Shhh… Insurance companies don’t want you to know this, but you may not need to specifically buy a policy for travel. You may already have free travel insurance coverage — from your credit cards, existing insurance policies, and other sources.
Read on for the details!
1. Free travel insurance from your health insurer
Travel medical insurance
Your current health insurance may provide coverage for your medical expenses during travel, especially if you have private health insurance and you only travel within the country. However, you may be required to pay upfront for any medical procedures and only get reimbursement later.
On the other hand, travel insurance companies can usually work directly with hospitals abroad, so you don’t have to pay anything upfront. This is a good reason why you’d want a travel medical insurance policy on top of your regular one.
2. Free travel insurance from your credit card
Generally, you’d get some travel coverage from the credit card that you use to book the trip.
Your credit card may cover delayed or lost baggage. Check the fine print for a list of items that are included.
You may also be able to take advantage of the credit card’s purchase protection. Here’s how purchase protection works: If you buy something with your credit card and you lose it within a certain number of days from the purchase date, your credit card company will reimburse you. So ask your bank about purchase protection and maybe delay buying your travel gear until you’re closer to the date of the trip. For example, if the protected period is 90 days after the purchase date, then time your purchase so your entire trip falls within the protected 90 days.
Trip cancellation insurance
This is useful if an emergency happens and you have to end the trip early or not go at all. For example, if your travel companion or a family member gets sick. Only about 15% of credit cards provide coverage for trip interruptions and cancellations.
Travel delay insurance
This is even less common, but some cards would pay up when you experience travel delays. For example, you may be able to get reimbursement if a snowstorm grounds your flight and you have to stay an extra night at the hotel. Check the fine print for the specific causes of delay that are covered.
Rental car insurance
Most credit cards already cover your rental car insurance, even in the case of theft or collision. They usually don’t cover injuries or personal liability, though. They also don’t cover any fees and charges from your rental car company.
Travel medical insurance
World MasterCard covers medical treatments and evacuations up to $25,000. However, this kind of extensive travel medical coverage is not common.
Travel accident insurance / death and dismemberment insurance
Many credit cards provide limited coverage for accidents that happen when you travel, although the definition of “accident” varies. Sometimes they only cover plane crashes, for example — in the case of death, your beneficiaries would receive a payout from your credit card company. Depending on your credit card, you may also be covered for serious injuries like dismemberment.
Scheduled airline failure insurance
If your airline goes out of business before the flight, you may be able to get reimbursement from the credit card you used to buy the ticket because you won’t get to enjoy your purchase.
This is not a form of travel insurance coverage, but I’ll just add it to the list in case you didn’t know this service is available. Some credit card companies provide travel information for free, like directions if you need to find a doctor, a pharmacy, or the embassy. If you have a Discover card, you can even get 24/7 over-the-phone translation service for more than 60 languages.
3. Free travel insurance from the airline
US airlines are liable to provide up to $3,000 compensation per passenger in case of lost or damaged checked luggage. Some other countries have similar rules in place — ask your airline about their luggage liability policy.
The airline may specifically exclude expensive items like jewelry from coverage. If you need more coverage, ask about excess valuation insurance for valuables, which gives you up to $5,000 additional coverage for the specified items.
If you’re not on a tight schedule, you may not need any insurance for flight delays. The airline is already required to arrange for you to travel on a later flight or give you a refund. For prolonged delays, you may be entitled to food and accommodation.
Traveling in the EU? You may be able to claim up to €600 if your flight is delayed for more than three hours.
4. Free travel insurance from your homeowners or renters policy
Baggage counts as personal belongings, which may already be covered by your homeowners or renters insurance. Talk to your insurance company about off-premises theft.
5. Free travel insurance from your car policy
Rental car insurance
Your auto insurance policy may provide collision and theft coverage for rental cars. If you also have coverage from your credit card, usually you’d have to first approach your car insurance company before trying to get reimbursement from your credit card.
6. Free travel insurance from your bank accounts
Some banks provide limited travel coverage for certain premium accounts.
7. Free travel insurance from school/workplace
If you travel specifically for work or study, you may already have sufficient travel insurance coverage from your school or workplace.
So…should you get travel insurance?
Firstly, you may or may not already have enough coverage from free sources. Don’t expect the same level of coverage as you would from a dedicated travel insurance policy, but something is better than nothing. Check directly with the appropriate parties for details on what they cover.
Secondly, the definition of “enough coverage” differs from traveler to traveler. It’s entirely up to you to decide if you have enough coverage just from these free perks alone.
(I go into more details about whether you need travel insurance in the following blog post: Do You Need Travel Insurance? The Real Scoop!)
If you want more coverage than these free sources can provide, check out World Nomads. They can give you a price estimate in a minute or two. Just fill out the form below and you’ll be all set!