Top 5 credit card perks that can protect summer travelers

By Rebecca Lake/SmartAsset

As you're preparing to go on vacation, it's a good idea to think about how you're going to pay for your trip. Using a rewards credit card could be a great way to earn back some of what you spend. Choosing a card that comes with built-in travel protections could also come in handy.

Check out five credit card perks that you might want to have in case disaster strikes.

​1. Trip cancellation insurance

There's nothing worse than having to cut your stay short, especially if you've paid for your hotel room or other travel accommodations in advance. Fortunately, trip cancellation insurance can reimburse you for the expenses you've already paid for out of pocket.

Just remember that you'll need to explain why you had to cancel your travel plans. If you're skipping out on your trip because you got a stomachache but didn't see a doctor or you missed your flight because you overslept, the credit card company may dismiss your claim.

2. Lost baggage insurance

Losing your luggage while travelling can be stressful. But if you have lost baggage insurance, you could be reimbursed if your bags are lost, stolen or damaged to the extent that you need to replace your belongings. Although the rules will vary depending on your credit card terms and conditions, it might be possible to get up to $3,000 (or more) in baggage insurance.

​3. Auto rental collision damage waiver

If you're renting a car while you're on vacation, it might be a good idea to avoid paying for the rental agency's insurance coverage until you've checked to see whether your rewards credit card offers any similar protections. Many card issuers offer their customers an auto collision damage waiver that covers them if they get into an accident.

4. Emergency and roadside assistance

Getting into an accident or getting hurt when you're away from home can be disorienting if you don't know who to call for help. An emergency can be particularly difficult to face if you're in a foreign country and you don't speak the local language. Fortunately, a credit card can literally be a life-saver if you've got access to an emergency assistance hotline.

If there's someone who you can call in the event of an emergency, you might be able to get help with things like finding medical care and arranging for someone to come get you. If you've also got roadside assistance, you can call to get your car towed or have a flat tired changed so you're not left stranded.

​5. Travel accident insurance

Like life insurance, travel accident insurance can give you and your family members some peace of mind. Credit card companies may provide anywhere from $100,000 to $500,000 in coverage if you experience a significant injury that causes you to lose a limb, leaves you permanently disabled or even worse, results in your death.

While thinking about travel accident insurance may seem morbid, it pays to plan ahead for every possibility when traveling.

​Read the fine print

When you're comparing credit card benefits, it's important to pay close attention to things like coverage limits and what expense, if any, you're expected to bear for using those perks. For example, calling the roadside assistance hotline could be free, but you may have to pay a fee for getting someone to tow your vehicle.

If you're planning to apply for a new credit card or rewards card before taking a trip, it's a good idea to look for one that gives you the widest range of benefits at the lowest cost.