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Major concerns and confusion about Travel Guard…

…and perhaps the RS company should stop recommending this company! As of right now they aren’t even offering policies for some states ( like Washington where we live and where the RS company is based). Like many of you we followed the link on the RS site to buy a policy for our 2020 tour. Like all of us we had that tour cancelled. Travel Guard refused to give us a refund, and gave us a voucher. We followed the threads on the forum about the lengths people had to go to get a refund. At the time we decided to just wait and use the voucher for future travel. That was clearly a big mistake. UPDATE IN RECENT POST

Fast forward to 2021. We have reserved seats on RS tours for 2022. Out Travel Guard voucher is for the associated costs of two tours. ( about 10K) As of now our only expense is the refundable deposit with RS. ( $800) We were not keen to use our $800 voucher to cover just the cost of our refundable deposit, but we’re prepared to move forward. You can only use the voucher one time, and the meter is running to take advantage of the pre- existing clause. We tried to contact Travel Guard through their website. They are no longer offering coverage for our state, so we clearly need a refund.
We then talked to someone at Travel,Guard who said she could not assist us with refunds. We emailed the contact she gave us. The response was no refund, but a suggestion that we try to find someone to buy the policy from us since it is transferable. Why should the onus be on us to find someone (in another state no less) to sell this policy to so we can make use of the only financial remuneration Travel Guard offered us? Ugh.
My husband is now contacting the Washington State insurance commissioner. We should have followed the forum advise and have done this months ago. I apologize in advance for any confusing chronology in my post. I believe the business model of Travel Guard is to purposely confound you. It worked. 🤦🏻‍♀️
Lesson learned. For us, and hopefully for others.

WEBMASTER EDIT 6/1: We have confirmed that Travel Guard does offer policies to Washington state residents. Their website isn't working properly, so those interested would need to reach out to Travel Guard by phone at 1-800-826-5248. For a bit more info, see my post further below.

Posted by
1947 posts

For those who are researching an alternative insurance company, I have been very happy with Nationwide.

I chose them for travel based on my price/benefit comparison and my experience with their handling of many (more than annual) pet insurance claims, which they have paid promptly upon receipt of the vet invoice.

I used Nationwide to insure my two 2020 trips. When I provided the email cancellation letters for my covered travel (1 RS tour and various flights) Nationwide refunded the full premium. This has furthered my trust. I have not had to use them for a travel claim.

Posted by
8265 posts

Holy cow! I had no idea they could refuse to sell to residents of certain states.

I know the RS office is slammed this week with all the tours booked last week but really, I'd give them a call and let them know. I'll bet they are unaware that Travel Guard is not selling to Washingtonians.

And it seems like if they can't sell a policy to you that they would have to refund your money.

Update us as you can.

Posted by
2788 posts

I live in Seattle, WA, and I was booking a Travel Guard policy for the 15th time for my 15 tour to Europe thru the TG web site. Up pops a sign that says that they are not available in Washington. I called TG as was told that if I had noted that it as via a RS link I would not have had a problem. The TG agent asked if I wanted them to sign me up which I did and got an extremely helpful agent who was very helpful in completing my application. This is my 15th year for signing up for TG and while never filing a claim I will continue to use them. I have signed up for 2 RS tours in 2022 and estimated my costs for flying and hotels and used that amount to tell TG since RS has a generous refund policy. I have added/modified my TG numbers numerous times in the past with no problems.

Posted by
759 posts

Great news Charlie!
I have always found Travel Guard to be an excellent company and I HIGHLY recommend them.
Traveling Mom- did you explain that you were insuring a Rick Steves' Tour? You can always insure the full cost of the tour at the time you purchase the insurance even though you have only paid the deposit so far. If not I would strongly suggest you follow Charlie's lead and go back into Rick's website and book your insurance through the links he has provided.

