When You Don’t Need to Buy Travel Insurance

Cancellation policies have relaxed in recent years, so you may not need travel insurance at all.
Elina Geller
By Elina Geller 
Updated
Edited by Kevin Berry

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This influences 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.

Protecting your trip with travel insurance is generally a good idea. A comprehensive trip insurance policy safeguards your nonrefundable, prepaid plans (flights, hotel stays and excursions) if the trip is canceled due to a covered reason. It offers reimbursement of medical expenses if you get sick or injured and require care or evacuation. Plus, it provides a daily stipend if your belongings are lost or stolen, among many other needs.

However, just because travel insurance is an option doesn’t mean you should always buy it. You don't want to purchase coverage that you don’t need or already have. Here are some common situations when you can pass on travel insurance and save your hard-earned cash.

You booked flexible airline tickets

Generally, refundable plane tickets are more expensive than nonrefundable tickets. However, airlines have significantly loosened their change and cancellation policies in recent years.

Many airlines have permanently removed change fees, and depending on the fare type, new and existing reservations can be canceled for a full refund or an airline credit. So, if your flight has a flexible cancellation policy, you may not need a trip cancellation benefit, which is one of the main elements of standard travel insurance.

Additionally, to use the trip cancellation benefit, insurers typically require that you first contact the airline for a refund. If the airline offers you a flight credit or voucher, you’d have to decline it in order to claim a refund under your travel insurance policy. If you accept the credit or voucher, the insurer will consider that a refund by the travel provider. So even if you have insurance, it may not help you in these instances.

🤓Nerdy Tip

Even trip insurance for nonrefundable tickets only works in covered situations. If you want to minimize limitations and maximize flexibility, consider purchasing a plan with a Cancel For Any Reason add-on.

Your hotel has a friendly cancellation policy

Hotels have also loosened their change and cancellation policies for new and existing reservations in response to the ongoing pandemic. If the hotel you want to stay at offers a flexible change or cancellation policy, you may not need travel insurance — especially if the sole purpose of the policy was to protect a prepaid hotel deposit.

You haven’t booked nonrefundable activities

A comprehensive travel insurance plan protects your nonrefundable reservations, which can include prepaid excursions in addition to airplane tickets and hotel stays. If your trip doesn’t involve any nonrefundable reservations, you may not need travel insurance.

For instance, if you’ve booked only airplane tickets and a hotel stay for your vacation, and they're both governed by flexible cancellation policies, the trip cancellation benefit may not be necessary. Or if an activity you’ve booked with a specific provider has a flexible cancellation policy of its own, standard travel insurance might be worth skipping.

It’s already included on your credit card

You may not need travel insurance if you already have it through your credit card. Many premium travel credit cards offer various degrees of travel insurance benefits, such as trip cancellation and interruption, travel medical, emergency evacuation, 24-hour assistance and rental car coverage.

Some credit cards have better protections than others because of more robust coverage and higher limits. If you hold a card that offers the benefits you need and the limits are sufficient, you might want to pass on purchasing a comprehensive trip insurance policy.

Generally though, the travel insurance benefits offered on credit cards aren't as extensive, and the limits can be significantly lower than on comprehensive policies. If you have a premium travel credit card, check which travel insurance benefits you already have before buying a stand-alone policy.

Frequently asked questions

Travel insurance protects a portion of your nonrefundable trip costs, but if you purchased flexible tickets, you may not actually need travel insurance. On the other hand, if you purchased tickets or activities that come with a fee if you cancel, consider purchasing a policy that covers your reservations.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, if your flight is canceled by the airline, you are entitled to a full refund to your original form of payment, regardless of whether you had travel insurance or not. If your flight is delayed by the airline, you may be entitled to flight delay compensation.

Traveling without travel insurance means you may have to pay out of your own pocket if something doesn't go as planned. Things to consider before purchasing a plan include if you have any credit cards that provide insurance coverage, your total trip cost and if you're traveling to a destination that may be impacted by severe weather.

When travel insurance is worth it

There may still be instances when travel insurance is a smart money move.

  • International trips. For example, if you have medical insurance, it most likely won't cover travel outside of the U.S. If you’d like medical coverage while on an international vacation, purchasing a stand-alone travel medical insurance policy could be a good option.

  • Multi-country, multi-activity trips. Travel insurance can also make sense if your trip includes several destinations and mixed plans. Let's say you’re going on a two-week trip to Argentina to hike in Patagonia and then wrap up in Buenos Aires. If, halfway through the trip, you fall and sprain your ankle, you may need emergency medical care, and perhaps also to cut your trip short and fly home early. In an event like this, trip interruption and emergency medical coverage (both part of a comprehensive travel insurance policy) are your best friends. Trip interruption coverage will reimburse you for the unused portion of your hotel stay in Buenos Aires (which you may not be able to cancel mid-trip) and a last-minute flight home. And the medical benefits will reimburse international health care bills.

  • Adventurous travelers. If your travel plans include several adrenaline-pumping activities, such as wakeboarding, mountain biking, scuba diving or bungee jumping, a plan that covers adventure sports might be wise.

  • Trips that require expensive equipment. If you need to take expensive jewelry, sports equipment or tech gear on a trip, you might be wise to back up your trip with travel insurance coverage.

The bottom line

Deciding whether or not you need to purchase travel insurance depends on your specific circumstances. First, familiarize yourself with the change and cancellation policies of your hotel, airline and activities.

Then, check the benefits of any credit cards you already have and read the fine print so you know what coverage you have access to. With this information, you can make the most informed decision about what travel insurance policy (if any) is right for you.


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 2023, including those best for:

Cards for Travel Insurance from our Partners
Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Sapphire Reserve®
5.0
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1x-10x

Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Travel℠ immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.

Points

Intro offer

60,000

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.

Points
Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
5.0
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1x-5x

5x on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases.

Points

Intro offer

60,000

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.

Points
Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

on Chase's website

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card
4.2
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1x-2x

Earn 2X points on Southwest® purchases. Earn 2X points on local transit and commuting, including rideshare. Earn 2X points on internet, cable, and phone services, and select streaming. Earn 1X points on all other purchases.

Points

Intro offer

85,000

Earn 85,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Points
See more cards
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.