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March Breakers may have more insurance coverage than they think

Canadian March Breakers seem to be more concerned about leaving their smartphones behind than making sure they have travel insurance.

According to a recent poll by Ipsos and RBC Insurance, 53 per cent of vacationing Canadians say they never leave home without their electronics while 45 per cent say the same of travel insurance.

Luckily for the more than half of Canadians who shun travel insurance – they might be covered by their employee benefits, their credit card or even a CAA membership.  

“A lot of people just don’t want to ask questions, they don’t want to look stupid,” says Robin Ingle, chairman of Ingle International and a specialist in risk insurance, travel security and healthcare. “Don’t assume, ask.”

He points to employee benefits as one of the first places to check if you’re covered for your upcoming trip.

“A lot of employee benefit plans have travel insurance built-in which is usually an annual travel medical insurance,” says Ingle, pointing out that travel medical insurance usually provides anywhere from $5 million to $10 million for health-related expenses. “Some companies that provide employee benefits, especially in Quebec, may have trip cancellation also but it’s usually for a limited period of time meaning it will cover trips up to 15 or 30 days (maximum).”

Credit cards also provide some coverage, says Ray Battiston, a travel medical insurance broker and founder of IceColdNorth.com. 

“I know personally on some of my own bank credit cards I had different types of travel insurance and a booklet, so it was like performing your own brain surgery dealing with those policies,” says Battiston.

Which is why he recommends picking up the phone.

“The obvious problem is if they have that coverage with any of those (credit card) providers and are not sure if they have a policy in place, there is no way that they will actually know what kind of coverage they have,” he adds.

Inglis points out that insurance policies attached to credit cards often come with stipulations that the trip or car rental you’re hoping to be covered, needs to be purchased using that credit card.

“Phone the bank up, phone the credit card company up and talk to them,” he says. “Phone the employee benefits or HR department manager and ask them about specific coverage and (for) the emergency assistance phone number.”

Some memberships also include insurance. 

For instance, a basic CAA membership will get you trip-travel, accidental death and dismemberment insurance coverage up to $100,000 and those with a premier membership will get $500,000 in coverage.

“Your home insurance or content insurance for your apartment is going to have an away-from-home benefit which is usually 10 per cent of the overall limit for content,” says Inglis. “If you’ve got valuable items beyond that, let’s say you’re a musician taking some high-end cello with you, you should go to a property and casualty agent advisor or insurer to get coverage for that.”

But both brokers agree, if you’re going to spend your March Break paragliding in some tropical paradise, surfing an El Niño-driven swell or spelunking your way through caves, you’ll need to look for coverage.

“A month ago I was in Costa Rica, we did zip lining, we did white water rafting, we went to thermal springs, I fell into a cactus bush – these things happened,” says Inglis. “This where you need to shop around.”

And you can find coverage.

“It’s not going to be a panacea for any problem but in the majority of cases most people can get a really well-defined product at a low price,” says Inglis. “Your average premium for a person under 30 traveling is going to be under $50 for a two week trip.”