Not too long ago, Trevor and I were asked our opinions on purchasing travel insurance before going abroad. Considering how travelers are asked about purchasing a policy several times before booking travel through airlines and online travel agencies, it’s a very relevant question. Does it make sense to purchase travel insurance before flying?
As with many things in life, a unilateral answer is rather difficult to provide. While travel insurance can assist in the most unfortunate situations, a policy may not always the best purchase. Before you add that extra charge to the travel bill, here are some points about what travel insurance covers, when you should purchase a policy, and how award tickets are affected by travel insurance.
What is Travel Insurance?
Travel insurance is defined as a special short-term insurance policy specifically written to cover extraordinary situations while away from home. More specifically, travel insurance covers a number of inconveniences travelers may face either while in transit or while at a destination.
What are these “out-of-the-ordinary” situations? If a trip delay goes beyond eight to twelve hours (depending on the policy), a travel insurance policy can pay for incidental expenses incurred. This can include hotel rooms and meals required from the trip delay. And if an outside force (like a car accident) requires a traveler to cancel their trip, a travel insurance policy can reimburse any money lost from canceling that trip.
But more importantly, many travel insurance policies include medical benefits for the international traveler. When going abroad, many countries will not accept health insurance policies from the United States. Moreover, some health insurance policies will not cover insureds outside the United States. A travel insurance policy can not only cover travelers’ medical expenses while in another country, but also guarantee payment to the hospital or care provider. This ensures access to care in the event of an emergency illness or injury.
When should I purchase Travel Insurance?
Depending on how you purchased your travel, you may already have travel insurance attached to your itinerary! Many major credit cards already have a number of benefits built in, so long as you make the entire purchase on your credit card in one purchase. Benefits provided by credit card travel insurance include trip cancellation, trip interruption, and baggage loss.
However, you may not be completely covered with the travel insurance attached to your credit card – especially if you booked some or all of your adventure on points and miles (but we’ll talk more about that later). If you are looking for an additional layer of protection, then you may want to consider purchasing a third-party travel insurance policy.
As a general rule, travelers are best served purchasing travel insurance at the same time as their first booking or deposit. By purchasing travel insurance early, travelers can receive all the benefits of a policy, including a pre-existing condition waiver, and coverage for “known events” like hurricanes or volcano eruptions. However, if a trip interruption from a storm or recurrence of a pre-existing condition are a lesser concern, then purchasing travel insurance can be a last minute decision. Many policies can be purchased up to 24 hours before a trip – or even later, depending on the policy and level of coverage.
Where should I purchase my Travel Insurance?
Repeat after me: under no circumstances should you purchase travel insurance from your carrier. Why do I say that? Because those travel insurance policies are often written to benefit the carrier or provider instead of the traveler. If you decide to purchase a travel insurance policy, go to a third party travel insurance provider that specializes in these policies.
In order to find the right policy for your needs, I recommend going through a group that offers multiple policies at different levels of coverage. I’ve had a great experience working with Squaremouth.com (on both sides of the business) and they offer travel insurance policies from multiple companies, including TravelGuard, APRIL, and Allianz.
A note about Travel Insurance and Award Bookings
Something very important to note is how travel insurance is affected by award bookings. Although arguments have been made over the value of points and miles, insurance companies do not hold a direct value between travel and miles. Therefore, your travel made on award bookings may not be completely covered by a travel insurance policy.
So what does that mean for your travels? If you’re forced to cancel your trip, don’t expect your travel insurance provider to pay for the retail value of your award ticket. However, other expenses involved in trip cancellation, like mile redeposit fees, can be covered by travel insurance. In addition, all other travel insurance benefits, like trip delay and baggage loss, all remain in effect – regardless of how you paid for your trip.
In regards to credit card travel insurance: even though you may have earned the miles or points from your card, the travel insurance from your credit card may not apply on an award booking. Many credit cards require travelers to purchase their entire itinerary on the credit card. If a trip is paid for partially by points and partially on a credit card, the credit card travel insurance policy may not apply to the itinerary.
Travel insurance can be a great asset for international trips – but only when you understand how it affects your travel. By knowing what travel insurance is and how it can protect travel, every modern-day adventurer can make an educated decision about whether or not a policy adds up for their travelers.
What questions do you have about travel insurance? How can we help you learn more about policies? Let us know in the comments below!