Travel insurance claims can hinge on the tiniest details

Thinking of making a claim? Read this first. / Photo by W. Shonbrun - Flickr
When it comes to travel insurance claims, Hannah Yun was about as sure as anyone that hers would be successful.

She’d bought a gold-plated “cancel for any reason” policy for a trip to South Korea. When her boyfriend proposed and she decided to call off the trip to start planning her wedding, she thought that collecting a check would be just a formality.


Travel Guard, the company she’d purchased the policy through, turned down her claim on a technicality. Yun, a college student in Salt Lake City, had originally told the company that her plane ticket had cost $1,090; she’d actually paid $1,092.50.

Denied because of a $2.50 price difference? You bet.

Related: Your frequently asked questions about travel insurance.

“It just doesn’t make sense,” says Yun, a refrain that I hear often. Complaints about seemingly arbitrary rejections cross my desk at regular intervals. No surprise: Travel insurance is a $1.8 billion-a-year industry, according to the US Travel Insurance Association, an industry trade group. And it has been growing steadily, from $1.3 billion in 2006 to $1.6 billion two years later to the latest figure, from 2010.

It’s no shocker in another sense, too: The travel insurance business is generally profitable, the occasional volcanic eruption or tsunami notwithstanding, and critics say that the only way it stays that way is by rejecting most claims, particularly the expensive ones. That’s difficult to prove — or disprove. The industry insists that its rejection rates are low. About one in six policyholders will file a claim on their insurance, according to the association, and fewer than 10 percent of those claims are denied.

Yun was among that unhappy minority. When I asked about her claim, Carol Mueller, a vice president at Travel Guard, said that the company had reviewed the case carefully and that according to its records, Yun had claimed — and repeatedly verified — the $1,090 ticket price. “The full cost of all non-refundable prepaid trip arrangements is insured at the time of purchase,” she told me. “Ms. Yun did not insure her full trip cost as listed on her itinerary at the time of her insurance purchase, and that was the criterion for her denial.”

Seriously? The rejection seems absurd to the average traveler, until you take a little time to understand how the travel insurance business works. I’ve spent the past year studying it, in part because I’ve been hearing about so many policy rejections and in part because a lot of my readers buy travel insurance hoping that it will protect them from some of the unbelievably awful things that I write about every day on my blog.

I should also note that my Web site attracts a fair number of sponsorships from travel insurance companies and sellers of insurance. Consider this my disclosure. I’d like to think that it doesn’t affect the fairness of my coverage, but I’m sure that you’ll let me know what you think once you’ve finished reading.

To understand why a travel insurance company does the often confounding things that it does, you have to know more about the actual policies and talk with insiders who are familiar with the claims process. Travel insurance policies are set by underwriters, the entities that take on the risk of insuring you on your vacation. For example, Travel Guard is underwritten by the National Union Fire Insurance Co. of Pittsburgh, and that company gets to tell Travel Guard how to word its policies. The verbiage doesn’t leave much to the imagination.

Take trip interruptions, for instance. When you buy a policy, your travel agent might tell you that you’ll be covered if your trip is interrupted. But the policy itself will strictly define the terms.

For example, an interruption can be covered if it’s caused by an “unforeseen” circumstance. A sample Travel Guard policy defined that as the sickness, injury or death of an insured person, or of an immediate family member, traveling companion or business partner. “Injury or sickness must be so disabling as to reasonably cause a trip to be canceled or interrupted,” it adds.

Few travelers bother to read that language before buying a policy. Slightly more will review it when they need to make a claim, but it’s still a considerable minority. Even when their claim is turned down, they try to appeal it by referring to their travel agent’s promises or arguing with the rejection letter without knowing what their policy actually says.

Dan Skilken, who runs the travel insurance Web site, says that insurance companies play it by the book when a traveler files a claim. They consider the facts of the claim at face value; if the policy covers it, they cut a check. If it doesn’t, they won’t. “The reason for a denial is usually pretty simple,” he says.

It was in the case of David and Mary Phillips, who bought a $387 policy through Allianz Global Assistancefor a recent cruise to Brazil. Unfortunately, they ran afoul of one small detail: Neither the cruise line, Azamara, nor their travel agent had told them that U.S. citizens must have visas to travel to Brazil. As a result, they were denied boarding on the boat, and they lost their $6,739 cruise.

David Phillips, a retired doctor in San Mateo, Calif., was upset about his ruined vacation and even unhappier that Allianz rejected his claim. But the Phillipses’ insurance policy is clear: It doesn’t cover trip interruptions that result from visa or passport problems.

To claims adjusters, such denials are as obvious as the quickest way from their cubicle to the water cooler. But to outsiders such as Yun and Phillips — and me, too — they’re not.

A few months ago, I had an opportunity to visit the Richmond offices of Allianz, and I came away with a better understanding of one of the travel insurance industry’s greatest mysteries: the apparent disconnect between insurance companies and their customers. The folks I met were proud of their product and could offer case studies of the many customers they’ve helped. But because of the way travel insurance policies are written, they often see the world in a binary way: yes or no, covered or not covered.

