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Tip For Selling Expensive Items Online

I have various blog posts that are still drafts due to them covering complicated subjects. As I was writing the past few days, I decided to publish this one in the meantime. Also, I have a disclaimer at the end for anyone who needs one.

This one is not on the ever-interesting, fascinating and riveting subject of Travel Insurance. Instead, it’s a Tip For Selling Expensive Items online.

I am selling an Ethan Allen American Impressions Cherry Computer Desk for $500 on Craig’s List.

Within 30 minutes of listing it I received three text messages from area codes in California, Florida and New York. I live in Missouri. Each of the messages was worded nearly the same as the others, with the feeling of it being a scam, so I decided to have some “fun” with them. By the way, if you like my sense of humor, let me know if you ever come to Kansas City and we can hang out.

I copied one of the text exchanges. The other two were similar, but they wouldn’t play along and were shorter.

Their text to me: “Ethan Allen American Impressions Cherry Computer Desk 24-9011 – $500 Ok! I will pay you via Paypal and i will have a mover come pick it up but i can’t get cash across to the mover directly because i’m out of the city for work and they don’t use paypal. So, i will add extra money to the payment for the mover so that you can pay on my behalf. Send me your paypal info for payment if you have one so we can proceed.”

Me: “Oh I’m so sorry but we only take cash. When will you return to the city?”

Text: “Next month”

Me: “Send me your contact info and I will arrange for the sale. What date will you return?

Text: sorry paypal is the only way i can make the payment to you because it is linked to my bank account and i find it very easy to transfer funds there. so let me know if you are still gonna sell to me. paypal only take a minute to set up. log on to Paypal.com to setup

Me: “If you want to use Paypal, there is a 21 day wait for me to release the item so I can receive the money.”

Text: “PayPal is instant….The funds will get into your account Immediately you send them the details you get from western union.? thats the only way i do my transaction when am not in the state”

Me: “What state do you need to be in?”

Text: “Okay appreciate the furniture and just to let you know I’m okay with the condition, the price and I’m ready for the purchase plus I’m willing to add an extra $50 so as to have it reserved in my favor, I would have really loved to come for the inspection but due to my work frame it just won’t fit in my schedule but i already have a mover that will handle the moving”

Me: “Here’s the problem for me: It’s a friend’s account. I’m in the Witness Protection Program and it’s illegal for me to use PayPal due to my money laundering past. I have friends all over the USA so send me your contact information and they will get the money in person from you and your associate can pick it up after that. Don’t worry, you can trust my friends.”

I never heard anything after that last text. I guess they didn’t want to meet my “friends”.

*** Disclaimer for anyone who needs one: I am not now, nor ever have been in the Witness Protection Program. And, I do not have a money laundering past.

It turns out that Paypal is aware of this scam, too:
https://www.paypal.com/us/selfhelp/article/Scams-on-Craigslist-and-Other-Classifieds-Websites-FAQ3022

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Don’t Be This Person

I hope you all had a nice summer. I did, but it was busier than expected. I also have a few posts in draft form that I can’t quite figure out how to finish. This was one, but I think I finally got all my cynicism regarding this one worked out.

Before you read what happened, you need to know that neither this lady nor her husband ever called or emailed us before she bought her policy. In addition, she never responded to our followup emails after purchase so the by the time she did email us it was way too late to give her any meaningful advice or help. This all happened on July 14-15, 2016.

Hi, I have a few questions about my trip insurance for a vacation planned in August. I originally bought the travel insurance in December and found out I was pregnant in March. Unfortunately, we lost the pregnancy. My husband and I decided we weren’t going on the trip to Punta Cana, as it is a high risk of exposure to the Zika virus. At the strong recommendation of our OB and our concern, as we are actively trying to conceive, a trip to the Dominican Republic is not a good idea. Therefore, we would like to cancel our trip, but are not quite sure how to go about it. Who do I need to talk to? Do I cancel the reservations through the insurance or with the resort and airline? I know I will have to fill out some paperwork. I have been to the OB, and I have a letter that has been written on our behalf, spelling out the reasons above, in the hopes that we can get our money back.

Here’s what we wrote back:
“We are sorry to hear about your pregnancy. The policy that you got does not cover for pregnancy and will only cover for cancellation for a medical reason that impairs your ability to travel. Or, if you do not incur a penalty to change your trip, we can transfer your insurance to another trip.”

She answered with:
“I am surprised and disappointed by this. I guess I didn’t read the “fine” print well enough. I’m not sure where I missed the “this plan does not cover pregnancy,” as this is the only reason why I purchased it. Apparently the safety of an unborn child is not a good enough “reason” to cancel a trip. It may not impede my ability to travel, just the ability of having a healthy child. Your feigned attempt at an apology for the loss of my pregnancy was just barely a step up from the insensitivity of the remainder of your email. As for transferring the insurance, you can keep the $100. It does me no good. Love those loopholes and lawyer-speak. I will not be using your company in the future.”

This is when I decided to get involved. I sent her the following email July 15th at 1:39 AM (in hindsight I should have just gone to bed). And, this was before I discovered neither she nor her husband ever called or emailed us before she bought her policy:

“Hi ___,

Thanks for writing. As it is late, and I have not talked with my employees about you, I do not know anything about your conversation history with us.

