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Travel insurance purchases setting records. Do you really need it?

Virus Outbreak New York
Posted at 6:30 PM, Dec 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-16 16:40:28-05

If it's been a while since you've booked a flight, travel insurance is that thing that pops up at the end of a sale.

“At the end, they’re going to say, ‘Hey, this many people bought travel insurance, don’t you want to buy travel insurance too?’ And I think a lot of people generally, before COVID, would think, ‘Oh they’re trying to upset me and move along,’” said Michael Parrish DuDell, chief strategy officer for Couponfollow.com. “But what we’re seeing, in fact, is that more and more people are saying, ‘I want that insurance I want to protect my future travel.’"

Couponfollow.com was designed, DuDell said, to save consumers both time and money. He says the company is always asking consumers about their money and how they spend it.

“As we looked closer at how people are traveling, where they were spending their money, where they were allocating their time, we found these little niche interesting areas,” DuDell said.

He says those areas include things like travel insurance.

“What we found is that 75% of people who had already booked flights had purchased trip insurance. That was a staggering number that is a 55% increase than what is thought of as the norm,” DuDell said.

So, why the increase? Travel anxiety amid the pandemic is likely a big part of it.

“There is so much uncertainty in the world right now, and of course that’s around the pandemic, but there’s other kinds of uncertainty too and I think people feel like they’re taking a strong risk in general when they’re traveling,” DuDell said. "So if they can mitigate risk in other areas, they’re willing to do that, to spend the money behind it.”

Leslie Tayne, a financial attorney, author and frequent flier said, “There are a lot of caveats to whether travel insurance for airline purposes makes sense right now and frankly because the airlines allow you to make changes without a cost and last minute, there’s really almost no reason why you would get travel insurance.”

She says these days, airlines are more accommodating than ever. And because there's been so much industry disruption surrounding travel, the future is being rewritten now.

“I definitely believe they’re going to rewrite the travel insurance, they’re being investigated right now,” Tayne said. “It's being taken up in Congress in terms of the validity of the travel insurance and there’s some concern that travel insurance might be what’s termed either a ‘scam’ or a ‘money-making proposition’ that’s not really beneficial to the consumer.”

In March, the House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy launched an investigation into whether travel insurance provided any “meaningful protection” for consumers. The investigation was spurred amid the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, when many travelers were canceling trips as states began implementing stay-at-home orders.

“The evidence shows consumers are purchasing standard travel insurance products, thinking they will be covered if they cancel their trip because of coronavirus,” Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), the subcommittee’s chair, said in March. “Yet, companies like Allianz, Travel Guard, and Generali are refusing to cover those claims. In the process they are encouraging dangerous travel.”

So, when it comes to whether you "need" that insurance, Tayne says weigh your risks, consider where you're going and what you'll be doing.

“My recommendation is to try to understand what the restrictions are and what you could use the insurance for when would it apply to you,” Tayne said.

Tayne said if you're in a situation where it makes sense, don't make an insurance decision on emotion. Think of it as a business decision, and these days, we're all in the business of saving time and money.