In­sur­ance may re­solve win­ter travel woes

USA TODAY Weekend Extra - - PERSONAL FINANCE - Joe Cortez

When ma­jor win­ter storms pass over­head, it usu­ally means trou­ble for trav­el­ers.

Air­lines can be forced to can­cel thou­sands of flights that af­fect trav­el­ers through­out the coun­try, ho­tels may abruptly sell out and cruise ships have to change de­par­ture times to get to safe wa­ters.

The good news in the midst of bad weather is that many trav­el­ers have some pro­tec­tion from the mo­ment they pur­chase their trips. Many travel credit cards of­fer in­sur­ance ben­e­fits to cover weather-re­lated in­ci­dents, in­clud­ing trip can­cel­la­tion and trip de­lays.

But that in­sur­ance won’t nec­es­sar­ily cover ev­ery sit­u­a­tion in which you have to can­cel or change plans due to win­ter weather. Ex­perts sug­gest con­sid­er­ing pur­chas­ing ad­di­tional travel in­sur­ance to cover the gaps left by a credit card on long trips, trips where med­i­cal in­sur­ance is re­quired or trips that cost $10,000 or more.

Be­fore buy­ing any travel in­sur­ance pol­icy, be sure to un­der­stand what cov­er­age is in­cluded from your credit card. Here’s what to look for:

❚ Are you cov­ered? Cov­er­age de­pends on how trav­el­ers pur­chase their trip. If it is pur­chased with a credit card, some travel in­sur­ance ben­e­fits may al­ready ap­ply. But if they pay by debit card or check, they may not have any cov­er­age with­out pur­chas­ing a travel in­sur­ance pol­icy.

And note: “For third-party travel in­sur­ance poli­cies, you have to col­lect re­ceipts and credit-card state­ments to sub­mit with a claim,” says Steven Benna, mar­ket­ing spe­cial­ist at travel in­sur­ance web­site Square­mouth.com.

❚ Win­ter weather: If air­planes are still fly­ing, trip can­cel­la­tion and trip de­lay ben­e­fits usu­ally don’t ap­ply. But flights changed by an air­line may count to­ward trip can­cel­la­tion. If a flight or tour is can­celed by an air­line, train or bus line be­cause of se­vere weather, trav­el­ers could file a claim to re­cover non­re­fund­able costs lost as a re­sult of the storm.

❚ Named storms: A tra­di­tional travel in­sur­ance plan may not cover claims re­sult­ing from a named storm, un­less the plan was pur­chased be­fore it was named.

Travel in­sur­ance from credit cards may not have the same re­stric­tions but of­ten only cov­ers in­ci­dents di­rectly re­sult­ing from weather. Read the ex­pla­na­tion of ben­e­fits to see what may be cov­ered.

❚ Trip can­cel­la­tion: De­spite the name, not all rea­sons for can­cel­ing a trip are cov­ered. Trav­el­ers can’t file a travel in­sur­ance claim be­cause they an­tic­i­pate bad weather. But if the weather forces them to miss a trip or re­turn home early, credit-card travel in­sur­ance could help re­cover costs.

“For some­thing weather re­lated, a credit card can pro­vide up to $10,000 in trip can­cel­la­tion,” Benna says. “But if trav­el­ers want some­thing more com­pre­hen­sive, they can pur­chase a third-party in­sur­ance.”

❚ Trip de­lay in­sur­ance: Those who get stuck at the air­port for an hour or two may not be cov­ered by trip de­lay in­sur­ance; trav­el­ers of­ten have to be stranded for six to 12 hours be­fore they can re­quest re­im­burse­ment. Be­fore spend­ing for a ho­tel or meals dur­ing a trip de­lay, be sure to check ben­e­fit ex­pla­na­tions.

❚ Lost or de­layed bag­gage: Air­planes aren’t the only things to get de­layed dur­ing win­ter storms. Lug­gage can also be left be­hind. Depend­ing on the plan or pol­icy, trav­el­ers can file a claim to get re­im­bursed for in­ci­den­tals if their lug­gage is miss­ing be­tween six and 12 hours. And in some sit­u­a­tions, credit-card in­sur­ance may of­fer bet­ter cov­er­age, Benna says.

If bags are per­ma­nently lost, cred­it­card travel in­sur­ance can also pro­vide some re­im­burse­ment.

Trav­el­ers can file an in­sur­ance claim for lost or dam­aged items if they were in the care of the air­line or com­mon car­rier at the time.

How­ever, time is of the essence: Af­ter a re­port is cre­ated with the car­rier, some in­sur­ance providers will only ac­cept claims filed within 20 days.

Email: [email protected]­let.com. NerdWal­let is a USA TO­DAY con­tent part­ner pro­vid­ing gen­eral news, com­men­tary and cov­er­age from around the web. Its con­tent is pro­duced in­de­pen­dently of USA TO­DAY.

JOHN MOORE/GETTY IM­AGES

A Nov. 15 storm dis­rupted travel at Ne­wark (N.J.) Lib­erty In­ter­na­tional Air­port and else­where.

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