Insider tips on how to file a travel insurance claim

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By Christopher Elliott

If you’re reading this, chances are something horrible has happened while you’re on vacation — a health scare, a disruption, even an unexpected death. Maybe you’ve phoned your travel insurance company and the wheels are now in motion for a claim. And you’re wondering: What now? Here are some travel insurance tips.

Over time, I’ve written more than a few stories that offer general strategies for filing a claim. But I never thought I’d find myself in a position to write about my own claim until it happened. I have an annual insurance policy through Allianz Travel Insurance, which is a supporter of my family travel blog. (I pay for the policy with my own money; it’s worth the peace of mind.)

At the end of a lengthy road trip this summer, I woke up one morning with a painful eye infection. I had to give a speech in only a few days, and I looked like an extra in The Walking Dead. I needed to get patched up quickly.

Call first

To begin the process, it’s essential to determine whether your specific event qualifies for coverage under your travel insurance. A simple call to your insurance company can promptly establish the status. Notably, these conversations are consistently recorded, offering you the confidence to rely upon the information provided by a knowledgeable representative. In my personal experience, the representative explicitly affirmed that my annual policy indeed covered the unexpected eye infection.

Ask: What’s next?

If you have an urgent situation like a trip disruption or a medical situation, you’ll want to find out what to do next. The company can help with that, too. In my situation, I needed to see what my primary healthcare provider would cover. Travel insurance would take care of the rest — acting as “secondary” coverage.

Get the paperwork requirements

Now the bad news: Nothing is automatic. Your travel insurance company will have paperwork requirements for your claim. For a medical claim like mine, that would be an itemized bill, the M.D.s notes and a description of coverage. Getting that information from my health insurance provider, United Healthcare, was like pulling teeth.

Fix the problem — and file

After you’ve visited the doctor or rebooked your flight, it’s time to file your claim. Collect all of your documents and figure out the fastest way to get them to your company. My insurer offered a web form or email option.

Prep your docs

I found the fastest way to file my paperwork was by taking pictures of the invoices and sending them by email. You’ll want to pay attention to the file size. Your insurance company’s mail server or website may have a size limit, which could cause problems. My advice? Send the docs at a lower resolution to ensure they all arrive at their destination.

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Patience …

The process of claims typically spans one to two weeks. Smaller claims, usually those below $100, tend to be expedited. Providing your company with direct deposit information or a debit card number for payment might be necessary. Interestingly, my own claim underwent full processing in under a week.

By the way, you can avoid all of this paperwork by purchasing a policy through a travel agent. I know agents who will handle all of the paperwork for you and one who even has a perfect track record with claims. You can always appeal if your first claim is rejected. Odds are, you’re just missing a form or two.

Regrettably, claims involve considerable paperwork. And sometimes, they get delayed. However, you can expect to receive your check once the process is complete. And if, by any chance, this doesn’t happen, you’re aware of how to get in touch with me.

By the way, if you’re not thinking about buying travel insurance for your next trip, you probably should. In a world filled with danger, anything could happen. Here’s our guide to finding the best travel insurance.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in Panamá City.

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