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Coronavirus exposes little-known travel insurance clause

You might not have realised, but epidemics and pandemics aren't always covered by travel insurance.

Updated . What changed?

Fact checked
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warningA travel ban is in place for all Australians effective 25 March 2020. Most travel insurance brands will not cover you if you travel against a government warning. If you already have a policy, please contact your insurer directly for more information. We are currently updating our site to reflect the Australian government’s advice. Some travel insurance policies will be temporarily unavailable.

Thousands of Australians have been looking at travel insurance more closely in recent months, as the coronavirus continues to disrupt plans around the world. This extra attention has exposed a common clause featured in many travel insurance policies, which excludes claims related to epidemics and pandemics.

As time has gone by, we've noticed that more and more travel insurers have changed their product disclosure statements (PDS) to now explicitly exclude claims related to epidemics and pandemics.

We've updated our research and have found that from 32 Australian travel insurance companies, only three provide some level of cover.

Nine companies didn't clearly state if pandemics were covered, while twenty companies now completely exclude cover.

What is an epidemic or pandemic? Are they the same thing?

An epidemic is the rapid spread of an infectious disease to a large number of people in a given region, within a short period of time. A pandemic is the worldwide spread of a new disease.

While epidemics and pandemics are considered two different things, they're usually treated in the same way by travel insurers. Often, your PDS will refer to both.

What do I need cover for?

  • Cancellation or change fees charged by the airline, hotel or travel company if your trip is affected
  • Medical expenses for doctors appointments, hospital visits and treatments
  • Expenses if you need medical evacuation to get you to a suitable medical facility

What won't I be covered for?

  • Travel expenses if the travel service provider offers you a reasonable alternative such as a credit voucher
  • Any expenses if you bought your policy after the pandemic becomes a known event
  • Any expenses if your policy doesn't include cover for epidemics and pandemics

Which travel insurance brands cover pandemics and epidemics?

In our research, we found 3 brands that explain the type of claims they will cover in relation to epidemics and pandemics. However, cover varies a lot between different insurers.

BrandRelevant section/sWhat the PDS saysTravel alert
Columbus DirectCancellation and Curtailment Costs, Catastrophe; You are covered..."a regulation from the government of your Country of Residence following an epidemic"See travel alert
Tick Travel InsuranceCancelling your trip before departure; What you are covered for..."you cannot travel because of government restrictions after an epidemic."See travel alert
TildaCancellation costs; we will pay you if...

With General exclusions

"you cannot travel because of government restrictions after an epidemic.General exclusions:You do not follow advice from a government or other official body's warning in the mass media:
See travel alert

While some brands are very transparent in how they're handling pandemics and epidemics, cover can be superseded by travel alerts and cut-off dates.

Looking for other insurance options?

Find out how to protect your finances during the global coronavirus pandemic with insurance.

Travel insurance brands that aren't clear on epidemics and pandemics

Out of the 32 brands we analysed, 8 either don't reference epidemics and pandemics, or they aren't clear on exactly how related claims will be treated.
Insurers often say that if something is not mentioned in a PDS, then it is likely not covered. For some brands, it seems that cover for epidemics and pandemics are only excluded from some benefits, but there are also no mentions of included cover.

BrandRelevant section/sWhat the PDS saysTravel alerts
ahmCruise; We will not pay for..."an Epidemic, Pandemic or outbreak of an infectious disease or any derivative or mutation of such viruses (or arising directly or indirectly from these) or the threat, or perceived threat, of any of these."See travel alert
AllclearN/ANot mentionedSee travel alert
American ExpressSpecial exclusion"This Policy does not cover and we will not (under any sections) pay for claims of any kind directly or indirectly arising from, relating to or in any way connected with the Coronavirus Disease 19 (COVID-19) (or any mutation or variation thereof) and/or its outbreak. To the extent that any term or condition in the Policy may be inconsistent with this exclusion, this exclusion shall prevail"See travel alert
InsureandGoN/ANot mentionedSee travel alert
MedibankCruise; We will not pay for claims..."caused by an Epidemic, Pandemic or outbreak of an infectious disease or any derivative or mutation of such viruses (or arising from these) or the threat, or perceived threat, of any of these."See travel alert
QantasN/ANot mentionedSee travel alert
RACVN/ANot mentionedSee travel alert
Travel Insurance DirectGeneral exclusions applicable to all sections
"A loss that arises because you did not follow advice in the mass media of a government or other official body's warning: a) against travel to a particular country or parts of a country; or b) of a strike, riot, bad weather, civil commotion or contagious disease; or
See travel alert
Travel Insurance SaverN/ANot mentionedSee travel alert

As you can see, some insurers make references to cruises, but it's not clear whether they will cover claims for non-cruise holidays. Also, even though epidemics and pandemics are not mentioned by some insurers, we can't confirm whether they will definitely be included.

Lots of travel insurers have released alerts that help existing customers understand specific policy benefits. Some have even stated that each claim will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Always contact your insurer directly if you have any questions.

Travel insurance brands that don't cover pandemics and epidemics

Of the 32 travel insurance policies we analysed, 15 indicated that claims related to epidemics and pandemics would be excluded to some extent.

However, don't lose hope just yet. Some of these brands have issued travel alerts stating that they may pay some claims related to the coronavirus. Contact your insurer and keep up to date with travel alerts for the most accurate information.