Posted by
1 posts

I have talked to 2 TG agents since putting down my deposit last Thurs. I did the quote online, but lessons learned last year I wanted to be sure I knew what I was buying. Both agents I spoke to knew I was taking a RS tour. They were both highly professional and answered all my questions. I am concerned they are no longer covering certain states and think RS should be aware one of them is Washington, but I do think since I live in MN I feel pretty comfortable going ahead and at least insuring the amount I have put down on my deposit for the tour. However, I will watch on the forum for any updates regarding TG.

Posted by
7489 posts

I used the link on the RS site to try to buy a TG policy. It produced the ' not available for Washington residents' response

Charlie used Hawaii as his residence perhaps?

I find it hard to believe an insurance company is allowed to do business in the state, but only if one uses a particular website to buy coverage.

Be very interested in what OP finds out from the Commish office.

Posted by
12513 posts

As of right now they aren’t even offering policies for some states (
like Washington where we live and where the RS company is based)

Travelmom, which policies are you looking at, or which policy did you buy? Taking just a brief scan of the site and policy menu, they state that "The Deluxe, Preferred and Essential plans are available in all states and the District of Columbia, except NY."

https://www.travelguard.com/travel-insurance/plans/essential

I am seeing that their annual plan isn't available to Washington and NY residents.

Posted by
380 posts

We used the link on the RS site. ALL communication with TG has been through the filter of coverage for a RS tour. My husband tried to sign up our original Gold plan as well as the new versions of plans. None were available to us as Washington residents.
At the very least it calls into question the status of coverage that is offered only to Washington residents who are doing a RS tour. What about all the other residents of Washington who are traveling on their own or through another company?
Furthermore, if the only way a Washington resident can buy a TG policy is for a RS tour, then why would they have not fully refunded our policy from 2020 that was for a RS tour? That sort of “ preferred” status should work both ways.
After the unfavorable response to our Covid- cancelled RS travel, I am highly skeptical of trusting TG to do the right thing if a claim is filed. It is easy to imagine a scenario where they say “ Sorry Washington resident. We provide coverage only for a RS tour. Your claim is not for other tour costs because the RS company refunded you the cost of the tour. You are filing a claim for air travel/medical care/ transportation. Sorry. You are denied. The only thing we cover for WA residents is a RS tour. We provide no other policies for WA residents other than for your tour. Contact your airline carrier/ medical provider etc. We only cover the RS part.”
I will post back when we hear back from the claim we have filed with the state insurance commissioner.

Posted by
1259 posts

TravelingMom,
I was going to sit this out, but I have to add my 2cents. Every state has its own insurance laws, some good and some bad. Not all companies are registered to do business in all states nor do they have to be. I think WA is more restrictive since even GeoBlue does not do business there and links to another company on their website. Plus my sister-in-law told me two years ago that Travel Guard didn't do business in WA (she lives there).

You all know I had problems with Travel Guard four years ago and will never use them again. I hate to say it but your experience does not surprise me. Your what-if scenario above is what I would expect from Travel Guard

CWsocial, thanks for sharing your Nationwide experience.

Posted by
350 posts

I tried the Travel Guard website.

No dice on getting a policy if one lives in Washington state. I can;t get past the first page where we put in the basic information like state, where we are traveling, dates, etc.

I get this useless message "an error has occurred".
What error? I have no idea. All the information I have entered is accurate.
Not so good.

So, I changed my state of residence to Ohio. Up pops a list of policies for me to choose from.
I realize that not all insurance is sold in all states. But "an error has occurred" is not an acceptable response.

There are other sources for travel insurance. Travel Guard can keep their insurance policies and, for now, I will keep my money

Insure my trip has a number of companies that sell insurance in WA state. But, none of them are that good given their cost.

Posted by
6 posts

Some non-Rick Steve’s experience with TravelGuard (an AiG company):
We were booked for an April 2020 trip to the Northwest Passage, sort of a trip of a lifetime to celebrate my retirement. I had researched firms offering these tours for one that was environmentally friendly and knowledgeable, we selected One Ocean.

