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Does travel insurance cover the coronavirus?
How travel insurance policies handle COVID-19, quarantine, flight changes and more
Your travel policy probably won’t extend protection for coronavirus claims since it’s widely recognized as a risk. But you have a few options to recover your prepaid trip costs or qualify for insurance coverage under special circumstances. To find a policy with COVID-19 coverage, your best bet is to look at the policy’s language about pandemics, quarantine or COVID-19 — and ask the insurer questions for clarity.
What's in this guide?
- Does travel insurance cover the coronavirus?
- Does travel insurance cover quarantine or other coronavirus delays?
- Compare Cancel for Any Reason travel insurance
- Ask an expert: Can travel insurance help pay for travel-related testing?
- What to do if I want to cancel
- How to file a travel claim for the coronavirus
Does travel insurance cover the coronavirus?
It depends on the travel insurance company and whether your policy specifies COVID-19 coverage. Since the pandemic is a known event, the coronavirus is excluded under most policies as a “covered reason,” which means cancellations, interruptions and medical care aren’t covered. However, a handful of insurers like Allianz and Seven Corners may cover coronavirus-related situations in two ways:
- COVID-19 add-ons. You might find a policy with a COVID-19 endorsement — though it’s a rare offer for travel insurers. The endorsement extends coverage like trip cancellations, interruptions or delays to specific COVID-19 events.
- Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR) policy. You can be reimbursed for part of your trip expenses, no matter the reason for canceling. But a CFAR policy pays a percentage of nonrefundable trip expenses, typically only 75% of costs. You also need to cancel within your policy’s required time limit, such as 48 hours before your departure.
Read the fine print to make sure your policy includes coronavirus trip delays and cancellations, if you’re looking for this protection. If you have questions or the policy isn’t clear about its coverage or claims process, contact the insurance company before finalizing your purchase. Also, you can get a standard travel policy if you want to cover delays or cancellations that aren’t related to the coronavirus.
What to expect with different types of travel coverage
Consider how each type of travel insurance coverage handles situations related to the coronavirus and how that might affect your trip:
- Trip cancellation or interruption. You won’t be reimbursed for canceling, cutting your trip short or rejoining your trip later, unless your policy specifies that COVID-19 is a covered reason.
- Trip delay. Most policies won’t cover delays caused by the coronavirus, unless you buy a policy or endorsement that specifies COVID-19 trip delay coverage. If COVID-19 is specified, you can get reimbursed for hotel, lodging or belongings that you need up to your policy’s limit, typically $100 to $200 a day.
- Medical care. More travel insurance policies are coming out with COVID-19 medical plans, covering hospital, doctor and evacuation expenses if you get the coronavirus on your trip. You still want to make sure this reason is listed specifically on your policy.
Does travel insurance cover quarantine or other coronavirus delays?
Starting January 26, 2021, travelers coming into the United States will be required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 viral test before they can board a flight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That will include US citizens flying home from abroad. But delays caused by this and other requirements may or may not be covered by travel insurance.
- Quarantine. Your policy probably won’t cover quarantining if it’s a precaution at your destination. But if you get sick and are unexpectedly required to quarantine, a few companies have added it as a covered reason. You’ll get reimbursed for canceling or delaying your trip if quarantining is listed on your policy.
- Flight changes and delays. If your airline changes or cancels your flight, a standard travel policy covers extra hotel, food and flight change costs for you to get to your destination. Your policy kicks in for any of these costs if the airline won’t cover them.
- Government or health warnings. The only policy that covers changes in government laws or warnings is a CFAR policy. This is also true if your airline, tour or venue changes or loosens COVID-19 requirements, and you’re not comfortable moving forward with your plans.
- Entry restrictions. Requirements to quarantine or show a negative coronavirus test aren’t covered by travel insurance, unless you simply cancel your trip under a CFAR policy. You should look up entry requirements before you arrive.
What’s not covered?
Most insurance companies exclude epidemics and pandemics or any other factors you could reasonably expect to know ahead of time. Unless you buy a CFAR travel insurance policy, you might not get coverage for:
- Cancellations because of cases spiking at your destination
- Cancellations due to government warnings or laws
- Fear of traveling
- Canceling your policy, unless it’s within the time limit after buying
- Routine COVID-19 tests — You’ll use your health insurance to pay for these tests before and after traveling. Travel medical coverage only covers emergency medical costs.
Compare Cancel for Any Reason travel insurance
Protect your upcoming travels with travel insurance that offers COVID-19 coverage. Every company listed in this table either offers a coronavirus add-on or Cancel for Any Reason policy.
Ask an expert: Can travel insurance help pay for travel-related testing?