Every exception to that worldview must be approved at a high level. When customers grumble about having their claims denied, these insiders are genuinely baffled. “Didn’t you read the policy?” they ask.

As I stood in the understated suburban headquarters where every Allianz claim is processed, it all made perfect sense. Rules are rules, after all.

Mark Cipolletti, an Allianz vice president, says that his company has no choice in the matter. Insurance providers are strictly regulated by the states where they do business. “We’re subject to scheduled and unscheduled audits or reviews of our products and claims,” he says. “When we adjudicate a customer’s claim, we must follow the policy, or the contract with the customer, because if we deviate from the contract or treat one customer differently from another, then we become subject to fines and other punitive actions — like not being able to sell in that state any longer.”

But as you pull away, you start to understand why some travelers are angry. Some feel victimized by the travel agents and online retailers who sell these policies and don’t always explain them as thoroughly as they should. Upon reflection, they’re also angry with themselves for ignoring the policy details and assuming that the insurance would cover anything that could go wrong with their trip.

Which brings us back to Yun, who had every reason to believe that her insurance company would pay for her cancellation, no questions asked. Travel Guard seemed surprised that she hadn’t bothered to review the details of her policy; if she had, she wouldn’t have wasted her time with a claim.

“We’ve listened to all the calls with Ms. Yun, and while there were three opportunities when she could have corrected the total cost of her trip, this did not happen,” says Mueller, the Travel Guard representative. “As part of our commitment to providing astonishing customer service, we could have asked her a second and third time to double-check her exact trip cost, though we are not required or obligated to do so.”

Still, Travel Guard agreed to make one of those high-level exceptions to its rules and honored the claim.

Mueller was quick to add that I should let consumers know that they ought to read their policy carefully and make sure to fill out their paperwork correctly.

I agree. But maybe some travel insurance companies need to spend a little more time talking with their customers outside the claims process, if for no other reason than to understand why travelers are so disappointed when their policy doesn’t work as expected.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • Elmo Clarity

    One of the biggest problems I see with the terms of the insurance is the language.  Most are not is plain English but legalese that unless you are a lawyer, is pretty hard to understand.  When a policy is advertised as “cancel for any reason” but there are conditions on the reasons, how is that “for any reason”?  In Ms Yun’s case, it wasn’t the cancellation reason but the application.  The insurance company should have made it very clear that they needed the “exact” amount.  When she gave a rounded even figure of $1090, that should have raised flags to the person she was talking to.

    As I read all these horror stories with denied travel insurance, it makes me really question the value of the insurance to begin with.  It seem they all have clauses to deny the normal, typical type of incidents that may happen so you will never be able to collect.  At that point, they are only adding an unneeded cost to the trip.

  • NakinaAce

    Travel Insurance should be like other policies such as life where the cure for a problem such as this would have been to reduce the benefit to the level that they thought they were insuring or alternately to increase the premium retroactively and deduct the increase from the payout. The main problem with travel insurance is that it is structured in such a way that very little of the premium is actually allocated to cover the risks but rather is paid out as commissions, over rides and assorted other fees. Probably less than 25% of the premium is used to pay claims. There is nothing wrong or illegal about any of this but it won’t change until people take the time to actually compare the products and be realistic about their chances of having a legitimate claim. Any policy that says for any reason has no excuse not to pay the full amount covered (even if it less than the loss incurred). Anything to the contrary is what we used to call in the business bull excrement.

  • SoBeSparky

    The language of policies is long and sometimes confusing for only one reason–the limitations of the policy itself.  Let’s put the blame where it belongs, to those who require the limitations and exclusions.

    If an insurer would simplify the policy, and price it accordingly, then it could publish the terms on two pages in 10 pt type.

    However, the companies choose to limit its liability by carefully writing the policy.  They are the sole reason, not the consumer’s failure to read, why there are so many complaints.  The confusion starts with the writer, not the reader.

    There are some very easy to understand insurance policies.  These are not.

  • Bernard Rappoport

    If I pay the premium to cover $X and that is a little short of the total $Y, and I am not claiming for $Y, then it is downright theft for Travel Guard to deny the claim.  Screw them.  I will never do business with them, thanks for pointing out online that they are corporate thieves.

  • Steve Cousino

    One thing that is often overlooked – travel insurance companies provide a variety of plan policies with differing coverage. It’s important to select the right one that covers what you expect would be reasonable conditions.  The best plans are often the most expensive offered, just like anything else, but it’s up to the individual to decide how much risk they want to take.

    In my work as a travel consultant, I offer travel insurance that I expect would be excellent coverage for my clients’ travel plans.  I provide them with the full Description of Coverage at the time I release a price quote for the insurance, and have helped them understand the “legalese” as stated in the material.  With specific questions, I direct them to call the insurance company itself for clarification.  In the end, the onus is on the traveler themselves to make sure they have a policy that covers the proper conditions and to understand what their rights are under that policy.

