Your questions answered: In this weekly personal finance segment on The First Trade, we answer audience questions from our Money Mailbag.
Q: Is trip insurance actually a good investment? How much will it protect me if my plans change?
It’s a great question, especially with the record-breaking freezing temperatures seizing much of the U.S. this week. Say you’ve booked a great trip, and then the day before you’re supposed to leave you find out Mother Nature has other plans. What can you do?
Travel insurance costs an average of 4% to 10% of your prepaid non-refundable trip – closer to 4% for the basic level of coverage and 10% for the higher level, which lets you cancel for any reason. That premium benefit lets you call the whole thing off for any reason and get back about 75% of your non-refundable expenses, but you only use it up to 48 hours before your departure.
If you’re not going to spring for the comprehensive upgrade, be sure to check with your credit card, since about a third of cards offer various types of trip protection for qualified purchases. Your card’s coverage might have certain restrictions a trip insurance plan doesn’t, so it’s important to compare based on your needs.
You’ve probably noticed trip insurance as an option during checkout when buying airfare. And the products are increasing in popularity. A rep from Squaremouth, a travel insurance comparison site, says the company has seen a 28% increase in people opting to insure their trips in the past year. They’ve also seen 12% more policies purchased specifically because of weather concerns.
Of course, there are other unforeseen obstacles to travel, like the recent government shutdown. That brought excessive wait times at TSA security checkpoints around the country, and by the end of the shutdown travel at major airports in the Northeast was disrupted due to a lack of air traffic control staff. The government has reopened with a three-week continuing resolution, but that could still mean more shutdown-related travel woes very soon.
A spokesperson for travel insurance comparison site InsureMyTrip says it saw call volume increase significantly during the shutdown, and there are still many people calling concerned about upcoming vacations and whether another possible shutdown would put their trip in jeopardy. But be aware that issues with the TSA or other government shutdown-related hold-ups are not part of standard trip coverage.
And if you just want to be able to book your trip but change your mind later, consider paying a bit more for a refundable fare.
If you have a question you need answered, send it our way at firstname.lastname@example.org and we might just feature it right here on Yahoo Finance.
This story was originally published Jan. 30, 2019 as “Do you need travel insurance during the polar vortex?”
Follow Jeanie Ahn on Twitter.