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Travel Insurance - wow

So I made a mistake by hoping to get back to Europe in 2022. I scheduled a tour with Rick Steves and was excited. I did all that I needed to do in preparation with one of the things being getting the travel insurance with the organization noted on the Rick Steves website. I have always arranged for this insurance whenever I have traveled and I am careful in reviewing the policy prior to confirming - I think it is expensive, but worth it. Well, I finally decided that I needed to cancel the trip due to several reasons and was reassured that Rick Steves would be able to refund the deposit up until December 31, 2021. I had not made flight reservations as I was not sure if I could go. I realized I cannot go, so the people at Rick Steves were helpful in cancelling and then I reached out to Travel Guard/AIG to cancel the insurance. I just received a notice that they require cancellation to happen within 15 days of the effective date of the policy, (the same 15 days you need to arrange for insurance to cover a trip or else you are out of luck?) but they are pleased to offer me a voucher for the amount to be used on a future trip by 2023. The conditions are that the future trip needs to be with the same travel agency - they list it as Rick Steves - and it can only be used once in the 2 years. If the future trip is less expensive, it will not matter as the policy cannot be used more than once. The reason I needed to cancel was financial and the money I spent on this policy is basically lost - a gift to the insurance company. So I am restricted in every direction - the tours on the RS site are booked solid - , and have a worthless voucher worth a lot of money. Does anyone have an ideas as to how I can get this money back? I figure the answer is no as I made the mistake of thinking I could travel again.

Posted by
9917 posts

Oh, I'm so sorry you are not going to be able to travel. I have no advice with regard to Travel Guard but I did want to clarify 2 points.

  1. Although all the tours look full, as you know Dec 31 is the day by which we can cancel so I'd expect a lot of movement in openings at that time. If you think you can go on another tour at another time, I'd get on a waiting list.

  2. The 15 day time frame for purchase is if you have pre-existing conditions to cover. After the 15 days there can be an issue on whether they will cover based on those conditions. On previous trips (both with Rick Steves and with another company) I've arranged for Travel Guard up to a couple of weeks out from travel so you can sometimes make arrangements at the last minute.

Posted by
16 posts

A couple of ideas"

If you want to participate in another RS tour later in 2022, get on the wait list for it.
I've been wait-listed a few times and about 1/2 the time got a call. I can't remember if I ever did the tour, usually by then other plans interfered. Right now I am wait-listed on several tours. We'll see what happens.

I am trying out a credit card that comes with Trip Insurance, though it is more limited than the insurance one buys. Only $10,000 max and fewer expenses are covered. It does have a yearly fee of about $100 but you get a bunch of points that will easily pay for several years of the fee. I don't want to use this site to advertise any bank's credit card business so message me if you want the name. It's too late for the trip you canceled, but for the future it might be worthwhile depending upon how much you travel.

Compared to people I know who basically lost all of their deposit to other tour outfits in 2020, you are far better. One couple I know is out over $2000 when a big-name tour company decided to retroactively change their refund policy and kept the money, while giving their customers a voucher they could not use. Not so good.

Posted by
5262 posts

I'm sorry this happened to you, but I don't think you could reasonably expect an insurer to refund your premium unless you cancel for a reason covered by the policy (like illness, tour operator cancelling, family emergency). Their offer of a voucher seems like more than they were obligated to do, and as others have pointed out you could still get wait-listed for a 2022 RS tour if you think that's worthwhile.

There is "cancel for any reason" insurance, considerably more expensive, but it doesn't sound like you bought that.

The 15-day cancellation period is a "cooling off" period that lets you back out of a policy you might have bought too hastily. It may be a legal requirement in your state. But, as another poster pointed out, you can buy insurance right up to the eve of a trip if it makes sense. I bought insurance a couple of weeks ahead of a recent trip, which I'd been planning for months, because I wanted to be sure of medical coverage in case I got Covid. It was a couple of hundred dollars for peace of mind, and the good news is that I didn't need it.

