Why you should always, always read the fine print on a travel insurance policy

Read the fine print on your travel insurance policy.

Before Bonnie Solberg booked a South Dakota vacation, she thought travel insurance might be a good idea. It was.

An even better idea: reading the fine print on her travel insurance policy before she bought it.

Solberg’s tragic story is a case study in policies that look great at first glance. But a closer examination of the fine print reveals that they may not protect you when you need them most.

Thanks for the reminder, United Airlines

Solberg and her husband planned to travel from San Francisco to South Dakota last summer. When she booked her airline tickets, United offered her an optional travel insurance policy through Allianz.

Here are the coverages on the policy she purchased for herself and her husband, Jim.

Read the fine print of your travel insurance policy

She says the policy cost $97 per person, which is kind of pricey considering these minimal coverage levels. Allianz says the cost for both travelers was $97.

And then the unthinkable happened.

A tragic end

The couple traveled to the South Dakota ranch where Jim Solberg grew up.

“Jim was injured on the second day we were there,” says Solberg. “He was in a surgical critical care unit for 16 days before we could get him home by air ambulance.”

Solberg’s husband then spent two days in a California hospital. Their total expenses: $28,333.

And then he died.

“I faxed Allianz all of the documentation necessary for reimbursement,” says Solberg. “Allianz said they did not receive the fax. Thereafter I sent everything via certified mail. I did not hear back from them and after finally getting a “real person” on the line, was told to send more documentation, which I did.”

After more months of back and forth, Solberg received a check for $500 — $100 a day for five days.

“An insult”

Allianz explained that under the terms of her policy, that’s all they were required to do.

“An offer of $100 per day for five days is an insult,” says Solberg. “I would like our expenses to be reimbursed.”

My advocacy team was deeply moved by her story and wanted to help. Advocate Dwayne Coward asked Solberg to send him the paperwork and promised to review it quickly. But when he did, he came to the same depressing conclusion that the Allianz claim adjusters had: The travel insurance company had done everything it was required to do.

The policy Solberg purchased did not provide any coverage for medical treatment or medical evacuation, and the maximum limit for trip interruption is $846. That includes reimbursement for any nonrefundable prepaid expenses and up to a “maximum of $100 a day for up to five days” for “the cost of staying longer than you planned.”

Case closed.

Who writes these policies?

Our advocacy team is baffled that these policies can even be called travel insurance. For $97 per person, Solberg and her husband should have received a policy that covered hospitalization and other basic expenses. Our advocate reviewed numerous policies on Insuremytrip.com and Squaremouth.com for travel insurance coverage for two middle-aged travelers from California traveling to Montana this upcoming August. On both sites, he found policies that included the benefits provided by their policy, as well as secondary medical and medical evacuation coverage, for less than what she paid.

United Airlines offered the Solbergs travel insurance but provided them with a junk policy, a shell of what decent insurance typically covers. That’s such an airline thing to do. After all, the airline tickets of today bear virtually no resemblance to the ones you bought a generation ago. In most cases, you can’t make changes, get a seat assignment, a decent meal or check a bag — everything is extra.

I think everyone needs to know about these junk policies being peddled by travel companies. And everyone needs to read the fine print on their travel insurance.

The Solbergs could have found a better Allianz policy through a third-party travel insurance site or by going directly to a travel insurance company. Maybe the lesson learned here is: Never buy travel insurance through an airline.

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Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirportParkingReservations.com

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Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Cavalry Travel Insurance

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Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

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Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at Sodexoinsights.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at Travelexinsurance.com.

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AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

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The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

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Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

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Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

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An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by G1G.com

Since its inception over three decades ago, G1G has continued to revolutionize the travel insurance industry by being the only aggregator to operate a customer portal, placing all of the user's primary needs in one place. We have continued to innovate and disrupt the market by reimagining the way travel insurance can be delivered to the end user in ways no competition can. Simply put, no one knows the market as well as its founders and no one else shares G1G values and mission.

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The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at  Mediacomcable.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Arch RoamRight

Arch RoamRight is one of the fastest growing, most-highly rated travel insurance companies in the United States. Travel advisors love working with us, and travelers feel protected with our trip cancellation and travel medical insurance coverage. We also make it easy to file a claim online with our fast, paperless claims website. Learn more about RoamRight travel insurance.

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The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit  Virtuoso.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

As a company that is constantly striving to simplify travel insurance, VisitorsCoverage, is on a mission to help travelers make the better decisions about purchasing travel insurance, quickly. VisitorsCoverage has helped millions of travelers globally to buy the suitable travel insurance and explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at  VisitorsCoverage. Lowest Price Guaranteed.

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Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. Elliott.org readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

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Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by TravelInsurance.com

TravelInsurance.com makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at  TravelInsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on  Squaremouth.com to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International, SinglesCruise.com, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

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If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.

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