Travel Insurance – How Did I End Up Ordering That?

May 21, 2009

More and more travelers are finding out that their travel costs include a bill for travel insurance that they don’t remember ordering. How did they end up with travel insurance? And what the heck does it cover, anyway?

How You Got Travel Insurance

Many people planning a cruise or a long vacation decide to get travel insurance to cover the risks that they might have to cancel their trip due to unforeseen circumstances. Going out and getting travel insurance is fine, but having it forced down your throat is something else entirely.

If you book travel through a popular online travel service such as Orbitz, you might discover that somewhere along the way you “asked” for travel insurance. How did that happen? Well, as you were working your way through the various web pages and filling out information, you might not have noticed the little box that “asked” if you wanted travel insurance. You also might not have noticed that the helpful people at Orbitz already filled a “yes” in the box for you.

Why would a company like Orbitz force you to uncheck a box that is ordering an extra service you will be billed for? When asked why it engages in such a practice, Orbitz states: “We have found that many of our customers choose travel insurance when booking an international vacation to protect their investment. Therefore, we default to ‘Yes, Add Ticket Protector Plus’ to provide this peace of mind.”

Really? To provide “peace of mind” Orbitz makes the choice for you? It sounds more like Orbitz wants to provide mindless “choices” rather than peace of mind. Shouldn’t travel insurance be something you choose to get, rather than have Orbitz choose it for you?

We think any form of preselected extra options on an online service is just a way to trick people into buying something they may not necessarily want. This type of marketing practice is the reason that you should be very careful when filling out web pages for a service you are buying. Don’t let someone make mindless, and sometimes expensive, choices for you.

How You Cancel Travel Insurance

Once you discover that you purchased travel insurance and decide that your “peace of mind” is better served by canceling something you didn’t want to order, what do you have to do?

Once again, read the fine print. You have only ten days from the date you inadvertently “ordered” this insurance to cancel it. Waiting until it shows up on your credit card bill is too late, even if your trip is still months away. Sorry.

Assuming you’re astute enough to notice that you are going to be charged for something you didn’t want, it should be fairly straightforward to cancel it, right? You call Orbitz, but it tells you to call “Access America,” the company actually providing the travel insurance. I guess that even though Orbitz wanted to order it for your convenience, it’s not convenient for Orbitz to undo the transaction for you.

So you call the telephone number provided, and after working your way through a convoluted “message tree” (you know, “if you’re calling about … press …”) you are ultimately directed to another website where, after working your way through some more forms, you can finally get your policy canceled and now can wait to get a refund of the premium you’ve already been charged- assuming, of course, that you acted quickly enough in discovering the charge and going through this cancellation procedure.

If you are too late, or if you had decided all along that travel insurance is something you actually want, what is it? Does it cover, for example, that trip to Mexico you had to cancel due to the swine flu outbreak? (Here’s a hint – no). And who is Access America? We will help answer those questions next week when we examine the fine print on these insurance policies.