They unraveled towards the end of 2019, switched our ship since their leased ships had been recalled by their Russian owner. When they offered to replace our 8-day trip with a 13-day trip, at no extra cost to us, I should have figured that was too good to be true. I started finding out on the internet and several Facebook groups that people were having trips cancelled in fall 2019 with hardly any notice.

Soon I discovered that One Ocean, a privately held Canadian company, was bankrupt. We hastened to get our trip deposit back, which was sizable (something like $8K), since we had trip insurance through TravelGuard. We did get our deposit back, and TravelGuard was overwhelmed at the time with COVID cancellations. But they made good for us, and I would recommend them again, based on our experience.

There were others out their entire trip cost, something like $20K/person. Talk of lawsuits, much anger and travail. We were lucky we had TravelGuard.

Posted by
759 posts

courtney765- I have seen Travel Guard go above and beyond with RS tour members. Currently there is an issue with Washington State residents- and that is obviously something that needs to be looked into before raging against the company on the internet.

Someone with the Washington issue and booking a tour with RS should be on the phone to RS & Company and see what they know. RS is totally buried in bookings right now But this is an issue that they would look into ASAP as it heavily impacts RS's business.

As for other claimed issues no comment beyond some people simply do not understand contracts, have made insurance claims for things NOT covered by the Insurance Contract and when that claim is Properly and Legally denied still rant on the internet about it for years.

EDIT: I have referred this thread to the Webmaster with a request that RS & Co look into the Washington State issue.

Posted by
528 posts

If anyone is a USAA member, we think they offer the best trip insurance on the market. Just FYI.

Posted by
2466 posts

I thought RS refunded 100% of the tour cost to participants for 2020. Did you not get back the airfare? I was thinking of getting travel insurance and I'm leary, have one more week to decide. It seems like the travel insurance providers try to invent ways not to pay. Plus since our RS tour is in 2022, we can't get airfare insured with the trip anyway.

Misinformation. RS refunded 100% of the cost of the tours booked with them. They did not refund other costs such as airfare. That is what travel insurance is for. The reason to buy travel insurance early is to cover pre-existing conditions. If you delay and have an illness deemed pre-existing your insurance may not honor your claim. As for airfare-if you buy insurance now you can add the cost of your airfare once you book it and pay the additional premium. You just need to call the company when you book. As for companies inventing ways not to pay-well that’s an easy way to demonize all insurance companies. No insurance company would survive without some claims management. They just can’t pay because you think they should. It’s all in the policy and because they are so highly regulated you always have your state regulatory agency to appeal to if you think the company is wrong.

Posted by
8947 posts

I had no idea they could refuse to sell to residents of certain
states.

For some reason a bunch of insurance companies won't sell policies to residents Washington and New York.
Don't know the exact reason but it's been a thing for at least 20 years.

Posted by
1956 posts

I’ve read several posters on the forum say RS is generous in refunding your money if you are not able to complete the whole tour you paid for.

I’m not talking about 2020 when he refunded all my money for cancelled 2020 tours.

Did I misunderstand something? Wouldn’t that mean we wouldn’t need to buy trip interruption or cancellation coverage?

Please help me understand. Thanks.

Posted by
5981 posts

Your state of residence is the first question they ask when your requesting a cost. I think that each state has distinct and very specific restrictions on insurance companies doing business in their state. Even the costs and coverage are different for each state in which they choose to do business. A business decision.

Posted by
759 posts

In the past RS returned about $75 per day if you cancel mid-tour (been there, done that). I do not know their current policy. I do not insure for trip costs; I insure med and evacuation.

Posted by
1956 posts

Onefastbob ,
Why do you not insure for trip costs which can be substantial?

Posted by
6627 posts

Travel Guard has paid 100% of several huge claims for us quickly when we had to cancel trips due to illness.

Posted by
168 posts

Like Barnstormer above, I used the RS link to get to Travelguard and kept getting the "error has occurred" message before I could complete the first page. BTW, I also live in Washington -- very close to the Rick Steves headquarters as a matter of fact!

