Nobody wants to make a claim on their insurance, but travel insurance is one of the most often used types of insurance. According to a National Geographic article, one in six purchasers make a claim. The same article asserts that 10 percent of claims are denied, but that statistic varies from 2 to 10 percent, depending on which study you look at. Regardless of what the averages say, you don't want to be part of that 2 to 10 percent. A few simple steps can help you successfully file a claim:
- Read your policy thoroughly before you buy. All the trip insurance companies we reviewed posted their contracts online. Usually you need to go through the quote process to get to the PDF, but then you can download it for study.
- Look for exceptions that might apply to you. Is a close relative in hospice? Is your daughter having a difficult pregnancy? These may be considered "pre-existing conditions" that might prevent you from getting reimbursed should you cancel because of these types of emergencies. Do you have a prosthetic limb? Eyeglasses, prosthetics are generally not covered against loss or damage.
- Report incidents with local authorities and get something in writing. If you have something stolen, file with the police, carrier or hotel as soon as possible. Get a written report. In any emergency that may result in a claim, contact the insurance agency quickly, too. While most allow up to 20 days from time of incident for first notification for an emergency, they prefer to know as soon as possible.
- Give your emergency contact your insurance information. In most cases, trip insurance companies expect fast notification in order to give you maximum benefits. Thus, it's helpful that your emergency contact be able to contact the company if you have an emergency and cannot make the call yourself. (If you can't contact the company quickly, you can sometimes be forgiven by giving them some kind of proof as to why you could not call.)
- Keep your receipts. Monetary value must be proven. Keep receipts of items purchased in case they are lost or stolen. Also, keep receipts of tickets purchased, meals or other expenses as a result of long delays or change fees. Using your charge card instead of cash can make this easier, as you can usually turn in those records as proof of purchase.
- Keep other policy paperwork. Travel insurance usually pays second, so you need to file a claim with your medical insurance provider, airlines or travel agencies for anything they will cover. Thus, the trip insurance company may want to see the cancellation and refund policies of these other companies to make sure they've given their fair share first.
- Make sure everything is dated. From police reports to purchase receipts, make sure everything has the date and time.
- Work with your other insurance companies. Sometimes, your homeowners or health insurance policy covers specific incidents that take place on vacation. In these cases, most travel insurance companies will want you to file with them first. Even when that's not the case, working with both insurances may get you a greater return for your loss.
- File quickly. When something happens to wreck a vacation, it's tempting to put everything aside and forget about it for a bit. However, most insurance companies have filing deadlines of 20 to 90 days for claims, and you need to have filed claims with your other insurances first. Most accept later claims if there is a compelling reason for the delay, such as your medical insurance taking a long time to pay its share, but delays need to be substantiated.
- Claim denied? Ask why. A first-time denial is not necessarily a final decision. Ask the agent why it was denied and what the refiling procedures are. It may be a simple matter of resubmitting with more detailed paperwork.
Travel insurance can cost hundreds of dollars but potentially save you thousands when something goes terribly wrong. However, it's your responsibility to put in the time and effort to make your case clear to the insurance agencies. Understanding the policy, collecting paperwork up front, and making sure you have the details can help you get the most benefit from your policy.