How many travel insurance companies are there?
As an industry that is still growing, especially in the United States, there are more and more travel insurance companies emerging all the time. As of right now, there are roughly 2 dozen companies that market, administer, and issue trip and travel insurance coverage. They range from big-corporation spin-offs like AIU’s Travel Guard, to independent upstarts that have entered the market in the past 15-20 years, like CSA Travel Protection and Seven Corners.
Even though are a several companies to choose with many different policies, there are ways to help you figure out the best one for your trip. At the end of this article, we’ll provide you with some links to comparison sites that let you compare rates from all major companies at the same time.
What exactly do the insurance companies do?
The job of the individual travel insurance companies is simple: they design the product (the policy), they market and sell it, then administer and issue the policy. But it doesn’t end right there. They are also there for a very important reason; possibly the most important when it comes to insurance: support.
Imagine you are traveling in Laos on a 3 week honeymoon. While embarking on a cycling day-trip through the countryside, your new wife takes a tumble and breaks her wrist. What now? You are in the middle of a foreign land, where you do not speak the language, don’t know anyone, let alone the best hospital to take her to. Not to mention how you get her there. This is where good support plays a part.
The insurance companies have support centers with trained insurance professionals that can answer your question; before and after the purchase. They will handle claims and claim questions as well. They provide assistance in foreign countries, help you find a hospital, and even to get through language barriers. They can arrange special transportation if the nearest hospital is not adequate.
The ability of a travel insurance company to provide great support is a very important factor in making your buying decision.
How do I know these travel insurance companies are reliable?
I have written another post on this specific topic; how can you know that you are buying travel insurance from a reputable company? There are a few trustworthy organizations that give credibility to the different trip insurance companies; here is a brief review of them.
The official rating company in the insurance industry is A.M.Best. A.M.Best is a full-service credit rating organization dedicated to serving the financial services industries, including the banking and insurance sectors. They have ratings for every reputable and trustworthy insurance company; on a letter scale (A+, B-, etc.) This a good place to check when you are not sure about a certain company.
The US Travel Insurance Association (UStiA) is a group whose mission is to, “…foster ethical and professional standards of industry conduct, cultivate effective state and federal government relations, inform and assist members, and educate consumers.” Representatives from various travel insurance related companies act as Officers, and travel insurance companies and related companies can pay a membership fee and be listed as members. UStiA does not rate companies, but their membership, and therefore inclusion in the group, helps credibility.
How can I compare rates from the different insurers?
There is actually a very simple way to compare different plans from the different travel insurance companies. In the “old” days (10+ years ago), booking airfare was a very different process than it is today? People typically used a travel agency, or spent hours on the phone with customer service representatives from United Airlines, Northwest Airlines, TWA, and others. You would writing down the different times, connections, and fares. Then you would compare all the prices; and figure out when you wanted to leave, when to return, etc. Sound familiar?
Then along came Expedia, Travelocity, and the other online travel sites. They took the role of travel agent, and made it easy for us to look at all the available airfares from several airlines, and compare prices side-by-side. Much easier, right?
The same thing exists for the travel insurance companies. Instead of using an agency, or calling the individual companies, you can go to comparison websites and see all the different plans, compare the coverage, and even compare quotes (NOTE: in the travel insurance industry, you are able to get instant, accurate quotes for your travel insurance premium. You don’t need to submit your information and wait for an email or call; you can get a quote for travel insurance in less than a minute.)
The other nice thing is that you can instantly purchase and bind coverage, right online. Using a credit card, travelers can get a quote and purchase their policy instantly. The companies generally mail the policy out to you, but you will also receive an email with all the important policy information. You can print this out and get right on the plane.