Australians are back on the international travel bandwagon, but many of us still have bad memories of travel plans that went south due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
With those hard-learned lessons behind us, you'll want to ask the tough questions of your travel insurance policy for any future trips. Will travel insurance cover COVID-19 medical expenses or cancellation due to related government travel bans or isolation requirements? And will travel insurance policies cover future pandemics or epidemics?
Many travel insurance policies will provide limited cover if you or your travelling companion get COVID-19.
Cover will likely be limited to medical, and sometimes quarantine and cancellation costs if you contract COVID-19. Some policies may cover you for expenses if you can't travel because you're a close contact.
Travel insurance is unlikely to cover you for cancellation due to government travel bans.
Many of the most popular travel insurers in Australia, like Cover-More, Allianz, Tick and Travel Insurance Direct, provide cover for COVID-19. The table below shows which international travel insurance policies cover COVID-19 medical and cancellation costs if you're diagnosed with COVID-19 while overseas.
You may have to pay an optional extra fee for COVID-19 cover. Check the insurer's product disclosure statement (PDS) for more details.
- 'Variable' means multiple cover options are available and you can select the level of cover you require (for an additional fee).
- Cancellation may not cover you if you're deemed a close contact but haven't tested positive yourself.
|Brand – Policy||Underwriter||Medical cover||Cancellation cover|
|1Cover – Comprehensive||Lloyds||Yes||$0|
|1Cover – Essentials||Lloyds||Yes||$0|
|1Cover – Medical Only||Lloyds||Yes||$0|
|AHM – Comprehensive||Zurich||Yes||$5000|
|AHM – Medical Only||Zurich||Yes||$0|
|Allianz – Basic||Allianz||Yes||$0|
|Allianz – Comprehensive||Allianz||Yes||Variable|
|Cover-More Travel Insurance – Basic||Zurich||Yes||$0*|
|Cover-More Travel Insurance – Comprehensive Plus||Zurich||Yes||$5000|
|Cover-More Travel Insurance – Comprehensive||Zurich||Yes||$0*|
|FastCover – Standard||Lloyds||Yes||3000|
|FastCover – Basics||Lloyds||Yes||0|
|FastCover – Comprehensive||Lloyds||Yes||5000|
|Flight Centre – YourCover Essentials||Zurich||Yes||$10,000|
|Flight Centre – YourCover Plus||Zurich||Yes||$10,000|
|Go Insurance – Go Basic||Lloyds||Yes||$5000|
|Go Insurance – Go Plus||Lloyds||Yes||$15,000|
|InsureandGo – Bare Essentials||Mitsui Sumitomo||No||$0|
|InsureandGo – Gold||Mitsui Sumitomo||Yes||$5000|
|InsureandGo – Silver||Mitsui Sumitomo||Yes||$2500|
|Medibank Travel Insurance – Comprehensive||Zurich||Yes||$5000|
|Medibank Travel Insurance – Medical Only||Zurich||Yes||$0|
|NIB – Comprehensive||Lloyds||Yes||$10,000|
|NIB – Essentials||Lloyds||Yes||$0|
|Tick Travel Insurance – Basic||Mitsui Sumitomo||No||$0|
|Tick Travel Insurance – Budget||Mitsui Sumitomo||No||$0|
|Tick Travel Insurance – Standard||Mitsui Sumitomo||Yes||$2500|
|Tick Travel Insurance – Top||Mitsui Sumitomo||Yes||$2500|
|Travel Insurance Direct – Basics||Lloyds||Yes||$0|
|Travel Insurance Direct – The Works||Lloyds||Yes||$2500|
|World2Cover – Basics||Tokio Marine||No||$0|
|World2Cover – Essentials||Tokio Marine||No||$0|
|World2Cover – Top||Tokio Marine||Yes||$3500|
|Worldcare – Comprehensive||Allianz||Yes||Variable|
|Worldcare – Essential||Allianz||Yes||Variable|
* No cancellation prior to departure; $5000 if you contract COVID-19 on your trip.
Does travel insurance cover medical expenses for COVID-19?
