Do I need travel insurance when going to the United States?
The United States is a popular holiday destination for Australians, but it can also be an expensive one – especially if something goes wrong.
Travel insurance can protect you from a range of costs including lost luggage, cancellations and medical expenses. And when you consider that it costs $750+ for one night in a US hospital, but only $98.51* for a travel insurance policy, the difference of $652.61 is nothing to sneeze at.
Real claims from real people
$259,000 for a heart attack. A traveller in his 60s suffered a heart attack while travelling in the United States, had to undergo cardiac surgery and was flown back home with a non-medical escort (Southern Cross Travel Insurance, 2018).
$199,721 for appendicitis. A woman developed a severe case of appendicitis which became gangrenous. This meant time in intensive care, surgery and a high level of post-operative care (Travel Insurance Direct, 2016)
$81,735.95 for a cruise ship accident. Overseas emergency medical treatment, medical evacuation from a cruise ship and repatriation back to Australia would have cost over $80,000 if they didn't have travel insurance (Fast Cover, 2015).
$630,000 for a premature birth. A woman went into labour early while travelling in the USA. Because she had travel insurance and had declared her pregnancy, both she and her newborn baby were covered (Columbus Direct, 2014).
Average cost of a policy vs the cost of a hospital per night
The average cost of a policy for a two-week trip to the USA is $57.29* for a 26-year-old. This policy includes cover for unlimited overseas medical and hospital expenses.
*Travel insurance prices last obtained on April 2018. Prices subject to change.
**Cost of hospital bed based on WHO Department of Health Systems Financing (2011) estimates.
What does travel insurance cover in the USA?
Now that we've got your attention, let's talk about what's generally covered with travel insurance and what's not.
Medical bills. Even a short trip to the doctor can be costly with a visit to a GP costing between $150 and $200. Having a travel insurance policy can protect you against a range of medical costs including the following:
Medical and hospital costs
Emergency dental expenses
Hospital cash allowance. This is not the same as overseas medical expenses protection. It provides you with a daily allowance to pay for things like phone calls home and hospital food.
Personal liability. Your insurance covers your legal liability in situations where you are liable for bodily injury or property damage to a third party. Some basic policies end their level of cover here.
Lost cancellation fees and lost deposits. If unforeseen circumstances, such as losing your job or a death in the family, force you to cut your trip short or cancel it altogether, this cover can help you recover cancellation fees or prepaid deposits which you otherwise wouldn't be able to recover. Most travel insurance for USA policies have this feature.
Luggage delays. If an airline or tour company misplaces your luggage for an extended period of time, you’ll receive the funds you need to buy emergency clothing and toiletries.
Luggage and personal effects if lost or stolen. If your luggage and personal belongings are lost, stolen or damaged, you’ll be reimbursed for the cost of their repair or replacement.
Delays. If your journey is disrupted due to circumstances beyond your control, you’ll receive a benefit payment to cover the costs of additional meals and accommodation expenses.
Accidental death benefit. Your loved ones will receive a benefit if you die as a result of an injury sustained during your journey.
Stolen credit cards. If your credit cards are lost or stolen on your holiday, you’ll be covered for the cost of their replacement and for any loss you suffer due to their fraudulent use.
Lost travel documents. If your passport or other important travel documents are lost or stolen, you’ll be covered for the cost of their replacement.
Alternative transport expenses. If unforeseen circumstances delay your trip and you're unable to arrive at a pre-arranged event (for example, a wedding) on time, you'll be covered for the cost of alternative transport expenses.
Rental vehicle excess. If your rental car is involved in an accident, stolen or damaged, your policy covers the cost of the rental company's insurance excess.
Policy costs depend on a couple of factors including age, length of travel and any risky activities you might be planning, for example skiing, skydiving or going on a cruise.
For example, if you're a 26-year-old travelling the US for a week, policies can start from as little as $45.56** which covers unlimited medical. Throw in cancellation and luggage cover and this can work its way up to $57.82** and with lite ski cover it can go up to $134.67**.
Disclaimer. Please note that the prices above are designed to provide an average of the cost of all policies available on finder.com.au for the destination. For a more accurate quote, please use the engine above. Enter your travel details to view all available prices and policies. **This based on the lowest cost obtained for a 14-day policy to the US as of August 2018.
How can I find cheap travel insurance to the USA?
The cost of travel insurance for the Unites States varies based on lots of things like how old you are, what activities you'll be doing and what level of cover you choose. But to give you some idea of cheap policies, we ran some real quotes using the profile of a 25-year-old Aussie going on a 14-day trip to the USA. Here are the cheapest we found amont the brands on Finder:
*Prices shown are accurate as of November 2018. Prices are illustrative only and subject to change - for the most accurate pricing, use the quote engine above.
18% off travel insurance until 19 June 2019 plus a chance to win around-the-world flights for you and a friend by 30 June 2019.
Purchase travel insurance during the promotional period to qualify. If multiple people specified on Medibank travel insurance policy, only the first adult stated on the Certificate of Insurance will be entered into the draw. Policy must not be cancelled at time of draw to be eligible.
Annual travel insurance. If you head to the US or overseas regularly, annual travel insurance policies can cover your year's worth of travel. To make this policy worth it, you need to make roughly 3.5 overseas trips a year. While it's a money-saver for frequent travellers, the downside is that individual trips are capped at 30 and 90 days.