    So far, I have only had one client who needed to make a claim, and it was an easy process, albeit a bit lengthy.  Traveling without travel insurance, especially internationally, is akin to saying “I can afford to lose the entire dollar amount I spent on this trip” – that’s not a risk many people can take.  They save up for months or years for the Big Trip and to not obtain insurance is rather foolish.  When they don’t take the time to understand what they’re getting, they’re setting themselves up for a rough time.

    Steve Cousino, ACC, CTA, LS
    Travel Consultant | Journeys By Steve

  • Rose Arnold

    I’m sorry but the insurance company’s explanation denying the claim is an obvious crock. Denying the claim in its entirety based on a $2.50  error/underestimate of what was probably a trip costing many thousands is beyond outrageous.  It is nothing more than a “gotcha” technicality devoid of any moral base.  It is American capitalism at its worse. The insurance company should clearly have paid the claim, but based on the amount Ms.Yun submitted for the plane fare.

  • Rosered7033

    Is writing more hyperbole “adequately explaining”? In my mind, no. Personally, I’ve read my travel insurance policies and understand (I think) what is covered and not. But I could be surprised if my claim was denied for what I thought was a covered reason. The above case seems to fall into that category.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    I just received my new homeowner’s, auto and excess liability policies and spent the entire afternoon yesterday reading them.  They are written in plain English and the amount of “legalese” has been minimized, but they’re still a hard read.

    Just now, I pulled up one of Travel Guard’s policies and skimmed through it.  Just like my personal insurance policies, they’re written in plain English, but the amount of space describing what is *NOT* covered is greater than the space describing what*IS* covered.

    I voted YES, without reservations.  Most people will not take the time to read anything more complicated than a dinner menu.  Newspaper subscriptions have been declining for many years in favor of perky 30 second synopses by an attractive man or woman on a screen.  Several online news agencies have taken to summarizing an article’s salient points in 3 bullet points or so.  My students regularly complain that questions on a test shouldn’t come from the required textbook, but only from lecture. 

    I haven’t had time to sit down and read the Travel Guard policy in its entirety, so I can’t speak to whether the denial was legitimate or not.  However, if she paid for $1090 worth of coverage, that’s all the benefit she should receive.  Seems like common sense.  Unfortunately, common sense can’t be contractually obligated.

    (My husband, the actuary, concurs.  There is no adverse selection risk in paying the policy face amount for a $2.50 deviation.)

  • judyserienagy

    Insurance companies make every effort to not pay claims, but this is the most ridiculous reason imaginable.  I just received compensation for a cancelled trip.  I had “cancel for any reason” coverage but still had to fill out 7 pages of paper and have my doctor submit a form.  When I originally called to report the claim, the agent specifically told me that I didn’t need to put down the exact amount for my river cruise, they would pick it up from Viking’s records.  Since any claim action would involve verifying the numbers, denying her claim for a tiny $ discrepancy was just plain dumb on the part of the insurance company.

  • sirwired

     The terms of the policy are quite clear: to be eligible for the coverage, you must insure all pre-paid, non-refundable, trip costs.  They asked her three times what the cost of the trip was; what else do you expect them to do?  This is not complicated lawyerese or buried under fifty pages of fine print.

    I’ve personally placed several claims on trip insurance, for a total of several thousand dollars, and never once had a significant problem.  I’ve read the policy ahead of time, know what is covered and what is not, and sent in all the documentation needed (none of which was unreasonable) and received a check in a reasonable amount of time.  (All with TravelGuard, incidentally.)

    Most common incidents ARE covered, and paid without issue.  It’s just that those people don’t write in to Chris.

  • sirwired

    You should download and read a TravelGuard policy.  It’s about as short as it can be, given all the different things it covers, and it’s written in plain English.  Cutting down the entire policy to two pages would be impossible.  Just to list what it DOES cover would take more space than that, never mind the inevitable exclusions.  (Every insurance policy of every kind has exclusions…)

    In this case, it’s clearly stated (and it sounds like she was told over the phone multiple times) that to receive the coverage she wanted, she must insure all pre-paid non-refundable trip costs.  She didn’t.  Where is the company supposed to draw the line at a math error and decide that the policyholder is simply ignoring the requirement?  The answer is that they simply draw the line at the literal language of the policy.

  • sirwired

    They stuck to their clearly disclosed contract terms.  They gave her multiple chances to purchase the correct amount of insurance.  How exactly does that qualify as “theft”?  It may be quite a bummer, it may be a puzzling contract term, but it isn’t theft.

    Routinely ignoring contract terms in favor of the policyholder?  That WOULD be theft; it’d just be theft from the underwriting insurer instead of the policyholder.

  • HomeyDont

    It’s called reading people.  Try it before you buy something.

    Regarding taking money from insurance companies:  It’s called integrity.  If you have to ask whether it is OK to take money from someone you are supposed to be independent of then you probably don’t have it.  Since people are inherently biased we have “appearance of impropriety” rules.  If Chris was a real journalist he would have encountered this concept.