Policies that cover medical expenses for COVID-19 will pay for emergency medical and hospital, and medically assisted repatriation to Australia, if deemed necessary. Most policies that cover COVID-19 provide unlimited cover for medical expenses.
Does travel insurance cover cancellation due to COVID-19?
Some policies will cover cancellation and amendment expenses if you get COVID-19 before you leave or while you're overseas. These policies may also cover you for cancellation and amendment expenses if you're deemed a close contact of someone who tests positive to COVID-19, but this isn't always the case. The cover amount can be limited to as little as a couple thousand dollars, so check with your travel insurer specifically to find out what they'll cover because it can be tricky.
Below are some of the typical exclusions for cancellation cover.
- Cooling-off periods for COVID-19 cancellation cover are usually 72 hours.
- Cover-More and other policies underwritten by Zurich, such as Flight Centre, AHM and Medibank, place restrictions on COVID-19 cancellation cover if you bought the policy within 21 days of your departure date. Check your PDS for details.
- Most (but not all) policies that cover COVID-19 cancellations will provide limited cancellation cover if a non-travelling relative residing in Australia has contracted COVID-19.
- These policies may also cover cancellation and amendment costs if you're designated a close contact of someone with COVID-19 and are required to self-isolate while on your trip.
- Travel insurance is unlikely to cover cancellation costs if you're unable to travel due to general travel restrictions, like lockdowns at home or at your destination, or government travel alerts due to COVID-19.
Does travel insurance cover additional expenses and quarantine costs for COVID-19?
If you contract COVID-19 while on your overseas trip, some policies will provide limited cover for additional accommodation and meal costs under specific circumstances, such as:
- if you're denied boarding scheduled public transport because you have tested positive to COVID-19
- if you have to go to hospital or self-isolate with COVID-19.
If you're ordered into quarantine while overseas because you've contracted COVID-19, some policies will cover your quarantine expenses. However, if you're ordered into quarantine as a close contact, without having contracted COVID-19, very few policies will cover your expenses in this scenario.
There are several insurers selling domestic travel insurance, but not all insurers will cover COVID-19. Domestic travel insurance doesn't cover medical expenses, because that's covered by Medicare or your private health insurance. So you'll just need COVID-19 cover for cancellation or additional expenses if you're travelling around Australia.
Read the travel insurance PDS to check whether you're covered for cancellation if you, or someone you're travelling with, catches COVID-19. Travel insurance is unlikely to cover you for government travel bans.
Travel insurance for an Aussie holiday may be worth considering if you're:
- spending a lot of money on your trip
- carrying expensive equipment, such as custom-made surfboards
- hiring a car, as some travel insurance can cover the damage excess.
Travel insurance policies that offer cruise cover will often (but not always) cover medical costs if you contract COVID-19. Some of these policies will also cover you if you need to cancel your trip due to COVID-19, or if a non-travelling relative in Australia has contracted COVID-19.
If you're going on a cruise, you'll usually have to pay an extra fee to add cruise cover to your travel insurance, or buy a separate cruise-specific policy. Cover for COVID-19 is restricted, so check your PDS for details.
Travel insurance policies have a 14-day cooling-off period (or longer). If you change your mind in this period, you can cancel your policy and get your money back from the insurer.
AFCA (the Australian Financial Complaints Authority) considers a credit or refund of your premium a fair outcome where:
- you got a refund or credit from all of your travel providers, so there's nothing left to claim on your travel insurance
- your travel insurance policy has a COVID-19-related exclusion that prevents you from claiming on the policy.
Ask your travel insurer what they can do for you.
Partial policy refunds
From the moment you buy a travel insurance policy, cover kicks in for cancellation due to unforeseen events. So if your insurer offers you a refund, they may calculate a partial refund to take into account the cover that you've already received with your policy.
AFCA considers proportionate refunds for the remaining unused period fair, but your insurer should outline how they calculate it.
Visit AFCA's website for more information on what they deem fair treatment from insurers when it comes to COVID-19 claims.
Read your travel insurance PDS. In the first instance, it's up to you as the policyholder to establish that you have a valid claim under the policy terms and conditions. That generally means handing in lots of documentation.
Then it's up to the insurer to decide if your claim is valid and that there are no policy exclusions that should be applied.
