The surprising reasons travelers file insurance claims

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By Christopher Elliott

If you’ve bought a travel insurance policy, here’s the next logical question: What could possibly go wrong?

That’s a question Squaremouth set out to answer as part of its campaign to promote real life claims — a topic that’s near and dear to my advocates, too.

The short answer is: You could have a medical claim, face a delay, or a trip interruption. But a deeper dive into Squaremouth’s numbers may help you build an effective set of strategies against a vacation disaster. If nothing else, it underscores the need for a travel insurance policy that covers you adequately. Or more.

Why do travelers file insurance claims?

Here are the reasons for a claim according to Squaremouth:

Benefit Type% of All Claims
Emergency Medical26.22%
Trip Cancellation24.98%
Trip Delay16.73%
Trip Interruption13.23%
Baggage Delay5.94%
Baggage & Personal Items Loss4.55%
Cancel For Any Reason2.35%
Emergency Medical Evacuation0.62%
No Description5.18%

This is based on Squaremouth’s internal data. (I should note that Squaremouth is a long-time corporate underwriter of this site. It provided this information to me as a favor.)

A closer look at the numbers

The top reason for a travel insurance claim? Emergency medical. Further below, at less than 1 percent, is medical evacuation. Which would make you think a service like Medjet is unnecessary. But consider that, you have slightly more than a 1 in 200 chance of being evacuated for medical reasons, and I’m pretty happy that I have Medjet coverage (also, coincidentally, an underwriter of this site).

My advice? Check your health insurance, check your credit card coverage, for goodness sakes, read your policy before you buy, to make sure your medical conditions and evacuation are covered. Pay special attention to pre-existing medical conditions. (Related: Do I need travel insurance for my summer vacation? It’s complicated.)

Also noteworthy: A quarter of all claims are for cancellations. Yet only a fraction of the policies are Cancel For Any Reason (CFOR) policies, which are typically a few percentage points more expensive than a garden-variety, named-exclusions policy.). That suggests many insurance policyholders might have benefited from the more generous CFOR policies, if they’d only known about them.

International Citizens Insurance helps expats, travelers and anyone far from home find the right insurance plan. Our knowledgeable agents will help you find the best plan at the right price and be your advocate for the life of your policy.

What these travel insurance claim numbers mean to you

The Squaremouth list is useful for anyone wondering what could go wrong on their next trip. The answer: plenty. (Related: Is an annual travel insurance policy right for you?)

Your trip could get canceled, delayed, or interrupted. Your baggage could get delayed or lost. You could get sick. You could die. (Yep, that’s what repatriation of remains is. That can mean flying home in a casket.)

But let me add a little perspective on this list. These are just claims. Most trips are incident- and claim-free. And another unknown here is successful claims. We don’t know what percentage of claims made for each of these reasons resulted in a check to the consumer. I imagine that kind of information is closely held, but I’ll see if I can find out. (Here’s what you need to know about travel insurance.)

In the meantime, stay safe out there and don’t forget your travel insurance. And thanks to our friends at Squaremouth for the information.

By the way, if you work for a forward-looking company that wants to support the advocacy we do on this site, like Squaremouth and Medjet, please contact me and I’ll hook you up.

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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.

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