I know you will never do business with us or that company again, so I want you to know I am not writing you to “get your business back”. I agree with your decision.

I am writing to straighten out what appears to be some misunderstandings about how travel insurance works.

First, I’m sorry to hear of the the loss of your pregnancy. All my employees are Moms and my Wife and I could not have kids (we adopted our kids) so we can sympathize with your loss.

> I guess I didn’t read the “fine” print well enough. I’m not sure where I missed the “this plan does not cover pregnancy,” as this is the only reason why I purchased it

Here is what your policy says (I attached it to this email too)

“Complications of Pregnancy” means conditions (when the pregnancy is not terminated) whose diagnoses are distinct from pregnancy but are adversely affected by pregnancy or are caused by pregnancy. These conditions include acute nephritis, nephrosis, cardiac decompensation, missed abortion and similar medical and surgical conditions of comparable severity. Complications of Pregnancy also include non-elective cesarean section, ectopic pregnancy which is terminated and spontaneous termination of pregnancy, which occurs during a period of gestation in which a viable birth is not possible. Complications of Pregnancy does not include false labor, occasional spotting, Physician-prescribed rest during the period of pregnancy, morning sickness, hyperemesis gravidarum, preeclampsia and similar conditions associated with the management of a difficult pregnancy not constituting a nosologically distinct complication of pregnancy.

Under Exclusions, #11 says:
normal childbirth or pregnancy (except Complications of Pregnancy)

> Apparently the safety of an unborn child is not a good enough “reason” to cancel a trip. It may not impede my ability to travel, just the ability of having a healthy child.
> My husband and I decided we weren’t going to on the trip to Punta Cana, as it is a high risk of exposure to the Zika virus.

The policy you bought is the TravelSafe Classic plan. There are 25 covered reasons to cancel your trip. None of them are for anything related to not feeling safe or changing your mind. This is the same with all other companies.

Had you wanted the ability to change your mind and cancel your trip, the TravelSafe Classic Plus includes 75% Cancel For Any Reason Coverage when purchased within 21 days of your Initial Trip Deposit Date.

You ordered your policy directly online on 12/27/2015. I can see limited info on your policy and no date was entered for your Initial Trip Deposit Date, do I don’t know if you were even eligible for the Cancel For Any Reason Coverage on 12/27/2015.

I do not know if you ever called us prior to you buying your policy, but if you had told us you wanted to cancel because you might not feel safe we would have made it clear you needed the Cancel For Any Reason Coverage.

> As for transferring the insurance, you can keep the $100

I don’t get the $100 – the company gets the $100. If you are incurring no penalties to change your trip to some other trip, it allows you a one-time change of travel dates. However, if I had received the $100, I’d give it back to you.

> Love those loopholes and lawyer-speak. I will not be using your company in the future.

I’m not looking for or expecting any response from you. I only sent this email to explain how your policy works.”

She wrote this back to me:
“So, that’s a lie. I wouldn’t be receiving this email if you “didn’t know anything about my conversation history with you”…

That’s fine. Your conscience is clear. You are like all the other companies, I guess. Untrustworthy, sly. Honestly, I’m not too worried about what the other companies do or don’t do. I am concerned about what yours doesn’t do, at this point in time. And you sharing your story with me about your children being adopted is supposed to make me feel like you understand somehow? And the implication is…? Yes, it is obvious you don’t understand what I was trying to say. Thanks for explaining all the medical jargon because I don’t know what any of those things are!

I’m not looking for or expecting any response from you. I only want to explain how little your email worked.

Clever, I can quote you, too!”

Here’s what I sent her the next morning:
” > Yes, it is obvious you don’t understand what I was trying to say

You’re right that I don’t understand what you were trying to say. I have Asperger Syndrome and this is how I process information. I am 100% literal all the time. I cannot generalize. I cannot “read between the lines”.

I was gone until I checked my email on my laptop before going to bed. I wrote you to explain how all travel insurance works. I wasn’t obligated to do that because when you bought it online you checked the box that said you read the policy.

> Thanks for explaining all the medical jargon because I don’t know what any of those things are!

I did not explain any medical jargon. I quoted you from your policy. The policy contains all the explanations.

I am in my office now and there is no record of any phone call from what we have listed as your phone number to us ever. Nor are there any emails from your email prior to you writing us yesterday. Any time we would have been happy to explain how travel insurance works.”

Her response to me was:
“I’m not sure what the point is of sharing your personal information. It is irrelevant and certainly doesn’t excuse anyone from the manner in which my inquiries were being made. My argument is mostly with the way in which customer service was handled. The responses have been somewhat odd and quite insensitive. As far as the policy is concerned, I do not recall reading the part about pregnancy, especially in the original set of information made available to me. The 20 page policy required more of a microscope than I thought would be needed. Buyer beware.

Please stop emailing me. I am fearful of what other inconsequential or insensitive responses will result.”

Of course I didn’t email her again. She won’t ever hear from us again as I have marked her with my “666” designation.

I just wish she would have started her email with “I bought insurance and I didn’t bother to read the policy nor contact you with any questions. I don’t care what it says because I want the insurance to pay me even if I’m not covered.”

I guess I didn’t read the “fine” print well enough. As far as the policy is concerned, I do not recall reading the part about pregnancy, especially in the original set of information made available to me. The 20 page policy required more of a microscope than I thought would be needed. Buyer beware.

