Travel Insurance in a Covid World

Travel Insurance in a Covid World

We’re all excited to know that Australia will relax its international borders by the end of 2021!

It’s time to think about the more practical aspects of travel. Are there seats on the flights you want? And importantly, will travel insurance cover COVID-19?

Some travel insurers are opening up shop again with a new range of coronavirus-friendly policies.

While these new COVID-19 insurance benefits will definitely be useful for some, we’ve found that not all scenarios are covered. Particularly where border restrictions are concerned.

In this article, we take a look at a few Australian insurers providing COVID-19 cover, so you know exactly what to expect.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this guide is of a general nature only and does not take into account your personal circumstances. Be sure to read the relevant insurance policy disclosure statements (PDS) when deciding if any product is right for you.

Cover-More

Cover-More offers travel insurance underwritten by the Zurich Insurance Group – which also underwrite the Medibank policies, so the coronavirus coverage is largely the same for these providers. The Domestic and International (New Zealand) policies offer some COVID-19 travel benefits.

  1. COVID-19 cancellation/amendment cover in Australia and New Zealand

If your trip is disrupted due to one of the following scenarios, then you may be able to claim on the cancellation/amendment portion of your policy.

  • When you’re diagnosed with COVID-19, or are a close contact of someone diagnosed, and can no longer travel.
  • A non-travelling relative or business partner is diagnosed with COVID-19 and the level of infection is life-threatening.
  • Your travel partner is diagnosed with COVID-19 or is directed into quarantine and you no longer want to travel as a result.
  • A pre-paid destination activity venue (e.g. a ski park or theatre) is closed because of COVID-19.
  • If you’re an essential health worker and your leave is revoked as a result of COVID-19.

In addition, you may be eligible for AUD$150/night in reimbursements if you need to seek alternative accommodation because:

  • Your host in Australia or New Zealand is diagnosed with COVID-19 or is directed into quarantine and you can no longer stay with them, or,
  • The booked accommodation is shut down due to a COVID-19 outbreak.

This cover could be good for future trips to New Zealand.

  1. COVID-19 medical cover in New Zealand

Medical expenses overseas can be costly. If you’re diagnosed with COVID-19 while travelling internationally in New Zealand, your medical costs will be covered. This includes hospital and ambulance fees.

Of course, within Australia, residents will usually have access to healthcare through the public system. There is also limited reciprocal healthcare arrangements with New Zealand.

  1. COVID-19 cover in other overseas destinations

Cover-More will extend some COVID-19 insurance benefits to other international destinations too. Those travel destinations must not be subject to a ‘Do Not Travel’ warning related to COVID-19 on the Smartraveller website at the time you enter the country.

At the time of writing, all international countries except New Zealand are listed as ‘Do Not Travel’ due to COVID-19 on the Smartraveller website. As a result, this benefit isn’t useful for now.

  1. Exclusions to COVID-19 cover

Unfortunately, both travel insurance policies will not provide cover in the event of the following:

  • Any claims caused by COVID-19 on multi-night cruises.
  • Government-directed border closures, including domestic borders.
  • Where the government bans travel to countries you are planning to travel to before or during the trip, such as through ‘Do Not Travel’ advisories (New Zealand may be excepted in other parts of the policy).
  • Some benefits may not be covered if your trip includes a multi-night cruise.
  • Costs from mandatory quarantine or self-isolation requirements related to cross-border, area, region or territory travel.

 

Nib

Up until last week, we were also offering Nib travel insurance which was underwritten by XL Insurance Company SE… but they have since withdrawn their products from the market. They ad a slightly different spin on COVID-19 coverage. Essentially, you’ll be given a maximum of AUD$2,500pp towards coronavirus-related travel disruptions, plus access to the overseas medical benefits.

  1. Coronavirus travel costs cover

This was available on the nib Australian and International Comprehensive/Multi-Trip plans. The insurer will pay up to AUD$2,500pp (or AUD$5,000 for a family) towards the following costs:

  • When you or a member of your travelling party is diagnosed with COVID-19 and you have to cancel your trip.
  • Your close relative or business partner in Australia is hospitalised or dies due to coronavirus and you have to cancel your trip.
  • You or a member of your travelling party is permanently employed as a healthcare worker, residential care worker or law enforcement officer, and pre-approved leave is cancelled by the employer due to coronavirus.
  • Your pre-booked accommodation is closed for cleaning due to a confirmed case of coronavirus.
  • If you or a member of your travelling party has to quarantine during the trip due to being diagnosed with coronavirus, then reasonable additional travel, meals, accommodation and in-room entertainment.
  • Reasonable additional childcare and pet care costs if you are unable to take care of them due to being diagnosed with coronavirus.
  1. Nib coronavirus cover

Once again, Nib will not pay any benefits when travelling to a country or region that is subject to a ‘Do Not Travel’ warning issued by a government. This includes interstate travel restrictions as well.

Other exclusions to the Coronavirus Travel Costs benefits include:

  • Buying a policy when you know you’ll be unable to avoid close contact with a case of coronavirus on your trip (e.g. the person you’re visiting is unwell).
  • Extra costs as a result of you failing to promptly cancel or rearrange your travel plans after something impacts them.
  • Change of mind with travel.
  • Any quarantine that is broadly imposed by a government or other official body, which is not a result of you/your travelling party’s diagnosis or close contact to a case of coronavirus.

What about included credit card travel insurance?

Many of the reward credit cards feature some form of travel insurance. But do those still cover COVID-19 related claims? The answer is: it varies, but probably not.

Your first point of call should be to check the PDS that applies to your credit card insurance. For your convenience, we’ve summarised a few major policies here (updated as of 4 Oct 2021):

  • Qantas Premier Platinum & Titanium card: Does not cover COVID-19. See “Special Exclusions” in the PDS for the Platinum and the Titanium card.
  • ANZ Frequent Flyer and Rewards Platinum & Black card: Unlikely to cover COVID-19. See “General Exclusions” in the PDS, Page 40, Section 6.
  • American Express Platinum Card: May cover some COVID-19 expenses as the PDS does not explicitly exclude pandemics or COVID-19. However, it best to check with American Express based on your intended travel.

Summing up

It’s great to see travel insurance providers pivoting to include coronavirus-related coverage in their policies.

At this stage, however, the benefits are minimal, and you need to check the policy documents to see if the cover is right for you. Credit card insurance T&Cs can be a bit ambiguous, so contact your insurer if you’re uncertain whether cover may apply to you or not.

Notably, no stand-alone policy will cover you for COVID-19 related claims in overseas countries with ‘Do Not Travel’ advisories (essentially all of them except New Zealand). It also won’t cover domestic travel costs as a result of state border closures and quarantine.

You’re mainly insuring against you and/or your travel companions getting sick with COVID-19, plus a few other scenarios that affect individuals, rather than government-mandated closures.

And don’t forget, it’s vital you read the insurance policy documents to see exactly what is and isn’t covered. This is the insurer’s rule book when it comes to claims, so it helps if you’re acquainted with it.

Adapted from Point Hacks article published in October 4, 2021 (Click here for the full article).

 

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