Posted by
684 posts

Hi all,

We were informed yesterday that there is a problem with the Travel Guard website as it relates to selling coverage for people in the state of Washington. They do provide coverage to residents of Washington.

This is great timing (note sarcasm). We know and we sincerely apologize for that trouble. We were informed that any resident of Washington seeking coverage from Travel Guard should contact them at the following phone number: 1-800-826-5248

Beyond that, I'm afraid I can't comment on the troubles TravelingMom has experienced as I -- a webmaster -- simply don't know enough about it. I have relayed these difficulties up the chain internally at Rick Steves' Europe.

Posted by
7926 posts

chinalake, thank you for posting that USAA offers travel insurance. I had no idea that they did and I’ve been with them for house and car insurance for 46 yrs.

Posted by
759 posts

Judy B- Substantial is relative. Tour/Airline costs are not substantial to me. It is all relative in relation to income and assets. I can cover Medivac removal but having a carrier for evacuation and medical just means I get to have someone do the leg work in case of an unfortunate event and that has value to me.

Posted by
759 posts

POSTING The Webmaster's comments so they do not get buried in later posts.

"WEBMASTER EDIT 6/1: We have confirmed that Travel Guard does offer policies to Washington state residents. Their website isn't working properly, so those interested would need to reach out to Travel Guard by phone at 1-800-826-5248. For a bit more info, see my post further below."

Posted by
1956 posts

Onefastbob,
Thanks, I appreciate your reply. I buy the coverage for medical and for evacuation mainly so my family won’t have to pay to bring me back in the event of severe injury, illness or death. A very funny friend said, I should tell them to throw my body in the Arno River! Forget about insurance.

Posted by
350 posts

Thank you Webmaster for clearing this the Washington insurance question.

Now, all I have to do is decide if I wish to continue to self insure or buy a policy.

I have decent overseas medical insurance included with my normal policy (80% of expenses up to 50,000). That and emergency evacuation are the big ones for me.

Posted by
3527 posts

I have 2 TG vouchers from last year. That's because I signed up early to get the pre-existing conditions coverage and added more coverage later.

I replied to their email from last year when the 2022 tours were first announced to find out how using the vouchers will work. This is a quote from their response, "Please be advised that you do not need to travel by this date [date of expiration of the vouchers], however you will need to book a new trip and purchase a subsequent travel insurance policy using the voucher by this date. If you need assistance with purchasing a policy, contact our World Service Center at 1.800.826.1300 and one of our representatives will be happy to assist you."

By the way, when you add coverage you must let them know what it's for within 15 days, just like the pre-existing conditions. So it appears that the vouchers will be like credits in my account, but I still need to inform them of what they are covering.

I called that number to get further clarification and was advised to put both vouchers into the pot when I initially sign up to use them. I doubt that I'll use up the full value of those vouchers, but that doesn't bother me.

I've found that talking in real time to a live person is better than trying to figure it all out online. The reps have been very patient and email me the draft policy info for me to read and ask questions about while they wait.

You can be sure that I'll use the Rick Steves secret number (;-)) to make sure I do it right. And I'll report back on my experience which should happen soon. My CC was charged for the deposit on my RS Ireland tour on 5/30/21 and I received my confirmation today.

Posted by
157 posts

The very strange thing to me is that earlier this evening I went to Travel Guard’s website to find a customer service number...my intention was simply to ask if they were still offering policies to Washington residents. The person who took the call said, yes, and actually gave me a quote..even though the website had refused my input (she also told me that “Rick Steves sells his own insurance “). I knew that wasn’t correct, but didn’t want to go down that road lol. Then I realized that the link in the RS tour confirmation email had completely different contact information. As others have mentioned, after giving my information, I received the “error” message with no clue what the error could be. So I’ll be calling the TG office (number in RS linked site) in the morning. So frustrating.

Posted by
759 posts

A REMINDER: PLEASE READ THE POST BY THE WEBMASTER. THE TRAVEL GUARD COMPUTER IS HAVING ISSUES AND YOU NEED TO CALL THE PHONE NUMBER RS IS PROVIDING. TRAVEL GUARD IS SELLING POLICIES TO WASHINGTON STATE RESIDENTS.