  • sollyan

    Many people leave everything to the last minute or suddenly find that they have the chance to ‘get away from it all’. Whether it be escaping your situation or celebrating, we at Egypt Last Minute work 24 hours a day and 7 days a week to ensure everything is planned well even if you have no plans at all.

    Not everyone does things at the last minute but with the heavy pressures of life sometimes you don’t have time to plan or you just need to get away. Often a holiday booked ‘on the hoof’ so to speak, can result in holidays you would prefer not to remember. However, Egypt Last Minute is part of a company that has existed for over 20 years and has great reviews on trip advisor etc. We plan so you don’t have to!

  • jherrmannmt

    The language of every insurance policy I’ve been involved in is usually clear to me. But I spent years and years in higher education both as student and professor, then I was writer and editor of national magazines for well over a decade. Still, I’ve gotten lazy or failed to read the entire documents because of the small print, and so on. Most people are not professors of English as I was, nor are they journalists or attorneys. And I’ll wager some attorneys don’t read all of what their policies cover.

    One solution: Insurance companies might make their policies clearer by offering an outline of the coverages and perhaps the same for what is not covered along with the legal texts.  An even better solution would be for all individuals to treat buying insurance the way they treat buying a half-million-dollar home: hire a lawyer to read the paperwork and explain everything about the policy. But that would make costs of insuring a trip way to costly, however.

    Perhaps this is a problem without a solution. There are such things.

  • TonyA_says

    Her biggest mistake is buying Travel Insurance in the first place

    I am a Travel Consultant and specialize in Air Travel to Asia and Europe. I always read the penalty rules of the [fare] tariffs I sell. A majority of my clients are Asians who simply want to travel back and forth their ancestral countries and the USA/Canada (probably Hannah Yun’s same reason).

    The way I understand it, Hannah bought cancel for any reason travel insurance because she wasn’t really sure she could make the trip. This kind of insurance is pretty expensive (I know since I sell Travel Guard). However, she probably did not need it. Let me explain.

    If Hannah is like most Korean-American’s I know, then she would have bought either an Asiana or Korean Air ticket over a Delta or United ticket. Both the OZ and KE tickets only have a $100 change penalty. That kind of “loss” is hardly a reason to buy travel insurance. Even if she bought a Delta or United ticket with $250 or $300 change penalty, respectively; it is hard to justify paying for a  Cancel for Any Reason rider.

    My typical advice for people traveling to Asia – simply take an Asian airline (usually a lot better than American ones in the first place) since most of them have small change penalties.

    Please note that Hannah was not hedging for a potential loss of several thousands of dollars on a cruise or tour. She was merely trying not to lose about $1K on a non-refundable airline ticket. But even Travel Guard cancel for any reason would only cover 50% of that, or approximately $500. Buying the correct airline ticket without travel insurance would have been much easier. My 2 cents.

  • TonyA_says

    How much is Travel Guard (or similar) with Cancel for any Reason on a $1.1K ticket? Do you think it is worth it?

  • SoBeSparky

    First, you cannot shop policies without filling out forms.  I cannot find any place on line to examine a policy until you give them all your information and then get to the payment page. 

    Second, the options are seemingly endless.  I have three different policies to choose from and then seven options within a single policy.  Is it any wonder at this point that I get confused, especially if I am comparing companies and then cannot remember one company from another.

    As I have stated before, states or the federal government should regulate travel policies like auto policies with standard policies and forms.  

    Why is it easier to compare $25,000 automobiles, braking distance, bumper crash resistance and expected fuel mileage? 

    All this work, not for a permanent life policy, or an annual auto policy, but for something to cover me for 14 days?  All this work for that?  A real consumer is totally lost if one wants to compare companies and then policies within companies.


  • LFH0

    Without having read the policy. . .

    It seems to me that she insured her travel to the amount of $1,090.00, while the actual amount she spent was $1,092.50. Thus, she should be limited to the amount that the insurance company underwrote, i.e., $1,090.00. She should lose the additional $2.50, for the insurance company was unaware of that additional risk it was taking on.

  • ExplorationTravMag

    “Astonishing customer service”

    Really?  I think the “astonishing” part is the insurance companies thinking they’re doing a good job with regard to customer service and that they also believe we buy into their cockamamie propaganda.

  • Rose Arnold

    How about the company drawing the line at common sense and decent business practices. Ya think the policy holder was trying to stick the insurance company with a grand  $2.50 loss?  Bullfeathers.  All the company had to do with this miniscule error was pay out according to the plane cost Ms. Yum actually listed. And do you even really think there is a difference in the payout amount or even the premium for the $2.50 difference in total trip cost? Ridiculous.  They draw the line at the literal language because they can screw you doing so.

  • jerryatric

    I would like to know in the case of the Phillips, what idiot they used as a travel agent, who did not know about a visa requirement?
    We almost ran into a similiar problem as some countries will NOT accept a passport with less than 6 months expiry date. Had we not been alerted by a friend NOT our travel agent we would have been stranded.
    AND no insurance!   Read & try & understand as much about your coverage on the contract double speak as possible, the insurance companies don’t make it easy.

