Coronavirus - A Travel Insurance Guide
Last update: April 2, 2020
Around the world, governments work to contain and slow the spread of the Coronavirus or COVID-19 that originated in Wuhan, China.
More than 2,500 deaths and thousands of infections point to the Coronavirus. Not everyone diagnosed with the illness shows symptoms. Confirmed cases appeared in over 30 countries.
What is Coronavirus?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO):
Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.
Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people. Detailed investigations found that SARS-CoV was transmitted from civet cats to humans and MERS-CoV from dromedary camels to humans. Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans.
Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
Standard recommendations to prevent infection spread include regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, thoroughly cooking meat and eggs. Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.
What Does Travel Insurance Cover?
If you are afraid you might contract Coronavirus, you may consider canceling your trip. However, travel insurance does not cover cancellation for fear of contracting a virus unless your policy has Cancel For Any Reason.
If you have a policy and the travel supplier canceled your trip, contact us at 650-492-6298 to find out how you can change the travel dates to use on a future trip.
Travel insurance policies cover unexpected scenarios, like the illness or injury of a traveler, resulting in cancellation. Or medical treatment if you fall ill or sustain an injury while traveling abroad. If a situation is foreseeable, travel insurance cannot cover it.
Also, travel insurance permits cancellation if a natural disaster makes your destination inaccessible or uninhabitable. However, this does not apply to biological pandemics. Outbreaks are neither geological nor weather-related natural disasters like hurricanes, floods, blizzards, earthquakes, and fires.
What is Covered?
Because Coronavirus is a known situation, travel insurance covers some but not all related situations.
First, some policies cover Trip Cancellation.
If you fall ill from the Coronavirus before departure, many policies cover this for Trip Cancellation. On AardvarkCompare, you can find this coverage with John Hancock, Seven Corners, and Travel Insured International. iTravelIinsured. iTravelInsured has an exception: if you’re traveling to China and bought your policy on or after February 2, 2020, iTravelInsured policies do not cover anything Coronavirus-related. If you contracted Coronavirus before departure and bought your policy before January 22, 2020, RoamRight plans cover Trip Cancellation. AIG Travel Guard does not cover cancellation due to Coronavirus diagnosis.
All policies still cover cancellation if you or a traveling companion are sick (from anything other than Coronavirus), injured, have a family member fall gravely ill or pass away, called for jury duty, suffer a natural disaster at your home and many other reasons named in the policy.
Second, some policies cover Trip Interruption.
Most policies cover if you contract Coronavirus during your trip and require treatment. If the virus curtails your journey because you are confined to a hospital or quarantine area, Trip Interruption reimburses you for the unused travel arrangements for those days.
Quarantine does not include “shelter in place” or “self-quarantine” orders passed down by local or state governments. You must be physically confined for being sick and unable to leave at will.
Here, AIG Travel Guard, John Hancock, Seven Corners, and Travel Insured International each cover Trip Interruption. AIG Travel Guard offers protection if you are quarantined due to Coronavirus during the trip, such as in the hospital or on a cruise ship. Again, this does not mean “shelter in place” or canceled flights. iTravelInsured covers Trip Interruption if you purchased your policy before February 2, 2020, and are not traveling to China. RoamRight would exclude quarantine or medical Trip Interruptions related to the Coronavirus if you bought the policy after January 22, 2020. AIG Travel Guard only covers Trip Interruption due to Coronavirus if you are quarantined.
Similarly, you are not covered for quarantine-related trip interruptions if you travel to an area already under quarantine. You must physically be confined to quarantine for Trip Interruption coverage to apply.
Third, most policies cover Medical Insurance.
If you require treatment or hospitalization for the Coronavirus contracted during your trip, AIG Travel Guard, John Hancock, RoamRight, Seven Corners, and Travel Insured International all provide medical treatment. iTravelInsured covers medical treatment if you purchased the policy before February 2, 2020, and are not traveling to China.
Finally, most medical policies also cover Emergency Medical Evacuation.
This benefit pays for your transportation to the hospital and back to the US. In this case, AIG Travel Guard, John Hancock, RoamRight, Seven Corners, and Travel Insured International provide transport if you contract the Coronavirus. Again, iTravelInsured only covers Medical Evacuation if you purchased your policy before February 2, 2020, and do not travel to China.
What is Excluded?
While travel insurance plans are comprehensive, they all have exclusions. Next, we discuss a few situations they do not cover for Cancellation or Interruption.
