Read the Fine Print When Buying Travel Insurance

Toby Melville | Reuters

With flights filling up again and becoming more expensive, many travelers may be considering travel insurance, but NBC4 Responds has a warning.

Angelica bought her mom and aunt airfare to visit her.  

“I finally found something under Expedia,” she said. “So, I actually, I went ahead and purchased it, but the condition was it's not transferable or I cannot cancel it.”

The airfare was a little more than $793, and to make sure she was covered for any unexpected issues, she purchased travel insurance offered by Expedia at checkout for an additional $57.94. It says the protection covers “trip cancellation up to $100,000 for covered ticket cost” that results from “covered sickness, injury, involuntary job loss, inclement weather, etc.”

Angelica thought she was covered no matter what.

“It looks simple, it looks promising, and I did not find anything, any details, that will give me problems later on,” she said.

After she purchased the tickets, the trip had to be rescheduled due to a family medical issue. Angelica wasn’t worried because she purchased travel insurance for that very reason.

“I initially contacted AIG, and then when I told them, they said, well, yes, you can file a claim, thinking it was already guaranteed, but you have to cancel the flights first,” she said.

Angelica did that through Expedia and then submitted a claim to AIG, the insurance company that covered her trip, but instead of a refund, her claim was denied.

According to the insurance company, her reason for canceling the trip didn’t “fall within one of the named, covered perils under the trip cancellation benefit.” 

That was a total shock to Angelica, and travel insurance experts say those types of surprises are common.

“I think they don't read the policy,” said Suzanne Morrow of InsureMyTrip.

So, I think that it's a little bit trickier for the consumer when you're buying online, because there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of information,” she said. 

Angelica said she only read the big print at checkout and didn’t click on a link that provided the fine print details that showed she wasn’t covered as much as she thought.

To avoid travel insurance surprises:  

  • Don’t feel rushed about purchasing it at checkout, it can be bought after booking a trip, but beware of deadlines. 
  • Some plans allow insurance cancellation 15 days before a trip as long as no claim has been filed. 
  • Not all policies are the same, so always read the policy before purchasing it, and buying the insurance offered at checkout isn’t necessary. 

The travel insurance company and the airline agreed to give Angelica a partial refund and a credit toward a future trip, with which she was very happy.

Correction (May 12, 2022 at 6:55 a.m.): An earlier version of this story misspelled Suzanne Morrow's name. The article has been updated.

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