Posted by
5515 posts

So sorry that this is working out as a negative experience for you with the travel insurance company. Even sorrier that you don't feel like you will be able to travel.

I understand both positions here. You feel like you are paying for something that you are not getting. The Insurance Company feels like it is reasonable to follow the terms and conditions that you accepted when purchasing the policy.

I hope that somehow this situation will turn into a positive for you again.

Posted by
2576 posts

You purchased insurance and did not use it. Now you want your money back. Can you name any insurance you purchased, did not use, and were able to have the premium refunded? It’s a stretch to think the insurance company can underwrite your trip and then refund your premium if you change your mind. You had the option of purchasing “cancel for any reason” insurance at a much higher premium. Even then, you would not have gotten a refund on the premium, it just does not work like that unless the policy so specifies. The voucher is generous.

Posted by
1955 posts

If all you insured was your deposit (and not the entire cost of the tour...because it sounds like you had not yet paid that...correct?) and you mention you had not yet purchased plane tickets, therefore, likely you paid just a very small initial premium to cover JUST your non-refundable expenses paid thru the date you purchased your policy. Correct?

Some people make the mistake of insuring the projected cost of the entire tour, even though they have not yet paid the remaining balance. Unless something has changed since I last purchased travel insurance (and it might have), you only insure your non-refundable portions of the trip, updating your policy each time you make another non-refundable payment (and paying incremental premium each time).

Maybe I am missing something here? But Alan summed it up correctly. If you purchased homeowners' insurance, then six months later changed your mind or decided you no longer needed it (sold the house or whatever), you would not get a refund of your premium for that six months...ditto for car insurance. The voucher does sound generous and customer-oriented.

How much are you talking about in lost premium?

Between now and the end of 2023, likely Rick Steves' group will add more tours (as travel demand increases, IF the pandemic gets under control) and waitlisting for something you want really does have merit...maybe waitlist for a few tours. Sounds like your financial constraints are temporary and likely to improve?

Posted by
1094 posts

Clementine,
I have bought policies from Travel Guard many times. As Maggie said, they should only have sold you a policy to cover the money you had spent so far on the date you purchased the policy. This would cover your deposit. If that is the case, it could not have been very much money. If that isn't the case, and you bought a policy covering the full price of the tour with or without airline costs, something went wrong. If that is what happened, I suggest calling them back and asking them why they sold you a policy for something you hadn't purchased yet.
It is my opinion that the insurance industry is getting away with a lot of unfair practices. That is why I am very careful to read and reread all of the terms of contract. What I like about Travel Guard is that I can always purchase my policy with a person on the phone and they always politely answer all of my questions. Then, I still read everything when they email the policy so that if there is something I didn't understand I have time to call and amend or cancel the policy.

Posted by
3709 posts

I have always arranged for this insurance whenever I have traveled

Be aware that many of us never buy travel insurance and are happy with that decision. The one time we had a cancellation, March 2020 (school tour) we didn’t have insurance and came out financially on top: we lost only $340 because we sued the tour company in small claims court, those without insurance lost $1400, and those with insurance lost the most, $1530.

I think there’s a misconception that experienced travelers always buy insurance, and it isn’t true. Based on what I have seen and experienced I’d never buy it except for a special situation like an Antarctic cruise. Note that I already have private overseas medical insurance coverage. I may consider evacuation coverage depending upon the location.

I don’t think in this case the voucher is generous and it’s expected that in that kind of an instance the customer could reuse the funds.

I'm not really sure what was being insured here, since the tour deposit appears to be the only cost incurred and was refundable. If the policy states that you must buy insurance before non-refundable costs are incurred then another reason to eschew insurance.