Travel advisories issued by any country. Travel insurance does not reimburse Trip Cancellation or Trip Interruption benefits if a government advises travelers not to visit specific countries because of the Coronavirus threat. The same holds for CDC travel warnings. Travel insurance has standard Trip Cancellation and Interruption benefits that never include travel advisories and warnings.
Closed borders. If you plan to visit a country that is currently prohibiting the entry of foreign travelers, Trip Cancellation and Trip Interruption provide no protection.
Rescinded visas. If you received a visa that is no longer valid for a country closed due to Coronavirus, travel insurance cannot reimburse you for lost travel arrangements. Visa problems are never covered by travel insurance unless there is a documented theft of a passport or visa.
Canceled flights, tours, and cruises. If you cancel your trip due to fear of Coronavirus, travel insurance coverage is limited. It does not reimburse you for the cost of your flights, hotels, tours, cruises, or other travel arrangements lost unless you cancel for a covered reason.
Consequently, if the carrier cancels your flights/tour/etc., they are responsible for reimbursing you for the cost of the airfare because they initiated cancellation. If they cancel your arrangements and keep your money, that is a legal issue (fraud) and not insurable.
Some policies cover bankruptcy/default of airlines, cruise lines, and tour operators. Check your policy to find out if it’s covered. Travel insurance cannot protect you from travel agencies/booking companies that file for bankruptcy or go out of business.
A cancellation of Your Trip if Your arrival on the Trip is delayed and causes You to lose 50% or more of the scheduled Trip duration due to the reasons covered under the Missed Connection Benefit.
If You miss Your cruise or tour departure because Your arrival at Your Trip destination is delayed for 3 or more hours, due to:
a) any delay of a Common Carrier (the
delay must be certified by the Common Carrier);
b) documented weather condition preventing You from getting to the point of departure;
c) quarantine, hijacking, Strike, Natural Disaster, terrorism, or riot.
Therefore, if your flight is canceled, but your cruise or tour is not, and you miss more than 50% of the trip due to the flight delay, then it is a covered cancellation. This benefit does not apply to hotels, rental cars, or other travel arrangements. It only applies to transportation to a cruise or tour.
Note: This feature may not be available in all states. Check your policy for exact language. The policy language above is from the Travel Insured Worldwide Trip Protector plan.
Travel Insured Worldwide Trip Protector and Worldwide Trip Protector Plus also have a clause about your cruise or tour being canceled, but your flights are not:
If Your Travel Supplier cancels Your Trip, a benefit will be paid for the reissue fee charged by the airline for the tickets. You must have covered the entire cost of Your Trip, including the airfare cost.
You do not think you should travel because of your health. If you have a health condition that makes you more susceptible to the Coronavirus, travel insurance does not provide cancellation. Check with your doctor to determine if you should travel. Trip Cancellations due to medical reasons are covered when:
Your, Your Family Member's, Your Traveling Companion's, Your Traveling Companion's Family Member, Your Business Partner's or Your Business Partners Family Member's covered Sickness or Injury, which:
a) occurs before departure on Your Trip,
b) requires Medical Treatment at the time of cancellation resulting in medically imposed restrictions, as certified by a Legally Qualified Physician, and
c) and prevents Your participation in the Trip;
If the doctor determines your injury or illness is fit to travel but advises you not to, travel insurance does not cover cancellation. You must be medically restricted from travel.
If you are concerned about any of these situations, we recommend you get a Cancel For Any Reason travel insurance policy.
If you own a travel insurance policy and cancel the trip because you’re worried about being at a higher risk to contract the COVID-19 Coronavirus, consider suspending your plan to a later date. After the Free Look Period expires, the insurance company cannot provide a refund for the premium.
What Options Do I Have?
If you want maximum flexibility, purchase a Cancel For Any Reason travel insurance plan. Cancel For Any Reason allows you to call off your trip for any reason that is not explicitly covered by the policy.
- Travel Insured International – Worldwide Trip Protector Plus
- Seven Corners – RoundTrip Choice, RoundTrip Elite
- John Hancock – Bronze, Silver, Gold
To qualify for Cancel For Any Reason, you must purchase the plan within 14-21 days of the Initial Trip Deposit or Payment (depending which policy you choose). You must also cover the trip cost of 100% of all travel arrangements subject to a cancellation penalty or fee. Finally, you must be fit to travel the day on which you purchase the policy. When all conditions are met, the plan provides a 75% cash reimbursement of trip costs when you use Cancel For Any Reason.