If you read this all the way to the end, my advice to you is Don’t Be This Person. But, if you are, Don’t Buy Insurance From TripInsuranceStore.com !

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The Best Travel Insurance for Your HSA Plan

The best Travel Insurance to have with your HSA (Health Savings Account) or any High-Deductible Health Plan is one with Secondary medical instead of Primary (Primary is also known as First Payer).

HSA (and High-Deductible Health) plans have a large annual deductibles which means that before the 100% coverage kicks in, the large annual deductible needs to be paid by someone:

  • You yourself, or
  • An other party

“You yourself” is self-explanatory. But, who is the ideal “other party”?

Travel Insurance with Secondary medical, not Primary, is the ideal “other party”.

This is because Secondary medical pays anything your other insurance won’t pay. Even if you have no other medical insurance that will cover you while you are on your trip, Secondary still covers you.

If you already have a Travel Insurance plan that contains primary medical, you can easily cause the Primary medical to be treated as Secondary medical. You do this by stating on the claim form that you are covered by other insurance. If you want to be sure there is no mixup, write a cover letter stating “I am covered by other medical insurance and I want my claim to be processed as a secondary claim”.

Here’s how the paperwork would be processed:

  1. You submit your medical bills to your HSA medical insurance first
  2. They send you an Explanation of Benefits form
  3. You send the Explanation of Benefits form in along with all the other documentation of your claim to the travel insurance company
  4. Whatever amount the Explanation of Benefits form states as “Your Share” gets paid, up to your policy limit, by the travel insurance.
  5. You use that amount to pay your share of your medical claim

How Exactly Does The Secondary Medical Benefit You?

Let’s say you have an HSA plan with a $10,000 deductible. In March you take a trip and on the trip you get it ill for a total of $6,500 in medical expenses.

When your claim is settled you pay the $6,500 received from the travel insurance toward your bills. This means you now have only $3,500 left to meet your $10,000 deductible. The cost of any illnesses or injuries that are completely unrelated to what happened on your trip go toward yor remaining deductible.

Did you notice that you don’t have your full deductible remaining, but just the balance of your annual deductible?

This is the beauty of having Travel Insurance with Secondary medical when you haven’t already satisfied your annual deductible – another party pays part or all your deductible.

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It’s Good Dolores Took My Advice

As you may recall when we spoke on Friday. I indicated that our children’s travel agent in South Africa was going to book our tickets. You told me that we would need to have proof of purchase that we ourselves bought the tickets for our May 3 – June 1, 2016 trip. My question is: If we buy the tickets through the South Africa travel agent with our credit card would that be adequate for the insurance purposes? Dolores

What Dolores emailed me above was the last in a series of calls and emails we had in February 2016 for her and her husband’s May 2016 trip. In case you want to skip to the answer without reading this, the answer is “Yes”.

Here’s the backstory: Delores and her husband wanted trip insurance to cover them for their trip to South Africa to visit their children. In order to make it simple, their children were going to buy the tickets in Delores and her husband’s name through their travel agent in South Africa. Delores and her husband were going to reimburse their children for the tickets after arriving in South Africa. Delores wanted to buy trip insurance for all the regular reasons to have it.

That sounds reasonable, right? It does, at first glance, until we reasoned out how a trip cancellation or trip interruption claim would work. Had Delores not called us, it’s possible she would have received the wrong advice. Situations like this look straightforward on the surface, but they are not.

The potential problem was how to prove that they had Prepaid, Non-refundable Trip Costs.

If something unexpectedly bad medically happened to either of them and their doctor saw them in person and said they can’t travel, then how would Delores and her husband prove that, they themselves, had prepaid and non-refundable trip costs? They would not have been able to prove this.

Perhaps I would have been able to convince one of my companies that they should not look at the “prepaid” requirement too literally, but why would I want a company that trusts me to bend / break its own rules? That will never happen. All my companies know that we will never sell a policy under false pretenses.

My solution for Delores was to buy the airline tickets through the South Africa travel agent with their own credit card. This establishes a clear paper trail for the money and the trip costs would have been prepaid.

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Renee Should Not Get Trip Cancellation Insurance

Hi Steve, My husband and I are leaving on a nearly $29,000 tour in 9 days. I’ve heard good things about you and I want some brutally honest advice.

My sister-in-law is currently in the hospital with pnemonia on life support in the intensive care unit. I am trying to find cancellation and interruption insurance that would cover my husband and I, in case we needed to cancel our trip or had to return home early to be with her. Can we get a plan from you that will cover her pre-existing medical conditions?

Also, in case it makes a difference, three of your competitors have told me “Yes, you can get a trip cancellation and interruption plan”. Thank you, Renee

Hello Renee,

Thanks for writing. First, I’m sorry to hear about your sister-in-law. I hope she recovers quickly.

Next, while it’s true that you “can buy a policy”, I think it’s deceptive to say it this way because it implies that your claim will be paid.

> Can we get a plan from you that will cover her pre-existing medical conditions?

Ok, here’s my brutally honest advice: No, I do not have a plan that I know will, without question, cover her pre-existing medical conditions. Therefore, I cannot recommend that you get a trip cancellation and interruption plan.

