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COMPARE THE COST AND BENEFITS OF TRAVEL CARDS

SHARE COMPARE THE COST AND BENEFITS OF TRAVEL CARDS

Flight delay reimbursements, car insurance, air travel discounts, collision protection. With travel and entertainment card companies touting their long list of benefits for the business traveler, it can be difficult to decide which card to subscribe to or whether a business traveler should carry more than one card for protection on business trips.

"It's like trying to pick the difference between Kellogg's and General Mills cereals," said Don Berman, president of CMS Inc., a credit card consulting firm in Garden City, N.Y.Berman and other credit- and charge-card experts say the first characteristic a consumer ought to look for when choosing a card needed for travel is acceptability. A traveler should not have to worry about whether a place she is going accepts her credit card, Berman said.

"Especially when a person is traveling internationally, this is very important," Berman said, adding that although hotels, car rentals and restaurants in the United States generally accept a variety of cards for payment, establishments abroad tend to accept only one or two.

Donald Auriemma, president of a New York credit card consulting firm bearing his name, said one factor he always looks for before using a travel and entertainment card is its spending limit.

"If I've just charged a $3,000 ticket, I don't want to have to worry about my credit limit," he said.

As a general rule, Auriemma said, travel and entertainment cards do not have spending limits, but they must be paid off in full each month. Bank cards, such as Visa and MasterCard, have a spending limit depending on the customer's credit line, but can be paid off in monthly installments.

The variety of insurance policies offered by charge card companies for business travelers - baggage delay, airline default, and medical - have a high perceived value for business travelers once they've received the card, but ordinarily insurance does not affect a decision to subscribe, according to industry experts.

"If you have multiple cards, that's when you start to look at the differences in enhancements," said Berman.

For instance, if you carry both an enRoute card and a Citicorp Diners Club card, you may opt to use the enRoute to pay for your airline ticket because it provides flight and baggage delay insurance, lost and stolen bag insurance and airline default insurance. But if you're away from home and need money quickly, want to eat at a French restaurant or need to buy a tie for a business meeting, en Route won't be able to help. You would have to use your Diners card.

The following information was gathered from the charge card companies to show travelers exactly what is offered:

AIR TRAVEL CARD - accepted at more than 200 airlines and Amtrak

Travel accident insurance - $200,000

Primary auto collision damage insurance - none

Car rental death and dismemberment insurance - none

Flight delay insurance - none

Airline default insurance - none

Baggage delay insurance - none

Lost or stolen bag insurance - none (available on supplemental bases)

Medical indemnity cash payments - none

Emergency medical and legal advice service - yes

Emergency consulate and embassy information - none

Emergency message transmission - none

Automated teller machine use - none

AMERICAN EXPRESS CORPORATE CARD - accepted at 1.8 million locations worldwide

Travel accident insurance - $200,000

Primary auto collision damage insurance - up to the value of the rented car

Car rental death and dismemberment insurance - $200,000

Flight delay insurance - none

Airline default insurance - handled on a case by case basis. No written policy

Baggage delay insurance - none

Lost or stolen bag insurance - $1,250

Medical indemnity cash payments - none

Emergency medical and legal advice service - yes

Emergency consulate and embassy information - yes

Emergency message transmission - yes

Automated teller machine use - yes

CITICORP DINERS'S CLUB - accepted at 1.5 million locations worldwide

Travel accident insurance - $350,000 (for airline accidents)

Primary auto collision damage insurance - $25,000

Car rental death and dismemberment insurance - none

Flight delay insurance - none (available on supplemental basis)

Airline default insurance - none (available on supplemental basis)

Baggage delay insurance - none

Lost or stolen bag insurance - $1,250

Medical indemnity cash payments - none

Emergency medical and legal advice service - yes

Emergency consulate and embassy information - yes

Emergency message transmission - yes

Automated teller machine use - yes

ENROUTE - accepted at 16,000 airlines, car rentals and hotels worldwide

Travel accident insurance - $300,000

Primary collision damage insurance - $25,000

Car rental death and dismemberment insurance - $200,000 for driver, $100,000 for any passenger up to $600,000 for each accident.

Flight delay insurance - up to $500 if flight is delayed for more than four hours (living expenses)

Airline default insurance - up to $500 for non-refundable portion of ticket (strike or bankruptcy)

Baggage delay insurance - up to $500 if baggage is delayed more than six hours.

Lost or stolen bag insurance - up to $2,000 for replacement (while on a common carrier)

Medical indemnity cash payments - $33.33 per day or $1,000 per month of the excess expenses not covered by a health care plan or other insurance. (injury on any carrier or rented automobile)

Emergency medical and legal advice service - yes

Emergency consulate and embassy information - yes

Emergency message transmission - yes

Automated teller machine use - none