With all these options, you can get cover for singles, couples, families and groups.
Types of policies are then further broken down into basic, standard or comprehensive policies. These are on a tiered system in terms of cover and cost, with basic policies generally only covering medical expenses and being the cheapest options and comprehensive policies including lost luggage, personal effects and cancellation for a premium.
What else might I need cover for in the USA?
General travel and sightseeing are included in most travel insurance policies, but there are exclusions you may need to consider adding on as extras before you leave. This can include the following:
Ski insurance. Planning to hit the slopes? Ski insurance can cover you for lost or damaged equipment (hired or owned) and reimbursement for unused ski passes.
Golf insurance. This includes cover for the loss, theft or damage of golf equipment that you either own or have hired. If accidental injury or sickness means you are unable to play, the cost of your unused green fees are also covered.
Do I need rental car insurance in America?
If you rent a car in the USA, travel insurance can cover you in the following ways:
Rental excess charges
The cost of returning your rental vehicle to the company if you are unable to drive
Make sure your policy has rental excess cover if you're driving. While the company you're hiring the car from will offer you insurance for third-party and motor damage, you will be charged the cost of the excess if the car is damaged, stolen or involved in an accident. Make sure you compare travel insurance policies with rental excess cover.
Is your credit card travel insurance enough?
Some credit cards offer complimentary travel insurance if you pay for your trip with the card. This may sound enticing, but be aware that there are limitations to free credit card travel insurance. The following are some drawbacks of credit card travel insurance:
A cap on some benefits including overseas medical cover.
Exclusions for some adventure activities. Skiing and snowboarding activities are usually excluded.
High excess charges. Some credit travel insurance policies can charge up to $500 in excess when you make a claim.
Remember to declare your pre-existing medical conditions
When applying for travel insurance for your trip to the USA, it's essential that you disclose any pre-existing medical conditions you have. If you fail to do so and a pre-existing condition results in a claim, your insurer will most likely refuse your claim.
Every year, you'll hear cases of travellers who have piled up huge medical bills in the USA because they weren't covered for a pre-existing medical condition. Check with your insurer to determine whether cover is available.
Some conditions, such as diabetes or allergies, are automatically covered, while others can be covered after assessing your individual circumstances.
Certain pre-existing conditions are excluded from cover. If you assume that your condition is covered and you are hospitalised overseas, the cost to you could be substantial.
Latest Smartraveller USA update
United States of America
Exercise normal safety precautions 17 March 2019 | Read more
How to find the best travel insurance for the USA
While there's no such thing as one travel insurance policy that's best for everyone going to the United States, it's always a good idea to look at what a policy covers, and to what degree. To make it easier for you, we looked at all the policies in our database, ranked them according to how much cover they offer and gave them a score from 1-10 called the Finder Rating (10 being the most comprehensive).
Here are the individual policies that came out on top for a trip to the USA from 1-30 April 2019:
Budget Direct Comprehensive: 9.3 out of 10
Fast Cover Comprehensive: 9.1 out of 10
Zoom Travel Insurance Comprehensive: 9.0 out of 10
1Cover Comprehensive: 8.9 out of 10
WorldCare Comprehensive: 8.7 out of 10
Travel Insurance Saver Premium Plus: 8.2 out of 10
Virgin Money Comprehensive: 8.2 out of 10
Australia Post International Comprehensive: 7.9 out of 10
Columbus Direct Single Trip Premier: 7.9 out of 10
Online Travel Insurance Comprehensive: 7.8 out of 10
While these ratings are a good way to evaluate policies and what they offer, only you can decide which one is right for you.
Who can you contact in an emergency?
If you find yourself in an emergency situation in the USA, some helpful contacts include the following:
National emergency hotline. You can reach this service by dialling 911.
Your travel insurer. Your travel insurance brand will have a 24/7 helpline for claims and medical emergencies.
Australian Embassies and Consulates. You can find the contact details of Australian Embassies and Consulates in the USA below.
Frequently asked questions
Yes, but it's not always the best idea. Travel agents can add hefty commissions to the price of the policies they sell. It doesn't hurt to compare your options. Get a quote from them and see how it compares to other brands online.
The exact treatment of pre-existing conditions differs between insurance providers. While some allow you to take out cover for certain conditions, others exclude all pre-existing medical problems from your policy. Speak to your insurer for more information.
Typically, policies cover you on any run within a ski resort that is deemed safe. However check the fine print of your PDS or speak to your insurer direct for confirmation before purchase.
*The products compared on this page are chosen from a range of offers available to us and are not representative of all the products available in the market. There is no perfect order or perfect ranking system for the products we list on our Site, so we provide you with the functionality to self-select, re-order and compare products. The initial display order is influenced by a range of factors including conversion rates, product costs and commercial arrangements, so please don't interpret the listing order as an endorsement or recommendation from us. We're happy to provide you with the tools you need to make better decisions, but we'd like you to make your own decisions and compare and assess products based on your own preferences, circumstances and needs.
Richard Laycock is Finder's insurance editor, and has spent the last five years wrangling insurance product disclosure statements. His musings about insurance have appeared on Money Mag, Yahoo Finance, and Travel Weekly. When he’s not helping people make sense of insurance fine print, he is testing the quality of cocktails in his newfound home of New York. Richard studied Media at Macquarie University and The Missouri School of Journalism and has a Tier 1 Certification in General Advice for Life Insurance.
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