I recently wrote about how your credit card might give you access to a travel concierge who can help you plan your next trip. But that’s not the only credit card travel benefit that could prove invaluable on your next vacation. Many cards often offer some kind of travel insurance or protection if you pay for your tickets with them.

Benefits vary widely from card to card, and the details are often buried in the fine print, says Matt Schulz, senior research analyst at CreditCards.com. “You'll probably be surprised at how much is there, and you might save yourself some headaches along the way,” said Schulz. “Most will stipulate that you had to pay for the entire fare with the card offering the benefit. So if you used a voucher or miles to pay for part of it and the card for the rest, the benefits might not apply.”  

Before booking your next trip, it pays to dig up those benefit booklets you received in the mail when signing up for the card, or just call the toll-free number and ask for details. Most benefits will fall into one of three categories:

Travel Interruption Or Delays

If your flight is delayed, you could be reimbursed for some of the hardships you endured -- like paying for meals, transportation, even clothes. Of course, not every kind of delay is covered. Most cards will provide a list of accepted reasons for delays, like illness or labor strikes.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred card, for example, says, “If your common carrier travel is delayed more than 12 hours or requires an overnight stay, you and your family are covered for unreimbursed expenses, such as meals and lodging, up to $500 per ticket.”

Chase defines common carrier travel as airline, cruise ship or train travel on Amtrak. And in its benefits guide, it defines “covered hazards” as “equipment failure, inclement weather, labor strikes and hijacking or skyjacking.”

Trip Cancellations

If you have to cancel your trip because of a major injury or illness, many credit cards will cover nonrefundable plans, but the rules vary. The terms of Select Citi cards, for example, say that if you used your Citi card to pay for the entire cost of your trip “and if it’s canceled or interrupted due to covered reasons like severe illness or weather, you may be reimbursed for your nonrefundable expenses. It even covers expenses like change fees.”

Lost Or Delayed Luggage

If you reach your destination but your baggage doesn’t, your credit card may cover you for buying things you need, like toiletries and clothing. Discover, for example, will pay for up to $500 in travel essentials if your luggage is delayed by three hours or more. Bank of America’s Travel Rewards Visa Signature Card covers up to $3,000 per trip for lost, checked or carry-on luggage and its contents.

Because benefits vary widely by credit card, it pays to check with your issuers to see what they offer. For a roundup of common credit card trip interruption and cancellation insurance policies, visit CreditCards.com.