In 2020, I was looking forward to leaving Los Angeles for a socially distanced vacation in San Diego. I had stocked up on food, hand sanitizer, wipes and masks.

To stay safe and distant, I had booked two cottages near the beach with my travel credit card. My friend and his significant other would stay in one, and my roommate and I would take the other. That was the plan, until one friend tested positive for the coronavirus and had to isolate at home.

When the unexpected happens, a credit card’s trip cancellation or trip interruption insurance may help you recover the cost of nonrefundable expenses. In my case, trip cancellation insurance saved me $1,388. As you make travel plans in the vaccination era, get to know how these benefits can protect your travel fund.

Benefits explained

Trip cancellation and interruption insurance are often found on travel credit cards. A quick look through your card’s benefits can confirm whether you have them. Payment networks like American Express,
and MasterCard
may offer these benefits, and insurance companies underwrite them.

Trip cancellation insurance may reimburse prepaid, nonrefundable travel expenses like airfare, hotels, cruises, tours and passenger fares, depending on the card’s terms. Trip interruption may reimburse the unused portion of your trip for certain covered reasons. Terms vary.

Also see: More airlines fill middle seats — in direct opposition to CDC’s own advice on reducing COVID-19 exposure

To qualify, you must pay for eligible travel expenses with the card that offers the benefit. If you use credit card rewards to pay for a trip, purchases may still be covered, depending on the card. With Chase,
for example, a spokesperson confirms that trip cancellation insurance covers qualifying purchases booked with rewards earned on an eligible credit card.

Benefits like these may also change on credit cards, so to avoid unwanted surprises, review your card’s terms and conditions before booking a trip.

Circumstances that may qualify

Insurance offered through a credit card extends to different circumstances. For example, unexpected illness and accidental bodily injury are the predominant cause for trip cancellation and trip interruption claims on eligible MasterCards, said Ralf Riehl, director of loyalty solutions for MasterCard, in an email.

“In specific regard to COVID-19, these benefits do not provide coverage for fear of traveling to a specific destination, even for fear of illness or quarantine,” he said.

The terms I qualified for cited coverage that includes “sickness experienced by you or your traveling companion which prevents you or your traveling companion from traveling on the trip.”

Also see: Make sure you have this most useful of credit card perks

Depending on the card, other circumstances that may qualify for trip cancellation coverage include physician-ordered quarantine, loss of life, severe weather that prevents travel, changes in military orders and jury duty, to name a few. Trip interruption may cover similar incidents.

Possible limitations

Coverage from your credit card may be secondary to any travel insurance