When you don't need to bother with travel insurance

positive smiling boy and his father waiting at the airport for plane departure and pointing with fingers at something, vacation and travel concept
Families and individuals should be aware of what their travel insurance will and won't cover. (Getty)

The recent news of Canadians getting ill abroad highlights the importance of getting travel insurance, and being upfront about pre-existing conditions. This is especially relevant in Ontario, where the provincial government recently rescinded out-of-country inpatient services, which included up to $400 per day for premium levels of care and up to $50 per day for emergency outpatient and doctor services.

However, there are a few instances when travel insurance isn’t needed. Yahoo Canada spoke to travel expert Barry Choi about when travellers should hold off on buying travel insurance coverage.

You have a credit card that offers travel insurance

There are many premium credit cards that offer travel insurance and other related benefits. For a yearly fee, credit cards like BMO World Elite Mastercard, Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite and TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite offer coverage for medical costs, trip cancellation and lost luggage. These types of cards also often offer perks like access to airport lounges. However, many grant shorter spans of coverage based on the card holder’s age. That means additional travel insurance may be needed for seniors, to cover the span of a longer trip.

“Depending on the insurance company, you can usually extend it,” Choi says. “Not all will allow them to if you’re a senior, but a lot of them do.”

Many cards also require that a majority of the flight is paid for on the credit card, in order for the insurance coverage to be valid.

Another issue with credit card travel insurance coverage is that the underwriting is done when a claim is filed. That means, any previous trip to the doctor can affect it, since it can be considered a pre-existing condition. To avoid this, Choi suggests that travellers, particularly seniors, buy an outside multi-trip insurance policy at the start of each year, when they are in good health, since the underwriting is done at the time it is purchased. That way, there is less of a chance that a claim will be dismissed if pre-existing conditions are uncovered.

“If you’ve got no pending tests results, you’ve been in stable condition, there’s been no change to your medication for three to six months, generally speaking, you will likely be covered for anything that comes up during the time of your travel insurance,” Choi says.

Your work benefits offer travel insurance

Many work benefits include travel insurance, which often cover the person under the plan as well as eligible family members. However, Choi says work benefits generally only offer basic coverage, such as travel medical, but won’t cover things like delayed flights, trip cancellation or lost luggage. If that’s the case, he suggests buying more insurance.

“If you’re looking at travel insurance as a general package, you’ve got to look beyond medical,” he says. “Even if you have travel medical, you should still buy trip cancellation and all those other types of insurance.”

While Canada’s passengers bill of rights will offer travellers a certain amount of compensation for things like delayed flights, additional travel insurance will provide an extra layer of security.

Travelling within the province

Choi says the only other time when travel insurance wouldn’t be essential is if you’re travelling within your own province.

If someone from Toronto is travelling to Sudbury and got in an accident, OHIP would cover the medical costs, including ambulance services.

“In those cases, even if you’re travelling within your own province, you don’t need medical travel insurance,” he says.

While a province or territory’s health plan will cover someone if they need medical attention in another part of the country, it won’t always include the costs of special services like ambulances or medivacs.