Case study: Jeremy's experience
This new requirement is yet another reason why it is so important for travelers to purchase the right travel insurance plans. With the new requirement, the most worrisome situation for travelers is what will happen if they test positive, because they could be stuck at their destination for 14 days or until they test negative. Folks can claim for travel delay expenses if they test positive and cannot return to the US, because they are quarantined as long as ‘quarantine’ is a covered reason listed on their travel insurance plan. Travel delay covers additional transportation, meals, accommodations, and nonrefundable, unused prepaid expenses up to the limit stated in the plan.
Coverage is triggered by a positive test. However, lack of testing is not a covered reason to trigger coverage, so it’s important that travelers understand the testing options at the destination location before departing on their trip.
What to do if I want to cancel
If you don’t want to make your trip because of the coronavirus, you could find other ways to recover your trip costs, including:
- Reschedule your trip. Rather than proceeding with your trip because your policy won’t cover cancellations, you could reschedule the dates. You may not see rescheduling fees with your insurance company, hotels or attractions as long as your departure is a few weeks or months away.
- Ask for refunds. High-risk locations may be closing attractions and refunding prepaid expenses to help protect the public. Airlines canceling your flight should offer full refunds or rescheduling without change fees.
- Read through your policy. You could cancel or interrupt your plans if another covered reason applies to you.
- Cancel on your own. If your destination is a coronavirus hotspot, you could absorb the nonrefundable trip costs on your own.
How do travel refunds work?
Many airlines, hotels, travel agencies and venues are offering refunds to customers who can’t travel on their planned dates because of the coronavirus. However, refunds work differently for different businesses.
For example, event venues might only refund canceled events but not postponed events. And online travel agencies may rely on the cancellation policies of the companies you booked with. Be sure to look at your travel or entertainment company’s website to learn about its refund process.
Will airlines cover coronavirus cancellations?
Airlines are required by the US Department of Transportation to refund flights if the airline cancels or makes significant changes to the flight schedule or paid-for services. However, airlines and hotels are not required to refund non-refundable tickets, though many have on a voluntary basis.
Also, many airlines are covering your costs if you cancel a flight due to the coronavirus or any other reason — as long as you book and cancel before a specific date. Plus, some airlines like Emirates and Etihad Airways are giving free travel insurance that covers quarantine and medical costs if you suddenly get the coronavirus on your trip.
How to file a travel claim for the coronavirus
If you’re filing a coronavirus-related claim, you can follow these steps:
- Report claim details online, by phone or email, depending on your insurer’s options.
- Describe your expenses or losses and any relevant information, such as where you were exposed to the coronavirus.
- Upload or send files. To prove your claim, submit receipts, medical invoices, news reports or doctors’ notes.
- Submit your claim and wait for further questions or notice.
Case study: Roslyn’s experience getting a flight refund
Even if your flight is canceled by your airline, you might need to call to get a refund, and you might be waiting weeks to see the money.
My flight was canceled on April 24th, 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. United Airlines decided to reduce their flight routes to California, so there was no longer a flight from my nearest airport.
I called customer support to request a refund. At first, the customer support agent only wanted to offer me a flight voucher. I asked for a flight refund per the DOT’s latest announcement, and the customer support agent had to speak to a manager to authorize the refund.
I was told it would be at least 21 days before the refund would be processed, despite my reminder to the agent that the DOT was requiring prompt payments. I received my refund about four weeks later.
What to do if I get the coronavirus abroad
If you suffer from coronavirus symptoms during travel, you can reach out for travel assistance and claims help.
- Find medical help. Your travel insurance or a US embassy also can help you find a doctor if you’re traveling abroad or in an area where you don’t know the nearest hospital.
- Call your travel insurance company. Contact your insurance company’s emergency assistance with any questions you might have about your travel plans or insurance coverage.
- Connect with your health insurance company. If you don’t have medical coverage through your travel insurance, call your state’s health insurance hotline to understand your options, including what coronavirus treatments your health insurance covers.
- Keep receipts and invoices. Even if you don’t think your travel insurance will cover you, keep itemized medical bills and receipts of extra travel expenses. Then, submit the receipts to your travel insurer as soon as you can.
- Screen and quarantine for COVID-19. Follow current public health advice to a T, which includes quarantining after testing positive and ensuring a negative coronavirus test before flying again.
Outbreaks like the coronavirus can leave your travel plans and health concerns hanging in the unknown. But with the right policy from a reputable travel insurance company, you can get the medical and trip coverage you may need for a time like this.
Questions about travel insurance for the coronavirus
Should I book new travel plans for later this year?
The main concern with booking travel right now is that the coronavirus still can affect travel later this year. If you do book a trip, you could buy a CFAR insurance policy or ensure that all your bookings are refundable. If possible, consider booking only a week or two in advance.
Should I keep planning my trip or change travel plans?
Changing plans is a personal decision you might make on a case-by-case basis. It’s worth keeping in mind the health warnings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, such as staying home if you have chronic health problems.
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