Before You Buy Travel Insurance, You Need to Ask These Questions

There should be no debate about whether or not travel insurance is a worthwhile expense.  It is.  However, buying the right insurance can be a very daunting experience.  You’ll have a policy that requires a magnifying glass to read, and isn’t always as straightforward as you’d like.  Buying the wrong coverage is not only wasted money, but could be a devastating blow to your future finances.  Make sure your hard-earned vacation dollars are well spent by asking some important questions before you buy travel insurance:

What is the Emergency Medical Coverage Per Person?

The most common answer is $5,000,000, but some policies only offer $1,000,000.  That sounds like a lot, but in some countries like the U.S., a million dollars may not get you very far.

Tip:  Have you checked your credit card perks and your employment medical benefits?  As long as you purchase your trip with your card, some companies include some travel insurance benefits. Many top employers offer a travel medical policy included in their benefits package.  There’s no point in purchasing repatriation coverage if you already have it through your employee benefits.

Fun Fact: Some Canadian employers will cover the cost of your massage appointments while you’re on a spa vacation (so long as the massage therapist is licensed). It doesn’t hurt to ask, and enjoy those spa appointments on board that cruise ship.

What Are the Exclusions of the Policy?

You will be given a long list of what the policy covers, but make sure you also understand what it doesn’t cover.

Tip: Make sure your policy covers “adventure sports”, which could include hiking. If you misstep on your way up that mountain, you want to make sure that airlift is covered.

travel insurance

Does the Insurer Give Direct Payments to the Hospitals and/or Doctors?

Some policies will require you to pay upfront, while others will pay the medical provider directly. Imagine laying in an emergency room and you can’t get so much as a painkiller without payment upfront.  Having an insurer who will deal with the hospital administrator on your behalf is a huge benefit.

Does The Policy Cover Emergency Medical Evacuation?

An air ambulance from the U.S. to Canada can cost as much as $30,000.  As hospital costs climb, it might be much more practical to get your butt home quickly.  Make sure you can.

Tip: If you’re travelling to a place that’s prone to natural disasters like earthquakes or floods, there’s a new breed of travel insurance out there. Think of it as travel insurance on steroids. It’s called Rescue Insurance, where former Navy Seals literally fly in with a rescue copter and get you the heck outta there!

How Much is the Deductible?

If you’re comfortable upping the deductible, you could save quite a bit on the premium. Ask if this is an option and how it would affect the policy.

Does the Policy Include Personal Liability?

This is especially important if you plan to rent a car on your trip.

Tip: Check with your personal car insurance company to see if you are covered for car rentals out of country. You’ll find it’s likely far more economical to add it to your existing policy, than to pay the outrageous insurance rates from the car rental agent.

When Do I Need to Purchase My Policy?

Make sure you don’t void the policy by buying it too close to your departure date.  There’s only one insurance company that I’m aware of that let’s you buy your policy while you’re on vacation. Check out the travel insurance from World Nomads if you’re that last-minute kind of traveller, or if you’re the more adventurous type and love to travel where the wind blows as opposed to planning it out or sticking to a resort.

Bonus: World Nomads has a social conscience as well.  Check out their online philanthropy project called Footprints.

Tip: Ask if you can call and get an extension on your policy in case your plans change.


Do I Need Permission Before Obtaining Medical Assistance?

Some insurers require you to call ahead and get permission.  Often that’s because they have arrangements with specific providers and will require you to go to one of them for treatment. Know this ahead of time, and keep that phone number handy. Or better yet, buy a policy where the answer to this question is “no”.

What Countries is the Policy Valid For?

Some insurers will not cover medical in the United States.  Make sure you are aware of any exclusions.

Other Tips

  • Get multiple quotes
  • Consider using an Insurance Broker
  • Consider a multi-trip policy if you travel more than twice a year
  • Check with your home insurance before you decide on baggage insurance, and ask about your camera and other tech
  • Be sure you disclose any pre-existing medical conditions, your policy will be useless if you try and hide anything.

Disclaimer:  This article is intended to be a general resource only and is not intended to be nor does it constitute advice.  Any recommendations are based on personal, not professional, opinion only.

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