Obtaining travel insurance is an important first step to protect your health and finances while travelling. However, simply buying a policy isn’t enough to fully protect you in case you need it.
There are a number of items related to your travel insurance policy and coverage that you need to take care of after your purchase your policy and before you depart on your trip to give yourself the best protection possible.
Here’s a checklist of important things you need to do after you purchase your policy and before you start your trip:
Review your policy
Make sure you review your travel insurance policy in detail as soon as possible after you purchase it.
Understanding the terms of your coverage is key to avoiding unpleasant surprises if you need to make a claim. Pay particular attention to eligibility requirements, exclusions, benefits and stability period requirements for pre-existing conditions (if your policy has a stability requirement).
Your travel insurance policy covers you for a defined period (and in the case of annual plans, for a maximum number of days per trip) so make sure you read and understand your policy’s rules in the event you need to extend or top-up your trip.
If you have questions or concerns about your policy, do not hesitate to contact the company you purchased your insurance from for clarification.
Most travel insurance policies offer a 10-day “free look” period, so if you are not completely satisfied with your policy, you can request a full refund of your insurance premium during that period if you have not already departed on your trip.
Review your insurance application and medical questionnaire answers
Once you purchase your policy, you should receive a copy of your insurance application and medical questionnaire.
Make sure you review both of these documents promptly to double-check that the information in your application is correct and the answers to your medical questionnaire are accurate, as inaccurate or incomplete information may result in any claims being denied or reduced.
On your application, pay particular attention that the name, date of birth, departure and return dates and other information is correct.
On your medical questionnaire, check that the answers are complete and accurate and that you have fully disclosed any medical conditions you were asked to provide.
If you completed an application or medical questionnaire for your spouse or another family member, make sure you verify their information and answers as well.
Report any changes to your health
If you experience ANY change to your health or medical situation prior to departing on your trip, contact your travel insurance provider as soon as possible to inform them of the change, as it may affect your eligibility, premiums or stability requirements.
Failing to disclose changes to your health or medical situation after you purchase your policy and prior to departing on your trip may result in your claims being denied.
And remember, any changes to your health really does mean any changes, including changes like increases and decreases in medication dosages, starting or stopping medications, and having diagnostic tests for potential changes to existing medical conditions or new medical conditions, even if those changes/conditions are not yet diagnosed.
Report any changes to your travel dates
If your travel dates change before you leave, let your insurance provider know so your policy can be updated to ensure it covers you on the days you will be away.
If you need to cancel your trip, do it promptly
If you have Trip Cancellation insurance, remember that it only covers you for non-refundable expenses.
Accordingly, if you need to cancel a trip before it has even started, be sure to call your travel suppliers (i.e. airline, hotel, tour operator) to let them know as soon as you become aware that you need to cancel. Otherwise, your trip cancellation insurance may not cover you for escalating cancellation penalties from your travel supplier that kick in as you get closer to your travel date.
Gather all of your insurance provider’s contact information and policy numbers to take with you
Make sure you have your insurance provider’s contact information and policy numbers in one or more easily accessible places.
- Emergency Contact Cards: You should receive a physical and/or electronic Emergency Contact wallet card that will include your policy number and emergency contact information if you experience a medical emergency and require assistance while travelling. You and your spouse should each keep a physical copy with you while travelling (if you receive your card electronically, which is very common now, remember to print it before you travel). You may also want to download the electronic version of the card to your smartphone.
- Add your insurance provider as a Contact on your phone: As a backup, you should also consider adding your insurance provider as a Contact on your phone with all of their contact information and your policy numbers – it never hurts to have access to this vital information in as many places as possible.
Your insurance provider will also have multiple phone numbers - and possibly an email address - to get in touch with them. Make sure you have all of these with you, as the best way to reach your provider while travelling will depend on your situation. For example, insurance providers will have:
- Emergency Contact phone numbers that are available 24/7, which you should only call if you experience a medical emergency and need to make a claim while travelling.
- Different Administrative phone numbers that are available during regular business hours and should be used if you have general questions about your coverage or policy, or need to extend, top-up or make a change to your coverage.
They will also have toll-free numbers that work in Canada and most parts of the United States, as well as a collect phone number that works from other countries (or if the toll-free number isn’t working). Make sure you have both on hand.
Download your provider’s mobile app, if they have one
If your insurance provider has a mobile app, download it to your phone before you travel.
While these apps can vary in terms of functionality, they generally provide easy access to handy information and tools like emergency contact numbers, the ability to communicate by email or chat, claim submission information, directions to the nearest medical facility, local emergency telephone numbers (such as 911 in North America), Government of Canada travel advisories and pre-and post-departure travel tips.
Take a copy of your insurance policy with you
Be sure to take a copy of your travel insurance policy with you - ideally, both a physical copy and an electronic copy downloaded to your phone or computer.
In it, you will find a list of the benefits that you are entitled to in the event of a claim - as well as the exclusions and limitations - in addition to the important phone numbers to call in the event of a claim.
Give a copy of your policy to a friend or family member at home
Leave a copy of your travel insurance policy with a member of your family or friend back home and let them know your travel itinerary, just in case a situation arises where you (and your travel companions) are unable to contact your provider in the event of an emergency.
Understand the claim process
Before you leave on your trip, it’s a good idea to understand your provider’s claim process in the event you need to make a claim while travelling. i.e. How do you start a claim? How do you submit your claim documents?
While claim procedures can vary, you’ll generally want to follow these rules:
- Always call your provider before seeking medical attention whenever possible. If your medical emergency makes it impossible to contact your provider before receiving medical attention, contact them as soon as possible.
- Always ask for and keep invoices, receipts, treatment records and medical notes, as you may need to submit these to your insurance provider so they can process your claim.
- For smaller medical expenses while travelling, your medical treatment provider will usually expect you to pay these expenses out of pocket and seek reimbursement from your insurer.
For larger medical expenses, your insurer will often arrange direct billing with your medical treatment provider so expenses are paid directly to them - as long as you have contacted your insurer in a timely manner and the medical treatment provider accepts direct billing.
Disclaimer: The material provided in the Snowbird Advisor Insurance Learning Centre is for informational purposes only and does NOT constitute insurance, legal, financial or other advice, and should not be relied on as such. If you require such advice, you should speak with a qualified professional to assist you.