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About that Credit Card Travel Insurance
It may be of some value, especially if you have no pre-existing conditions, but you really need to read that fine print

We've all seen the commercials on TV. And most of us probably have one or more of the premium credit cards that advertise a range of added benefits that may include travel health insurance.

But are you actually covered? And, if so, for what and for how long and under what circumstances?

Of course, every policy and every situation is different, and you should certainly read all that small print that came with your card.

The first thing to understand is that if you already have Group Health Insurance, such as one of the policies that many people have through their employment benefits packages, travel insurance is normally included, and coverage for stable pre-existing conditions, as well as coverage for getting home in an emergency, are part of the package.

The second thing is that when you read the small print on the credit card coverage, you'll notice that they won't cover anything that's also covered by another provider. In other words,if you have Group Health Insurance, the credit card opts out.

But probably the biggest thing to keep in mind when you look at credit card travel health insurance is that the underwriting happens only after you make a claim. In other words, they don't even look at whether you are covered, or your trip is included, or your claim is eligible, until after you make that claim.

And when you do make a claim, you can be pretty sure the insurance provider will take a close look at you. They will investigate the details of your trip and the details of your medical status and – of course – they will be looking for the 800-pound gorilla of travel insurance: the pre-existing condition.

Pre-existing conditions are not covered by travel health insurance unless they are specifically included in the policy – which they never would be in a blanket credit card policy. And the definition of "pre-existing" can vary from one policy to another, and also depending on your age.

Basically, if you have been treated for a condition in the preceding three, six or 12 months – the longer the older you are – that condition will be considered pre-existing and will not be covered. And being "treated" includes things like the following:

  • You mentioned possible symptoms to a doctor and received advice
  • You received a prescription for the condition (even if you didn't fill it or take the medication)
  • You had tests ordered related to a possible condition (even if you never had the tests)
  • You had a prescription made or changed in any way before you left on the trip
  • You filled out any kind of form or application and mentioned the condition or treatment

Aside from pre-existing conditions, there are also a whole list of other ifs and buts that could be a problem if you should try to file a claim. Here are just a few more of the questions you need to ask.

Do you have to charge related travel expenses on the card in order to be covered?

What is the card's guideline for coverage for your age group?

For a person your age, what is the length of time since treatment that would cause a condition to be considered pre-existing?

Is there a maximum amount that's covered?

Are other family members or traveling companions covered?

How many days' coverage per trip is included, and is there a maximum number of trips?

What exclusions are there in your card's travel insurance contract?

Does it cover high-risk activities, such as scuba diving, competitive sports, rock climbing and so on?

What about "dangerous locations" and how are they defined? (One guideline may be whether or not Canada has issued a "travel advisory.")

The bottom line is that when you suddenly find yourself sick or injured in a foreign country is really not a good time to ask whether or not you're covered. Read the fine print, follow up on line, call your card issuer and be very sure you know what and who is covered before you rely on their coverage.

If there is a topic that you would like me to write about,
please email me at billz@callerygroup.com.

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