"WEBMASTER EDIT 6/1: We have confirmed that Travel Guard does offer policies to Washington state residents. Their website isn't working properly, so those interested would need to reach out to Travel Guard by phone at 1-800-826-5248. For a bit more info, see my post further below."

Posted by
157 posts

I probably should have been more specific in my post...the TG site through the RS link is completely different than the one I found by going to the TG website. The latter is almost like a third party agency, and the phone communication was difficult. I’m probably not the only person who would go directly to the TG website..thought people should know.

Posted by
759 posts

Cathy- Thank you. A great reminder and a hands on experience.

Hopefully Travel Guard gets their system up and running ASAP. OR RS gets his site modified to warn folks about the issues (the vast majority of his tour members never come to the forum. Sadly folks won't call-everyone sticks to the Internet these days. Stuff happens. I deal with corporations and their screw ups for a living (fixing them). I have no issue with yelling at them when they royally screw up. But the hits to Travel Guard seem a bit over the top and unwarranted. Welcome to the world of computers. If you think a human can screw something up, just let a computer at it!

Posted by
1956 posts

Lo, Onefastbob, and others on this thread,
I have had excellent service and experiences with Travel Guard. I had e-vouchers for two 2020 cancelled trips and I called them last week regarding a small group trip to Venice I’m planning for late August. The Representative spent an hour with me on the phone and went over in detail the pertinent information for each voucher and answered my questions in a friendly manner. She was very knowledgeable as well. Granted, I have never had to file a claim but I understand that I’m trying to insure only the big losses that might result from the risks I’m taking by traveling.

I know it is frustrating when you are dealing with a computer system that is giving error messages when you are following instructions from RS, a company you trust to be competent. Plus, having to wait for several days for the tour confirmation adds to the stress.
But, I have been in the business world for a long time and I hate to hear a company bashed in one broad stroke. Each individual situation is different and why TG refused to refund premiums or cover claims is all in the fine print. We on the forum don’t have access to those details, nor do we want them, so I have a problem with the title of this thread. I say this with respect.

Posted by
2296 posts

My father was an actuary, and he was fond of saying that people should never buy insurance through the same company that is selling them a different product or service.

I know Rick Steves isn't selling insurance, but I would expect the company to get some benefit from providing that link.

Posted by
365 posts

chinalake--I agree. We use USAA for everything and their travel insurance has been great for us. I have been with them my entire life, first through my dad then through my husband, so 55 years total so far. In case anyone wonders, they have pet insurance as well, through Embrace and you get a 15% discount.

Posted by
1616 posts

I’ve used Travel Guard for every trip since 2007. I had to cancel a RS tour the year my father passed away. I called and they helped me complete the forms and paid every cent I asked for within a week. Personally, I’m very pleased with Travel Guard.

Posted by
25779 posts

WEBMASTER said:

We were informed yesterday that there is a problem with the Travel Guard website as it relates to selling coverage for people in the state of Washington. They do provide coverage to residents of Washington.

This is great timing (note sarcasm). We know and we sincerely apologize for that trouble. We were informed that any resident of Washington seeking coverage from Travel Guard should contact them at the following phone number: 1-800-826-5248

Bump. I'm bumping the important WEBMASTER (represents the Rick Steves organization) comments above and appended to the OP.

This is so folks who skim can still see the important answer

Posted by
350 posts

"My father was an actuary, and he was fond of saying that people should never buy insurance through the same company that is selling them a different product or service."

I suspect RS gets a referral fee when his customers buy insurance through his portal.

And your father is right. If the company that sold you the product or service also sells you the insurance/warranty/whatever, and it goes belly-up, you are up the creek without a paddle. Good luck with that.

