are also usually much higher for cash advances than standard credit card purchases.

In addition to the interest rate, you may also be charged a cash advance fee. This could be a flat rate, or a percentage of your total cash advance. If you are considering a cash advance, make sure to add up how much it will cost you before committing.

How many numbers are on a credit card?

The numbers on your credit card actually follow a universal standard which is used to identify specific functions. Each credit card has a different amount of numbers. Visa and Mastercard have 16, American Express has 15 and Diner’s Club has 14. 

The first number on a credit card always identifies what type of credit card it is. Visa cards start with a 4, whereas Mastercard starts with a 5 and American Express with a 3. The remainder of the digits represent the account number, including the last number which is used to verify that your credit card is actually valid. 

Credit cards also have additional verification numbers, which are mainly used when the card isn’t present for phone and online purchases. These are the three-digit numbers on the back of Visa and MasterCard or the four-digit numbers on the front of an American Express card.

Where can I get a credit card?

Looking to get your first credit card? You might be confused as to exactly where to go to apply for one. Here’s where to go when you are ready to put in that application.

The bank: Your bank is a great place to start, provided that you have a good banking history. Since you already have a financial history, you have more chance of your application being approved.

Credit card provider: Another option is to apply for a credit card directly from the issuer, such as Visa, Mastercard or Amex. This will most likely be an online application, so do your research and apply for a suitable card for your circumstances.

Major retailers: Coles, Woolworths, Myer and David Jones all have credit cards available. But watch out for the interest rate and annual fees – these cards are designed to help you spend more in store.

Can I get a credit card on part-time/casual work?

Yes, as credit card providers look at your annual income amount as well as your occupation. Minimum income requirements tend to be between $30,000 – $40,000 for standard and rewards credit cards, however low income credit cards can have minimum income requirements as low as $15,000 per year.