|How to Select Cruise Insurance / Travel Insurance|
I have seen the topic of Travel Insurance surface almost daily on travel-related bulletin boards and chat rooms. I am not an agent for any travel insurance company. Here are several important items to consider when buying travel or cruise insurance.
- Check out InsureMyTrip. This is a really good place to start your search for travel insurance. Simply fill in a few of your travel details and they will present you a great spreadsheet with side-by-side comparisons of the most popular travel insurance policies.
- If you graduated from a University, check out AlumniAbroad.com. They offer alumni access to their comprehensive Travel Insurance Select© policy which may be less expensive than some other policies depending upon your age and total cost of your trip. Along these same lines, check out STATravel.com. They offer insurance to student travelers. Rates are based entirely on the length (number of days) of your trip.
- Always pay for all of your travel arrangements (cruise, hotel, airfare, insurance) with a credit card. There are numerous benefits which include: (a) the potential ability to get back money if any of the travel arrangements failed to deliver, (b) some credit cards offer travel benefits (and secondary insurance) when you use their card, and (c) a good paper trail when you need to make a claim. Check with your credit card company to get specific details on what they cover.
- Many companies offer two different policies. A premium policy with all the "bells and whistles" and a less expensive alternative with a little less coverage. Buy the policy that fits your needs.
- Make sure your policy includes the following coverages at a minimum: Trip Interruption, Trip Cancellation, Supplier Default (also known as "Financial Default"), a Trip Delay Benefit, and --- depending upon how far away, and remote, your travel --- at least $50,000 worth of Air Evacuation (also called "Medical Evacuation") in the event of a medical emergency. Be sure the Air Evacuation coverage also covers "Repatriation", which pays to get your remains back home.
- Make sure your insurance coverage is considered "Primary". This way if your problem is covered by the policy, the insurance company pays you. Period. You do not want "secondary" coverage wherein you have to submit your claim elsewhere first (like to your Homeowners, Health, or other insurance).
- Make sure your policy is real insurance. Don't get fooled into buying "travel protection" offered by non-insurance companies. These other companies are often fly-by-night outfits who are not governed by the same rules and bonding/reserve requirements that insurers are.
- Do not buy travel protection or insurance issued by your travel agency, airline, or cruise line. There is bound to be some contention here from fellow travelers, but think about why you are buying the insurance. What good is that insurance if the airline, travel agency, or cruise line you are traveling with goes under? You never know. (The one possible exception to this rule is if you pay with a credit card that covers financial default). Now, this is not to say you shouldn't buy your travel insurance from any provider, like your Travel Agent. Just make sure the insurance is independent of the provider. Your Travel Agent will certainly appreciate the small commission they make from selling you the policy.
- Make sure the insurer is rated "A" or higher by AM Best. The highest rating is "A++". Note that A.M. Best only rates the company's financial wherewithal to pay your claims. They do not rate the company's level of service. Ratings and coverages can also differ from state to state.
- Buy the policy within the first 7 to 21 days (or so) from when you make your first trip payment, so that all Pre-Existing Conditions are covered. Check your company's policy on this time window. This way you never have to prove that a pre-exiting condition didn't exist.
- Some policies allow you to pay an extra 40%-50% more for the option to "Cancel For Any Reason". Provided that you cancel your trip more than two days prior to your scheduled departure date, the insurer will typically reimburse you up to 75%-80% of the prepaid, forfeited, non-refundable payments or deposits you paid for your trip. Supporting documentation will be needed. This is best for folks who have family matters which may cause them to have to cancel their trip. If you have concerns that your business may keep you from traveling, look for a policy that offers a "Cancel For Work Reasons" rider. It is less expensive than the "Any Reason" coverage (about 25% - 30% extra). Be sure to read the specific terms and conditions for this coverage. Substantiation will be required.
- Common add-on riders for which you may need to pay extra include: rental car collision insurance, increasing the maximum medical coverage, accidental death insurance due to an airplane crash or other common carrier (taxi, bus, ship), sports coverage, and additional evacuation coverage. Again, get to know the terms, conditions, and exclusions of these riders.
- Read the entire policy before buying. Usually the policy and the exclusions can be found online. Look for a document titled "Evidence of Coverage". Make sure it covers you for any scenario you want covered. This is important because some policies do not cover potentially dangerous activities like scuba diving, bungee jumping, sky diving, and hang gliding.
- While you are reading the policy, don't forget to review the definitions section which dictates how the insurance company defines all of the terms (like family member, medical necessity, and covered trip) and the State Exceptions section which provides any state mandated exceptions and add-ons which may affect your policy.
- Look for carrier exclusions to make sure your cruise, air, or travel operator you are considering is not on their list of excluded companies. Excluded companies are not covered by insurance if they go under.
- Insurance is usually based upon the total cost of your trip (on a per person basis). Be sure to include the cost of your airfare, cruise, or other public transportation as well as any non-refundable deposits for excursions. Some companies (like Travelex) may cover your minor children for free.
- Important: in the event that you do need to make a claim, be sure to collect every receipt and keep them in one place so you can easily find them. Be sure to keep: receipt from Travel Agent with cost of trip, all unused airline tickets and transportation receipts, medical bills, copies of theft or other official reports, and any other pertinent receipts relating to the specific claim.
- I have purposely not mentioned any insurers by name to this point as everyone seems to have a preferred insurer. I like Travelex's (rated "A") product and have bought it several times now. Other folks have mentioned Travel Guard (rated "A-"), CSA (rated "A-"), and Travel Insured (rated "B++") for cruise insurance. Please note that A.M. Best ratings are not static. The ratings can and do change over time, and can also vary from one state to another. Be sure to check the current ratings if this is important to you. It is surprising how difficult it can be to actually find the ratings on some companies. (Low rated companies don't like to advertise the fact that they are poorly rated).