Posted by
21855 posts

This is a classic example of not understanding how insurance works especially travel insurance and what the premium paid. You were cover from day one. The insurance company had the risk of paying you X dollars from the day you took the policy till the day the trip was over. They had the risk -- not you. You were paying for that "service." Now, you cancel the trip and say I no longer need that service so give me back all my money. It doesn't work that way. Insurance is shared risk and you were covered. Simplest comparison is that you buy a car -- and insure it for all risks. You put it in the garage but some personal reason you cannot drive the car for three month. So you call your insurance agent and tell him that the car has been parked in the garage for three month, wasn't driven anywhere, and no risk to anyone, please refund my premium for the past three months. You know the response.

Appreciate the response of Travel Guard, they are being generous to you. If is not a gift to the insurance company. It is your cost of being covered should something prevent you from taking the trip and you needed to file a claim. If you could go in 22 why can you not go in 23? You are lucky they offered the voucher. Take advantage of the offer instead of complaining.

Posted by
774 posts

I'm sorry this happened to you, but as travelers we are caught between a rock and a hard place. I don't think there are any travel policies that will cover pre-existing conditions unless you buy insurance shortly after the first payment of any kind for the trip. Travel Guard says this for their policies: https://www.travelguard.com/travel-insurance/benefits/pre-existing-medical-waiver The problem, as you've discovered, is that not long after purchase the insurance premium can no longer be refunded.

Posted by
3709 posts

Travel Guard, they are being generous to you

I'm not seeing this as true. At what point in this story was Travel Guard exposed to a possible loss? Allowing reuse of the policy funds seems like a logical result, neither generous nor onerous.

It doesn't work that way. Insurance is shared risk and you were covered.

Actually USAA will refund up to 3 (or is it 2?) months of paid insurance if the coverage was a mistake, say a car was no longer being driven, or a child went to college. If you call and say you forgot to lower your coverage they will refund premiums paid for a certain time frame already past.

travelers we are caught between a rock and a hard place

Well, forgoing insurance is a happy place, available to every traveler.

Posted by
5574 posts

Clementine has not come back yet, but her OP does not sufficiently distinguish between "cancelling the policy" and "cancelling the trip." And her (unhappy with Travelguard) wording suggests that she also doesn't think enough about "cancel for any reason" versus "cancel for pre-existing condition" or "cancel for covered illness."

It appears that she cancelled her Rick Steves trip for a reason that was not covered by her policy. So she tried to cancel the policy to get her money back on, at least, the insurance purchase. (Clementine, feel free to correct me if I understand your OP incorrectly.) She had the protection she paid for. That's it.

I don't think she was treated unfairly by the insurance company. I am a now-aging customer of Travelguard who has endured the decline and eventual death of two parents (for whose health I needed insurance on MY trips) and increases in premiums because of my increasing age.

The insurance company is not a charity. You have to buy the coverage that YOU need, and you have to read every word of the policy before you pay for it. Anything else is poor consumer behavior.

Posted by
2576 posts

At what point in this story was Travel Guard exposed to a possible loss?

The OP had made a deposit with a tour company. That’s the exposure. The fact is RSE has generous cancellation policies, some operators not so much. But you can’t expect an insurer to vary their policies based on who the insured books with. The OP was insured, the insurance company had the risk. That is that.

As for USAA: this company insures military personnel, veterans and is not available to the public at large.

Tom, you’ve made the decision to forego travel insurance and it’s worked out for you (short of having to go to court for travel related costs.) For most people, particularly those who are under Medicare or have pre-existing health conditions, it’s essential coverage.

Posted by
3709 posts

it’s essential coverage.

I understand this, but can't medical be purchased independently? Looking online there is a zero deductible medical policy (Visitor Secure) with a $100,000 limit for 2 weeks in Europe, for 2 people, for less than $85. For Travel Guard one would have to spend $425 for this level of medical coverage (and receive other, perhaps unwanted, coverage). The Visitor Secure medical coverage can be purchased anytime before going also, so that's a huge advantage. For anyone interested, here's a link, it's underwritten by Lloyd's of London. https://www.visitorscoverage.com/brochure/visitorsecure-insurance-brochure.pdf It includes some evacuation and covid quarantine coverage also at this price.

short of having to go to court for travel related costs

We went to court because the travel company broke the contract, that's a civil law issue not an insurance issue. AFAIK there is no insurance available for non-delivery of contracted services.