The reason for this is that all insurance is based on covering unforeseen losses. In your case, your sister-in-law has a condition that is not unforeseen, so if you did have to cancel or interrupt your trip, it’s unlikely that your claim will get paid. I cannot say for certain that it will be denied, but the odds of your claim being paid are too low for me to ethically sell you a policy.

If you go here (https://tripinsurancestore.com/about-tripinsurancestore-com/), you’ll see that my advice is part of my business philosophy:

I say “You will get the truth from us. We will tell you if travel insurance won’t work for you and your situation. We won’t sell you a policy just to let your claim get ‘sorted out later’.”

Even though we cannot do business today, keep us in mind when you’re planning your next trip.

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Travel Insurance and Terrorism

How Does Trip Cancellation Travel Insurance Cover Terrorist Incidents?

Like much of the world, I am angry at the recent terrorist attacks in Beirut, the downing of the Russian airplane over Sinai and the Paris attacks.

And, as you can imagine, we are getting calls from our clients who want to know how their Trip Cancellation Travel Insurance plan will cover them. And, also from people we’ve never worked with who want to know how a Trip Cancellation Travel Insurance plan will cover them for a future trip.

Like everything insurance, it comes down to the event being either unforeseen or already known.

Trip Cancellation Travel Insurance only covers losses resulting from sudden and unforeseen perils. Trip Cancellation Travel Insurance does not cover events that, on the date you buy the insurance, are known to You.

Here’s typical policy wording: “A Terrorist Act which occurs in your Scheduled Trip Departure City or in a city to which you are scheduled to travel while on your Trip, and which occurs within 30 days of your Scheduled Departure Date, provided the city has not experienced a Terrorist Act in the past 30 days prior to the effective date of your coverage. The Terrorist Incident must occur after the Effective Date of Your Trip Cancellation Coverage.”

Some policies don’t include this wording: “provided the city has not experienced a Terrorist Act in the past 30 days prior to the effective date of your coverage”.

For example, if you are going to Beirut or Paris soon and you did not already buy a Trip Cancellation Travel Insurance policy before Nov 12th, there will be no coverage for trip cancellation, trip interruption or medical treatment due to a Terrorist Act at your destination.

On the other hand, if you are going to Beirut or Paris soon and you bought a Trip Cancellation Travel Insurance policy that includes Terrorist Incident coverage before Nov 12th, you are covered according to the terms of your policy.

Go to this page if you want to see more about Terrorist Incident coverage: https://tripinsurancestore.com/travel-insurance-terrorist-incident-coverages/ from the few companies I have pre-screened and I trust.

What If I Don’t Feel Safe Going Somewhere?

Not feeling safe at your destination is one good reason to have a policy with Cancel For Any Reason coverage. Cancel For Any Reason adds about 50% to the price, it has to be purchased by the same deadline as the Pre-existing Conditions coverage (14 – 30 days after your initial trip deposit date) and you have to insure 100% of your Prepaid, Non-refundable Trip Costs.

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Don’t Round Your Insured Trip Cost Down

I took a call a few weeks ago on one of the Saturday mornings I was working (yes, I work on weekends, too) from someone who wanted to be sure they had Pre-existing Conditions coverage. I asked, “What is your per person prepaid, non-refundable trip cost?”

She said “It’s $4,000 each”. I asked “Really, it’s exactly $4,000 each?” and she said, “Well, it’s really $4,009 but I don’t want to insure the extra $9 each.”

You might be wondering why I did not let her statement “It’s $4,000 each” go unchallenged. It’s because she wanted Pre-existing Conditions coverage. In fact, even if she never said anything about it, I still would have challenged her response since it’s unlikely that she would have known that many plans require you insure at least your trip’s full prepaid, non-refundable cost. In other words, you can’t round it down.

I am fully aware of the fact that she could have gone to any of my adversaries competitors for travel insurance advice. Since she came to TripInsuranceStore.com, I assume that she wants the truth about how trip cancellation travel insurance works. Besides getting the truth from us, she also gets to experience first-hand what it’s like to receive personalized service and an intelligent conversation about how travel insurance works.

I do not mean to imply that any of the other copy-cat websites give sub-standard advice, nor fail to ascertain exactly what a traveler needs. I’m sure they know what works for them.

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I’m Glad I Don’t Have an Idiot Son

My husband and I are 62. We have not purchased tickets yet. We wanted more information on travel insurance. The tickets will probably run around $400 each. We live in Kentucky. The travel dates will be November 4 – 6. Our destination is Seattle, WA. Our idiot son is planning to be married on November 5 and is in the military. The last thing he said once I got the date straight was, “oh yeah make sure you purchase travel insurance since I am in the Army and they could cancel my trip”. So we need to be able to cancel in case he does. How much would our total cost run based on the information you have and how much would we be able to recover. Thank you for any information you could give me.

Thanks to some feedback from Deanna (more proof that it’s worth only hiring smart people), I am adding to this Blog post. And, I let the people know too.

Here’s what I wrote back:

“Hello Friend,

Thanks for visiting TripInsuranceStore.com and writing.

Travel insurance won’t cover you if the Army cancels your son’s trip.

However, if his previously granted military leave is cancelled because he is being called into active military service to provide aid or relief in the event of a natural disaster, this is a covered reason to cancel your trip with many of my plans.

