One of the first purchases that many travelers make after booking their trip is travel insurance. A good travel insurance policy can cover the costs of canceling a trip in an emergency, help you get cash if yours is stolen on your trip and even help you to replace clothing from lost luggage.
But travel insurance can also be a trap if a traveler is not careful. You could pay hundreds of dollars for a travel insurance policy only to find out that the policy is no good and the company is out of business. When it comes to getting travel insurance, you should consider yourself on your own. Many travel agents who suggest travel insurance are not affiliated with the insurance company in any way and have no details on the company. A travel agent could offer bogus travel insurance without even knowing it. The best way to protect yourself is to know how to spot bad insurance.
A good rule to follow is to never buy a travel insurance policy you do not recognize or from a company you cannot find any information on. Bob’s Insurance Company may be offering great travel insurance deals, but if you cannot confirm whether or not the company is reputable, then the policy may be useless.
A Rose by Any Other Name
One of the first things you need to look at when considering travel insurance is the name used to describe the policy. A travel insurance policy is not the same thing as a travel protection plan. The difference is huge and a major reason why you need to pay attention to this detail.
A travel insurance policy is a document that follows the state insurance regulations. It is illegal for a company to offer an insurance policy that is not certified as following all of the insurance regulations of your state. There are no laws that govern a protection plan. A company can refer to anything as a protection plan and it is legal.
When you buy an insurance policy, you have several recourses under state law to recover your money. If you buy a protection plan, then there is a very good chance that you just gave your money away to a con artist.
Read the Fine Print
Travel insurance is designed to protect you in case you have to cancel the trip, it is supposed to help provide medical help in foreign countries and it is supposed to give you access to legal assistance in foreign countries, among other things. But you need to read the fine print on some policies before purchasing to make sure you are covered.
For example, some travel insurance policies will not pay for any of your medical expenses if your injuries are your own fault. That is pretty cut and dry if you get drunk and get into a car accident. But what if you travel to the Mexico to go cliff diving and you wind up injuring yourself? Is that considered a situation where you have caused your own injury and will not be covered?
Another good example is that many travel insurance policies are void for women travelers if they are pregnant. Each insurance company has its own rules on how far along in a pregnancy a woman is before she is considered uninsured. But that is something that you should research before you and your pregnant wife fly off to Europe.
There are two instances where your travel insurance policy may become a problem when it comes to medical condition. The first is with your own pre-existing medical conditions. In order to determine if your condition is covered, you need to spend time reading the fine print. If it is not spelled out clearly in the policy, then find a new policy. The worst thing you can do is call the insurance company to get clarification only to find out that the clarification was incorrect. If the company did not take the time to spell it out in the policy, then do not buy the policy.
The other medical condition issue you will run into is qualifying conditions for trip cost reimbursement. This varies so widely from company to company that it is essential you completely understand the conditions that must exist for you to qualify for a refund if you have to cancel your trip. Read the fine print and do not rely on an agent’s interpretation.
One of the red flags that should go off in your mind is if the travel insurance policy claims to supersede your homeowners insurance policy for protection of your possessions, or if the insurance agent assures you that the travel policy covers things your homeowners insurance policy does not. One of the big reasons that this should concern you is that neither the travel insurance company nor the travel insurance agent knows what is in your homeowners policy.
Bring a copy of a proposed travel insurance policy to your regular insurance agent to compare to the travel coverage offered by your homeowners policy. In most cases, any mention of homeowners in the travel insurance policy is a potential sign of fraud.
A reputable and legitimate travel insurance policy will have a comprehensive description of the process to be followed to make a claim. This is especially important if you find yourself overseas and need to utilize the services of your travel insurance policy. But some policies avoid giving clear instructions on how to make claims. Some fake policies will go so far as to not have a customer service phone number mentioned anywhere in the policy terms.
Be sure to read your policy carefully and see if it has everything you need to know about making a claim. Call the customer service phone number before you buy the policy to make sure the number works and that the customer service associates are helpful and knowledgeable.
The best way to protect yourself from bad travel insurance is to read the fine print and make detailed notes on who you bought the policy from and the people you talk to. In the end, the responsibility of checking out an insurance company is yours.