  • Bill Armstrong

    I have just read the article.  No one would be able to afford travel insurance if it covered people deciding to get married instead of travel, or people who are too foolish to check visa issues.

    It should cover things you can’t control, like medical issues, death of a family member (not of your second best friend’s mother in law).  If insurance covers reasonable things, it is a reasonable cost.  If it covers unreasonable things, the cost goes up.

    As for telling your ticket price, it controls the insurance fee, so be sure to tell exactly how much it is and don’t miss out a couple of dollars.

  • Rose Arnold

    There are two solutions:  (1) If an insurance company insists that the submitted costs for each trip item be stated exactly to the penny and without the slightest error before they will pay a claim, the company should be required to state this in bold, large letters at the top of its offering and in the contract:  ALERT: THE EXACT COST TO THE PENNY OF EACH ITEM BEING INSURED (E.G., PLANE, HOTEL, CAR RENTAL) MUST BE CORRECTLY LISTED IN YOUR APPLICATION FOR INSURANCE.  IF YOU DO NOT LIST THE EXACT COST FOR EACH ITEM CORRECTLY  AND YOU FILE A CLAIM, IT WILL BE DENIED IN ITS ENTIRETY.  Or (2) the insurance company can be reasonable and decent and pay the claim according to the amounts listed by the customer.  If she is off $2.50, her claim would be paid as if her actual fare loss was $2.50 less.  In this case probably no difference in payout whatsoever which is what makes Travel Guard’s refusal to play nothing more than a sharp practice.

  • Rose Arnold

     This issue has nothing to do with the cost of the insurance.  The lady bought a “cancel or any reason’ policy.  That is her prerogative and such policies are sold by travel insurance companies.  “Check Visa issues????
     Naturally one should not “miss out a couple of dollars” but that happens and is going to continue to happen and when it does, how should the insurance company respond.  That is the issue here.

  • cybersal

    Astonishing service indeed.
    Yun’s experience was insane and I have written Travel Guard’s name in my travel notebook with a big X. I don’t have to remember how “wrong”  Yun was or how Travel Guard finally reversed their idiotic decision. The X will tell me what I need to know.  I’m one of those persons who thinks “cancel for any reason” will get me a refund.We should not need a lawyer to understand the policy. It should be quick, short, and yet cover everything.
    I hope they paid her the $2.50 even though she didn’t claim it.

  • vmacd

    Oh give me a break! Are you kidding me??!!! With all the additional fees airlines, rental cars and hotels are tacking on to their bills, who knows what the “exact” fee is or will be when all is said and done. She was off by $2 for heaven’s sake and actually insured the trip for less than she paid. The wording should be they will pay the insured amount or actual fees, whichever is less. What if she was off by one penny – that would void the contract? This is an out and out scam.

  • cybersal

    I got from the story that she paid $1,092.50 for a ticket, insured it. The claim was for 1,090. – a rounding off of the ticket price. She was not claiming her full refund. 
    Explain to me where anyone got the idea that the insurance had a cap of 1,090. why would she buy insurance for 2 dollars less than what the ticket cost. 
    I don’t see why they wouldn’t pay when she had cheated her own self out of the 2.50
    This is an example of Ha Ha, caught you. What a bunch of frauds.

  • bodega3

    Travel Guard is an excellent travel insurance company.  There is more to this story I am sure.  Why someone would someone take out cancel for any reason coverage on a coach ticket that can be reused with a change fee is something I find more questionable. 

  • scapel

    I understand that I am insuring a certain amount of money for my trip. It may not be the total amount of the trip, but that is all the company will pay according to the other guidelines. I once insured a trip to Antarctica for a first class ticket. When I had the trip interrupted and had to buy a 1st class ticket Travel Guard was reimubrsing me for an economy ticket. I called back and questioned this and i received my full re-imbursemnet.
    I once had a very expensive watch stolen and was surprised that Travel Guard paid $1000 toward the loss. The watch did not have jewelery insurance on it. Home owners also paid $1000 toward the loss.
    So far I have been happy with Travel Guard and don’t understand their nit-picking over $2.50. That seems like a foul trick and I would question this very severely. If they don’t pay on that claim because of $2.50, I think I might have to take my business elsewhere. uses them. If they don’t pay that claim, I would like to know.

  • EvilEmpryss

    You know, I couldn’t vote this week.  Those were loaded choices meant to make the insurance company look bad no matter which way you vote.

    I bought an Allianz policy for the trip I am on right now, and I read it as soon as I received it in my email.  It is written in plain English (no legalese) and important points and exclusions are highlighted and/or bolded.  No, the policy doesn’t cover everything, but I can easily find that section if I have a question.  Considering some of the contracts I’ve read in my life (ever read your mortgage insurance?) it is very easy to read, even if it is 22 pages long.

