travel insurance that covers covid

Travel insurance that covers COVID: What are the options?

With no specific end-date to the Covid 19 pandemic in sight, and with ever changing rules and travel bans, it can be difficult to know if you should make travel plans and how they might be affected. Your flight could be cancelled, you might catch COVID and not be able to fly, or you could find that the country you’re flying to introduces new restrictions that prevent you from visiting. If you do make it to your destination, there’s also the possibility that you may fall sick with COVID while you’re there or you may have to take a COVID-19 PCR test before you can return back to your home country. The U.S recently announced that travelers coming in on international flights would require a negative PCR test, which is an added hurdle for traveling internationally.

At the beginning of the pandemic COVID-19 was considered an “unforeseen” event so many airlines and hotels were offering full refunds, or allowing you to book trips with the comforting knowledge that you’d either be able to postpone it or get a full refund if you can’t go. These days, however, it’s considered a “foreseen” event by some travel insurance providers and some airlines and hotel companies aren’t offering the flexible options that they once were.

While travel has definitely picked up since the early days of the pandemic, if you do choose to book a trip then you may be able to get travel insurance that covers you for coronavirus-related issues. Here’s the lowdown on how to get travel insurance that covers COVID.

What to look out for

Travel medical coverage – Will you be covered if you or your travel companion fall ill with COVID-19 while traveling? Look out for policies that include COVID medical coverage for things like hospitalization, outpatient visits and prescriptions while traveling abroad.

Trip cancellation – Does the insurance company cover you for trip cancellation in the event that you have to cancel?

Trip delay coverage – Are you covered for things like trip delays due to changing guidelines?

Does the plan offer “cancel for any reason” coverage? – Some providers allow you to upgrade to “cancel for any reason” coverage so you can get reimbursement no matter what the reason.

Notable exceptions

Fear of traveling – You generally won’t be able to cancel your trip and claim reimbursement if you’re simply afraid of getting sick. Travel insurance providers with cancellation protection have a list of allowable reasons that include things like jury duty, car accident, terrorist act and military duty. Fear of traveling due to coronavirus is not one of them. If you want to be covered for that, you’ll need to find a “cancel for any reason” upgrade.

Level 4 travel advisories – Some insurers won’t offer coronavirus-related coverage if you’re traveling to a country that has a Level 4 Do Not Travel advisory issued by the U.S. Department of State. The list of countries included in the Travel Ban is constantly changing – make sure you check the list here before booking your trip and paying for your insurance policy.

SafetyWing travel medical covers COVID-19

SafetyWing offers two different travel medical insurance products – Nomad Insurance and Remote Health. Both products cover COVID-19.

Coverage works the same as any other illness as long as it was not contracted before your coverage start date, and does not fall under any other policy exclusion or limitation. Testing for COVID-19 will only be covered if deemed medically necessary by a physician. The antibody test is not covered, as it is not medically necessary.

We’re big fans of SafetyWing for travel medical insurance because of how flexible it is – your insurance works just like a subscription that can be cancelled at any time, plus you can sign up for it after departure. It costs $40 per month every four weeks and automatically renews every 28 days until you cancel. It’s geared at frequent travelers, digital nomads and long term travelers but you could sign up for just one month and then cancel or keep it rolling for a whole year. The choice is yours.

Since it’s on a monthly rolling basis, if you contract COVID during your trip and end up having to stay longer, you won’t need to worry about extending your policy.

Since SafetyWing Nomad Insurance is primarily a travel medical insurance product it offers coverage for things like hospital stays and outpatient visits related to COVID-19 up to your limit of $250,000. You’re also covered for up to $100,000 in emergency medical evacuation.

While their insurance policy does cover things like lost checked baggage and delays, it’s important to note that it does NOT offer any sort of trip cancellation coverage. For that you’ll want to look for a more comprehensive travel insurance policy.

How to find travel insurance that covers COVID

Comparison site Squaremouth allows you to select a “trip cancellation” coverage option when you search for travel insurance providers. It also has a “coronavirus pandemic” filter that will help you find providers that offer coronavirus cancellation and coronavirus medical.

I launched a quick search for a $3,000 one-week trip departing in February traveling from the U.S to Croatia. The cheapest policy that came up was $65.33 while the most expensive was $160.