His leave must be approved prior to your coverage becoming effective. If his leave is cancelled for that covered reason, official written revocation notice from his commanding officer will be required documentation as part of your claim.

Steve Dasseos
www.TripInsuranceStore.com

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This Foot Problem’s Treatment is Covered

Hi Steve:

Ken and I have been enjoying our Turkey and Greece cruise and unfortunately there’s only a few more days before we have to head home to reality. We’ve seen some interesting places and met very nice people.

I’m not sure I’m going to see the ship’s doctor, but wanted to know if I have to see the doctor on the ship if it’s covered by our insurance policy. Sometime since we left on our trip my left toe and part of my foot started to swell and it hurts. I didn’t fall, I’m not aware that I hit it and I don’t think I got bit, but in case it continues to get worse I was wondering about the insurance. Going to try ice tonight.

I mentioned you and your website to a couple of people on board and told them how terrific you are to work with. Hope they contact you in the future.

Hi to your family and hoping everyone is well.

Smiles,

B____

“Hi B____,

Thanks for writing. We’re all fine. We’ll stop by and see you again when we’re in your part of Wisconsin. I’m sorry about your foot.

  • You will be covered if you see the doctor on the the ship, or even in a port. If you see someone, make sure you tell them it started while you were on your trip. It’s not your responsibility to know how it happened, but it will greatly simplify a claim if it’s some condition that first occurred on your trip, assuming this is true.
  • In addition, even if it’s a continuation of something that happened in the days or weeks prior to your trip, treatment of your foot is covered.

The reason why treatment of your foot is covered, whether the problem started on or before your trip, is because when you bought your policy months ago, any medical condition that first manifested itself or exhibited symptoms which would have caused one to seek diagnosis, care or treatment as early as 12:01 am on the day after you bought your policy is covered. It’s not a pre-existing medical condition because it would have started when your policy was in effect.”

As you can see from my email back to B____, treatment of her foot is covered, whether the problem started on or before her trip. I already knew she didn’t have a foot problem when she bought her policy. B____’s policy did include the Waiver of the Pre-existing Conditions Exclusion, but the fact that her foot condition started after the Effective Date means that it’s covered even if she din’t have the Waiver of the Pre-existing Conditions Exclusion.

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Insurance Does Not Bail Out Your Mistakes

Here’s a typical request we get more times than we prefer:

“How much would it cost to insure our airplane tickets with the Cancel For Any Reason coverage? We paid $1,137 each and our ages are 42 and 45 (or you can insert any price and age because the answer is the same). We are concerned that we might have to change our travel dates. We want a travel insurance plan that will pay the airline’s change fee if we decide to adjust our travel dates and leave a few days later”.

Questions like this have bothered me for years. They might as well ask, “How can I get someone else to pay the fees I agreed to pay when I bought my plane tickets because I don’t want to pay them?” or “I know that my airline ticket contract says there are change fees, but I don’t think it’s fair I have to pay them.”

The reason questions like this bother me is because there are people who seem to think that insurance companies solely exist to bail them out of every possible fee they might have to pay for not fulfilling their end of their airline ticket contract.

This is true for all insurance products: Life, Health, Dental, Automobile, Homeowners, Renters, Disability, etc. There is no shortage of people who want someone else to pay for their inconveniences. Here’s a typical example: I know someone who filed three collision claims for minor damage on their car in a four month period. One was because they were driving distracted and hit a curb for $550 damage to the front wheels. Another was for a car door ding they received in a parking lot from someone else’s door ($382 damage) and the third was for backing up and damaging the rear bumper ($770 damage). I, myself, wouldn’t have ever filed those claims. Nor would most people.

What do you think happened when they received their Automobile insurance renewal? Do you think they said to themselves, “Yes, I see why my premiums jumped 32%. I deserve it.” If that’s what you thought, you are mistaken. Instead, they said “Why are we getting such a big increase? These were accidents through no fault of our own. Let’s call Steve Dasseos – he must know a way out of this. ” When they called me, they were stunned to hear that I thought the insurance company did the right thing. I told them that when the administrative costs are added in to their claim, it’s likely those three claims cost more than $5,000. The $1,702 they received wasn’t the companies’ only cost. Even with the 32% increase the insurance company will need years to re-coup your losses.

Back to the original request: “We want a travel insurance plan that will pay the airline’s change fee if we decide to adjust our travel dates and leave a few days later. The change fee is in the hundreds of dollars. I don’t want to pay that much money.”

We tell these people “Trip Cancellation insurance doesn’t cover pre-departure date changes. That’s why airlines let you pay a change fee so you can change your travel dates.”

In other words, if you voluntarily change your travel dates after you bought your airfare because you discover you have a scheduling conflict with your original travel dates your airline already has a procedure in place to handle this. You pay them a change fee and they will allow you to change your dates.

Since they tend not to like this answer, they want to know if the Cancel For Any Reason trip cancellation insurance policy will work for them.

We tell them that it won’t because trip cancellation insurance requires you to cancel your trip, not change the dates. If you completely cancel and meet all the requirements of your policy, then, yes, you will be covered.

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What Does Prepaid Mean?

What Does Prepaid Mean?