    That whole line about “Who has time to read it?” is equivalent to trying to tell a police officer you didn’t know that something you did was illegal so you shouldn’t be in trouble.  Ignorance of your rights and responsibilities is no excuse.  If you *choose* not to educate yourself and to remain ignorant, why should that be the insurance company’s fault?  They’re doing they’re part in trying to present their product in a user-friendly fashion.  As consumers, if we don’t like it, we have the responsibility to call the consumer help line and let them know what they can do to make it better, not shove the policy in a drawer and file our claims based on what we *think* it said.*

    This is the first time I’ve ever purchased trip insurance, and I’ve got my fingers crossed that I won’t need it, but so far I’m happy with the service and coverage and the presentation of each.

    *This isn’t addressing the Yun story… that was just silly.  The company should have paid what Yun said she paid, even if it fell short of the total.  So long as Yun wasn’t padding the total (e.g. said it was $1090 when it was only $800) should they have balked.

  • Cassondra Monique

    I have worked in the technical field for insurance companies for several years now. In both what I do and what my “customers” (the internal people who serve the outside customers) do boils down to breaking down the legalese into simple to understand language. I can’t tell most of my “customers” to open their computer up and rewire the motherboard and, at least at the companies I have worked with, they don’t expect their customers to read the 30 pages of legal jargon that even some of the legal staff has trouble understanding. You have to be honest, clear, concise, and, most importantly, SIMPLE in how you explain a computer or a policy. The way that these travel insurance companies work is much the same as how many software companies work, they post a few dozen screens of confusing information that a person must agree to in order to use the product. The company knows full well that 99% will never read, or if they do, understand, what is written. It’s an underhanded way to do business and far from the way I was brought up or taught, “Do unto others as you would WANT them to do to you.”

  • Miami510

    Insurance companies hate to have complaints in their file.  They want that file empty when they apply for rate changes.  I’d recommend, “If this claim isn’t paid in 15 days, a complete report will be made to the State Insurance Commissioner.”
    If that didn’t work, I’d take the company to small claims court. It seems to me that a small claims judge would have the same opinion expressing fairness that these comments have.

  • tripinsurancecom

    Try’s comparison page.  Each policy quoted has a link to the specific certificate of coverage.  You don’t need to buy the plan or start an enrollment just to see the certificate.  You need to specify your home state in the quote form because the policy certificates can be different state to state.

  • LadyLightTravel

    That was my thought.  Just give her back $1090.  $1090 is a round off from $1092.50.  It appears to me that Travel Guard is acting in bad faith, and trying to find ANY way to get out of the deal.  I’d be calling the insurance commisioner.

  • Leslie

    We’ve always taken out travel insurance and fortunately have never had to make a claim. For our next trip we will certainly be much more cautious. However, this is a ridiculous excuse for not paying a claim and I will not be purchasing any more travel insurance from Travel Guard.

  • gratianus

    This story is about miscommunications. My story is about flat out deception.
    Chris assisted me in getting blood from a stone, an insurance company that put obstacle after obstacle in my getting reimbursed for disruption of a trip (my wife wrenched her knee two days before our flight home (SF) from Singapore that she could not sit in coach). We delayed our return by a couple of days but there was no way she could travel without her leg extended (=business class for $3500 one way). I spoke to the insurance company, was told that either they or I could make the reservation and if I did it, they would reimburse me. I chose to do it myself to expedite the matter (no checking back and forth with the insurer and the airline). When I got home, I sent the insurer a memo with documentation (Singapore dr’s diagnosis, recommendation that the leg must be extended) and a copy of the airline ticket. I was told that they would pay only $1500 for “trip interruption.” I noted that my wife was flown home under medical conditions and that this qualifed under the policy’s “medical evacuation” clause. I was then told–erroneously– this was only for special flights from isolated places. I persisted. I was then told that the claim was denied because I had made the reservations myself. I recounted my conversation with their representatives, and invited the executives here to review the recording of those exchanges. I was told that my story did not reflect what the insurer heard on the tape. I asked for a copy of the tape. It was denied. I then said that I presumed they’d let a judge in my home county’s small claims court hear the tape. They sent me a check for $3500. Chris carried the ball for some of this, as did my local AAA travel agent (I bought the policy from the AAA site).
    I took copious notes when speaking to the travel insurance company’s people when I was in Singapore and once I was home. I’m a careful person. I speak clearly. I understand what I am told. In this case, I can state with zero doubt that the insurance company intentionally sought to avoid payment. Their stragegy included outright lies.

  • Raven_Altosk

    I would hesitate to call a company that markets “cancel for any reason” and then denies the claim for a $2.50 technicality “excellent.”

    Shady, unscrupulous, and fraudulent are the words that come to mind.

  • Raven_Altosk

    What’s the name of this crappy company so I can avoid them?

  • gratianus

    It was Access America. I believe today the company operates as Allianz, the same company that refused–with reason–to reimburse the couple that arrived at their cruise departure without a Brazilian visa.

  • TonyA_says

     Most definitely a gotcha.

