Renay Arthur of Bronx, New York, had been looking forward to her first Caribbean cruise. But a week before the 30-year-old was to set sail, she aggravated an old back injury. Her local travel agent cold her that she couldn’t reschedule the trip or get a refund for the $2,000 she had spent. Having the proper trip cancellation insurance (TCI) policy (at a cost of $4-$7 per $100 spent) might have saved Arthur $1,860. She had paid an extra $50 on her package deal for partial coverage, but it excluded pre-existing medical conditions.
While travel insurance may cover such unforeseen emergencies, experts warn consumers to be on guard. According to Consumer Reports, travel insurance is probably the most overpriced travel service, partly because insurance carriers take advantage of consumers’ anxiety before traveling. Fees range from $40 (to insure a trip worth $500 for a package policy with TCI) to $1,500-plus for a $20,000 trip.
Before you plunk down more money, check what coverage ,s our credit cards health, life, medical and homeowner’s insurance already offer, especially if you’re traveling outside the country advises Jeff Bredenberg, editor of Beat The System: 1,200 Tips for Coming Out on Top in Every Deal and Transaction (Rodale Press: $27.95).
Bredenberg suggests that you weigh the cost of the policy against the coverage. It’s not necessary, he says, to get additional coverage for flight insurance, especially if you have life insurance. “Flight insurance only covers you in flight,” Bredenberg notes. And, due to the large monetary settlements airlines tend to offer, such insurance is unnecessary.
Luggage and personal possessions may be covered under your homeowner’s policy. According to the Better Business Bureau, travel insurance companies do not cover you for anything that you’re already insured for; some require that you file a claim with your other insurer before you collect.
Travel insurance is recommended in cases like medical evacuation, the most costly medical travel emergency. The procedure can cost $5,000-$100,000 and is usually not fully covered by existing insurance. If you’re mountain climbing, for example, you’d want this coverage. American Express offers free medical evacuation for Platinum cardholders only.
Find out about supplementary coverage. The Travel Health Clinic Pocket Guide To Healthy Travel (Silvercat, $13.95) by Lawrence Bryson, M.D., says Blue Cross and Blue Shield covers some foreign medical care, but only on a reimbursement basis. Medicare and Medicaid will not reimburse for medical treatment outside the country.
Before you buy, investigate all insurance companies with the Better Business Bureau, study the application brochure, read the disclosure statement, conditions and restrictions, and check your deductibles.
Types of Coverage
TRIP CANCELLATION insurance covers expenses for travelers who cancel or interrupt a trip due to unforeseen circumtances. Some policies do not cover pre-existing medical conditions or incidents caused by natural disasters, war or a faulty tour operator.
ILLNESS AND ACCIDENT insurance protests travelers who become sick or have an accident. The cost varies. Health tare Abroad (800-237-6615) costs 40 cents a day (10-day minimum).
TOUR OPERATOR DEFAULT
covers you if the tour operator fails or ceases operation. Payment