Category: Travel insurance

Air-medical transportation and travel insurance considerations for spring breakers

With spring break coming, over 1.5 million students are expected to hit the beaches and slopes. With so many party-goers gathering in certain spring break hotspots, the possibility of an accident or illness or something has to be considered. Now it’s always possible to just be hospitalized near the vacation spot, but should medical evacuation be necessary, you would probably want to be covered by insurance.

According to Medjet, which claims that “MedjetAssist is the premier global air-medical transport membership program for travelers,” should a student get sick, an air-medical transport can cost much more than a semester’s tuition – ranging from $10,000 domestically to $100,000 internationally – while an annual collegiate membership is just $260 – and covers students studying away from home and abroad. Spring breakers who prefer a single-trip option can choose from Medjet’s short-term memberships starting at $99. For full collegiate program pricing visit

Do Credit Card Travel Plans Equal Travel Insurance?

Guest post from Damian Tysdal

Many travelers don’t want to purchase travel insurance because they think they already have it with their credit card travel plan. While the travel protection you get with your credit card is better than nothing at all, it’s important to take a good look at the benefits you get with each before settling on one or the other.

There are, in fact, four important differences between credit card travel protection and travel insurance, which we’ll explain, and some benefits that are nearly identical (we’ll explain those too).

1. Maximum trip costs are much lower with your credit card plan

Trip cancellation coverage means the ability to get your nonrefundable trip costs reimbursed if you have to cancel your trip. Some credit card travel protection benefits include trip cancellation coverage, but the maximum trip costs are low, typically $1,500-$2,500, when compared to a typical travel insurance plan, which can be $5,000, $10,000, and higher.

The maximum trip costs with your credit card travel plan may be fine if your trip costs are limited to a few airline tickets, but it won’t cover a more expensive trip like a cruise. Many hotels, inns, and B&Bs now have restrictive cancellation policies as well, so if you’ve pre-paid for lodging in addition to airfare, your nonrefundable trip costs could be higher than you expect.

If you pre-paid for a cottage on the beach and a hurricane heads that direction, it’s not likely that you’ll get that rental money back either because most property rental companies protect themselves with well-defined cancellation policies too.

2. Covered reasons are very limited with your credit card plan

The limitations of trip cancellation coverage are defined in the ‘covered reasons’, and these catch many travelers by surprise. A covered reason is a reason listed in the plan or policy as a valid reason for canceling your trip. If the reason isn’t listed in the description of coverage, then it’s excluded by default.

The covered reasons for canceling a trip according to most credit card plans is limited to:

1. death of you or a person in your immediate family
2. accidental injury or injury that results in medically imposed travel restrictions

By contrast, travel insurance plans let you cancel for a wider range of reasons (depending on the plan, of course), including: job loss, hurricanes, terrorist attacks, traffic accidents, passport theft, and more.

Of course, even travel insurance plans have limits. For example, you won’t be able to cancel your trip if your dog dies, or your baby sitter cancels, or you get pregnant. For those travelers with extenuating circumstances there is the option to add ‘cancel for any reason’ – a coverage that widens the scope to include canceling for reasons not covered by the standard trip cancellation coverage. Typically, ‘cancel for any reason’ increases the cost of the travel insurance plan although some plans include it if the traveler purchase their plan early.

3. No medical or evacuation coverage with your credit card plan

Unfortunately, many travelers don’t realize that their health insurance or Medicare plan won’t cover them outside the borders of the U.S. (although some Medicare Supplement plans offer senior citizens limited coverage for emergency medical care in a foreign country).

This means that an accident or illness resulting in a visit to a medical care facility in a foreign country will not be paid for by your insurance company, and you’ll need to hand over your credit card in most cases, just to be treated at all.

With the cost of medical care rising around the globe, even a relatively minor accident could cost a traveler hundreds, even thousands of dollars. Get into a traffic accident in a foreign country and you could end up bankrupt.

By and large, credit card travel plans do not include any coverage for medical care or for medical evacuations, but travel insurance plans do. A medical evacuation can cost upwards of $100,000 or more depending on your condition and location and how far you have to travel to receive medical care. Travel medical coverage is very inexpensive and most experts consider it a must-have if you’re traveling outside your home country.

4. Exclusions can’t be overcome with your credit card plan

Credit card travel protection plans come with a number of exclusions, just like travel insurance plans do. The difference is that many travel insurance plans have options to overcome those exclusions.

For example, travelers have no coverage for losses that occur due to pre-existing medical conditions. This is true of credit card plans and travel insurance plans, but many travel insurance companies allow a traveler to waive this exclusion if they purchase their plan early and disclose the condition.

