Do You Really Need Travel Insurance?

Ahh, it’s summertime. For you, this may mean weekend barbeques, poolside parties and plenty of hot days. And, if you planned ahead and saved your money, your summer may also include a much anticipated vacation.

Yet, before you zip up that suitcase, there’s one more thing you may want to take with you on your trip: travel insurance. You may be thinking “I don’t need travel insurance” and you may be right. On the other hand, you may want to buy it and it probably won’t cost you as much as you think it does. Read on to find out when it makes sense to buy travel insurance and how to get the lowest rates.

Do You Really Need It?

Before you run out and purchase a travel insurance policy that you don’t need, it’s important to understand the coverages you already have.

For starters, many credit cards offer travel insurance benefits like lost baggage and trip cancellation coverage. Some cards even offer car rental insurance in certain countries. In some cases, your credit card benefits may be adequate. To find out what you have, call your credit card company as the listed benefits on the website may not include everything offered. For example, I’m renting a car in Europe this summer. To learn exactly what type of car rental insurance I have through my Chase Visa card, I called the credit card company and spoke to a benefits representative. I learned that I do have full collision coverage but no liability insurance. I opted to purchase liability coverage under a separate policy.

Besides credit card benefits, it’s important to fully grasp whether your health insurance will cover you if you get sick or injured while traveling. Although many health insurance policies do offer coverage within the United States, most don’t offer much in the way of benefits overseas. For example, if you’re traveling abroad, your health insurance policy may pay for emergency room care but leave you on the hook for the bill if you need to see a doctor to refill a prescription. And, here’s something you may not have given a second thought to: What if you get injured while overseas and need to be medically evacuated home? I know, not a pleasant thought. But, if something like this did occur, it’s unlikely that your health insurance company would pay to fly you to a U.S. hospital for medical care.

To find out exactly what coverage you have, all it takes is one phone call to your employee benefits administrator or your health insurance company.

Where Are You Going?

Once you know what coverage you have, you can realistically figure out what you need and what type of insurance you should buy.

For example, if you’re traveling on a shoestring budget within the U.S. and have health insurance, you probably don’t need travel insurance at all. Here are some other instances when you can typically leave your money in your savings account: You’re taking a couch-surfing road trip with friends, visiting grandma one state away, camping with borrowed equipment, or using airline miles for your flight and staying at a relative’s beach house.

On the other hand, if you prepaid for a cruise, booked a non-refundable tour, or you’re traveling abroad, travel insurance is a wise idea as your credit card and health insurance may not fully cover you.

How Can You Get the Lowest Rates?

Now that you’re armed with information, you can shop around for travel insurance. This can be a bit dizzying as there are many options out there. To help you streamline the process and save money, we recommend comparing insurance coverage and prices through an online aggregator like InsureMyTrip.com or Squaremouth.com. These companies let you enter in your trip specifics and then show you pricing and policy options from dozens of insurance companies. You can even customize the benefits you want. For example, you may want more medical coverage or no health coverage at all. Or, perhaps you only want trip cancellation and interruption coverage. In either case, you can plug in the coverages you want and the website will do the filtering for you.

Once you see all the companies and prices, you can then compare policies and decide how much you want to spend. For example, I used InsureMyTrip.com to purchase travel insurance for my upcoming trip to Europe. I ended up going with a policy that offered me all the coverage I was seeking at the lowest price-point.

When In Doubt, Buy Comprehensive Insurance

Keep in mind that insurance is meant to offer coverage just in case. The hope is that you’ll never need to use it. With that said, if it gives you peace of mind for your upcoming summer trip, it’s worth the price – so long as you don’t go overboard and spend money unnecessarily.

If you know you want travel insurance but still aren’t sure what coverage to buy, try opting for a comprehensive policy. This type of insurance offers trip cancellation and interruption, delayed and lost luggage benefits, medical coverage and more. Better yet, it’s more affordable than you might think – amounting to about four to eight percent of your total trip cost.

As an example, my comprehensive policy – covering both my husband and I for two weeks in three European countries – cost $156. If I purchased a policy for only me, it would have cost half of this, or $78. Why so low? Because again, travel insurance prices are based on the total cost of your trip and we’re traveling on a budget and using airline miles for the flights. Did I have to buy travel insurance? Maybe not. But, we now have primary medical coverage, rental car insurance beyond what my credit card offers, trip cancellation, and trip interruption (meaning if there’s a medical emergency at home, we can fly home early and recoup any financial outlay for accommodations we paid for and didn’t use).

For me, peace of mind is not just worth $156. It’s priceless.

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