If you have to cancel upcoming travel due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, your travel insurance policy may cover some or all of the costs. But this will depend on your policy and various other factors.
If you’re relying on credit card travel insurance, it is important to note that some credit card travel insurance policies specifically exclude claims resulting from epidemics or pandemics. This includes the travel insurance policies that come with CommBank, ANZ and Westpac credit cards. However, NAB and American Express travel insurance policies do not specifically exclude travel cancellation claims arising from epidemics.
Does travel insurance cover cancellation expenses due to coronavirus?
In general, if you have booked a trip to China, your travel insurance should compensate you for cancellation expenses as the Australian government has issued a “do not travel” warning for the country. However, if you’ve booked a trip to another destination and have simply changed your mind about wanting to travel, insurance may not cover this unless you’ve bought a “Cancel-For-Any-Reason” policy.
Keep in mind that travel insurance will not cover anything related to coronavirus if you purchased your policy after the outbreak became a known event. The date that each insurance provider considers that this became a known event varies slightly, but it’s generally between 20-24 January 2020.
(This is why it’s a good idea to purchase travel insurance as soon as you’ve booked your trip, rather than waiting until just before you leave. It doesn’t cost extra to take out travel insurance in advance of your trip, and you’re then covered for many events beyond your control that happen before you’ve departed.)
Even if your travel insurance won’t cover cancellation expenses, many airlines are currently offering travel waivers. You may be able to cancel or change your flights without penalty if your travel is covered by an airline waiver.
Which credit card travel insurance policies exclude cover for epidemics?
Some, but not all, travel insurance providers specifically exclude cover for travel cancellations due to epidemics or pandemics. Choice has published a useful list of which insurers do and don’t cover claims relating coronavirus.
But what if you’re using credit card travel insurance?
In Australia, the credit insurance policies of ANZ, NAB and Westpac are all issued by Allianz. However, the policies are not identical.
This is what Allianz itself says about insurance claims for travel that has not yet commenced:
If your pre-booked travel arrangements are cancelled, delayed or rescheduled as a result of Coronavirus and you have a travel insurance policy that does not exclude claims arising from an epidemic or pandemic, you may be able to make a claim for cancellation or re-arrangement of your journey (whichever is the lesser). Please refer to your Product Disclosure Statement and/or Credit Card complimentary insurance booklet for the terms, conditions, limits and exclusions that apply, including any applicable general exclusion(s).
ANZ and Westpac credit travel insurance
The policies for ANZ and Westpac credit cards cover cancellations due to specific types of unforeseen events, including natural disasters. However, “natural disasters” is defined to specifically exclude epidemics or pandemics. For example, the ANZ insurance policy document states that:
Natural disaster means any event or force of nature that has catastrophic consequences, such as avalanche, earthquake, flood, bush fire, hurricane, tornado, cyclone, tsunami and volcanic eruption, but not epidemics or pandemics.
NAB credit card travel insurance
Even though NAB’s travel insurance policy is also from Allianz, we could not find a specific exclusion for epidemics in the NAB policy information booklet. The NAB policy states:
If you have to cancel any pre-paid travel arrangements due to any of the unforeseen circumstances outside of your control listed below, we will pay the value of the unused travel arrangements, less any refunds due to you, or the reasonable cost of rearranging your trip, provided that this cost is not greater than the cancellation fees or lost deposits which would have been incurred had the trip been cancelled.
The policy covers unforeseen circumstances beyond your control, except for a list of exclusions – none of which are related to epidemics or pandemics.
American Express credit card travel insurance
The American Express travel insurance policies, which are underwritten by Chubb, also do not exclude cancellation expenses due to the coronavirus outbreak.
CommBank credit card travel insurance
CommBank’s travel insurance policies are underwritten by Cover-More, which is generally covering “medical claims in conjunction with associated additional expenses in relation to coronavirus”, but not cancellations unless you purchased “Can-For-Any-Reason” cover. However, Cover-More travel insurance policies cover less if they come with a credit or debit card. In this case, all claims relating to coronavirus are specifically excluded. The Cover-More website states:
If you have travel insurance with Cover-More via your credit or debit card, this event is excluded and there is no cover.
Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Have you had to change/cancel travel due to 2019 n-CoV (involuntarily or voluntarily)?