Travel insurance USA

Photo by Lala Miklós on Unsplash

The United States of America is a land of pop culture and modern-day mythology that attracts people from all over the world. From its sightseeing and historic landmarks, to its breathtaking natural beauty, the USA is a colourful and character-filled country.

Whether you’re embarking on a road trip along the historic Route 66, strolling down Hollywood Boulevard, or sitting on the beach in Miami, the USA has plenty on offer to complement nearly anyone’s idea of the perfect American vacation. 

But when something goes wrong on your holiday, as it sometimes does, it can put a real downer on your whole trip. That’s why it’s important to secure a travel insurance policy when you’re travelling overseas, especially when travelling through countries which don’t have a reciprocal health care agreement with Australia, or even free public health care.

Knowing that your expenses are covered if your flights are cancelled, if you end up in hospital due to an accident, or if your luggage goes missing, could make the difference between feeling like you’re living the American dream, or living an American nightmare.

What should my travel insurance policy for the USA include?

When choosing travel insurance for the USA, consider what kinds of cover you might need. You should look at things like how long your trip will be, if you’ll need cover for delays and cancellations, and if there are any optional-extras you want to add to tailor your cover to you. 

If you’re heading to the USA for a ski or snowboarding trip in Aspen, then find a policy that offers snow travel insurance on top of their international travel insurance policies. 

And if you’re travelling with a pre-existing medical condition, make sure that your insurance provider covers your condition. You don’t want to foot the bill in a notoriously expensive USA  hospital if your health acts up while travelling. 

If you’re going on a classic American road-trip, then finding a policy which offers a rental vehicle excess waiver might be a good idea. If you’re involved in an accident and the rental vehicle is damaged, then you might be required to pay for the repair costs by the rental company. Finding a policy that includes rental vehicle excess insurance might save you from dipping into your Philly cheesesteak budget. 

Many travel insurance providers will offer different tiers of cover on their international policies. These often range from basic or essential policies, to premium or comprehensive policies. 

Generally, a basic policy will cover benefits like overseas emergency medical and hospital expenses, and personal liability. However, cover for things like flight delays, cancellations, loss of travel documents or cash, might only be available if you pay a higher premium.

Do Australians need a visa to travel to the USA?

Australians travelling to the USA for less than 90 days may be eligible for the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA). If you’re not eligible for ESTA, then you’ll need to apply for a visa.

Can I get COVID-19 travel insurance for the USA?

Some travel insurance providers will offer benefits related to COVID-19, however in many cases it will only cover overseas medical and cancellation costs if you contract COVID-19, and may not cover things like mandatory quarantine or government-mandated border closures. 

Often, if your destination has a ‘Do not travel’ warning from the Australian government’s Smartraveller site, your travel insurance provider will not cover you for COVID-19. It’s always a good idea to read your policy’s product disclosure statement (PDS) so that you’re aware of what you’re covered for when it comes to the pandemic.

Travel insurance tips for the USA

  • Excess fees. When you need to make a claim on your travel insurance policy, you may be required to pay a certain part of the total value of your claim. The rest would be paid by the insurance provider. This amount that you need to pay yourself is called an excess. This excess fee can vary according to your policy. Generally, the cheaper the cover, the more likely your excess fee will be higher.
  • Pre-existing conditions. Travel insurance providers ask you to declare any pre-existing conditions at the time of purchasing the policy. If you fail to do so, the insurance company can reject a claim you later make regarding that condition. Also, remember that pregnancies are considered as a pre-existing condition.
  • Unattended baggage. Remember that if your bags go missing while you’ve left them unattended, your insurance provider may reject your claim. In fact, even when you leave your bags with the hotel concierge after you’ve checked out, that’s often considered ‘unattended’ in the provider’s eyes.
  • Report incidents ASAP. Whether you’ve injured yourself while skiing in Aspen, or had your purse stolen on a New York subway, you must report any incident as soon as possible. Again, if you’ve read your policy’s PDS carefully, you’ll know the exact documentation that you will be required to submit with your claim. Generally, these will be doctors reports, hospital bills, police reports, or receipts, depending on the nature of your claim. So, make sure you hold onto these when it comes to contacting your travel insurance provider.
  • Driving in the USA. First of all, don’t drive a vehicle you aren’t licensed to drive. To drive in the USA, you’ll need an International Driving Permit (IDP). Make sure you get your IDP before you leave Australia. Also, remember that unlike Australia, Americans drive on the right-hand side of the road, which can be a bit confusing to begin with. So take extra care when pulling out of your parking spots, or turning at an intersection. And like in any part of the world, don’t drink and drive – your insurance will not cover you for any accidents while under the influence.
  • Drink responsibly. Always remember to be responsible with your drinks. If you face a medical emergency or injury while you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs, your insurance company could refuse to reimburse you for those expenses. The worst type of hangover doesn’t come from Kentucky bourbon – it’s induced by bills.