Providers that are allowing cancellations for health related reasons (for example if you catch the virus or you are physically quarantined) include:

  • April Travel Protection (Trip Cancellation Plan, Choice, Annual Plan, Pandemic Plus policies)
  • AXA Assistance USA
  • Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection
  • Cat 70 Travel Plan
  • Generali
  • HTH Travel Insurance (TripProtector Economy, TripProtector Classic, and TripProtector Preferred policies)
  • John Hancock (Bronze, Silver and Gold)
  • Seven Corners
  • Tin Leg 
  • Travelex Insurance Services
  • TravelSafe
  • Trawick International
  • USI Affinity (Ruby and Diamond)

Outside of SafetyWing, some other insurance providers are still offering medical benefits if travelers contract the coronavirus during their trip. These include:

  • April Travel Protection (Choice, Annual Plan, Pandemic Plus policies)
  • AXA Assistance USA
  • Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection
  • Cat 70 Travel Plan
  • Generali
  • Global Underwriters (Diplomat America, Diplomat Long Term incl US, Diplomat Long Term excl US policies)
  • HTH Travel Insurance
  • John Hancock (Bronze, Silver and Gold) 
  • INF
  • MedJet (Medical Evacuation coverage only)
  • Nationwide
  • Seven Corners
  • Tin Leg 
  • Tokio Marine HCC
  • Travelex Insurance Services
  • TravelSafe
  • Trawick International
  • USI Affinity (Ruby and Diamond)

Cancel for any reason upgrade

A “cancel for any reason” upgrade usually needs to be purchased within 14-21 days of the first payment towards your trip. In order to be eligible, you must insure 100% of your prepaid and non-refundable trip costs, and you must cancel your trip at least 2 days prior to departure. If you cancel the day before, or on the day, you won’t receive reimbursement. If you cancel at least 2 days before, you’ll receive up to 75% of your trip costs.

Purchasing a CFAR policy tends to cost roughly 40% more than a standard policy with cancellation policy, so you really need to weigh up whether you feel it’s worth the extra cost. However, it does give you the flexibility to receive reimbursement for any reason, such as not wanting to fly for fear of contracting Covid.


What if I contract COVID while traveling and can’t come back to the US?

It all depends on the policy. If you can’t fly back because you tested positive for COVID while you’re away, you may be covered under your policy’s “Trip Delay” benefit. You may be covered for the cost of things like accommodation and meals during your extended period of stay. If your policy covers this, you’ll usually be covered up to a maximum number of days listed in your policy or until you are cleared to travel.

If you’re hospitalized, then your policy Emergency Medical benefit may cover you for medical care and treatment. If your policy has Medical Evacuation included, this will usually cover transportation costs to the nearest medical facility and transportation home if the treating physician thinks it’s necessary.

In the event that you fall ill with COVID, contact your insurance provider’s emergency assistance hotline as they may be able to pre-approve payments to the hospital so that you don’t have to pay up front and claim the money back after.

What if I become unemployed or have job issues?

There are two travel insurance benefits that are included in some policies – Cancel For Work Reasons and Employment Layoff.

Under the Cancel For Work Reasons benefit, you’ll be reimbursed for your prepaid and non-refundable trip expenses if you need to cancel because your pre-approved vacation time is revoked due to an obligation to work.

The Employment Layoff benefit can reimburse you if you’re forced to cancel following an involuntary layoff or termination of employment. However, you’ll usually need to have worked for the same employer for 1-3 years for the coverage to apply.

What if the airline goes bankrupt?

Some insurance policies have a Financial Default benefit that covers you if your airline or travel supplier suspends operations, even if bankruptcy hasn’t been filed yet. This is a time-sensitive benefit that may be included within your policy if you purchased it within 10-21 days of making your initial trip deposit.

A final word

Always read your policy wording carefully before purchasing insurance. Unless you purchase “Cancel for Any Reason” coverage you generally won’t be able to cancel your trip because you’re afraid of catching COVID, or you’re worried about getting stuck overseas. If you’re worried you’ll want to cancel you’re trip, you’re best off paying the extra for CFAR coverage.

Outside of CFAR, you’ll want to look for a policy that offers coverage for things like Travel Delay, Trip Interruption and Travel Medical.

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