How Do Travel Insurance Claims Work?

If your reason for reimbursement is covered under your travel insurance plan, you'll need to file a claim.
Lee HuffmanAug 2, 2021

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.

Whether your flight has been canceled, your luggage is lost or you get sick or injured during your trip, travel insurance can protect you. But to get your benefits, you need to submit one or more travelers insurance claims, depending on your situation.

Here's how travel insurance claims work and what to watch out for when submitting your claim.

How travel insurance claims work

Travel insurance claims are the system through which a traveler submits documentation to their insurance provider for reimbursement of a covered expense. This reimbursement is not guaranteed; instead, it hinges on the approval of the claim from the insurance underwriter.

In general, the provider will need to verify the situation before remitting any reimbursements to travelers, and the level of coverage varies significantly. Insurance providers typically have very explicit, extensive requirements in order for claims to be confirmed and refunded.

What you need to know before submitting your own travel insurance claims

Travel insurance 101 means knowing how travel insurance claims work. Hopefully, you’ll never need to file a claim, but it pays to know the following facts if the worst should happen.

You must qualify for a covered reason

Insurance companies are very explicit about the situations they will cover, and coverage details vary by company and the type of policy that you've purchased.

In general, the more expensive your policy, the more benefits the policy will offer. While some policies cover only medical emergencies, others cover trip cancellation and interruption, lost or stolen bags, and other losses.

Even though policies can be dense or boring to read, be sure you look at the details of yours so you know what types of situations you're covered for.

The details of your claim matter

The details about your reason for canceling are important, and the specifics will determine your eligibility. For example, you may not be feeling well, but are you sick enough that a doctor would suggest that you cancel your trip? There's a big difference between having a small cough and having pneumonia.

You may have to go through extra steps, like seeing a doctor, to prove your eligibility.

Reservations must be nonrefundable to qualify for cancellation benefits

When you’re traveling on miles and points, you can receive medical, trip delay and lost luggage benefits from a travel insurance policy you purchase. But if you want reimbursement for a canceled flight, travel insurance only covers nonrefundable expenses.

This prevents travelers from trying to "double-dip" and get a refund from both the airline and the travel insurance company.

Keep cancellation policies in mind before purchasing travel insurance. If you’re flying Southwest Airlines, which offers easy changes and refunds, and if your hotel has a 24-hour cancellation policy and you don’t have many activities booked in advance, you may not need travel insurance. The more flexible your plans, the less need you will have for travel insurance.

Claims should be submitted as soon as possible

Being proactive and timely with your claim ensures you won’t miss any deadlines that the travel insurance company may have. You don't want to go through the entire claims process only to find out that you missed the deadline by a few days. Instead, start your claim as soon as you can.

Organization is your friend

The travel insurance company will require documentation to support your claim, so you'll want to be organized as you collect the necessary records.

Nerdy tip: To stay organized with your documents, set up a folder in your email account for relevant messages, keep all paper receipts in an envelope and write down details of every conversation.

Many travelers digitize everything to make it easier to submit documents via email or an online portal. Your documentation should show that you have a valid claim that meets the insurance company requirements.

How to choose a travel insurance plan

Shop around if you’re looking to purchase a travel insurance plan. There are many online providers of travel insurance and the coverage amounts, limits, exclusions and other offerings can vary widely from provider to provider, not to mention policy to policy — even within the same company.

A comparison tool, like SquareMouth, can help you filter results based on what is important to you. You can filter your search to find policies that cover trip cancellation, trip interruption, baggage, medical treatment or other needs. You can then compare the cost of one policy against others based on your preferences and budget.

For 2021, NerdWallet’s top travel insurance provider is World Nomads. It not only offers coverage for individual trips, but also for long-term travel and even adventure sports.

If you need to file a claim from your travel insurance company

Travel insurance offers valuable protection in case something goes wrong with your travel plans. Your policy benefits will vary based on the level of coverage purchased and which company is offering the protection. When evaluating travel insurance providers, learn about their claims process should the worst-case scenario come true.


How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:

Get more smart money moves – straight to your inbox
Sign up and we’ll send you Nerdy articles about the money topics that matter most to you along with other ways to help you get more from your money.