As stated in my story, those who bought standard travel insurance (Travel Mate?) lost the most money.

It appears that the OP bought insurance while still eligible for a full refund of expenses to date, which makes no sense to me, but I see that Travel Guard and other travel insurance companies require that you initiate coverage very early.

Posted by
25 posts

I want to thank everyone for your thoughtful replies. I have to say, I found the information that people shared here immensely helpful and wish I had asked a question about travel insurance before I even bought it. I was to go on a RS tour in 2020 to Portugal and made all the arrangements and it was cancelled, and all monies were refunded including the travel insurance. I made the purchase of the insurance with my travel agent and she was able to get it back for me. I even got a full refund from TAP after many months of them holding the money. Based on what happened in 2020, I assumed I could get back my travel insurance money.

Pam - yes I did get insurance within the 15 days to cover pre-existing conditions. Once you get to a certain age, which I am, being alive is a pre-existing condition, believe me.
Dick - yes, I got cancel for any reason. It added to the cost, but I also traveled early this year and was glad I had CFAR as COVID was a real concern.
Alan - I figured that most of the risk that the insurance company had was 9 months out - maybe 6 months out if something came up that precluded going - that what I paid could be refunded. My luggage wasn't lost yet, I wasn't delayed anywhere, I didn't have a heart attack on the trip, I didn't have to be airlifted home due to illness, etc., which are most of the reasons I would want the insurance besides having to cancel as I broke my leg or something 1 month prior to leaving. So I made arrangements for the insurance September 23, and cancelled it on October 13. I don't think there was a lot of risk on their part and missed the 15 days.

Maggie - great advice and information. I have paid the Travel Guard a little less than $1000. Ouch. It was high due to the destination and my age.
Vandrabund - I will be calling the company as I did inform them that I had not bought my plane tickets yet and the final payment with RS was not until March. I called 2 times to tell them this and to confirm the information so they did know and could have said I wouldn't need to cover at least the flights until I made the reservations. The airlines are in quite a bit of turmoil so I was waiting.
Tim - you are right as I did practice poor consumer behavior. However, I am now a much better informed consumer based on the information people have provided.
Again, I thank all of you for your information.

Maybe it would be good to have an article about wise travel insurance buying so that people who are not in the insurance industry or have not understood the idea that you can increase your coverage as you go along and have non-refundable commitments. Possibly inform people that you can get the insurance later if pre-existing conditions were not a concern. That would be extremely helpful.
I will be following up with Travel Guard/AIG to see if anything can be done. Thank you.

Posted by
2576 posts

Looking online there is a zero deductible medical policy (Visitor Secure) with a $100,000 limit for 2 weeks in Europe, for 2 people, for less than $85.

Over 70, does not cover pre-existing conditions. Seems like a bargain until you read the fine print. Premiums reflect the coverage. Competitive industry. Premiums are pretty close. But, you can buy pretty good policies for medical coverage, evacuation without insuring the cost of the trip if that’s the way you want to go. Insure my trip.com has that functionality.

Posted by
2441 posts

Clementine - I'm impressed with the way you responded to the comments on your post - without defensiveness or rancor.

For 90% of my work life, I either worked for law firms that represented insurance companies, or insurance companies. So, I guess you could say that I speak the language of insurance. My dad was an actuary, and he had definite opinions on what types of insurance weren't worth the premiums, and travel insurance was one of them!

Posted by
774 posts

@Alan writes: But, you can buy pretty good policies for medical coverage, evacuation without insuring the cost of the trip if that’s the way you want to go. Insure my trip.com has that functionality.

