When it comes to trip planning, most travellers start with a checklist that includes everything from booking accommodations to making reservations, and planning an itinerary to buying travel insurance. What often gets missed is reading the fine print. Agreed – it’s a cliché, and not something most of us look forward to, especially when we’re busy dreaming about an upcoming trip; but reading your travel insurance policy prevents you from making any assumptions about coverage or benefits, so you know exactly what you’re covered for – and what you’re not.
According to the Travel Health Insurance Association (THiA), over 47% of Canadian travellers have never reviewed their policies. Being well-informed about your policy and the reasons why your travel insurance claim could be denied can help you avoid costly surprises, both during and after your trip. To help you understand your travel insurance plans better, we’ve compiled a few guidelines to apply when reading your policy wording.
Before you buy travel insurance
Understanding your travel insurance policy starts with learning more about the type of coverage you have. Before you buy, identify the types of travel insurance that’ll best meet your needs and confirm the coverage limits to know the exact amount of protection you have. At this point, it’s also a good idea to compare coverage from your credit card or group insurance plan and determine whether or not you’ll need any top-up insurance.
Opt for the policy that suits you best by asking the right questions to your travel insurance broker and make sure that you don’t become a victim of any insurance scams.
Not all travel insurance plans are created equally. Policies can be customized based on the traveller’s needs, health, age and activities. Coverage also differs from one travel insurance provider to another. So when you buy, it’s important to not only compare the price, but also how the plan will protect you in case of any travel mishaps.
Tips to help you navigate your travel insurance policy
Once you purchase your travel insurance policy, take the time to go through the policy wording. It can be overwhelming at first glance, but if you know what to look for, it can help you become more familiar with your coverage. Plus, if you need clarification, you can always pick up the phone and check in with your broker or travel insurance provider’s customer service team, and you’ll also know exactly what to verify. Here are some key components that you should look at:
- Important Contact Information
- Period of Coverage
- Covered Risks
- Pre-existing Conditions
- Sports & Activities
Important contact information
If your travel insurance provider offers emergency assistance, keep a record of the contact numbers (along with the international access codes for your destination) listed in the policy document. In case of a medical emergency abroad, knowing how to contact your travel insurance company will help you notify them as soon as possible and get the right care and information during your time of need.
Period of coverage
Depending on the travel insurance plan you choose (Emergency Medical or Trip Cancellation & Trip Interruption Insurance), the period of coverage helps you clarify when your coverage kicks in, and when it expires.
For example, our Multi Trip Annual Within Canada plan covers you for a maximum of 35 consecutive days per trip, with coverage starting on the date of each departure from your home province, and ending each time you return back to your home province or on the expiry date of the policy (whichever occurs first).
To learn more about the benefits of your Emergency Medical policy, evaluate the eligible medical and related expenses that the company will cover and how you’ll be reimbursed. Use this checklist to find out what a comprehensive travel medical plan should cover. Here are 2 key things to note:
- Orient yourself with key definitions, such as what is a medical emergency and what isn’t? What is the meaning of a medical treatment? How does the company define a pre-existing medical condition?
- Sum insured limits outline the maximum amount that you’ll be reimbursed. Confirm these limits for different emergency medical benefits such as hospital allowance, fracture treatment, emergency dental treatment, child care, return of pets & return of vehicle.
Check out these related articles and FAQs on our blog that’ll help you better understand your Emergency Medical coverage:
- Who handles the hospital billing when a medical emergency happens abroad?
- Will the travel insurance provider reimburse my out-of-pocket expenses?
- When and how does medical air evacuation happen?
For Non-medical insurance policies like Baggage Insurance and Rental Car Protection, take note of the key terms and conditions so you’re well-informed during your trip. For instance, in case of lost, damaged or delayed luggage, know exactly what is covered (and understand the different requirements or documents that’ll help you open a baggage claim smoothly.
In case your travel plans get delayed, cancelled or interrupted, Trip Cancellation &Trip Interruption Insurance helps you get reimbursed for prepaid, non-refundable travel expenses if you have to cancel all or part of your trip. Covered risks in your policy identify the valid reasons for cancelling or interrupting your trip that the insurance company will provide coverage for. For example, some of the reasons covered by TuGo are:
- Medical reasons – i.e. sickness, injury or death of you, your travelling companion or an immediate family member.
- Employment – job loss, transfer or cancellation of business meeting at your final destination.
- A formal travel advisory for your destination, jury duty, court appearance or non-issuance of you or your travel companion’s visa.
- Flight delay or cancellation due to weather conditions, volcanic eruptions etc.
- Natural disasters such as hurricanes or earthquakes.
As you finalize your trip, learn more about your destination to better understand the kind of coverage you’ll need. Based on your research, you’ll be able to confirm if your policy will reimburse you in case you need to change your travel plans last minute, due to events beyond your control.
Exclusions & Conditions
Most travellers are under the impression that once they buy travel insurance, they’ll be covered no matter what. Like any type of insurance, there are some events and conditions that may simply not be covered by travel insurance. Before you travel, arm yourself with knowledge on these general exclusions or conditions that could impact your coverage:
- Alcohol-related accidents or sickness
- Government-issued travel advisories
- Participating in an activity or sports not covered by your policy
- Travel insurance coverage for pregnant travellers
- What happens if a mistake is made on your Medical Heath Questionnaire
Apart from general exclusions, your travel insurance policy could also have coverage-specific exclusions and conditions. For instance, Trip Cancellation & Trip Interruption Insurance won’t cover you if the cause for cancellation or interruption was known to you at the time you purchased the policy.
Depending on the plan you purchase, your policy may/may not provide coverage for medical conditions and/or symptoms that existed before your trip. Check your policy to see how it defines pre-existing conditions and how they relate to your trip length and your personal medical history. According to THiA’s survey, more than 55% respondents didn’t realize that a blood test that indicates a change in health status could compromise their medical stability and as a result their coverage.
Some important things to understand here:
- What is the definition of stability in relation to travel insurance?
- How unstable pre-existing conditions can impact claims
- Does your policy include a deductible? How will it be applied at the time of claim?
- What information do I need to speed up the claim process?
Adventure Sports & High-risk Activities
Among all the areas covered by travel insurance, this is where providers can differ the most. Before you plan any high-risk activity, make sure it’s covered by your policy. Look for plans where your intended activity is specifically mentioned and whether it’ll cover you if you’re participating as a professional athlete or a coach. Study the policy’s exclusion list carefully to ensure that you’re better prepared when participating in these activities.
Not all travel insurance providers cover adventure sports and activities, but we do! Our Emergency Medical insurance covers you for high-risk activities like hiking, ziplining, bungee jumping or even parasailing, while our Optional Sports Coverages cover adrenaline seekers, whether you’re into winter sports or activities like scuba diving.
Just like any financial contract, time taken to understand your travel insurance policy always pays off in the long run, whether you’re a seasoned snowbird, a first-time backpacker, a visitor to Canada or a family on their annual vacation.
At TuGo, we love to make travel insurance easy, friendly and helpful! If you have any questions about understanding your travel insurance policy, share them in the comments below or contact our Customer Service team toll-free at 1-855-929-8846.