Think that free trip insurance is all you need? Think again

When Monique Tubb’s adult daughter injured herself while vacationing in Colorado, she canceled the rest of her trip. Tubb was confident that her UnitedPlus Explorer card’s free trip insurance would cover all the additional expenses.

It didn’t. And now Tubb wants to know why the insurance company hasn’t paid her full claim.

Tubb’s story shows why you should not assume that all trip insurance policies are created equal. They aren’t — and free trip insurance can be exceptionally “unequal.”

“My adult daughter fell and tore both ACLs during our recent family trip,” Tubb explains. “The doctor advised her to fly home early to see her own doctor.”

Tubb’s daughter and her husband paid the change fee and the increased cost of their tickets, spending $724. They flew home, where she soon had surgery to repair the damage to her knees.

What does a  free trip insurance policy cover?

Since Tubb had paid for the entire trip with her MileagePlus Explorer card, she didn’t think she needed to purchase additional insurance. She knew she had the free trip insurance policy offered from her credit card covering the trip. And when the accident occurred, she assumed the policy would cover her daughter’s $724.

“Purchasing with this card means Chase includes a free trip insurance policy,” she wrote. “I filed an insurance claim, and after providing all requested information, they refunded only $297. But my daughter and her husband spent an additional $427 to get home. Where is the rest of my reimbursement?”

When the credit card company refused her full payment, she contacted our advocacy team.

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I reviewed the paper trail and the terms of this free trip insurance policy. And it was clear that Tubb had an inflated view of what this benefit included.

Tubb had received approval for the maximum eligible benefit under the terms of the policy.

The fine print

Chase Bank’s website list the terms of this policy. It is a lengthy document, but the information that Tubb needed to understand about her free trip insurance is there:

If a Trip Interruption occurs, the company will reimburse you for up to the maximum benefit amount of ten thousand ($10,000.00) dollars for: the forfeited, nonrefundable pre-paid land, air and/or sea transportation arrangements that were missed.

There is no mention of covering any additional costs that may be incurred during a trip interruption. The policy only covers prepaid items.

The $297 represented the change fee on the original airline tickets. By reimbursing Tubb’s daughter and her husband for the change fee to those tickets, this free trip insurance policy paid out the full benefit. Her daughter and her husband had not prepaid for any other parts of the trip.

But Tubb felt that the policy should cover the new tickets that the couple purchased.

The free trip insurance that’s offered by Chase is a basic policy. It does not include many types of expenses that a more comprehensive policy purchased directly through a trip insurance company would cover.

Determine if you need to purchase trip insurance

A website such as  InsureMyTrip can help travelers determine if purchasing insurance is a better option than relying on their credit card’s free trip insurance. There, it is possible to make a side-by-side comparison of various types of trip insurance policies based on the traveler’s specifics.

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Looking at some of the policies that are offered for domestic vacations for a family of four, for about $100, companies such as Allianz and Travelex, among others, offer trip insurance that includes trip interruption coverage. Such a policy does cover expenses incurred to get you back home.

For example, the language in the Allianz policy specifically spells out that the policy:

Reimburses you for the unused, non-refundable portion of your trip and for the increased transportation costs it takes for you to return home due to a covered reason.

Unfortunately for Tubb, the last part of that sentence is missing from her policy. And that is why her case ends up in the Case Dismissed file.

We could not help Tubb in her quest to receive further reimbursement for her daughter. The terms of her policy are clear and do not provide for the expenses that she requested.

The bottom line

When you plan a vacation, domestic or international, make sure to consider whether you need a trip insurance policy.

If you choose to rely on your credit card’s free trip insurance policy, make sure that you are familiar with its coverage so that you can avoid unpleasant surprises such as the one Tubb received.

As always, it’s important to read the fine print on these documents. Don’t assume that the policy covers you for something that is not explicitly spelled out in your contract. Because if it isn’t written into the contract, you can be sure the insurance company isn’t paying for it.

Michelle Couch-Friedman

Michelle is the executive director of Elliott.org. She is a consumer advocate, SEO-lady, writer and licensed clinical social worker who spends as much time as possible exploring the world with her family. Contact her at Michelle Friedman Read more of Michelle's articles here.

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