So where should I buy my travel insurance?

getawayWhen the subject of travel insurance comes up, I’m usually quick to say: Don’t buy the first policy you’re offered.

That’s because the first policy is normally a brochure your travel agent slides across the desk right after you’ve plunked down $14,000 for that dream safari, along with the warning, “You’ll want insurance.”

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You will want insurance, but probably — and I stress the “probably” — not from your travel agent.

Agents are often heavily incentivized to sell a particular kind of travel insurance that benefits them (read: high commissions) but not necessarily you (read: lots of fine print). What’s more, they rarely take the time to review the limits of the policy and when it comes time to making a claim, only the very best agents will ensure every appeal is exhausted if you’re denied.

Read this if you don’t believe me.

(How do you know if your agent isn’t one of them? Chances are, if you’re handed two or more brochures, or are encouraged to “shop around” before buying a policy, then your agent’s one of the good guys.)

So where do you buy insurance, then?

I would start by visiting the US Travel Insurance Association Web site. It’s a national association of insurance carriers, third-party administrators, insurance agencies and related businesses involved in the development, administration and marketing of travel insurance. A policy from one of these companies is a pretty safe bet, but again, I would read the policy before you buy.

Not just the brochure, and don’t take a sales representative’s word for it. Read the actual policy. Here’s more on policy limitations that you might encounter.

Squaremouth has a reputation for being the Amazon.com of travel insurance. It allows you to compare policies side-by-side. Another site worth checking out is Insuremytrip, which also enjoys a pretty good rep.

Travel Insurance Review (an underwriter of this site) has a useful blog and guide for travelers who are looking for guidance on a policy.

I’ve also recently welcomed another underwriter, TripInsuranceStore.com, that’s worth checking out.

I would gravitate toward the brands you know, such as Access America, CSA Travel Protection and Travel Guard.

Stay away from anything that you haven’t heard of or that calls itself “travel protection” or isn’t licensed insurance. Also, avoid policies for tour operators or cruises that are not underwritten by an outside insurance agency. In the unlikely event the operator or line goes out of business, your policy could be worthless.

So what about your travel agent? If you’re offered several options and aren’t pressured to make a quick decision, you’re probably OK to buy. Take your time and do your due diligence.

I expect the other agents — the ones who think of travel insurance as just another product to quickly and easily “upsell” their customers — will leave angry comments here.

Bring it.

(Photo: mode/Flickr Creative Commons)

One thought on “So where should I buy my travel insurance?

  1. I was not impressed with True Traveller. When I found out that they would not cover returning home for a sick relative AT ALL, not even if we paid a higher premium, I wanted to cancel well before the policy was due to kick in. They flat out refused and tried to tell me that no one covers for sick relatives without a medical form being filled out on behalf of every family member, showing that they had no previous illness. This is a sham, I have been flown home for a dying grandparent with no questions asked with my other insurance. Further, TT provided no cover for cancellation and curtailment.

    All in all, they are useless unless you nearly die or have serious medical issues. There are far more issues in life to be included and considered.

    When I had to cancel due to a serious incident which was not under their cover, they refunded 50 per cent. I cancelled my entire trip for one year, one month in. They kept five months of my money for no reason at all, notwithstanding the previous request to cancel their cover well in advance of the start of the policy.

    They are a sham. Never use True Traveller.

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