It crosses our minds every time we step off US soil—if something happens, am I covered by insurance? From medical emergencies to stolen laptops, is it really necessary to take out a specific policy for every trip abroad? This simple question begets complex answers, especially since the term “travel insurance” implies varying degrees of medical and property coverage. In the most general terms, every traveler should consider medical insurances compulsory (including personal injury, accident or illness expenses, as well as emergency evacuation and repatriation expenses), while property insurances can be viewed as recommended (including trip interruption and lost luggage). Likely you already have a degree of coverage from your existing insurance plans and from your credit card, if you’re charging your travel wisely. Here are some pointers for making future trips abroad remain as risk-free as possible.
Existing US Medical Coverage
The majority of US medical insurance plans provide some form of protection for overseas travel. Call the number on the back of your insurance card to gauge exacts. Be sure to ask about emergency evacuation expenses, repatriation costs, and financial limits on emergency medical treatment. Most companies merely offer transport and treatment at the closest local hospital, which means you may want to supplement your coverage with an outside medical policy.
Existing US Property Coverage
Some homeowners’ insurance policies will cover major items (e.g., laptops and jewelry) in the event they are stolen abroad. Review the fine print or call your provider to determine coverage before travel. Homeowners’ insurance does not cover travel cancellation or curtailment.
Credit Card Coverage
Most of the core credit cards featured on Credit Card Pro— Chase Sapphire Preferred®, Chase Sapphire Reserve℠, Citi Prestige® Card, Gold Card from American Express, Mastercard® Black Card™, Mastercard® Gold Card™, Mastercard® Titanium Card™, The Platinum Card® from American Express, Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, and U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite® Card—automatically include a roster of insurances for travel-related expenses charged to your credit card. For example, airline, train, and bus tickets charged in full to Mastercard Elite and Visa Signature–branded credit cards come with some form of travel accident insurance (insurance for accidental death or dismemberment), baggage delay protection, varying degrees of trip cancellation and interruption insurance, and auto rental collision damage waivers. Credit cards explicitly list these insurances on the cards’ “benefits” tab online, but be sure to read the fine print as the coverage varies between cards. Note the difference between tangible benefits versus assistance benefits, the latter of which simply act as a crisis management concierge.
Tour operators, travel agents, airlines, and cruise lines may offer “comprehensive insurance” coverage through a preferred broker or company. Check that these insurance packages offer both medical and property components. Note that extras like cancellation and curtailment insurance come at a significant premium and that the policy will pay only for what the broker deems valid reasons. Pro Tip: Examine coverage already included with the credit card you used to purchase travel, and then try to find a policy with a company such as Allianz Travel Insurance to cover specific items or situations not covered by your credit card. Also note that some comprehensive travel insurance policies will cover the loss of property, but to very small limits. Check before you purchase.
In the event you do incur medical costs or property damage/loss while traveling abroad, you’ll need to establish a paper trail (e.g., police reports, doctors’ notes, hospital bills) to facilitate your insurance claims once home. The more documentation, the better!