Squaremouth.com does this as well. But there is a catch; if you don't insure the full non-refundable cost of the trip there is no waiver of pre-existing conditions. For those in good health, no problemo. But as we age some people run into chronic issues that may unexpectedly cause problems. As insuremytrip.com says

Insurance companies can easily link any medical visit with a pre-existing medical condition. Even a blood test, change in medication, or a recommendation for a test is flagged as an indicator

So a person with a medical issue that has been stable for years but is periodically monitored with a test can have a claim challenged if something were to unfortunately happen plausibly related to that condition.

Posted by
3709 posts

what types of insurance weren't worth the premiums, and travel insurance was one of them!

Glad to see I am not missing anything! Since we never buy trip insurance or additional car rental insurance, it’s fairly easy to earn a “free trip” every 5 trips or so on the deferred savings that result when one never buys travel or car rental insurance.

More: what I found disturbing about the school trip insurance in my instance is that in the policy they pad coverage and list things like lost or delayed bags and unexpected hotel costs due to mechanical plane issues, stuff that’s already in the contract for carriage giving the policy a “scam” quality since some policy items will never be paid out.

Noting that the time I have put reading up on all this and then assembling all the documentation required to make a claim, including requesting copies of personal medical records, is not worth the potential coverage. When I make personal arrangements I keep cancelation possibility in mind and make reservations accordingly. Airfare that is not basic economy is always convertible to a voucher, and that's good enough as a worse case. I am also having trouble conjuring up an instance where a pre-existing condition could incur large medical expenses that couldn't wait till I returned home, a heart attack for a known condition? There isn't much possible. What I would want to insure is injury from a collision or fall, or a disease picked up traveling like malaria.

General info: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/17/travel/travel-insurance-pandemic.html?.?mc=aud_dev&ad-keywords=auddevgate&gclid=Cj0KCQjwt-6LBhDlARIsAIPRQcK76ZRFnRYtpSZUAkOKtdcv2LAUXZ0kb4Mdjf6r-cx3dS1nHyLR-GsaAmSqEALw_wcB&gclsrc=aw.ds

Posted by
5515 posts

Clementine,
Thanks for following up. I hope that somehow this works out for you.

The challenge with educating people about travel insurance is that there are so many different types of policies and there are so many different needs presented by population. Then, you add in the ability of people to self-insure or partially self-insure their trips and it is hard to come up with an article or lesson that isn't extremely general.

Let me share the solution that I have arrived at for me. I want to stress that this meets my needs, but may not meet yours or some other person.

Medical: I'm covered through my primary insurance for urgent or emergency care anywhere in the world. My Medicare Advantage plan that I will start in February has the same provisions. In addition, I have a small amount of coverage through my credit card.
Evacuation: I have a MedJet policy. I travel enough that this gives me peace of mind.
Trip Cancellation/Disruption- Typical travel items: I have good coverage through my premium credit card.

Medical (no additional cost)/Medjet (295 a year)/Premium Credit Card ($250): Total cost for the year is $545. [There is such good cash back % with the credit card, that it easily covers the annual fee and gives me additional perks such as priority pass lounge membership] This works for me. Would it work for everyone? Maybe not.

Posted by
21305 posts

Although I self-insure for most things (my medical insurance covers me world-wide), people's situations and plans are different. It makes total sense to me that some would find value in trip insurance while others of us do not. I'd give serious thought to insurance if my situation or trip included:

  • A group tour (or multiple high-cost private sightseeing tours); those often become non-refundable early on.
  • Non-refundable lodgings (which may be difficult to avoid if staying in apartments, villas, etc.).
  • A travel party all of whom would need/want to cancel if one person couldn't travel.
  • Medically-fragile (non-traveling) family members or an uncertain employment situation that might lead to uncertainty.

Aside from places/times when an acceptable refundable lodging just isn't available, I can imagine there might be times when the savings from choosing the non-refundable option would more than cover the cost of trip insurance. (Check out the rate variation for future stays at Premier Inns.) It's easy to see from posts on this forum that for some folks lodging selection is very, very important; those folks are fishing in a much more limited pool of lodgings than I am.