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Trip insurance is an important consideration if you plan on traveling, and understanding the difference between plan benefits is crucial. Some benefits protect you before your trip begins, such as trip cancellation, while others offer coverage during your travels like trip interruption.
Trip interruption insurance will reimburse the unused portion of your trip if it has already begun and an unexpected incident forces you to return home early. This post-departure benefit is particularly useful when booking expensive trips. Here’s what you need to know about trip interruption insurance and how to get it.
What is trip interruption insurance?
If you miss a portion of your trip due to a covered reason, you can use trip interruption benefits to get reimbursed for any unused, prepaid, nonrefundable trip expenses, such as hotel nights or excursion bookings. You may also be reimbursed for additional charges such as booking a new flight home, additional hotel nights and airport taxi fare. Importantly, trip interruption also applies if your trip is cut short due to a covered COVID-related medical reason.
Because trip interruption insurance kicks in after your trip has begun, it's considered a post-departure benefit. A list of valid reasons for coverage are stated in each policy, but they are usually extraordinary and unforeseen circumstances. For example: illness, injury, the death of the traveler or traveling companion, severe weather, terrorist action, job loss, etc.
Many comprehensive travel insurance plans and some premium travel credit cards offer trip interruption insurance. Depending on the policy, the coverage can range from 100% to 200% of the total trip cost, be capped at a predetermined dollar amount or purchased as an optional add-on.
» Learn more: How to find the best travel insurance
What does trip interruption insurance cover?
Imagine you go on a $5,000, two-week hiking trip to Bariloche, Argentina, and on the third day of the trip, you fall and hurt your ankle. You go to a local hospital and the doctor tells you that it's sprained and advises you to stay off your feet and not do any hiking. After a few days of taking it easy, the pain becomes worse and you decide to cut your trip short and head home for X-rays and an appointment with a specialist.
If you have trip interruption insurance, you will be reimbursed for the unused, prepaid, nonrefundable hotel stay, your original return flight, the cost of new airplane tickets to return home early and additional transportation expenses such as a taxi to the airport and from your return airport home. The reason for the interruption is considered covered since you’ve sustained a serious injury that prevents your continued participation in the trip. You will need to notify the insurer of the incident within a specified time frame (which will be stated in the policy) and follow the protocol to ensure you receive reimbursement.
Using the Argentina trip example above, if your policy reimburses up to 200% of the trip cost, the benefit payable to you can be up to $10,000. The percentage can be above 100% to account for extra costs that a policyholder may incur to return home. Generally, the reimbursement of your return transportation cannot exceed the cost of economy plane tickets (or the same airfare class as the original ticket), and will be reduced by the amount of any refunds already received from the airline and must usually be the most direct route.
If you don’t have trip interruption insurance, you’ll be at the mercy of the hotel when trying to negotiate a refund for the unused portion of your hotel stay. You would also be liable for the additional costs to get home (a new flight, change fees, and transportation to the airport and from the airport to your home). So, if a last-minute flight home costs $1,000, you’d have to absorb that entire amount.
If you plan on traveling during the ongoing pandemic, ensure that you find a policy that offers COVID-19 coverage.
What is not covered by trip interruption insurance?
Not every reason for interrupting your trip qualifies as a covered reason. Losses sustained due to intentional acts (such as self-harm), pregnancy or childbirth, mountain climbing, war, illegal acts, drug use, and trips taken against the advice of a physician will not be covered. Other exclusions may apply; check your policy for specifics.
Some policies also exclude pre-existing conditions that have occurred within a specified time frame prior to departure. The list of exclusions can vary based on the insurer and the state you live in, so you’ll need to check your policy's fine print to ensure you’re aware of what is and isn’t covered.
» Learn more: The majority of Americans plan to travel in 2022
How much does trip interruption insurance cost?
Trip interruption coverage is usually included within comprehensive travel insurance plans.
Using the same $5,000, two-week trip to Argentina, a search of policies on travel insurance broker SquareMouth (a NerdWallet partner) ranged from $115 to $361, representing 2.3% to 7.2% of the total trip cost. The coverage ranged from 100% to 200% of the trip cost, and some of the lower-priced plans offered coverage in excess of 100%. The more expensive plans usually offered higher limits on medical expenses and evacuation.
If you have a premium travel credit card that offers trip interruption insurance, this coverage is provided free of charge as long as the trip is purchased with the applicable credit card.
How do I get trip interruption insurance?
The two most common ways to get trip interruption coverage are by buying a travel insurance policy or applying for a premium travel credit card that has trip insurance benefits.
The Business Platinum Card® from American Express and many other American Express cards provide up to $10,000 per trip ($20,000 per year) in trip interruption benefits. Terms apply. The Chase Sapphire Reserve® will also reimburse you or your immediate family members up to $10,000 in losses per trip interruption.
These premium cards also include other insurance benefits like trip cancellation, trip delay, emergency assistance and more. If you frequently purchase trip protection benefits, applying for one of the cards that offer travel insurance could make a lot of sense. All these cards offer a multitude of useful travel benefits and various statement credits that will usually offset at least part of the annual fee.
If you’re going on a trip that is more expensive than the limit provided by the credit card, purchasing a separate travel insurance policy is a good bet. Also check that your credit card will cover COVID-related claims before you decide to forego a separate policy.
Which insurance coverage is best for me?
If you’re going on an expensive trip, getting a travel insurance plan that includes trip interruption coverage makes a lot of sense. If the trip is relatively inexpensive or you already have coverage through your credit card, you may not need to purchase a trip insurance coverage.
However, if you’re looking for additional coverage like travel medical insurance, Cancel For Any Reason (CFAR) and/or your credit card doesn’t have sufficient limits, consider a comprehensive travel insurance policy from providers such as AAA, Allianz, or AIG.
In some cases, purchasing travel insurance may not be necessary. So familiarize yourself with all available options before you decide whether or not you should purchase a policy.
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 2022, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card