**This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of BMO Insurance. All opinions are my own.
Canadians enjoy a world-class public health care system that provides for many of our health related needs with one notable exception: your Canadian health insurance is limited outside of your home province and once you travel out of the country. That’s why if you plan to go abroad, even on a day trip to the United States, the federal government strongly recommends you purchase the best travel insurance you can afford before you leave Canada.
Out of country medical services can be extremely costly. Emergency evacuation, dental services or even prolonged hospital visits could end up costing you thousands of dollars in the event of an accident.
Travel Medical Coverage
Here are some of the coverage options that are available to you when travelling:
Medical Coverage: This basic coverage generally includes trips to the hospital, emergency dental work, doctor’s visits, emergency evacuation, flying a relative to your bedside and more.
Trip Cancellation: This added coverage lets you cancel your trip and get some or all of your money back. Every policy is different but a trip can be cancelled for a variety of reasons such as: you change your mind, get sick or have important work commitments. The trip cancellation premium charged to the purchaser is usually a percentage of the total trip cost.
Lost or Stolen Baggage: For even more coverage, you can insure your belongings against theft or loss. This coverage is usually capped at a certain dollar value so if you lose a $5,000 watch you will maybe receive $500. Again, this varies by policy.
Now that you know some of the options, it should be clear that medical coverage is the most important of the three as a trip can always be rescheduled and lost or stolen items can easily be replaced, but your health and well-being cannot!
So why don’t more Canadians purchase travel medical insurance when they travel?
It’s possible that some travellers assume that travel medical insurance is costly, but there are packages available at a reasonable price. BMO Insurance offers an annual medical plan that covers up to $5 million per insured person for medical emergencies while travelling. This is a convenient option for those who make multiple trips throughout the year and an annual plan is often less than the cost of two single trip plans.
As always, your mileage may vary so read any policy for the fine details.
When you travel, there’s a good chance are you are going to a place that you are unfamiliar with. Unfamiliar places may bring their own dangers and pitfalls.
Many of our readers are avid travellers and would never go on a trip without purchasing travel medical coverage. In fact, some readers have shared with me the need to use it on a few occasions!
One reader, Andrew, had to see a doctor in Australia when his ear became plugged with sand due to swimming in rough surf.
Another reader, Julie, injured herself jumping off a waterfall in Costa Rica. Turns out she sprained a joint in her back, which was determined after a visit to a clinic for x-rays and a visit with a doctor.
Finally, at an all-inclusive resort in Mexico, Marc tripped and fell on some stairs (he says no alcohol was involved!) and partially tore a tendon in his hand, which required medical attention.
As you can see both seemingly benign activities and more adventurous ones can lead to requiring medical attention. Don’t be stuck paying out of your own pocket for treatment.
Be sure to check your credit card to see if you receive travel medical coverage. Many premium credit cards include this as a feature for short duration trips. Also, if you are travelling for business your employer most likely covers you under their insurance plan. This should be verified of course.
In closing, always remember to have travel medical insurance coverage when travelling outside of the country. ALWAYS read the fine print for any policy in order to know what’s covered, what isn’t and what to do in case of emergency.
This post looks at my latest credit card sign-up: the American Express Platinum Card, and why I think the insane $699 annual fee may actually be worth it, at least in the first year as a card member.
As a credit card rewards junkie I’ve never been shy about signing up for a new travel rewards card to take advantage of bonus points and perks. If I find good value beyond the initial welcome bonus and perks then I tend to keep the card. If not, then I cancel the card before the annual fee comes due again.
Still, $699 is a steep price to pay to experiment with the value of a credit card rewards program. Is the American Express Platinum Card worth the fee? Let’s take a look:
American Express Platinum Card Review
What attracted me to the Amex Platinum card is the 50,000-point sign-up bonus (when you spend $3,000 in the first three months). I had an annual car insurance bill due for $1,500, so after that I only had to spend $500 per month for three months to get the bonus. Easy.
Bonus 10,000 points:
Also, if you know an existing American Express Platinum Card holder and use their referral link to sign-up you’ll get an additional 10,000 points.