If you disagree with the insurer's decision regarding your claim, raise a complaint via their internal dispute resolution service.
If you don't get a satisfactory result from the insurer's internal dispute resolution, escalate your complaint to AFCA, which is the external ombudsman for the insurance industry.
The chance of experiencing a pandemic similar to COVID-19 in a lifetime is estimated to be 38%. Many travel insurance policies now cover COVID-19 to some extent, but not as many policies will cover future pandemics or epidemics other than COVID-19.
There are several policies that cover COVID-19 for medical expenses, but not other pandemics, and very few policies now cover cancellation expenses for pandemics that aren't COVID-19.
An epidemic is an outbreak of disease that happens in a wide geographic location and affects a lot of people.
A pandemic is an epidemic that has spread throughout a whole country or across continents.
Which travel insurers will cover pandemics or epidemics (other than COVID-19)?
Insurers such as Allianz, Travel Insurance Direct and Cover-More cover pandemics or epidemics for medical costs, but Travel Insurance Direct and Cover-More exclude cover for cancellation costs incurred due to a pandemic that isn't COVID-19.
The table below shows which international travel insurance policies cover pandemic medical and cancellation costs if you're diagnosed with an illness that's classified as a pandemic or epidemic by the World Health Organisation while overseas. Bear in mind that if the pandemic or epidemic is classed as a 'known event' before you buy the policy, then cover will probably be excluded.
When an event becomes 'known' is a grey area, but generally it's when it's publicised in the media or on official government websites. So check the Smartraveller information for your destination before you go
|Brand – Policy||Underwriter||Medical cover||Cancellation cover|
|1Cover – Comprehensive||Lloyds||No||No|
|1Cover – Essentials||Lloyds||No||No|
|1Cover – Medical Only||Lloyds||No||No|
|AHM – Comprehensive**||Zurich||Yes||Yes|
|AHM – Medical Only||Zurich||Yes||No|
|Allianz – Basic||Allianz||Yes||No|
|Allianz – Comprehensive*||Allianz||Yes||Yes|
|Cover-More Travel Insurance – Basic||Zurich||Yes||No|
|Cover-More Travel Insurance – Comprehensive Plus||Zurich||Yes||No|
|Cover-More Travel Insurance – Comprehensive*||Zurich||Yes||No|
|FastCover – Standard||Lloyds||No||No|
|FastCover – Basics||Lloyds||No||No|
|FastCover – Comprehensive||Lloyds||No||No|
|Flight Centre – YourCover Essentials||Zurich||Yes||No|
|Flight Centre – YourCover Plus||Zurich||Yes||No|
|Go Insurance – Go Basic||Lloyds||No||No|
|Go Insurance – Go Plus||Lloyds||No||No|
|InsureandGo – Bare Essentials||Mitsui Sumitomo||No||No|
|InsureandGo – Gold||Mitsui Sumitomo||No||No|
|InsureandGo – Silver||Mitsui Sumitomo||No||No|
|Medibank Travel Insurance – Comprehensive**||Zurich||Yes||Yes|
|Medibank Travel Insurance – Medical Only**||Zurich||Yes||No|
|NIB – Comprehensive||Lloyds||Yes||No|
|NIB – Essentials||Lloyds||Yes||No|
|Tick Travel Insurance – Basic||Mitsui Sumitomo||No||No|
|Tick Travel Insurance – Budget||Mitsui Sumitomo||No||No|
|Tick Travel Insurance – Standard||Mitsui Sumitomo||No||No|
|Tick Travel Insurance – Top||Mitsui Sumitomo||No||No|
|Travel Insurance Direct – Basics||Lloyds||Yes||No|
|Travel Insurance Direct – The Works||Lloyds||Yes||No|
|World2Cover – Basics||Tokio Marine||Yes||No|
|World2Cover – Essentials||Tokio Marine||Yes||No|
|World2Cover – Top||Tokio Marine||Yes||No|
|Worldcare – Comprehensive*||Allianz||Yes||Yes|
|Worldcare – Essential*||Allianz||Yes||Yes|
* If the policyholder is diagnosed with a pandemic or epidemic illness.
** Excluding avian influenza.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.