Here is the language from Travel Insured:
If You cancel Your Trip for any reason not otherwise covered by this Policy, benefits will be paid for 75% of the Prepaid, forfeited, non-refundable Payments or Deposits You paid for Your Trip provided:
a) Your Payment for this Policy and enrollment form are received within 21 days of the date Your initial Payment or Deposit for Your Trip is received;
b) You insure 100% of the Prepaid Trip costs that are subject to cancellation penalties or restrictions and also insure within 21 days of the Payment or Deposit for those Travel Arrangements the cost of any subsequent Travel Arrangements (or any other Travel Arrangements not made through Your travel agent) added to Your Trip; and
c) You cancel Your Trip 48 hours or more before Your Scheduled Departure Date.
And the language from Seven Corners:
If You cancel Your Trip for any reason not otherwise covered by this Policy, benefits will be paid for 75% of the Prepaid, forfeited, non-refundable Payments or Deposits You paid for Your Trip provided:
a) Your Payment or Deposit for this Policy and enrollment form are received within 20 days of the date Your initial Payment or Deposit for Your Trip is received;
b) You insure 100% of the Prepaid Trip costs that are subject to cancellation penalties or restrictions and also insure within 15 days of the Payment or Deposit for those Travel Arrangements the cost of any subsequent Travel Arrangements (or any other Travel Arrangements not made through Your travel agent) added to Your Trip; and
c) You cancel Your Trip two (2) days or more before Your Scheduled Departure Date.
John Hancock has similar language, with a different Time-Sensitive Period:
If You are prevented from taking the Covered Trip for any reason not otherwise excluded, We will reimburse You or Your designated representative for 75% of the prepaid, forfeited, non-refundable Payments or Deposits for the Covered Trip arrangement(s), provided the following conditions are met:
(a) this coverage is purchased within 14 days of the date the initial Payment or Deposit is paid and You insure the cost of any subsequent arrangement(s) added to the same Covered Trip within 14 days of the date of Payment or Deposit for any such subsequent Covered Trip arrangement(s); and
(b) this insurance coverage is purchased for the full cost of all non-refundable prepaid Covered Trip arrangements; and
(c) You or Your designated representative cancels the Covered Trip no less than 2 days prior to the Scheduled Departure Date.
This coverage will be terminated, no benefits will be paid, and any premium paid for this coverage will be refunded if the full costs of all prepaid, non-refundable Covered Trip arrangements are not insured.
You can see they are all very similar but slightly different. When purchasing Cancel For Any Reason travel insurance, you must buy the plan early and cover sufficient Trip Cost. Review the policy very carefully before assuming your travel insurance policy covers something.
What If I Get Coronavirus on My Trip?
If you have the unfortunate luck to contract Coronavirus during your trip, Travel Medical Insurance still covers you. The policy covers treatment up to the maximum amount named in the policy.
If you are traveling overseas, we recommend you purchase at least $100,000 Medical Insurance and $250,000 Medical Evacuation. Our recommendation is based on our own experience requiring medical treatment while abroad.
If you are traveling to a location prone to Coronavirus, it is logical to buy travel Medical Insurance in case you fall ill. All of our carriers cover medical treatment for Coronavirus during your journey. They also include Medical Evacuation to bring you home for further treatment in the US. The only exception is that iTravelInsured only covers these benefits if you purchased the policy before February 2, 2020, and do not travel to China.
What Else Is Covered?
Travel Delay. All AardvarkCompare travel insurance policies include Travel Delay insurance. If the common carrier (airline, cruise line, train, bus, etc.) delays you for a specified amount of time (such as 6 hours), the benefit reimburses you for meals, phone calls, taxi, and hotel. Travel delay does not include airport delays like security or Coronavirus screenings.
Missed Connection. If your trip is a cruise or tour, you may find the Missed Connection benefit helpful. We mentioned it earlier, but here is a refresher.
If bad weather or the common carrier transporting you to the cruise or tour delays you, and the group leaves without you, Missed Connection gets you caught up to them at the next stop. The policy reimburses you for:
a) Your Additional Transportation Cost to join Your Trip; and
b) Your Prepaid expenses for the unused land or water Travel Arrangements; and
c) reasonable accommodation, telephone and meal expenses up to $200 per day necessarily incurred by You for which You have proof of purchase and which were not paid for or provided by any other source.
(This policy information is from Travel Insured Worldwide Trip Protector.)
Itinerary Changes. Some, not all, policies provide a benefit if you must make change your flight itinerary.
Travel Insured Worldwide Trip Protector and Trip Protector Plus include:
The Company will pay a maximum of $250 for the fees associated with a change to Your air itinerary.
Of course, always check your policy certificate for the specific requirements before claiming these benefits. Coverage levels vary from policy to policy.
