Finding Emergency Medical Care Abroad — Reader Success Story

Jun 20, 2017

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One of the things I love most about being The Points Guy is getting to hear stories from readers about how award travel has affected their lives — the exotic vacations they’ve planned, the trips they’ve made to be with family and friends, the premium seats and suites they’ve experienced and so much more, all made possible by points and miles. I love to travel and explore, and it’s an honor to be able to help so many of you get where you want to go.

I like to share these success stories to help inspire you the way you inspire me! From time to time I pick one that catches my eye and post it for everybody to enjoy. If you’re interested in sharing your own story, email it to; be sure to include details about how you earned and redeemed your rewards, and put “Reader Success Story” in the subject line. If we publish it, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure!

Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Joseph, who was reimbursed for medical expenses incurred during an international family trip. Here’s what he had to say:

Queenstown is a scenic resort town in Otago Province of New Zealand's South Island. It is built around an inlet called Queenstown Bay on Lake Wakatipu, a long thin glacial formation, and has spectacular views of nearby mountains including the Remarkables Range, Cecil Peak and Walter Peak. The town is beautiful all year, but particularly stunning in Autumn, as shown here.
Both of Joseph’s children got sick during a trip to New Zealand. Image courtesy of Apexphotos via Getty Images.

During the first week of a one-month trip to New Zealand, my five-year-old son came down with a prolonged fever of over 104 degrees. I knew my medical insurance wouldn’t apply outside of the US, so we called the Amex Global Assist hotline (courtesy of my Platinum Card), and they recommended two hospitals in the Queenstown area.

Having a sick child can be especially stressful when you’re traveling abroad, so it was a tremendous relief to not have to search around, and to have an immediate list of reputable medical facilities nearby. The doctor verified that nothing else was out of the ordinary, and my son recovered quickly. Our urgent care visit cost around $230 NZD (or $165 USD).

During the last week of our trip, our nine-month-old daughter came down with a sickness as well. Because of her young age, we didn’t want to risk traveling with her in that condition, so once again we visited an emergency room recommended by Global Assist, where they were able to watch her overnight and make sure she didn’t get worse. Fortunately, she recovered by the next morning and we were able to resume our trip without any delays.  On the downside, however, the hospital visit cost upwards of $800 NZD (around $575 USD).

Those visits added a significant cost to our trip, but I remembered that Chase Sapphire Reserve has an Emergency Medical and Dental Benefit. After we returned, I called the Chase benefits line and opened a case for each of our children. I had booked our flights using Virgin America Elevate points (transferred from our Membership Rewards accounts), but I had fortunately paid the taxes using my Sapphire Reserve card. The agents confirmed that as long as some portion of the flight was paid for using the card, our trip qualified for the benefit.

After submitting doctor’s notes, receipts and flight information, we received a check for the total cost of medical care for both children (minus a $50 deductible). I can’t express how much peace of mind it gives me to know that if something goes wrong when we’re traveling, we can visit a doctor without worrying about the extra cost. This benefit alone easily covered the cost of the annual fee, and makes this card a keeper. I haven’t seen these benefits discussed often, so I hope our story helps somebody else who can use them in the future.

Medical care may not be at the forefront of your mind when planning an international vacation, but it’s important to consider how you’d handle illness or injury abroad. The insurance you use at home might not cover you adequately outside of the US, but many credit cards offer benefits like travel accident and evacuation insurance that can offer you extra protection, even on award trips. These policies can be literal lifesavers, though they also have their limitations. For example, the medical and dental benefit on the Sapphire Reserve card maxes out at $2,500 per incident, so I recommend buying more complete coverage when you’re beyond the range of your normal policy.

Of course, the best health insurance is to avoid getting sick in the first place. You can’t always control your surroundings, but you can take steps to minimize your exposure to illness while traveling. Proper vaccination, good hygiene and studying up on current medical concerns specific to your destination will help keep you healthy. If you’re going to a country where you don’t speak the local language, figure out how you’ll handle an emergency situation, especially if you’re traveling with an existing medical condition.

Active female fell down on snow during ski training
Before you jet off to an active vacation, make sure you’re properly insured. Image courtesy of shironosov via Getty Images.

I love this story and I want to hear more like it! To thank Joseph for sharing his experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending him a $200 Visa gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you.

Again, if the strategies you’ve learned here have helped you fly in first class, score an amazing suite, reach a far-flung destination or even just save a few dollars, please indulge me and the whole TPG team by emailing us with your own success stories (see instructions above). Feel free to also submit stories of your most egregious travel mistakes. In either case, you’ll have our utmost appreciation, along with some extra spending money for your next trip.

Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Featured image courtesy of Hero Images via Getty Images.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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