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 Huffman
By Lee Huffman 
Updated
Edited by June Casagrande

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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.

How to submit your travel insurance claim and get reimbursed

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.

Time limits for filing a claim

Time limits for filing a travelers insurance claim vary from company to company, so it is wise to refer to your specific policy to ensure you have a clear idea of the timeframe. Overall, most companies require claim submissions within 3 months of the incident.

For instance, according to insurance provider Seven Corners, "You must file your claim within 90 days of the incident, also known as the timely filing limit."

How long do claim submissions take?

After you've submitted your claim — and assuming you have provided all of the required documentation and other elements — it can take up to two weeks for your reimbursement to be remitted.

Generally speaking, you should expect communication regarding your claim within that same timeframe. This could be to alert you of your claim's approval or to ask for additional evidence.

🤓Nerdy Tip

The more complex your travel insurance claim, the longer your approval and reimbursement process may take.

If your claim is approved, expect to receive a check or direct deposit of the amount owed.

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.

If you need to file a claim from your travel insurer ...

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.


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