You’re buying tickets for an upcoming trip when the screen asks if you want to insure your flight. You hesitate, your finger hovering between yes and no, torn between worry over whether or not you’ll be making a mistake by clicking no. Here's what to consider when debating whether to insure your airline tickets.
How Much Does Your Trip Cost?
If you’re buying tickets for a cheap domestic flight, then the reality of it is that travel insurance really is just a waste of your money. When your tickets are only setting you back a few hundred dollars and you’re staying within your home country, you really don’t have much to lose and that money could be better spent on something during your trip. Most experts would say that opting for insurance in this situation is a waste of money.
The question you need to ask yourself is "Can I afford to lose this money?" If you’re about to drop thousands on international airfare or make a non-refundable payment on a cruise for the whole family, then insurance might not be a bad idea. But keep in mind that cancellation insurance really only covers a select number of approved reasons. If you buy insurance for the security of being able to change your mind and get the money back when you cancel your trip, you’ll be in for a surprise when you realize that’s not how it works.
What Kind of Coverage Does Your Credit Card Offer?
A lot of people don’t realize that if they purchased the tickets with their credit card, the credit card company might actually offer better travel insurance than what is being pitched by the airline or any third parties. Before clicking yes on the airline’s insurance offer, look up what kind of coverage you can get from your credit card. Premium cards like Chase Sapphire, for example, have a much higher reimbursement ceiling than most airline policies and will even give you money for delayed flights or misplaced baggage.
How Far Are You Going?
If you’re traveling internationally or to a country where extraction could prove costly in the case of a medical emergency or other sudden change of plans, insurance could be a good call. International trips also tend to be costlier overall, which means your answer to that earlier question — can I afford to lose this money? — might be no.
Insurance is also a good idea if you’re going on a cruise, which are usually expensive, paid for up-front and international. While you can still feel free to take a look at what third party options are available to you before clicking that yes button, it’s usually okay to buy the insurance that the cruise line offers.
What’s Your Reason for Wanting to Be Insured?
Airline policies will already offer some kind of compensation for cancellations, significant delays or lost luggage. Chances are, by buying outside insurance you’re really not getting yourself any more coverage than you already had just by being a passenger.
If you’re traveling to a foreign country and want to be insured for medical purposes, then in the unlikely event that something happens and you need emergency care you could be saving yourself a ton of money by purchasing comprehensive travel insurance. One writer detailed his experiences breaking his leg in Chile and how his travel insurance, combined with his credit card coverage, helped him get back around 90% of the almost $3000 that he spent on cancelled flights, hotels and hospital bills.
It’s also a good idea to consider buying insurance with a “cancel for any reason” policy if you’re traveling somewhere that might be experiencing civil or political unrest. Being able to cancel a trip to keep yourself safe from a volatile environment will be worth the extra fee attached.
Consensus: No, It’s Not Worth It
Most experts will say that in general, unless you’re planning an insanely expensive trip to a remote location, insuring your airline tickets is simply not worth it. Policies have a lot of fine print and the coverage that they offer tends to be a lot less than what you’re expecting. While buying insurance may seem like a good way to give yourself peace of mind when planning a trip, the compensation will very rarely be worth the price.
Airlines and credit cards usually offer equal if not better (in the case of many premium credit cards, much better) coverage than what you can find through a third party. The list of approved reasons for cancellation is much shorter than you might think, and reimbursement limits might mean that you don’t even get back all of what you insured.
In the end, it’s all about considering the risk vs. the reward. Does buying this insurance feel worth it to you? If you do decide to click that yes button, be sure to read the fine print of your policy and make sure that you’re choosing an option that will get you the coverage you want. In the end, it’s all about making yourself feel safe while traveling.