Transfer to Aeroplan Program
I like American Express Membership Rewards because I can transfer the points 1:1 to the Aeroplan program. With Aeroplan, 50,000 miles will get you two round-trip tickets anywhere in North America.
Assuming one mile is worth 1.5 cents to 2.5 cents then 60,000 points can be worth between $900 and $1,500 in travel rewards.
So with bonus points alone you can already see the tremendous value offered by the American Express Platinum Card.
The value doesn’t stop there.
With the American Express Platinum Card you’ll earn 1.25 Membership Rewards points for every dollar in purchases charged to your card. You’re automatically enrolled in the First Tier of the Membership Rewards program, where points can be transferred into other frequent flyer and hotel programs, including 1:1 to Aeroplan and Avios.
Use points to book flights within Canada or to anywhere in the world with the Fixed Points Travel Program.
Airport Lounge Access
Members get access to over 1,000 airport lounges worldwide including the Platinum Lounge Benefit, the Airport Club Program and Priority Pass at the “prestige level” which is valued at $399 USD per year and includes unlimited visits.
$200 Annual Travel Credit
You’ll also get a $200 annual travel credit, which must be redeemed through American Express Travel and paid for on your American Express Platinum Card.
The travel credit is available by calendar year, so if you apply mid-way through the year you’ll get one $200 credit, and then you’ll get an additional $200 credit when the calendar changes over to a new year.
Turn that $200 annual travel credit into cash (statement credit) by booking a fully refundable hotel. American Express will issue the credit, but the hotel won’t charge your card until after your stay – so just cancel your hotel reservation and pocket the $200.
Trick for Points Churners
One trick for new Amex Platinum cardholders to get $400 cash (statement credit) out of this program is to again book the fully refundable hotel early in the next calendar year (when your second $200 annual travel credit becomes available) and then cancel the hotel reservation once the credit gets posted.
Do this before your card anniversary (i.e. when the $699 annual fee comes due again) and you effectively reduce your annual fee to $299 in the first year.
Hotel Program Memberships
Your Amex Platinum Card automatically gives you the privileges of:
- Preferred Gold Membership in the Starwood Preferred Guest program
- Gold Elite status membership with Radisson Hotels
- Complimentary Hilton Honors Gold Status membership
International Airline Program
Take advantage of the International Airline Program, which offers discounted companion tickets, complimentary upgrades, or special discounted airfares to destinations around the world.
Travel Insurance Coverage
Extensive travel insurance coverage includes:
- Emergency Medical Insurance (Out of province/country)
- Trip Cancellation Insurance
- Trip Interruption Insurance
- Car Rental Theft Damage Insurance
- Flight Delay Insurance
- Baggage Delay Insurance
- Lost or Stolen Baggage Insurance
- Hotel/Motel Burglary Insurance
- $500,000 Travel Accident Insurance
- Travel Emergency Assistance
- StandbyMD Travel Medical Concierge
Amex Referral program
As a Platinum card member, you can earn a referral bonus of 15,000 bonus Membership Rewards points for each approved referral, up to a maximum annual referral bonus of 225,000 Membership Rewards points.
Is the Amex Platinum Card worth $699?
After unpacking all of the value included in the American Express Platinum Card we can determine whether the $699 annual fee is worth it. Here’s a quick calculation:
- 60,000 points (when using a referral link) = $900 to $1,500
- Annual Travel Credit = $200 to $400
- Airport Lounge Access = $0 to $399 (depending on usage)
- Total value = $1,100 to $2,299
Subtract the annual fee ($699) and you’re left with a net value of between $401 and $1,600 in the first year.
It’s clear that American Express Platinum Card members can extract enough value from the program in the first year to warrant applying for the card. Its ongoing value after year one will depend on your personal situation and usage of the other benefits such as lounge access and hotel upgrades. To me, the ongoing value is questionable but your mileage may vary.
The bottom line: If you’re interested in the Amex Platinum Card for the premium travel benefits or simply to churn it in the first year, use my referral link and get an extra 10,000 bonus points to get you started.