what to do before you buy a policy

What to Do Before You Buy a Policy

To save you money (and stress!) further down the line, there are several steps you should take prior to purchasing a travel medical policy. This 6-step checklist can help ensure you get the travel medical plan that’s right for you.

1. Check to make sure you’re not already covered under your existing plan.

Some domestic insurers will cover you abroad, but many will not. That’s why it’s important for you to contact your current health insurance provider to inquire about your international benefits.

Even if your domestic health plan does provide international coverage, it may be limited – and you may still need a travel medical policy to provide you with sufficient coverage as you travel abroad.

2. Assess your individual needs and the needs of your fellow travel companions.

Are you traveling to an isolated region? Are you traveling with 4 or more companions? Are you seeking coverages typically excluded from travel medical insurance, such as coverage for extreme sports or pre-existing conditions? What are your biggest travel fears and concerns? What are you looking to spend on a policy?

Your travel needs determine:

  • the kind of insurance you need
  • what type of policy to purchase
  • what benefits and coverages to look for

See "How to Choose the Best Travel Medical Insurance" for more tips!

3. Compare plans and get quotes.

It’s easy to compare travel medical plans online. On the insurance company’s website, you’ll be able to view each plan’s eligibility details, benefits and exclusions, FAQ page, and description of coverage.

You can also obtain a free quote to determine the cost of a potential plan by providing certain trip details (travel dates, destinations, birthdates of travelers, etc.). You can purchase your policy entirely online if you prefer, or contact a sales representative by phone to speak to someone directly.

 4. Read the description of coverage for your chosen plan – especially the benefits and exclusions.

The best way to avoid frustration in the future is to gain a comprehensive understanding of your policy before you try to use it. Read through its DOC, or description of coverage—this is the document explaining the ins and outs of the policy – and make sure its benefits and exclusions are clear.

Ensure that you understand the specific circumstances under which certain benefits apply; do not make assumptions when it comes to your coverage.  If you have questions, make sure you contact your insurance agent or the insurance company directly.

You should find a link to the DOC or to a list of benefits and exclusions on the policy’s product page. You will also receive a copy of the DOC with the confirmation of your purchase.

 5. Check the policy’s coverage limits.

The policy’s schedule of benefits will list a maximum for each benefit—this may be listed as a maximum coverage per injury or illness, maximum coverage per certificate period, maximum per day, lifetime maximum, or overall maximum limit. It’s important to ensure that these limits will provide adequate coverage in case the unexpected occurs abroad.

If you’re not sure whether your plan provides adequate coverage, check out “How to Choose the Best Travel Medical Insurance.”

6. Verify the fine details.

  • Make sure your trip dates, length of coverage, and destination are listed correctly
  • Make sure you’ve insured the appropriate number of travelers and that the cost is accurate
  • Review the deductibles you’ve selected
  • Ensure your coverage limits are adequate
  • Make sure all travelers’ personal details are correct

Keep in mind that most travel medical insurance allows for the full cancellation of a policy, without penalty, up to the effective date of coverage. If you should need to cancel your policy after it has begun, however, you’ll likely receive a pro-rated refund with cancellation fee as long as no claim has been filed. This cancellation fee is typically between $25 and $50.