Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Is travel insurance worth it?

Must read

Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.

On April 24, 2024, the White House established new rules for airlines, mandating automatic and timely refunds for passengers whose flights had been changed, delayed or canceled.

That’s a big relief to travelers, but there are still many unexpected situations where travel insurance can be a lifesaver before or during your trip.

“Travel insurance is often an overlooked investment until the unforeseen happens,” says Beth Godlin, president of Aon Affinity Travel Practice. “It’s designed to give travelers peace of mind and financial protection against travel risks.”

A policy doesn’t have to be expensive, according to Godlin, to add a layer of protection and security.

There are many options in the travel insurance marketplace: Aggregator site Squaremouth lets you get price quotes from different carriers and, because it receives a commission from the insurance companies on its site, users aren’t charged any additional fees.

Allianz has both single-trip and annual plans, with a Cancel For Any Reason (CFAR) policy that reimburses up to 80% of prepaid, non-refundable expenses. That’s more than most similar plans on the market.

In addition to trip cancellation, Allianz’s popular OneTrip Prime plan includes travel interruption, emergency medical care and emergency transportation. Children 17 and under are covered for free when traveling with a parent or grandparent.

AIG’s Travel Guard® plans are great if you need to customize coverage: The mid-range Travel Guard Preferred plan pays out 100% for trip cancellation and 150% for trip interruption, with up to $50,000 in coverage for medical expenses and up to $500,000 for emergency evacuation. There’s even a payout of up to $1,000 if you miss your connection.

Travel Guard® Travel Insurance

  • Cost

    The best way to estimate your costs is to request a quote

  • Policy highlights

    Travel Guard offers a variety of plans to suit travel ranging from road trips to long cruises. For air travelers, Travel Guard can help assist with tracking baggage or covering lost or delayed baggage.

  • 24/7 assistance available

If you’re booking a trip with an aggregator site like Expedia, review the details of any travel policy that’s offered. Plans are usually based on the elements of the trip (hotel, flight, rental car, etc.) and can differ every time you book.

Travel insurance generally covers your expenses, your belongings and your well-being. When shopping for a policy, look for these benefits:

Trip cancellation

If your trip is canceled for a covered reason, a policy will often reimburse airline tickets, hotel rooms, rental cars, tours, cruises and other prepaid, non-refundable expenses. Covered situations can include illness or injury, the death of a family member or traveling companion, job loss, military deployment and even unplanned jury duty, according to Allianz’s Daniel Durazo.

Cancellations can also be covered if a natural disaster, severe weather or airline strike prevents your carrier from getting you to your destination for at least 24 hours.

CFAR plans provide a lot more flexibility and typically reimburse 50% to 75% of your expenses. But they can bump up the cost by about 40%, said Durazo. Policyholders are also still usually required to cancel no later than 48 hours before their scheduled departure. 

Trip delay 

Should you experience a hiccup in your plans, your policy can provide some relief: Food, lodging and local transportation are usually covered if a delay is due to severe weather, airline maintenance or civil unrest.

“For a traveler to be eligible, they must be delayed for the minimum amount of time listed on their policy,” said Squaremouth spokesperson Megan Moncrief. “Some policies are very lenient and provide benefits for any length delay, while others list a length requirement — usually somewhere between three to 12 hours.”

Daily payout limits range from $150 to $250 per traveler, according to Moncrief, while the total policy limit can be anywhere from $500 to $2,000. Save any receipts to submit with your reimbursement claim.

Trip interruption

Should you need to cut your trip short due to illness or injury, or if there’s a family emergency back home, your policy may reimburse non-refundable expenses you forfeited.

It may also cover the cost of a one-way economy airline ticket home.

Baggage loss

Airlines are required to compensate passengers for luggage lost in transit, but a travel insurance policy may have a higher benefit limit. It could also cover you if your bags, passport or other possessions are lost, damaged or stolen once you’ve gotten to your destination.,

The Platinum plan from AXA Assistance USA has a $3,000 benefit limit for lost luggage, well beyond the $1,700 that airlines are required to provide on international flights. AXA has offices in more than 50 countries, with multilingual operators available 24 hours a day to help reschedule flights, book hotels and make other arrangements.

AXA Assistance USA Travel Insurance

  • Cost

    The best way to estimate your costs is to request a quote

  • Policy highlights

    AXA Assistance USA offers several travel insurance policies that include travel interruption, trip cancellation, and the option of cancel for any reason (CFAR) coverage.

  • 24/7 assistance available

Travel insurance doesn’t cover every loss: Cash is not reimbursable and many policies won’t reimburse for expensive jewelry or heirloom items. Read your policy carefully to see what is included.

Medical expenses and emergency evacuation

If you travel within the U.S., your health insurance should cover any illness or injury you sustain. If you’re traveling abroad, though, your plan may provide little or no coverage. The right travel insurance should cover doctors’ fees and hospital bills, Durazo said. 

The provider can also help coordinate care and ensure you’re at a medical facility that’s up to U.S. standards.