    Actually only the Cancel for Any Reason rider has this requirement:

    this insurance coverage is purchased for the full cost of all non-refundable, prepaid Trip arrangements that are
    subject to cancellation penalties and/or restrictions…

    Nevertheless, it still does not make sense to buy this kind of insurance which probably costs at least $77 when you can reschedule an Asiana or Korean Air ticket for  $100.

  • Cybrsk8r

    Their original “reason” for denial is about as bogus as it gets.  What they should have done was to give her a settlement of the amount she originally told them, which means she’d have been out $2.50. But they were looking for any excuse to deny the claim.

    Does anyone, anyone at all, believe they’d have re-considered if Chris had not gottne involved?

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    I agreed with the well-thought analysis you presented earlier today.  Thanks for citing the relevant policy provision.  I still think, hours later, that if the “full cost” is off by $2.50 (maybe a fee that the OP didn’t see when looking at the price?) that the amount is so negligible that it didn’t change the risk undertaken by the insurance company.

    Wonder what Travel Guard’s response would have been if the full cost had been $1087.50, and the OP had rounded up, rather than down, in giving the $1090 figure??

  • Jen Armstrong

    She paid $1,092.50 for her trip, so reimbursing her only the $1,090.00 cost that she insured is actually a cheaper payout for the insurance company. They get to keep $2.90 that otherwise they would’ve had to pay if she had told them the right amount. The company has to pay less, so why don’t they just pay it to her?

  • Elmo Clarity

    I remember seeing several reports in the past that there are insurers that pay the adjusters a percentage of what would have been paid out on the claims they deny.  So for example, let’s say this is one of those types and they get 10% of the denied claim.  The adjuster would be looking at a $109 bonus.  So of course they are going to be looking for any reason possible to deny claims.

  • Raven_Altosk

    This. I’ll bet the only reason they honored the claim after Chris got involved is they didn’t want to be the next Spirit. That idiot airline got lamblasted 24/7 on the news for $197. 

  • Brian

    If I was her, I’d consider small claims court and I think just the filing might have made them re-consider.  Chris is, however, a much more efficient way to get the job done and keep the peace.

  • Green Global Travel

    Just goes to show that people should read the fine print, regardless if you think you’re being treated “fairly” or not. Insurance companies want to make money just like everyone else, not lose it.

  • mythsayer

     Thank you… THIS!  I AM an attorney, and I’ve rounded up and down like this a couple of times with Travel Guard and I actually DID read the contract.  Now that I’ve read it again with this in mind, yes, it does say “full cost” but it’s not easy to pull that up right off the bat (you can do it, I’ve done it, but you have to search for the right policy unless you’re at the pay page, and even then you have to download it and it’s not like it say “HEY, READ ME RIGHT NOW!”).  That contract is NOT well written.  The thing is, she wasn’t trying to rip the company off.  They just wouldn’t pay her on the $2.50 she didn’t put down… they underwrote for $1090 and that’s what they should pay on.  If I buy a policy for that amount of money, that’s what they should base it on.  For them to deny the claim is just bad business.  Likewise, if someone puts $1000 and the actual cost of the trip is $1500, how is Travel Guard losing if it limits the losses to the $1,000?  They aren’t.  Pure and simple.  And I bet I could win a case like that in small claims court.

  • lorcha

    I don’t know what route you went through to buy your policy, but I worked up a mock quote yesterday for TravelGuard on squaremouth, and it was pretty clear that if you were buying an “any reason” policy, that you had to insure the entire amount of the trip. 

    It didn’t have any blinky lights or scream at me that I had to give the entire amount to the penny, but I interpreted it as “you should give the actual amount”, not “round it off to the nearest $10”. 

  • lorcha

    Could you please clone yourself and send your clone to Washington, DC? Please?

    Finding a quality TA is so hard these days.

  • TonyA_says

    I hate politics and cannot stand politicians (and corrupt lobbyists). I would never be welcomed in that cesspool.:-)
    Seriously, I would rather help people help each other. If government were an effective problem solver, then why do we have these glaring problem today? What we need is a more educated consumer. This site is an excellent place to start learning.

  • KMiller4816

    Don’t blame the inusrnace providers for the languarge being difficult to read.  Contact your state insurance commisioner.  All insurance plicies must meet THEIR approval and they are the ones who don’t allow “plain and simple-ese.”

  • KMiller4816

    Consumers beware of the online compare sites:  they push the plans that pay the highest commissions.   Buyer beware!

  • Lindabator

    Agreed!  We sell TravelGuard all the time for our clinets – and have sent in many successful claims on their behalf – sometimes, they were even surprised at how quickly they were reimbursed.

  • Lindabator

    If you HAVE to cover the total amount, and then choose not to, and then put in a claim, and have failed to meet the minimum standard, it is YOUR fault, not TravelGuard’s.  They are hardly crooks for following the rules – she had several opportunities to ensure the total amount, she just didn’t bother.  When dealing with ANY kind of insurance, you must be specific, because they, by law, must follow a specific set of rules as well.