On April 18, 2012 I wrote a blog called “Don’t Waste $429 on Un-Needed Trip Cancellation Insurance“. I got so many questions about that one, on September 26, 2012 I wrote a blog called “You Cannot Get a Refund on Non Prepaid Trip Costs“. In both blogs I referred to “Prepaid Trip Costs” and I said “Prepaid means the cost is paid before you leave on your trip” in the latter post.

In addition to a trip cost being prepaid, it also has to be non-refundable on your departure date to be insurable by a trip cancellation travel insurance plan.

That should have been sufficient, don’t you think? It wasn’t, so after a few more years of Deanna, Becky, Kim and myself telling thousands of people what “prepaid” means, I thought it was time to write this.

The definition on Dictionary.com is:
verb (used with object), prepaid, prepaying.
1. to pay or arrange to pay beforehand or before due: “to prepay the loan.”

This, too, shouldn’t need to be said, which is exactly why I need to say it: If you are forced to cancel your trip due to any of the covered reasons, your prepaid trip cost must have been paid at least one day before the event happens that causes you to cancel your trip.

If you are leaving home on a Friday and you got hit by a cement truck two weeks earlier which resulted in your doctor telling you to cancel your trip, don’t pay any more money toward your travel arrangements. If you’re thinking “Who would be that dumb?”, I’ll tell you:

In March of 2009, someone called me saying they had gotten extremely ill and their doctor said they had to cancel their trip. I told them to go ahead and cancel all their travel arrangements right away. Three days later they called me and said that they were told by their tour company that since the Final Payment was due soon, they should just pay the Final Payment, which they did, because their travel insurance will cover it! I told them the tour company was wrong. They never would tell me if the tour company refunded that Final Payment.

In other words, if you prepay for the travel arrangement(s) before something happens that causes you to cancel and that prepayment is before your departure date and it’s fully non-refundable on your departure date you can insure the cost you paid put-of-pocket.

Let’s apply this definition to some common travel arrangements:

Cruise Prepaid and non-refundable often months in advance
Tour (Tour Company) Prepaid and non-refundable often months in advance
Airfare Bought With Cash Prepaid and non-refundable often months in advance
Airfare Using Airline Frequent Flyer Miles Counts as a $0 trip cost. Read this about FF Miles for more info.
Airfare Using Award Points Counts as a $0 trip cost. Read this about Award Points for more info.
Hotel Refundable, or held with a credit card, or Prepaid and non-refundable.
Rental Car Usually paid after returning the car. Sometimes is prepaid and non-refundable.

This list of common travel arrangements’ trip costs doesn’t include all the possible costs you could prepay, so it’s up to you to figure out what is and isn’t prepaid and non-refundable.

Remember, anything you can prepay and that is non-refundable on your departure date can be insured.

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Protect Yourself When You Are Online

I’m sure you are well aware of all the data breaches that have taken place over the past few years. It seems like there’s a new one every few days. In fact, just today, a client told me that his Chase credit card was being re-issued because of the recent Home Depot data breach. Unfortunately, I also have a Chase credit I never used at Home Depot, so I’ll probably be getting a new one.

Earlier this year, all my credit cards were re-issued because of the Target data breach. The frustrating part of that was that I only ever use my Target Card at Target, yet all my credit cards were still re-issued. When I asked each of those companies why they were doing that they all said it was done as a precaution not because they suspected my account was compromised.

And, when a credit card number is changed, you have to change all your automatic payments which takes time. You cannot stop hackers from breaking into the merchants you buy from, but you can protect yourself.

Here are four simple steps to protect yourself:

  1. Don’t save your credit card information with online merchants. Just because the credit card appears as “**** **** **** 1234”, the “****” ‘s are no guarantee that they are stored securely. For example, TripInsuranceStore.com doesn’t save credit card information. No one ever complains when we ask for their card information.
  2. At a minimum use long and complicated passwords with your accounts. We use at least 17 digit long passwords on the TripInsuranceStore.com email accounts. To give you an example of what I mean by complicated, here’s a password I no longer use: Ds45*Po%bZ#rdJ^q
  3. Use different passwords for your different online accounts
  4. Enable “Two Step Verification” on your emails and financial accounts. That means if someone tries to access the account from a non-verified place, you get a notification. Here’s how Google describes this.

If you don’t want to have to keep track of all your complicated passwords, get a password manager. I use LastPass. With LastPass, you have one long complicated password that is your Master Password. You have to remember that one because it’s not stored anywhere. For my many smart subscribers, here’s how LastPass works: “We’ve implemented AES 256-bit encryption with routinely-increased PBKDF2 iterations.”

Try LastPass out for free here.

Another good idea is to use secure online storage to store important documents. I use DropBox for my online storage. I can access my DropBox folder from anywhere, too. DropBox is free and comes with 2 GB of storage.>.

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What is a Trip Itinerary?

I’m helping someone with their claim. In order for the travel insurance company to know someone took the trip they insured, they need a copy of the trip itinerary. Makes sense, right? Thanks to this person’s email to me, it just dawned on me that many people probably don’t know what a trip itinerary is:

I don’t know what is a trip itinerary. Travel agents just make them up. We went to New Orleans for a week to just hang out. Stayed at a friends apartment there. So what are they looking for?

A Trip Itinerary is your travel plan — where you will go or went and when you will be or were there. It could be a confirmation letter or email from an airline, cruise line or tour company. It could also be provided from your travel agent.

