Many credit cards provide travel insurance for free, or as part of the annual fee, as an added benefit to customers. The bad news is that credit card coverage is designed as a “one size fits all” option for the general population. This means it hasn’t been customized to meet your unique travel needs—it doesn’t know how old you are, your current health status, where you are going, or for how long. And it may not even apply if you didn’t use your card to pay for your travel arrangements. When you consider the fact that no two travel insurance policies are identical, it could be an expensive mistake to assume yours covers everything you need it to.
If you are one of the many people who has travel insurance through their card, don’t fret yet! Just take the time to ask yourself—and your insurer—a few questions…
Having a toll-free emergency assistance line that is accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week—no matter where you are in the world—is what makes a good travel insurance policy great. If your medical fees are covered, but you are stranded because you can’t speak the language or don’t know where to go for medical attention, it won’t be much use. Proper support is a must-have for any traveller.
Ask your insurer: Does this policy include 24/7 emergency assistance? Will I be flown home if I can’t do it on my own? Do the support staff have access to translation services, an understanding of international medical care, and experience coordinating medical transportation?
If your answer is yes to any of the above, your existing insurance may or may not fully cover you. It’s important to review the stability requirements on your policy. And don’t forget that changing your meds, increasing (or decreasing) the dosage, or even a visit to the doctor could make your condition unstable in the eyes of your insurer. Ask questions and talk to your doctor if you aren’t sure.
Ask your insurer: Is my pre-existing medical condition excluded from coverage? Does my policy cover stable pre-existing conditions? If so, how is “stable” defined? Will my recent illness or injury affect my coverage?
Some travel insurance policies have age restrictions that exclude certain age groups from receiving coverage. Make sure a recent birthday hasn’t made you ineligible!
Ask your insurer: Does this policy have any age-based eligibility restrictions or exclusions?
Don’t forget the kiddies! Just because they are young and healthy doesn’t mean they can’t catch a cold or break an ankle while on vacation.
Ask your insurer: Does this policy include a family benefit? Do you have any deals for families? What type of coverage does my child need?
If you travel several times a year, you might think that the travel insurance on your credit card is both cost effective and convenient. But keep in mind that travel insurance companies offer multi-trip annual plans that might better suit your needs… for a better price.
Ask your insurer: Is there a limit on the number of trips my policy will cover each year?
If you are planning a longer-than-typical trip, keep in mind that the travel insurance you have through your credit card may not cover travel that exceeds a certain number of days. In
this case, you may need a top-up from another insurer!
Ask your insurer: Is there a limit on the number of days I can leave the country for one trip?
If you will be travelling for several months (or more), and you know you’ll be gone long enough to warrant more routine medical services, like a check-up or a dental cleaning, you’ll need something more comprehensive than what you have through your credit card, since typically, regular travel insurance does not cover non-emergency scenarios.
Ask your insurer: Is this policy for emergencies only, or does it include benefits for routine visits to the doctor or dentist?
If you are living abroad on a long-term basis, you will no longer be eligible for provincial health coverage after being out of your province of residence for a set number of days—at which point your travel insurance will also become void. In this case, you’ll need a whole different type of insurance (expatriate insurance) to cover you.
Ask your insurer: What are my options if my provincial coverage expires while I’m gone? Do you offer expatriate insurance?
Be careful! The travel insurance through your credit card may not cover high-risk scenarios, like scuba-diving without certification, travel to war zones, or injuries related to certain sports. Make sure to ask!
Ask your insurer: Does this policy have any exclusions related to adventure travel, travel advisories, or sports?
Am I expecting a baby? Has my health been affected? Any chance of an early delivery?
If you are travelling while pregnant, there are several things you need to consider. Your existing travel insurance plan may not cover you at all, or it may only cover the second trimester. Make sure to ask as many questions as possible!
Ask your insurer: What exclusions and limitations related to pregnancy should I know about? What happens if I experience serious morning sickness, miscarry, or go into early labour? Would my newborn baby be covered under this policy?
All of these questions may not necessarily apply to you. But pick out the ones that do, and ask yourself the right questions to find out if you need to take the next step: calling your insurer to find out more. This applies to individuals who automatically receive travel coverage through their employee group coverage, extended health insurance plan, or anyone whose travel insurance is a piece of a larger benefits package.
If you learn that the coverage on your card is not enough for your situation, you may want to top up or cancel your existing coverage and consider a new plan altogether. Talk to the experts. They’ll be able to find you a plan that suits your unique needs, one that includes 24/7 emergency medical and security assistance and coverage for…
- Pre-existing medical conditions
- Any age group
- Families, children, and babies
- Frequent travel and lengthy trips
- Expatriates and travellers without provincial health care
- Adventure travel
- High-risk sports and activities
- Travel to dangerous locations
- Early delivery or pregnancy complications
Having a worry-free trip is as simple as getting travel insurance that is customized for you. Ask the right questions, get the right plan, and never worry that your coverage might not cover you again!