Posted by
380 posts

UPDATE:

I promised to update. My husband submitted a complaint to the Washington State Insurance Commissioner on June 1. This was after a second refusal of refund by TG, and no small confusion about whether or not they actually cover residents of our state.
Today (June 4) we received an email letter from TG stating that they would grant us a "one time exception" and a full refund of our premium. That is good news of course.

The better news is that this experience has allowed us to reconsider carefully exactly what our travel insurance needs are. The advice/sharing of folks on this forum is really helpful. Clearly each individual travel situation is different, and doing some research ahead of time is wise. Coverage priorities also change over time, and seeing Covid play itself out has influenced us as well.
As an example, our Kaiser Senior Advantage medicare coverage includes full coverage for international travel. We know this because we had to use it for a serious hospitalization in the UK. We received rapid and complete reimbursement from Kaiser. As an aside...the NHS provided us stellar service and the bill for 4 nights (all tests, care, and 2 nights in the ICU equivalent ward) was only $2,300! Hard to imagine right? Reflecting on that experience we realize that medical coverage is not as critical for us now, but medical evacuation probably is.
Thanks again for all the good advice. Looking forward to traveling again...tick, tock. Retirees don't age like Benjamin Button. :)

Finally...I will edit the title of this post as I realize it is a bit harsh. Having said that, there is still major confusion about what is going on with TG/AIG and coverage in Washington state. Not only their website but the online brochure I received exclude WA (and a few other states) from coverage. For that and other (obvious) reasons we will be looking elsewhere for the coverage we decide we need. Post-Covid, we choose to support companies who stepped up to do the right thing during a (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. RS certainly did that, and will continue to have our full support!

Posted by
5981 posts

My understanding, from long ago discussions, is that RSE provides links to partner services like TG, Elizabeth Holmes Travel Agency, and RailEurope, because they would get inundated with requests for help in these areas from travelers and wanted to be responsive without making it part of their business. If they get a kickback, thats fair. Cruise lines do the same thing. The advantage to the traveler to using TG is they know exactly what you're talking about when you say your booked on an RSE tour, and that can facilitate support if something happens on the tour. Not everyone wants to do more research and comparison shop.

Posted by
371 posts

Thank you to those who posted that USAA offers travel insurance!

I've been a USAA member for decades but didn't know that. Having reviewed the "Worldwide Trip Protector" policy document, I'm really pleased with the coverage offered:

  • CFAR up to 75% as optional rider
  • primary medical coverage
  • medical evac to USA hospital of choice if transfer to USA is warranted
  • generous 30-day term from initial deposit to get CFAR and/or pre-existing conditions waiver
  • among many many other coverages included
Posted by
169 posts

I almost passed up the opportunity to respond but must repeat that I will NEVER use Travel Guard again. Horrible experience getting a refund from them due to a cancellation of a trip a couple of years ago when my mother went under Hospice care and we needed to be available for caregiving. The company hemmed and hawed around about their documentation needs and refusals to pay for 6 months. My mother passed away in the meantime. Suddenly, one day after the 6 month delay and just before year-end, a check appeared in the mail - no explanation. Poor customer service and the person in charge asked multiple times for additional info and each time I inquired as to the status of the claim, I was told that my claim went to the bottom of the stack even after info received. NEVER AGAIN!! We have since used TravelEx and received our premium refunded when Covid caused the cancellation of a trip. Good service!

Posted by
3527 posts

I posted this link in another question. It goes to Travel Guard's Plan Details Library.

https://www.travelguard.com/legal/doc-library

When you click on a plan, you get a link to states. When you click on your state, you get the details of the plan for your state. If your state isn't listed, there are versions of "other states" options. It seems AZ, where I live, is consistently in that group.

I have about $660 in TG vouchers from last year's canceled trip. I intended to apply that to the Gold plan like I had last year. But the plan has been "upgraded," is now called "Preferred," has coverage I really don't need and costs about $200 more than it did last year. That's partly because I was 73 when I bought it and now I'm 75.

So, I'm strongly considering getting over my laziness and doing what a number of travelers do, buy coverage only for what's most important.