Some exclusions simply can’t be overcome at all. These include:

    1. Cancellation with a voucher for future travel – when a supplier cancels but offers the insured traveler a future voucher, it’s not a true financial loss (because you could go later) and you won’t get your money back.
    2. Accidents caused by drinking too much – all travel protection plans exclude losses caused when the insured is under the influence of drugs or intoxicants.
    3. Really lousy weather – unless the weather gets to the point of a natural disaster or a mandatory evacuation is ordered, no unhappy traveler can make a claim for a trip ruined by the weather.
    4. Tickets you never paid for – if you use frequent flier miles to book a trip and then have to cancel, you won’t receive a full reimbursement. (Some plans do, however, pay to re-bank the miles.)
    5. Extreme or stupid behavior – unless your plan specifically includes coverage for high-risk activities like parasailing, bungee jumping, rock climbing, etc., you won’t have coverage for a loss that occurs while doing it. Stupid behavior, such as committing an illegal act, will also invalidate your coverage.
    6. Losses due to mental illness – losses due to nervous disorders or mental illness, suicide or self-inflicted injuries are never covered.
    7. Medical tourism – if the purpose of the trip is to obtain medical care in a foreign country, losses due to botched medical treatment or trip cancellations are never covered.

Just as you should carefully review and understand your credit card agreement, you should also carefully review and understand your travel insurance plan to avoid unhappy surprises.

Where Credit Card Protection and Travel Insurance are Similar

Then of course, there are coverages that are similar between a credit card plan and a travel insurance plan. The following are coverages that are so similar between credit card travel protection and travel insurance plans as to be nearly identical:

    1. Lost or delayed baggage coverage – secondary to what a common carrier like an airline provides, and subject to a number of rules and restrictions, this coverage is still very similar to what you’ll get with a travel insurance plan.
    2. Travel accident coverage – while the amount varies from card to card, the protection is the same as you’ll get with any travel insurance plan. This coverage basically amounts to additional life insurance and AD&D.
    3. Car rental collision coverage – many credit cards offer their cardholders car rental collision at no extra charge and allow a traveler to skip the high rental company charges. There are limits, of course, and the amount of coverage varies from card to card. This coverage does not include personal liability, but that’s a restriction you’ll find in any travel insurance plan as well.
    4. Global travel assistance – worldwide travel assistance services is often free with a credit card travel plan and the benefits are similar to those offered by a premium travel insurance plan.

It’s important that travelers recognize their credit card issuer may have a specific agreement with the credit card company. That means a Mastercard(R) offered by one bank, for example, may or may not have the same travel protection benefits as one offered by a different financial institution.

Every traveler and every trip is different. Depending on your trip costs, your destination, your relative health, and other factors, a travel insurance plan may offer you more comprehensive coverage than what you’d get with your credit card travel protection plan. In some cases, you can rely on your credit card plan and avoid the extra expense. Either way, it’s worth a cold hard look before your next trip so you understand what coverage you have and don’t have before you leave.

Author Bio

Damian Tysdal founded Travel Insurance Review in 2006 on the belief that travel insurance should be easier to understand. See Travel Insurance 101 for a plain-language tutorial on travel insurance and how to compare plans.

Travel insurance and tour operators going out of business

This article talks about how one UK travel company, Goldtrail Travel, stopped doing business a few days ago. Some travelers got stranded and other found themselves with ruined summer vacation plans. The good news is that in Europe everyone is protected:

“The good news in this sorry affair is that all these people should get their money back under a European “Package Travel Directive”.

But what if the same thing were to happen in the US? If travelers paid by credit card or have travel insurance they might be able to get their money back but I doubt everyone would be automatically protected. Well, even in Europe only people who book through tour operators are protected. If you book a flight on your own (or hotel or whatever) than you would have to depend on the credit card company or the travel insurance.

You may also be covered under any travel insurance you have, but you’ll need to check the terms of the policy to make sure. While a travel insurance policy can cover you for an airline going bust, some policies are better than others. Check your insurance has scheduled airline failure cover, for example.

Here’s where things can get tricky. I’m not sure but I bet many of these travel insurance contracts are not short and simple.

HBF, an Australian travel insurance provider, has these tips. They also say you need to know the details of your policy. I’m pretty used to skipping the fine print but it seems with travel insurance you have to do some reading. The only time I used travel insurance I was booking an expensive cruise to Alaska through a travel agent and she took care of the insurance stuff. Who knows what I was covered for and what I wasn’t?

Skiing accident, medical helicopter bill, and travel / medical insurance question

The following is an email I received from a reader who wants to remain anonymous. Any helpful comments would be appreciated:

So one of my wife’s classmates went snowboarding with her boyfriend this last weekend. Her boyfriend had some kind of mishap and fractured his cheekbone against a tree. They took him down to the bottom of the mountain and elected to send him to Reno via helicopter. 5 days later he gets the bill — 30,000 dollars.

What the hell!??! The total time that thing spent in the air couldn’t have been more than an hour. I hope the dude has insurance, though they probably won’t cover all or even much of that cost.

Pretty outrageous. The reason I am writing in is to see if any of your readers know about this stuff. Travel insurance, medical insurance, travel medical insurance, medical evac (domestic) insurance, etc. What do we do to protect ourselves from these $30,000 bills? What should my wife’s classmate’s boyfriend do if he doesn’t have the right insurance?

Who do you trust for travel insurance?

I’ve never had travel insurance, and luckily I’ve never needed it. However, we see many travel writers strongly recommending travel insurance. Perhaps if we knew which insurance company to trust…

Here’s a story about a couple who couldn’t travel because their passports arrived to slowly. Their travel insurance didn’t cover anything – quite a shock to the couple who spent money on insurance, couldn’t travel, and couldn’t collect from insurance.

