Insider tips on how to file a travel insurance claim

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?

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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.
You first have to determine if your event is covered by travel insurance. A quick call to your insurance company can establish that. Calls are recorded, so you can rely on what a representative tells you. My rep told me the eye infection was covered by my annual policy.

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 health care provider would cover. Travel insurance, I was told, 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.

Patience …
Claims can take one to two weeks, although smaller claims of less than $100 typically move at a faster clip. You may need to furnish your company with direct-deposit information or give them a debit card number for payment. My claim was fully processed in less than 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. Remember, if your first claim is rejected, you can always appeal. Odds are, you’re just missing a form or two.

There’s a lot of paperwork when it comes to claims, but you’ll get your check in the end. And if you don’t? Well, you know how to reach me.

8 thoughts on “Insider tips on how to file a travel insurance claim

  1. I’ll add:

    – Use a fax (there are online faxing services if you can’t find a machine.) Yes, it seems silly and archaic, but you can send one as long as you want (I’ve sent 40+-page faxes), and you have proof that you both sent it, and that they received it.
    – Don’t be crazy about it, but help the examiner with your claim as much as you can. If there’s a question that will need to be answered to determine if your claim falls under an exclusion, go ahead and provide documentation as to why it’s not instead of waiting for the examiner to ask for it. Provide context for a receipt if it’s not obvious. (e.g. A hotel invoice will be obvious; a cash register receipt with nothing more than a store name for replacement clothes won’t be.) Don’t feel like you have to stick just to the terse mandatory forms.

  2. I don’t know if this is the way that all travel insurance companies work, but my insurer would not process my claim until 90 days after it was submitted. I can think of two reasons why my insurer did this: 1). They had the use of my money, interest free, for 90 days and 2). If I wanted to amend the claim to add additional items, they would not have to reopen the case to process it again. My claim was slightly more than $1,000 and everything that I submitted was reimbursed despite the fact that the receipts for a couple of items were not detailed. I had included a note to explain the items.

    1. 90 days seems ridiculously excessive. I have filed a travel claim for >$1,000 and received payment approximately two weeks after I submitted the paperwork. Unless you had some sort of offer or credit and they wanted to verify you weren’t going to use it before reimbursing you for it, I would look elsewhere for your next policy.

        1. I’ve always used “travel insured”. They’ve always paid the few times I’ve had a claim, so I’ve never tried anyone else to compare.

  3. A couple years ago I ran into a late night issue trying to verify that certain trip delay expenses I could incur would be covered. That department only worked 9-5. Not sure how typical that is. They may answer the phone 24/7, but they weren’t able to help 24/7. I had the docs, read them thru and determined I should be reimbursed, and was – but it was annoying to have no assurance that night.

  4. Another note: The claims people you talk with on the phone are rarely (ever?) going to tell you your potential claim is covered. Certainly if you say “My dear dog Fifi is sick, is it covered if I cancel?” they can confidently tell you no. But they aren’t going to be able to give you anything beyond the most-vague “yes”… I know when I’ve talked to TravelGuard, the most they’ll say over the phone is “That sounds like something that would be covered under your plan.”

    The folks on the phone aren’t the adjusters that will be evaluating your claim, and I expect they are under explicit instructions not to give you the idea that they are pre-approving anything at all. There’s a reason even a straightforward claim involves many pages of paperwork; because that’s how much they need to make a final decision, and a phone call simply isn’t enough.

    1. That is because it totally depends on what your doctor submits as evidence of your injury, illness, etc. Until a claims adjuster sees the actual paperwork they can never say you will or wont be covered. It is more like you “should’ be covered but they will never state it over the phone when you inquire.

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