  • Lindabator

    For our agency – $85.00

  • Lindabator

    No – it is CLEARLY specified that the TOTAL must be forwarded, not a rounded-up figure, as the claim can be denied.  So when she rounded down in this case, of course it was denied.  You MUST be specific, as the states govern what these policies can and CANNOT cover, according to the verbiage.  You may not like it, but that is how these things are done.

  • Lindabator

    But the policies LIMIT what is paid, based on covering the total amount – so yes, you may wish to cover higher, if you fear more expenses, but you MUST cover the minimum – in this case, she did not.

  • Lindabator

    But they are limited based on MINIMUM purchase – if you undercover, they CAN and WILL deny the claim – as is clearly stated in their policy.

  • Lindabator

    Actually, most have this service on their sites – but again – it comes down to READING.

  • Lindabator

    THEY DO!  You must cover for the ENTIRE cost, or a claim will be denied – it is clearly stated in the verbiage.

  • Lindabator

    But when booking an entire trip, insurance IS clearly called for.  Take, for example, the case of my father’s boss.  He had planned his retirement trip to be the dream vacation to China with his wife.  He unfortunatley, had a heart attack, was hospitalized, and passed away.  No insurance – you pay CASH to retrieve the body.  Trust me, the headaches invlolved are simply not worth it. 

  • Lindabator

    You don’t need to book in your area if you don’t wish to – I have clients all over the globe – thank heavens for email!  :)

  • Lindabator

    But according to the state laws, you MUST cover the minimum loss – so she is not “allowed” to wittle it down, and say no problem.  Just pay me less.  Don’t work that way!

  • bodega3

    They are a good company and the OP didn’t follow directions.  You can like or not like them, but if you don’t follow directions, then who is really to blame?

  • Lindabator

    Who would then inform you it is the STATE’S requirement that there be a MINUMUM price point set as to the claim – and that bvy insuring BELOW that amount, you void the terms of the policy.

  • Lindabator

    No – they do have a pot of moolah they can go to if they’d like – and we’ve had them do so in one really ridiculous situation we’ve had.  But here at the agency, I would have ASSURED they were covered down to the minimum requirement, knowing full well if you under-protect, you will be denied as this voids the policy.

  • Lindabator

    AMEN!  Its those agents that give the rest of us a bad name – I ensure you have a valid passport (with enough time needed and PAGES), as well as any and all visas/vaccinations, etc.   

  • Lindabator

    cancel for any reason STILL will have the basic exclusions in the policy, it just covers for more reasons than the standard policy does —and passports/visas are NOT a covered reason under ANY policy.

  • Lindabator

    Not really, Raven.  ALL policies require you cover the total amount, NOT round-down, or the policy is void.  But that’s precisely what she did here.  People can’t decide not to follow the rules, and THEN expect a company to do what they want them to, and get all bent out of shape because that coampany WAS following the rules (which are very strictly regulated by the states).  Strange, though, why she didn’t just roll up then down, as the cost of the policy up to $1099 would have been the same, and then she would NOT have fallen into this mess.

  • Lindabator

    But according to law, they CANNOT adjust the cost down – which is why policies clearly state to cover full amount or policy is void (and she could have gone up to ensure coverage, as it would have ensured the minimum was covered).

  • jerryatric

    We always check visa medical & passport requirements well BEFORE we leave on any trip . We check with our insurance agent, country/ countries we travel to & ensure we have everything we need. We also ensure to make the crossing into the U.S. as painless as possible. Obey their requirements, be pleasant & above all keep in mind they can & do get nasty & then your in trouble. It’s called “grin & bear it”. Flying in Russia is a lot worse! And the Amsterdam airport security &people in general there rude as H. My way of dealing with these & other miscreants is I’m traveling, seeing sights around the world & come home to a nice comfortable home, something most of these malcontents will never enjoy. So keep the spirits up & don’t sweat the very many small people out there. Sent from my iPad

  • Brianne

    It’s always good to get opinions from real travelers if you can. has a Ratings and Reviews page where actual travelers have given their opinions about different companies and plans.  That’s helpful in figuring things out, I think.

  • Roger M

     Do you work for a travel insurance company?

  • Lindabator

    No – as a travel agent.  But in Michigan, you must be trained and licensed to sell travel insurance, so we are a bit more familiar with the whys and wherefores (could make your head spin!).  As LONG as you don’t under-insure the cost of the ticket (that’s the main sticking point here – had she been on a vacation with muultiple items, they could cover up to the amount of coverage, but she only covered one thing, and under-insured).

  • Rosered7033

    I ran your post by my insurance-adjuster friend, who shuddered at the possibility that some insurers pay a percentage of a denied claim.  I didn’t see the past reports you did, but I’d be astonished if that was a wide-spread practice.

  • Steve Cousino

    Awesome – I am just now seeing this comment.

    The way to *really* think about it: travel insurance costs, let’s say, $100, to add on to a $1,100 purchase. It’s a nonrefundable premium, so you know you’re not getting that $100 back. But, you can probably afford to take the hit of ‘losing’ $100 versus losing your entire vacation investment of $1,100 PLUS potentially incurring additional costs.