Winter travel season is at its peak—and if you have not yet bought your travel insurance for your post-Christmas snowbird trip, or your cruise, or your escape to the Caribbean, you can still do it and save money in the process.
The first thing to understand about saving money on your travel insurance is that you don’t look for bargains or take deals that sound too good to be true. They don’t exist. Good insurance is coverage designed for you—not someone else. Lie on your application, “forget” about jotting down all your medications, ignore recent medical referrals—even if they were negative—and you could be on the wrong end of a denial and in a potential fiscal catastrophe.
But if you play it straight, you can still save money. Here’s how:
- Take a deductible and reduce your premium. The bigger the deductible, the smaller the premium. If you’re like the great majority, you won’t make a claim this next trip, and the premium saving is extra money in your pocket. Think of it this way: If faced with an emergency, will a deductible of $100 or $500 or even $1,000 really be your main concern? I know of many people who take $1,000 deductibles each year and over the course of five or six years save enough money to pay for an additional year’s worth of coverage. Do the math.
- Buy an annual, multi-trip policy. If you’re going to take another trip or two out of the country later in the year, buying an annual policy will allow you to travel without filing another application and the premium will be based on only one of those trips—no matter how many you take. Buy a 90-day policy and you can make three or four trips abroad for far less than three or four single trips.
- Consider a non-USA policy if you’re travelling outside the US. Because medical care costs are higher in the US than in other countries, insurers can afford to give you a break on premiums if you don’t buy US coverage. But make sure your travel will completely circumvent the US. For example, if you are travelling to Mexico (which I do not recommend at this time) and you end up needing emergency transportation to a US hospital, you wouldn’t get full coverage.
- Use your company, retirement, or superannuates plan for out-of-country coverage for the initial part of your trip, then top up for the remainder with supplemental private insurance. But when doing this you need the expert advice of a travel insurance specialist to make sure there are no gaps in your coverage, and that the top-up plan you choose is compatible with your basic pension plan—not all are. This is nothing you should try to cobble together on your own.
- Shop around. Not all insurers charge the same premiums. This is a very competitive business. Some insurers like to concentrate on certain demographics and market their products to seniors, or young families, or frequent travellers, so potential savings through judicious shopping do exist. But when you’re comparing prices, make sure you’re comparing like products. No use comparing a plan that covers you from the first dollar to one that has a $100 or $500 deductible. Clearly, the one with a deductible is going to be cheaper—but do you want it? My rule is that you should always shop at least three products: make sure they are equal in terms of benefits, exclusions, and deductibles, and then make your choice.
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