|by Jason Steele|
A reader asks:
I hold two Bank Of America VISA cards, one Credit and the other debit. If airline tickets (national & international flights) were purchased with either card, do the following benefits apply:
1. Ticket Refund owing to unable to travel because of illness, death in the family, bad weather conditions, etc.
2. Medical Insurance benefits owing to illness or bodily injuries.
Well Bertram, using your Visa card for travel is a smart move for many reasons, but unfortunately, they do not provide the benefits you asked about. Let’s take a look at what they do and do not provide, and how you can protect yourself in the circumstances you inquired about.
As for a ticket refund, you are protected by Visa and other card issuers in the event that your airline fails to provide the service you paid for. When an airline ceases operations due bankruptcy, people who paid with a credit card receive an immediate refund, while all others are forced to apply to a bankruptcy court as creditors. In practice, non credit card users have only the slightest chance of eventually receiving pennies on the dollar from a court. If an airline does not transport you for some other reason, such as a strike or a cancellation, and then fails to promptly refund your money, you can request a refund through your credit card called a chargeback. Often the mere threat of a chargeback is enough to ensure that the airline provides a quick refund.
Unfortunately, no Visa that I am aware of will provide a refund if you can’t travel due to illness or a death in the family. That said, most airlines will grant you some leeway if you are able to provide documentation of a serious illness that precludes travel or a death certificate of an immediate family member. I would never expect a refund, but they should allow you to reschedule your travel. If you have insurance needs beyond that, you should purchase dedicated travel insurance.
A Visa card will not provide you with any medical care benefits, with a few minor exceptions. They do offer emergency travel assistance, including a medical referral service, which:
“…provides medical referral, monitoring, and follow-up. The Benefit Administrator can give you names of English-speaking doctors, dentists, and hospitals; assign a doctor to consult by phone with local medical personnel, if necessary, to monitor your condition, keep in contact with your family, and provide continuing liaison; and help you arrange medical payments from your Visa Signature or personal account. NOTE: All costs are your responsibility.”
They also offer Prescription Assistance and Valuable Document Delivery Arrangements which:
“…can help you get prescriptions filled or replaced, subject to local laws, and can even arrange pickup and delivery of prescriptions filled for you at local or nearby pharmacies. It can also help transport critical documents which you may have left at home or elsewhere. NOTE: All costs are your responsibility.”
To be clear, none of these services are substitutes for actual travel insurance and medical insurance. Travel insurance should cover costs incurred when you experience a travel delay or interruption, while medical insurance is designed to cover the cost of treatment.
For a complete list of benefits provided by your Visa card, please refer to this chart on their website.