An emergency medical evacuation can cost anywhere from $15,000 to over $200,000, Durazo added.

The Biden administration announced on April 24, 2024, that it had finalized new rules requiring airlines to issue cash refunds to passengers if their flights were canceled or significantly changed, their checked luggage was significantly delayed or if purchased services, like Wi-Fi, were not provided.

Refunds must be automatic and made via the same form of payment as the original purchase. Travelers must be reimbursed within seven business days if the refund is going to a credit card. (Other forms of payment can take 20 calendar days to be reimbursed.)
 
The new Department of Transportation regulations also require airlines and ticket agents to disclose upfront any fees for changing or canceling your reservation, seat selection, checked bags or carry-ons.

The Biden administration has targeted junk fees across numerous industries, including credit card companies. It said the rule will help consumers avoid unneeded or surprise charges that can quickly add up and obscure the real cost of a seemingly inexpensive ticket.

A travel insurance policy typically costs between 4 and 10% of the overall price of your trip. The cost can vary:

  • Plans with higher limits and more optional coverage cost more.
  • A plan with a CFAR benefit can cost up to 40% more.
  • Older travelers typically pay more because there’s more of a likelihood of a claim being filed. 

Whichever plan you choose, read the fine print so you understand what you’re paying for.

While regulations on airlines are becoming increasingly stringent about reimbursing travelers for delayed or canceled flights, that doesn’t do you any good if it wasn’t the airline that put a kink in your plans.
Travel insurance covers numerous scenarios, from medical emergencies to tropical storms. It could be particularly useful if:

  • You’ve spent a lot on prepaid, non-refundable expenses
  • You’re traveling internationally where your health insurance won’t apply
  • You’re traveling to a remote area
  • Your flight involves multiple connections or destinations

“When deciding if travel insurance is right for you, ask yourself how much you could stand to lose if you had to cancel at the last minute,” said Godlin.

If you’re not as concerned about risk, your credit card may offer built-in travel protection if you book with that card: Chase Sapphire Preferred®, Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Card and the *American Express® Gold Card all come with trip cancellation and interruption coverage, among other benefits.

*Eligibility and benefit level varies by card. Terms, conditions and limitations apply. Please visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details. Underwritten by New Hampshire Insurance Company, an AIG Company.

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

  • Rewards

    Earn 5X total points on flights and 10X total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Travel℠ immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3X points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases plus, 10X points on Lyft rides through March 2025

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $1,125 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.

  • Annual fee

  • Intro APR

  • Regular APR

  • Balance transfer fee

  • Foreign transaction fee

  • Credit needed

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

  • Rewards

    Earn 2X points on Southwest® purchases, 2X points on local transit and commuting, including rideshare; 2X points on internet, cable and phone services; select streaming. 1X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

  • Annual fee

  • Intro APR

  • Regular APR

  • Balance transfer fee

  • Foreign transaction fees

  • Credit needed

American Express® Gold Card

  • Rewards

    4X Membership Rewards® points at Restaurants (plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.) and at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X), 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com, 1X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

  • Annual fee

  • Intro APR

  • Regular APR

  • Balance transfer fee

  • Foreign transaction fee

  • Credit needed

Research your card’s travel benefits before making any purchases related to your trip.

FAQs

What does travel insurance cover?

Policies vary, but most comprehensive plans cover travel cancellation and interruption, baggage loss, medical care and emergency transportation.

How much does travel insurance cost?

While the price for coverage varies, most policies cost between 4% and 10% of the trip’s prepaid, non-refundable expenses.

When should I get travel insurance?

It’s best to take out a policy within days of making your reservations.

Does travel insurance cover COVID-19?

Travel can be a wonderful experience, but it involves a lot of time, planning and money. Missing a single connection can have a cascade effect that impacts your flight, hotel room, dinner reservations and more. A good travel insurance policy can provide peace of mind so you can focus on your vacation.

Compare and find the best life insurance

Subscribe to the CNBC Select newsletter!

Money matters — so make the most of it. Get expert tips, strategies, news and everything else you need to maximize your money, right to your inbox. Sign up here.

At CNBC Select, we work with experts with specialized knowledge and authority. For this story, we interviewed Beth Godlin, president of Aon, which provides custom travel insurance for tour operators, cruise lines, travel websites and others. We also spoke with former Squaremouth Megan Moncrief and Allianz communications director Daniel Durazo.

At CNBC Select, our mission is to provide our readers with high-quality service journalism and comprehensive consumer advice so they can make informed decisions with their money. Every insurance article is based on rigorous reporting by our team of expert writers and editors. While CNBC Select earns a commission from affiliate partners on many offers and links, we create all our content without input from our commercial team or any outside third parties, and we pride ourselves on our journalistic standards and ethics.

Catch up on CNBC Select’s in-depth coverage of credit cardsbanking and money, and follow us on TikTokFacebookInstagram and Twitter to stay up to date.

For rates and fees for the American Express® Gold Card, click here.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.

Latest article