Why is the Trip Itinerary important?

The reason the Trip Itinerary is important is because an insurance department needs to verify you were where you said you were if you have a claim. If you bought trip insurance for a Danube River cruise and submitted a medical claim that was for medical treatment in Argentina during the same dates you were supposed to be on the Danube River cruise, you will need to do some explaining.

What can you do when you don’t have a copy of your Trip Itinerary?

All’s not lost. It’s certain your claim will be delayed, but you can get a copy at least one of these ways:

  • Scour your emails for a copy of your itinerary or confirmation
  • Sending copies of your passport pages showing your name(s), the entry and departure stamps from both US & the other country’s Immigration. The entry and departure stamps will include your dates of travel.
  • Ask the cruise line or tour company for a copy of your itinerary
  • Go to the airline and request a copy of your travel dates
  • Ask your travel agent

Don’t forget this:

While I’m on this subject, it’s important that your trip insurance policy dates match up with your actual travel dates. If you are returning home on a certain date and a month before your trip the airline tells you your return flight was changed to the following day, you need to change your policy’s Return Date to match. If not, you’ll lose your baggage coverage for that new flight because your policy will end the day before.

On the other hand, if your return flight home is delayed for a covered reason while you are on your trip (ie – you’re still in the hospital after getting hit by a cement truck incident or an unexpected ash cloud from a volcano cancels your flight) your policy continues in force until you return home a few days later.

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What is the Difference Between Trip Cancellation and Trip Cancellation for Any Reason?

The Trip cancellation coverage means some covered reason causes you to cancel your trip. The “Cancel For Any Reason / Change Your Mind” is an optional upgrade that allows you to cancel your trip for any reason including ones that are not normally covered reasons. If you have a “Cancel For Any Reason” claim, it will simplify your claim if you enter the reason for cancellation as “I changed my mind”.

The normally covered reasons to cancel a trip include you, a close family member or a traveling companion gets unexpectedly hurt or sick before you leave (if it’s one of the travelers make sure they see their doctor in person because their doctor must say they can’t travel). If you insured your prepaid non-refundable trip costs, Travel Insurance reimburses you the money you lose. This can include pre-existing medical conditions.

Other events that could cause you to cancel your trip are: Your travel supplier unexpectedly ceases operation, you are laid off, you are required to work, terrorism at your destination, bad weather, hurricanes, natural disasters or unexpected jury duty.

The timing of when something happens determines if it’s a trip cancellation or trip interruption. If the covered reason happens as early as the day after you buy your trip cancellation insurance policy from us (that was a shameless plug), and before you leave, it’s a trip cancellation. If it happens after you leave, it’s a trip interruption.

Here’s my detailed page with a lot more information on the “Cancel For Any Reason / Change Your Mind” plans: https://tripinsurancestore.com/cancel-for-any-reason-travel-insurance-plans.

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When Does Your Trip Cancellation Coverage Start?

Here’s a common question:

“If I buy trip cancellation travel insurance policy today, does my coverage go into effect immediately?”

First, the answer to the question is “No, your trip cancellation coverage starts tomorrow. Nothing that occurs that causes you to cancel your trip on the date the policy is purchased is covered.”.

Next, on the surface, that question sounds innocent. But, something important is “hidden in plain sight”. What isn’t being revealed is that perhaps there is something happening right at that moment that could cause a trip cancellation.

And, as part of the call after we take an order, we double check all their travel details and then always say, “your trip cancellation coverage starts tomorrow”. Now and then telling them this results in the person not buying the policy which is fine with me.

We have never had a legitimate claim turned down from any of our companies since we started in 2001. However, we have had a few people over the years who did not have legitimate claims. In case you don’t know, we go to great lengths to uncover exactly why someone wants to get travel insurance. It’s important to us that the policy will work as expected and if it won’t to our satisfaction we will refuse to sell it. For more on this read “We Don’t Sell Travel Insurance To Everyone“.

Here are three of those non-legitimate claims:

  • A lady called us about trip insurance for a trip three months in the future that she paid in full that same day. We discussed the plan coverages with her explaining exactly what she needed to know. Later that same afternoon she called back and bought a policy. The next day she called because they need to cancel their trip. It was then that she told us she bought the policy while waiting in the Emergency Room because her husband had a heart episode. She wanted assurances that even though the policy hadn’t gone into effect that she would still be fully covered.
  • On a Wednesday a lady called to make sure she could get the waiver of the pre-existing medical condition exclusion because her husband had some currently stable medical condition. She met all the requirements and bought a policy. Five days later she cancelled her trip because, apparently, at the same time she bought the insurance her husband was having some symptoms of a brain condition. Shortly after calling us he was rushed to the Emergency Room where he received brain surgery.
  • In mid-January a man called to get trip cancellation insurance for a cruise he was about to pay the Final Payment on. He said that while his wife had been treated for a medical condition months earlier, it was completely stable. It was so stable that the last contact with any medical professional was the previous September. He also stated that, yes, they both are medically able to travel that day. A few days before the trip they filed a trip cancellation claim. What he neglected to mention was that the previous September his wife’s doctor told he she was no longer able to travel.

