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If you’ve got some travel planned soon and you’re considering rescheduling because of the novel coronavirus, you might think that your travel insurance will cover you. So will it?
As with many things in life, the short answer is “it depends.” And the long answer is that it truly depends on what type of coverage you have, where you got it from and what the exact reason is for your trip cancellation.
While we can give general guidance as to most travel insurances, it is always in your best interest to give your insurance provider a call to verify whether you’re covered for coronavirus-related interruptions.
Most airlines offering waivers
The vast majority of U.S. and international airlines are currently offering waived change and cancellation fees for travel, though the date when you purchased your ticket may come into play.
Airlines such as Alaska, American, United, Delta and others are waiving change fees and cancellation fees, but for most this is only guaranteed if you purchased in March. If you purchased before then, you might be on the hook for the bill (though it can’t hurt to ask an agent whether they’ll waive your change/cancellation fee anyway).
That’s where travel insurance can help, right? Let’s look a little closer at some travel insurance fine print so you’re aware of what to expect.
Typical covered reasons
While not a comprehensive list (and remember all insurance policies are different), here are some standard reasons when a travel insurance policy will kick in:
Sickness, injury or death.
Common carrier cancellations or delays.
Hijacking or quarantine.
Travel document theft.
Military leave revoked.
New vaccination requirements.
Some of those reasons might apply to your specific coronavirus situation, such as if you are already ill or under quarantine by a doctor's orders.
Nonetheless, it would be in your best interest to give your travel insurance provider a call before you travel to ensure coverage.
Is coronavirus a foreseeable event?
If you purchased your travel insurance recently (after mid-January), then the novel coronavirus outbreak might be seen by your insurance company as a foreseeable event, and as such will likely not be covered.
In other words, the company says that you should have known about the potential risks but still chose to travel, so the cost of travel and its consequences are on you. We recommend checking with your insurance provider about the “known” or “foreseeable” status dates of the coronavirus outbreak and how this may affect your specific coverage.
For example, here’s a quote as of the time of this writing from the website of Allianz Travel, a leading provider of travel insurance: The 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19, “Coronavirus”) is a known and rapidly evolving epidemic that is affecting travel worldwide, with continued spread and impacts expected. COVID-19 became a known event on January 22, 2020 and was recognized as an epidemic as of February 3, 2020. Claims due to known, foreseeable, or expected events, epidemics, or fear of travel are generally not covered, and coverage can vary by state. However, until further notice, although not covered under most plans, we are currently accommodating claims for:
Under Emergency Medical Care and Emergency Medical Transportation Benefits: Emergency medical care and emergency medical transportation for a customer who becomes ill with COVID-19 while on their trip.
Under Trip Cancellation or Trip Interruption Benefits: Trip cancellation and trip interruption if a customer becomes ill with COVID-19 either before or during their trip.
Under Trip Cancellation Benefit: Non-refundable, non-transferable trip cancellation expenses for customers who purchased their plan prior to January 22, 2020 for trip components in Mainland China, South Korea, or the Lombardy or Veneto regions of Italy and departing prior to April 1, 2020.
'I’m afraid to travel'
Almost all travel insurance policies have a “fear of travel” clause. According to AIG, one of the world’s largest travel insurance providers, “trip cancellation for concern or fear of travel associated with sickness, epidemic, or pandemic, including Coronavirus, is not covered.”
If you bought a ticket and then become afraid to travel because of any sickness, that is probably not a covered reason.
Credit card travel insurance
Many premium credit cards offer travel protections — but as with paid travel insurance, you should make sure to check with the provider to see if known conditions such as the coronavirus are covered.
As an example, we took a look at the policy for one of the more popular travel cards, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. There are some very notable bullet points that are common across many programs.
As mentioned above, this insurance will not cover a “disinclination to travel based on a pandemic.” If you decide that you don’t want to travel because you might get sick or you are afraid to go, you won’t be covered.
The insurance does clearly state, however, that if you are sick or hospitalized before or during your trip, you may be covered by the plan:
Accidental Bodily Injury, Loss of Life, or Sickness experienced by You or Your Traveling Companion which prevents You or Your Traveling Companion from traveling on the Trip.
Accidental Bodily Injury, Loss of Life, or Sickness experienced by an Immediate Family Member of You or Your Traveling Companion when the Accidental Bodily Injury or Sickness is considered life threatening, requires hospitalization, or such Immediate Family Member requires care by You or Your Traveling Companion.
If either you or your traveling companion becomes sick and you are prevented from traveling, you may be covered. Also note that if a family member of either you or your traveling companion requires hospitalization and you are needed to care for them, that may be covered as well.
As with all things insurance-related, if you have specific questions about your policy or your credit card’s coverage, it’s always best to give them a call beforehand. Still, the general consensus is that if you’re afraid you might catch something, your insurance is not going to cover you.