Travel insurance probably won't save you during this summer's airline chaos. Here's when it's worth buying trip protection — and when it's not.
- 90% of people traveling this summer said they are likely to buy travel insurance, Allianz found.
- But most trip protection plans won't actually reimburse you for flight delays and cancellations.
We've all been there, mouse hovering over the check box: "Are you sure you want to risk your $200 flight by not purchasing trip insurance?"
Especially during a summer defined by travel horror stories and mass delays, it's tempting to bite the bullet and dole out an extra $20 for flight protection without actually knowing what it covers.
According to an AAA travel survey, 88% of travelers say that reimbursement after a cancellation is the most valuable benefit of trip insurance. But the typical airline plan won't cover the majority of flight cancellations or delays, Consumer Watchdog executive director Carmen Balber, one of the leading experts on personal insurance issues, told Insider.
"The policies vary dramatically," Balber said. "The important thing for consumers to know is that many of the reasons for those flight delays and cancellations are not reimbursable under travel insurance."
For example, a typical travel insurance policy cover cancellations due to mechanical issues, but not those caused by staffing shortages. These small discrepancies make it "really imperative, more than for most insurance policies, to read the fine print," she said.
"The possibility that your flight travel nightmare in an airport this summer is going to be covered by travel insurance is totally in question," Balber told Insider. "I would not recommend people purchase travel insurance because they fear that there are going to be airport delays."
When is purchasing travel insurance worth it?
While buying trip insurance for a less expensive domestic flight is probably not necessary, it might be worth it to purchase comprehensive trip protection for any pricey international travels you have planned.
"It's a different story when you've put $15,000 upfront for a family vacation to Italy," Balber told Insider. "When there's a lot of money at stake, it makes more sense to perhaps invest in travel insurance."
Another reason to buy travel insurance for international trips is to ensure medical coverage when you're abroad. However, some credit cards, like Chase Sapphire Preferred, already have those benefits built in — so be sure to check your card's travel insurance policy before doubling up.
Even when traveling internationally, it's important to pinpoint some of the specific reasons you want your flight to be covered and then check the plan's coverage accordingly.
"If you have a work emergency and need to stay home, generally your travel insurance isn't going to cover that. If your kid gets sick and it's not COVID, your travel insurance probably isn't going to cover that," Balber said. "There's a lot of reasons that travel insurance don't doesn't apply."
Balber's final recommendation for those traveling this summer is to not rely on the insurance plan offered at check-out when you purchase your ticket, as those typically offer less coverage than an independent insurance broker or credit card.
"If you really think travel insurance is important, go to your insurance broker, ask them for a policy that's going to be as comprehensive as you need," she said. "That will help you walk through the fine print with someone who knows the details rather than having to trust the airline and their captive insurance company to help you."
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