What If My Policy Does Not Have Cancel For Any Reason?
Suspend Your Travel Insurance Policy. If you cannot travel as planned, call AardvarkCompare to change the travel dates on your policy before the original Departure Date. All of our carriers permit date changes due to Coronavirus cancellation. This allows you to keep your policy and use it again later.
Even if you do not have a future trip planned, our carriers allow you to extend the policy out two years. We can simply change the dates for now, and when you have plans, just notify us to update your policy.
Reschedule. If your travel arrangements allow you to reschedule your trip, it might make more sense to travel at a later date. If you already have a travel insurance policy that lacks Cancel For Any Reason, call AardvarkCompare to change the dates to your new trip.
Cancel. Your existing policy may permit cancellation within 10-14 days of purchase and provide a full refund. If you are still within the 20 to 21 day period following your Initial Trip Deposit, you could purchase a Cancel For Any Reason plan instead. If you bought your policy more than 10-14 days ago, the insurance carrier would allow you to change the dates and reuse it for a future trip.
Take your chances. If you choose to travel anyway, make sure you have Trip Interruption, Medical Insurance, and Medical Evacuation in case you become sick or injured during the trip.
How Do I Get Covered?
You can purchase travel insurance anytime until the day before departure. Even if you can’t buy Cancel For Any Reason, you benefit from having Medical Insurance and Trip Interruption coverage, as well as Travel Delay benefits.
We always recommend that travelers enroll with travel insurance shortly after making their Initial Trip Deposit. Then, you have access to all the time sensitive benefits like Cancel For Any Reason and coverage for Pre-existing Medical Conditions.
What if I Have a Policy and My Trip Is Postponed? Can I Transfer My Policy?
Yes, you can reuse the policy if you did not file any claims against it.
Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your name and policy number, and whether you need new travel dates or desire a voucher and we will fulfill your request.
If you do not know what your new travel dates are yet, it’s not a problem. We can move your travel dates into the future, so you have time to wait out the pandemic and plan a new trip. Then, once you have confirmed your new travel dates, let us know, and we will amend your policy.
In all cases, please notify us before your originally scheduled departure date. If you contact us after the date your trip was scheduled to depart, the insurance company will require documentation that you did not take the trip.
AIG Travel Guard. Travel Guard allows you to request a voucher or refund for your policy if you notify them before your departure date. If you cancel your policy within 15 days of purchase (during the Free Look Period), Travel Guard can honor the refund. However, if you purchased the plan more than 15 days ago, AIG can issue you a voucher. They cannot issue a voucher after the departure date. You must use the voucher within 24 months of issue and cannot be extended. If your new premium exceeds than the value of the voucher, you are responsible for any additional premium. If the new premium is less than the voucher value, AIG cannot refund the difference or provide a future voucher.
iTravelInsured. iTravelInsured can move your travel date to another trip within 1 year of your originally scheduled departure date. If you do not know your new travel dates, they can move your departure date forward by 1 year.
John Hancock. John Hancock offers date changes to another trip within 24 months of your original policy purchase date. If you do not know your departure date, John Hancock can migrate your travel dates forward by 24 months from the original purchase date.
RoamRight. If you have a RoamRight policy and received a full refund from your travel providers, you can transfer your plan to another travel date within 1 year of your original departure date. If you do not have future travel dates yet but plan to travel within one year, they can amend your departure to a year from your original departure date.
Seven Corners. Seven Corners, like John Hancock, permits date changes to another trip within 24 months of your original policy purchase date. If you do not yet have a new trip planned, Seven Corners can modify your travel dates to 24 months from your original policy purchase date.
Travel Insured International. TII can change your dates for a future trip, but the trip must occur within 36 months of the original policy purchase date. Usually, they also require a copy of your canceled itinerary, but if your change is due to COVID-19/Coronavirus, a TII does not need a copy of your new itinerary at this time. If you do not know your new travel dates, TII can change your travel dates to 36 months in the future from when you purchased the policy. They will continue to honor travel date changes for travel dates through September 30, 2020.
Can I Save Money Buying Directly from the Insurance Company?
When you buy a policy directly from an insurance provider, it does not save you money. Travel insurance policies must be the same price regardless of whether you buy them directly or through a marketplace like AardvarkCompare.
Shopping a single carrier also does not provide you with quotes from other travel insurers. When you compare travel insurance plans from different companies at the same time, you are working smarter, not harder.
After all, you will not find the same trip insurance at a better price, even directly from the insurance company. AardvarkCompare guarantees you the lowest prices allowed by law.