I can probably afford to lose some money on a flight or something, but what really scares me is emergency medical evacuation because that can cost a fortune.

We do have a little British advice – I wish I knew of an American company that offered an annual travel insurance policy that covered me every time I travel.

While everyone in England recommends it, in America we don’t see that so much. Speaking of England, I read that “47 per cent of UK holidaymakers still did not bother to take out any travel cover before their trip” which leaves 53% of the people buying travel insurance. I wish I had a statistic for America, but I’m willing to bet it’s much much lower than 53%.

According to this article Consumer Reports isn’t a big fan of travel insurance.

That same article reinforces what I said before about medical evacuation though:

Dr. Leon Reinstein of Baltimore says he has been buying travel insurance for overseas trips ever since one of his patients needed to be evacuated 10 years ago from the Bahamas after breaking her hip. That 90-mile ambulance evacuation to Miami cost $25,000.

They did also mention one family that had a good experience with Travel Guard insurance when a hurricane hit their vacation spot.

So basically they say buy travel insurance when:

1. You’re spending a lot of money on your trip and losing sleep about something happening

2. You’re traveling when there’s a risk of bad weather

3. If you’re afraid of spending tens of thousands of dollars on medical evacuation

I guess #3 would be especially important to people who are going rafting or something similar – something where there’s a better than average chance of getting injured. Also with #3, you don’t necessarily need travel insurance to get medical evacuation coverage.

More on the lawyer with TB + a note on medical evacuation insurance

Here’s a little more on the honeymooning lawyer with TB. Apparently the US border guard dropped the ball. It amazes me that they give my wife (who has a green card) a hard time at JFK (sometimes, not always – usually it’s pretty smooth) but the guy with TB that they are specifically told to detain gets into the US in under a minute.

At least the TB patient, Andrew Speaker, says he has proof that he was never told not to leave the US. It’s not hard to believe him either seeing how the government is capable of making errors…

Also worth noting is the part on his health insurer covering air ambulance costs from Atlanta to Denver – $12,000 for a domestic flight! Can you imagine if he had been evacuated from Europe and his insurance had not covered it? I’m not saying that excuses his actions, knowingly putting other passengers at risk for TB – the guy is clearly a selfish ass – but I am saying that if you don’t have medical evacuation insurance, I certainly see the temptation to risk other people’s health.

Self travel insurance – when trip insurance is too expensive

Here’s an article on how travel insurance gets expensive, particularly for senior citizens. When travel insureance is no longer reasonable, what options do we have?

A lot of the advice hinges on making arrangements last minute because when you pay in advance there’s more time for something to go wrong. With airline tickets you have to buy reusable tickets, ones that you can use again if something forces you to cancel.

Travel Troubleshooter vs. Access America travel insurance

Americans buy travel insurance less often that Europeans; is that because we have no reason to trust the insurance companies?

This traveler called Access America twice and asked if she would be covered for a missed connection. Both times the agent on the phone answered yes, you’ll be covered. But the troubleshooter reminds us we need to read the contract:

Check out Part 6, Section H of your contract for what is — and isn’t — covered in the event of a missed connection. You would have been covered for up to $300, if you were delayed by a traffic accident or bad weather.

In other words we can’t trust the agents we speak to on the phone. They say “yes” when they should say “yes in very rare cases but most of the time we’ll deny your claim”.

”It was a confluence of events that caused Ms. Wolf’s delay,” a spokeswoman for Access America said. “None of them were covered under her policy.” I have no problem with this in general, but the fact that we can’t trust Access America phone agents tells me that this is a company I’ll never trust to insure my vacation.

Back to my original question. I think Americans don’t buy travel insurance because we don’t want to hire a lawyer to figure out what the contract means. And since we don’t trust the insurance companies to give us a straight answer we risk vacationing without insurance.

Saving money on travel insurance

To determine how much medical insurance you need, check with your provider to see if things like hospital visits abroad and emergency medical evacuation costs.

Also check with your credit cards: American Express says that “American Express Centurion and Platinum cardholders are automatically entitled to free emergency medical evacuation coverage.”

Regarding car insurance and rental cars:

Most of the liability and collision damage coverage needed while driving a rental car, Perkins said, may already be provided through regular automobile, household or other insurance policies. While credit card issuers typically don’t include any liability coverage, many do provide extensive collision coverage. Usually offered under the auspices of premium Gold or Platinum cards, credit card companies will offer collision coverage at no extra cost assuming the rental is paid for with the card.

All in all the article I linked to above was a very interesting read and should be worth your time.

Travel insurance for work-related cancellations and changes

Interesting news about a new type of travel insurance that covers you in cases where your boss asks you to change vacation plans.

Richmond, Va.-based travel insurance provider Access America calls its new product BizPack. It essentially provides coverage for work-related cancellations and changes, focusing on travelers who fear they’ll be called into the office just before or at some point during their vacations.

Beofre, travelers who wanted this type of coverage had to have a plan that covered everything and those plans are expensive.