Remember: It doesn't cost anything to submit a claim to your insurance company. So there's no harm in lodging a claim, even if you're unsure it'll be paid.
BrandRelevant section/sWhat the PDS saysTravel alerts
Budget DirectGeneral exclusions"Any claim directly or indirectly arising from an epidemic, pandemic or outbreak of an infectious disease, virus or condition, including any derivative or mutation of such disease, virus or condition, or the threat or perceived threat of any such epidemic, pandemic or outbreak."n/a
1CoverGeneral exclusions
"13. Your claim arises from, is related to or associated with an actual or likely epidemic or pandemic or the threat of an epidemic or pandemic.In this section:'epidemic' means a sudden development and rapid spreading of a contagious disease in a region where it developed in a simply
See travel alert
Australia PostAdditional expenses, amendment or cancellation, travel delay, special events; We will not pay claims caused by..."an Epidemic, Pandemic or outbreak of an infectious disease or any derivative or mutation of such viruses, or the threat or perceived threat of any of these."n/a
BoomersGeneral exclusions applicable to all sections"Your claim arises from, is related to or associated with; • an actual or likely epidemic or pandemic; or • the threat of an epidemic or pandemic. Refer to www.who.int and www.smartraveller.gov.au for further information on epidemics and pandemics."n/a
CoverMoreAdditional expenses, Amendment and cancellation costs, Travel delay, Special events; We will not pay for claims caused by..."an Epidemic, Pandemic or outbreak of an infectious disease or any derivative or mutation of such viruses (or arising directly or indirectly from these) or the threat, or perceived threat, of any of these."See travel alert
Fast CoverGeneral exclusions that apply to all benefits"Your claim arises from or is related to or is associated with; an actual or likely epidemic or pandemic; or the threat of an epidemic or pandemic."See travel alert
Holiday RescueHoliday cancellations and changes; We won't pay..."Arising from, or related to, an actual or likely epidemic or pandemic, or threat or perceived threat of an epidemic or pandemic, as defined or notified by the World Health Organisation (who.int) or the Government of Australia (smartraveller.gov.au)."See travel alert
ING Travel InsuranceGeneral exclusion"Any claims directly or indirectly arising from an epidemic, pandemic or outbreak of an infectious disease, virus or condition, including any derivative or mutation of such disease, virus or condition, or the threat or perceived threat of any such epidemic, pandemic or outbreak"n/a
Insure4lessCancellation Fees, Lost Deposits And Curtailment, Travel Delay And Abandonment Of Trip, Resumption Of Trip; We will not cover you for..."an Epidemic, Pandemic or outbreak of an infectious disease or any derivative or mutation of such viruses (or arising directly or indirectly from these) or the threat, or perceived threat, of any of these"See travel alert
iTrekGeneral exclusions
"Your claim arises from, is related to or associated with an actual or likely epidemic or pandemic or the threat of an epidemic or pandemic. In this section:'epidemic' means a sudden development and rapid spreading of a contagious disease in a region where it developed in a simply endemic state or within a previously unscathed community; and
See travel alert
Online Travel InsuranceGeneral exclusions applicable to all sections"your claim arises from, is related to or associated with: • an actual or likely epidemic or pandemic; or • the threat of an epidemic or pandemic. Refer to www.who.int and www.smartraveller.gov.au for further information on epidemics and pandemics."See travel alert
Southern Cross Travel InsuranceOther losses we do not cover"an epidemic illness or pandemic illness, or the threat or perceived threat of any such epidemic illness or pandemic illness;"See travel alert
Travel InsuranzCancellation Fees, Lost Deposits And Curtailment, Travel Delay And Abandonment Of Trip, Resumption of Trip; We will not cover you for..."an Epidemic, Pandemic or outbreak of an infectious disease or any derivative or mutation of such viruses (or arising directly or indirectly from these) or the threat, or perceived threat, of any of these"See travel alert
Travel with JaneGeneral exclusions"This Policy shall not cover any claim directly or indirectly attributable to pandemic and/or epidemic, notably at this time Coronavirus, Covid-19 including any related and/or similar condition(s) howsoever called"See travel alert
Travel with KitGeneral exclusions"This Policy shall not cover any claim directly or indirectly attributable to pandemic and/or epidemic, notably at this time Coronavirus, Covid-19 including any related and/or similar condition(s) howsoever called"See travel alert
Virgin MoneyGeneral exclusions applicable to all sections"Your claim arises from, is related to or associated with; • an actual or likely epidemic or pandemic; or • the threat of an epidemic or pandemic. Refer to www.who.int and www.smartraveller.gov.au for further information on epidemics and pandemics"See travel alert
WebjetAdditional expenses, amendment or cancellation, travel delay, special events; We will not pay claims caused by"an Epidemic, Pandemic or outbreak of an infectious disease or any derivative or mutation of such viruses, or the threat or perceived threat of any of these."n/a
World2CoverGeneral exclusions applicable to all sections"Or is related to or is associated with;

• an actual or likely epidemic or pandemic • the threat of an epidemic or pandemic

Refer to www.who.int and www.smartraveller.gov.au for more information"

See travel alert
WorldcareGeneral exclusions applicable to all sections"Your claim arises from, is related to or associated with; • an actual or likely epidemic or pandemic; or • the threat of an epidemic or pandemic. Refer to www.who.int and www.smartraveller.gov.au for further information on epidemics and pandemics"See travel alert
ZoomGeneral exclusions applicable to all sections"Your claim arises from, is related to or associated with; • an actual or likely epidemic or pandemic; or • the threat of an epidemic or pandemic. Refer to www.who.int and www.smartraveller.gov.au for further information on epidemics and pandemics"See travel alert

It's also important to be mindful that the developing situation of coronavirus means that some insurers are straying away from their PDS warnings. When looking for your policy benefits, you should always check the PDS, then check if there are any travel alerts or statements released.

Picture: GettyImages

Information in this article is accurate as of 4 March 2020. As the situation with coronavirus is developing, insurers may change their PDS wording and travel alerts. If you're unsure, contact your travel insurer directly.

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