How credit card emergency assistance works

By   |   Verified by Andrew Boyd   |   Published 28th February 2022

  • Emergency travel assistance is a complementary feature offered by credit card companies.
  • Emergency travel assistance becomes useful and even critical if you find yourself in a difficult situation during your travels.
  • The extent of emergency assistance perks can depend on the card offer and the annual fees, with higher fee cards coming with a more comprehensive range.

Most major credit card networks operating in Australia — like Visa, Mastercard and American Express — offer emergency assistance services to their cardholders. The extent and availability of these services depend on your credit annual fee and the offer that you have taken. In the case of features like emergency cash, it may also depend on whether your card is in good standing and there is credit available on your card.

This guide covers all you need to know about credit card emergency travel assistance, the range of assistance services that may be available, and how you can make use of them.

What is credit card emergency travel assistance?

Credit card emergency travel assistance covers a range of complimentary services that are to be used strictly during true emergencies. In an emergency, the emergency assistance can be used to access quick and efficient help and advice. Common use cases include replacing lost or stolen cards and even the provision of emergency cash.

Some perks are free of charge, but others may be met by the card company on the understanding that you will pay back the cost. Premium cards with higher annual fees tend to have access to better emergency assistance.

How do emergency assistance services work?

Credit card issuers work with approved partners from around the world to coordinate and offer these services. This ensures that you, as a cardholder, can get emergency assistance locally or while travelling internationally.

The easiest way to engage these services is to contact customer service, typically by phone. If your card comes with a concierge service, they can also help organise help.

Are emergency assistance services offered free of charge?

Some emergency assistance services are included in your credit card's annual fee and are provided at no extra cost. Services that rely on third parties will typically involve a cost to you.

You can find details on exactly what services are included as perks and what emergency services carry extra charges.

Which credit cards offer emergency travel assistance?

Any credit card that operates on the Visa, Mastercard, and American Express networks generally carry some level of emergency travel assistance. Exactly what is covered depends on the card and its specific terms and conditions.

As a general rule, you can expect credit cards with a higher annual fee to have more extensive emergency assistance services and travel insurance compared to low-fee credit cards.

Perks and services included with credit card emergency assistance

  • Arrangement of bail bonds. In the event that you require support with arranging bail bonds, the emergency travel assistance services may come to your rescue. However, it is worthwhile to remember what limits and conditions are in place. These will be outlined in the credit card terms and conditions. Any other related expenses may still have to be borne by you.
  • Assistance on lost items. In some cases, emergency travel assistance services can refer you to the appropriate authorities for reporting. Where your card has complimentary travel insurance cover for you, and you have used the card to pay for the trip and informed them of your travel plans, these services may be able to organise the provision of emergency clothing, toiletry, and money, or reimburse money spent on replacements.
  • Customs and duty regulations. Information regarding customs and duty regulations may be available with emergency assistants for each major credit card.
  • Embassy and consulate referrals. In case you need to reach the nearest embassy or consulate, your emergency travel assistance service can help put you in touch with the relevant office.
  • Emergency card replacements and cash advances. If you damage or lose your card, you can request an emergency replacement for your card. Some emergency travel assistance services may also provide cash advances. But beware that such cash assistance may be dependent on having a credit card in good standing with available credit that you can draw on.
  • Emergency medical assistance. When facing medical emergencies during travel, you can get help with contact details, addresses, and office hours of local hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, physicians, and dentists.
  • Emergency ticket replacement. Your credit card emergency travel assistance service may be able to replace lost airline tickets for you by referral to an airline, travel agent or other authority.
  • Foreign exchange rates and tax rates. Some credit card issuers offer services that let you check updated official exchange rates and relevant tax rates of foreign nations during your overseas travels.
  • Information needed to prepare for overseas travel. You can ask emergency service questions about your flights, departure times, and details on what items you are allowed to carry to and from your destination. They can even inform you about forecasted local weather conditions.
  • Information on vaccinations and other medical guidance. It is advisable to get recommendations of prior immunisation requirements before travelling overseas. Such information can be obtained through emergency assistance services or from government travel advisories.
  • Lawyer referrals. If you require legal advice, card emergency travel assistance can provide you with contact details of reputable and qualified lawyers to advise and represent you.
  • Passport and visa information including entry and exit requirements — such as when and how you should get medical tests done — plus requirements for entrance visas for your next destination.
  • Referrals to translators. When there are language barriers that limit your access to their emergency services, you can ask for a local interpreter. In such instances, your credit card issuer can organise this either by providing contact details or by scheduling an appointment. Some card issuers can arrange interpretation by phone for your convenience.
  • Relay of urgent messages. You can use the service to relay important messages to family and friends about your health and wellbeing.
  • Travel advisories, restrictions and warnings. In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade offers travel advisories for more than 170 overseas destinations. In case these change quickly and you are unable to get in touch, your emergency travel assistance service may be able to update you on the latest information for where you are.