Just before you buy your plane ticket, it’s likely that you’ll be prompted with an option to purchase travel insurance.
But what travel insurance, if any, is right for you?
Many airlines have partnered with travel insurance companies: JetBlue, U.S. Airways, and American Airlines are partners with Access America; Delta is partners with Access American and Mondial Assistance; and Air France/KLM is partners with Mondial Assistance. Notice a trend?
Access America is the largest travel insurance provider in the world, and Mondial Assistance is one of the world’s largest providers of consumer specialty insurance and assistance services. But there are many other travel insurance options at your disposal.
So before clicking “Purchase,” get savvy about travel insurance and avoid getting ripped off by following these tips.
Compare and contrast coverage
Squaremouth.com allows you to compare travel insurance options from every major company. It is the most comprehensive comparison site, and you can purchase directly from them online.
Know the limits
Calculate the total amount of pre-paid, non-refundable trip costs to determine your cancellation coverage needs.
Every company and policy has different limits, so make sure the maximum reimbursement amounts for each category make sense for you.
Read the fine print
Read the Benefits and Exclusions sections carefully, and don’t make any assumptions about what’s covered. If you have to cancel your trip, make sure you understand what the “covered reasons” are.
For example: In Access America’s Basic package, you can get reimbursed for your travel costs if there is a death in the family, but not if there is a birth in the family. In their Classic Comprehensive package, attending an immediate family member’s birth is covered. So if someone in your immediate family is late in her pregnancy when you’re planning to travel, you might want to consider opting for the Comprehensive package.
Pick up the phone
If you’re unsure about the fine print, which often takes a lawyer’s expertise to decipher, call the company and speak to an insurance agent. Get his or her name, call centre location, and record the date and time of the call for future reference.
Ask about frequently encountered traveller problems:
Are meals and lodging covered if there is a lengthy airline delay or cancellation due to weather?
If my bags are lost, how much is each bag covered for?
Am I covered if I miss my flight?
If I become sick or injured on vacation, will my hospital bills be covered and will my insurance provide emergency medical evacuation if necessary?
If there is an airline strike, will my trip be covered?
If a family member back home is affected with a serious illness, will I be covered if I need to cancel my trip?
Am I covered if I am called into work and need to cancel my trip?
Book insurance in advance
Certain insurance benefits like “hurricane-warning protection” come with a catch. Unless the policy is purchased 15 days in advance, that coverage generally isn’t available.
Make sure your extra benefit is covered by knowing how far in advance you need to purchase it.
And beware: Just because you have hurricane insurance doesn’t mean that you can expect a complete refund if a hurricane strikes. If your hotel is still standing post-hurricane but the beaches are destroyed, too bad for you.
Consider the “any reason” option
This add-on protection allows customers to cancel trips for any reason, and be reimbursed for most of their expenses (roughly 80%). It’s often worth the approximately $50 extra.
Make sure you nail down what percentage reimbursement the “any reason” option covers with your carrier.
Check the return policy
Most travel insurance companies will offer a full refund of the premium within 10 days of purchase as long as you have not yet departed on your trip or filed a claim.
Knowing the return policy timeline is important in the event that you change your mind about an add-on benefit (such as “hurricane warning protection”).
Keep your receipts
In the event you need to be reimbursed for meals, lodging, or medical bills, be sure to keep your receipts to expedite the claim. Don’t rely on your credit card statements—insurance companies can be picky, and deny claims without original receipts. Keep all trip reimbursement documentation in one place and make copies of anything you send or fax to the insurance company, noting the date you sent the materials.