In case these three examples and what I wrote above are not very clear, here’s what I’m saying:

The Trip Cancellation coverage begins at 12:01 a.m. on the day after the date the policy is purchased. All other coverages begin when you leave home for your trip when your departure date is in the future. Nothing that occurs that causes you to cancel your trip on the date the policy is purchased is covered.

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We Don’t Sell Travel Insurance To Everyone

I can’t believe it’s been three months since I’ve wriiten here. I am very thankful for the way things are going at TripInsuranceStore.com. I have one large project that is getting close to the end.

Plus, there are always things to write about, but I suffer from information overload along with the rest of you. I try to look for recurring subjects that I think will be of interest. Sometimes they are obvious, while other times there is just too much that clutters up my mind.

For example, I have a draft called “I love Lawyers”, another about China, Russia and the Petrodollar plus a few other ones that could be interesting. This time I’ll be writing about why we sometimes refuse to sell travel insurance to people who call us. There are a few main reasons why this is:

  • When what they want to cover is something that cannot be covered. Sometimes what they want covered isn’t insurable like going to Cancun and it rains the whole time. Other times people are past the deadlines and travel insurance would be a waste of money. Can they still buy a plan? Yes. Will we sell it to them? No. Can they find someone online to sell them a plan? Yes. if they have a claim, will it get paid? No. Will they be mad at us and bad-mouth us to everyone they know? Nope! Read this for more info: Don’t Buy Travel Insurance When You’re Ill and Past the Deadlines
  • When someone is being deceptive with us. Everybody makes mistakes when recalling details or giving information. I’m not talking about someone forgetting that their thyroid medication was adjusted 172 days ago. Or that their uncle had some procedure 2 months ago. I’m talking about the people that just lie to us. It happens more often than I originally expected. Here’s the most blatant example I’ve had (some since have come close): Do Callers Think We Were Born Yesterday?. In a nutshell, he wanted coverage for Hurricane Irene and claimed he didn’t know it was just off the coast of Florida at the time. I have a copy of the National Hurricane Center’s satellite image on that blog.
  • If they are someone who isn’t eligible to buy a policy. These people are the opposite of the ones who lie to us. They are completely truthful. And, if they were eligible to buy a policy we would be happy to do business with them. I spoke with a nice lady last week from England who told me that her family was taking a cruise on July 28th. She completely understood that it wouldn’t cover her because she lived outside the USA.

If you aren’t one of the above, call us. We’ll help you.

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Why Must You See a Non-Family Member Doctor?

Steve, I think you have the greatest website and service. I am ready to discuss and purchase a policy from you. I just have one more question: Are there any restrictions on who we can use if something unexpected happens medically prior to leaving on a trip and we need to see a doctor? The vast majority of our doctors are close relatives and we trust their advice. Nancy K.

Nancy asks a very good question. This is one of those “devil in the details” areas that I know causes problems. Over the last 13 years, I’ve spoken with people who didn’t get their insurance from us, but later when have claim problems they call me asking for my help. {To my competitors who read my blog (you know who you are): No matter what you do to make a sale, you are morally obligated to help them with their claims. It’s sleazy to say on your websites: “the links take you to your travel insurance provider’s claim information.”}

Here’s what I told Nancy:
“Hi Nancy, Thank you for your kind words. I hope you still like me after my answer. 🙂

Yes, there are restrictions on what doctor or medical professional you see in person. Here’s what a typical policy says: “Legally Qualified Physician” means a physician or a Christian Science Practitioner (a) other than You, a Traveling Companion or a Family Member: (b) practicing within the scope of Your license: and (c) recognized as a physician in the place where the services are rendered.

As much as I enjoy selling trip cancellation travel insurance, I cannot advise you to buy it for this trip because your claim will be denied should you see a doctor who is a close relative. While it’s possible this fact won’t be discovered by the insurance company, I don’t even want there to be a hint of potential insurance fraud.”

Nancy wrote me:
“Thanks Steve. The doctor provision is extremely problematic. I realize we have a very unusual situation in that the vast majority of our doctors are close relatives (siblings or offspring). The only way to get around it is to buy the Cancel For Any Reason plan, which given the economics, turns out to be the same exact cost ($377 plus 25% of prepaid costs) that it would cost us just to pay the change fee with the airlines and forfeit one night at the hotel. Moreover, we can cancel hotel up to 24 hours before reservation without losing anything. We are just going to have to stay healthy and go on this trip.

I really appreciate your time and effort and will highly recommend you to others. Nancy”

Why are there so many denied travel insurance claims? I (Steve) firmly believe that the majority of denied claims are because the insured travelers either received the wrong advice prior to purchase or that they were sold the wrong policy by an uninformed travel insurance seller. You get our help with claims. We have never had a legitimate claim turned down from any of our companies since we started in 2001. We even help you if you didn’t buy from us.

I don’t have a hollow guarantee like a “No Complaint Policy”. The truth is that not all travel insurance claims are paid to a customer’s satisfaction. Sometimes the travel insurance company makes a mistake (I have gotten these resolved), but other times it’s not a payable claim.

A big part of that is that we go to great lengths to educate you. If travel insurance isn’t a good idea for you to buy it, we will tell you not to buy it, If you insist, we will refuse to sell it to you (like I told Nancy).

Before you start to whine about having to do all that work, ask yourself “When was the last time my travel agent or a company who sold me travel insurance gave me any service after they had my money?”

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