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How to make a travel insurance claim

21 January, 2020 By Crystal Moran

Travel cover is a necessity that you hope you'll never have to use. However, sometimes holidays don’t go to plan, and you may need to make a travel insurance claim. We walk you through how a travel insurance claim works, what documents you might need, and how you can get your money back in your pocket sooner. 

Before you travel | Emergency medical claims | Non-emergency medical claims | All other travel claims | FAQs

Before you travel

Too many travellers run into trouble at claims time because they bought a policy that simply doesn't cover the things they assumed it did. Finding the right policy and tailoring it to your needs is the most important step in making your travel insurance claim go smoothly.

1. Review your trip cover policy terms

Most travel insurance policies are sold online, so you've got no excuse for not reading the fine print. Carefully review your policy, and use your computer's Find feature ('Ctrl F' for Windows or 'Command F' for Mac) to search the policy for keywords that are particularly important to you e.g. pre-existing medical, family emergencies, cameras. Check out our guide on choosing the right travel insurance policy for more tips.

2. Check your extras

It's no good claiming for an injury on your hiking holiday if your policy doesn't cover hiking or trekking to the elevation you're at. Check your policy for limitations and add-ons for the type of trip you're on. Popular extras include adventure activities, skiing, cruising, car hire cover, high-value items, and bicycle coverage.

3. Declare your pre-existing conditions

Declaring all your pre-existing conditions, and getting them listed on your Certificate of Insurance means you're protected from eye-watering bills should you need to claim.

Check your insurer's definition of a pre-existing condition - sometimes it's something in the last 12 months, while with other insurers it can be any condition you've ever had. Visit our guide on pre-existing medical conditions for more information on getting the right cover.

4. Get your certificate of insurance and emergency details

If you're rushed to a hospital, or your wallet is stolen, or your phone breaks, having copies of your important information and phone numbers can be a huge help. We recommend having a soft (digital) and a hard (print out/photocopy) of your:

  • travel insurance certificate of insurance
  • passport
  • flight itinerary
  • emergency contact details for family or friends back home
  • contact information for your bank's card cancellation line
  • medical information such as any medication you're on

Having this information handy can not only speed up your insurance claim, but could help you get home safer.

Emergency Medical Claims

1. Get to a hospital

If you or someone you're travelling with is in an emergency medical situation, get to a hospital or call an ambulance.

2. Contact your insurer's emergency line

All good insurers have a 24/7 emergency contact number that you can call. These emergency teams can offer guarantees of payment to hospitals, liaise with your doctors (very helpful in a foreign country), sort out medical transfers or evacuations back to Australia, and can contact family and friends back home.

Most insurers require you to get in touch with these teams before you start incurring costs in a hospital, or as soon as you are physically able. Keeping your insurance details in your wallet can help fellow travellers or hospitals to make this contact for you. In some parts of the world, hospitals may refuse treatment if they don't know they will be paid. 

emergency medical claims

Non-emergency medical claims

Unwell or injured? Many insurers let you pay-and-claim for low-value medical claims. So here's what you need to know if you're headed to a GP with gastro or a sprained ankle.

1. Get to a doctor

Unique and compelling insights like this are why we get paid the big bucks.

2. Check your policy

Most insurers expect you to pay-and-claim for low-value medical claims, and call their emergency assistance line if you're likely to incur bills over $1,000 or so. But that's not the case for all brands, so check your policy's terms and conditions, and get in touch with your insurer if you need to - you can even do it from the doctor's waiting room.

3. Extending your stay when you're unfit to fly

If you're very unwell and your doctor says you aren't fit to catch your flight, you may need to stay behind for a few days or weeks. If you have a comprehensive travel policy (as opposed to a medical-only), you may have accommodation, meal and flight rescheduling benefits you can claim for. Check your policy and contact your insurer if you're not sure. Be aware that you will generally only be able to claim for expenses that are 'reasonable' - generally, that means in line with your spending habits. So if you've been staying in two-star motels, you won't necessarily be paid for a week-long stay in a five-star hotel.

4. Get the right documentation

Each insurer has different rules, but generally, they require:

  • copies of your original flight and accommodation itinerary
  • receipts for any meals, accommodation or flight rescheduling expenses
  • receipts/proof of payment for each medical expense
  • a medical report from the doctor you saw outlining your condition. If they have declared you unfit to fly, they need to record this with the dates you are unfit to fly for
  • a discharge summary (if you ended up in a hospital)
  • identification (to confirm that they're covering the right person)

Check your insurer's website for more information.

4. Submit your claim

Most insurance claims are done online these days, and you don't have to wait until you get home to file a claim. Head to your insurer's claims page, fill in your details and upload your documents as required. Your insurer should let you know within 10 business days as to the outcome of your claim, or if they require any additional information. If you haven't heard back, give them a call and check what's going on.


All other travel claims

Whether your iPhone was stolen or you've dinged your rental car, most travel claims can be straight forward. Check the section of your policy you're claiming for, what they will and won't pay for, and any general exclusions that apply to all sections.

If you've got provisions to claim, get your documents together, go to your insurer's claim page online, fill out your details and upload your documents as needed. Your insurer is required to get back to you within 10 business days, either with the outcome of your claim or with a request for additional information.

It will vary from insurer to insurer, but most will require identification, and your original flight and accommodation itineraries (to prove that you're you and that you had a real holiday booked). Additionally, you will need:

1. Stolen or lost luggage and personal effects

  • a police report for stolen items (most insurers require you to get one within 24 hours of the theft)
  • a report of proof of loss from your airline, hotel, tour company, etc, where appropriate 
  • receipts/proof of purchase for each item you're claiming for
  • a repair quote from a reputable provider if an item is damaged
  • the IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity Number) of a lost or stolen phone, and evidence from your provider that the IMEI has been blocked  

Check out our guide on luggage cover to learn more about when you may or may not be able to claim.

2. Trip cancellations

  • contact your accommodation, flight, and/or tour provider and ask for a refund. Ask for a 'Refund Advice' document, or written proof that they have refused to refund you (this is important, as not having one of these can significantly delay the processing of your claim)
  • receipts/proof of payment for each expense you're claiming for
  • proof supporting your reason for cancellation (e.g. email from the airline that a natural disaster has cancelled your flight, hospitalisation record for a sick family member, a letter from your accommodation provider saying rioting is occurring in street, etc).

Check out our guide on trip cancellations to learn more about situations you can claim for.

3. Rental vehicle damage

  • your original rental agreement showing the rental vehicle excess
  • receipts and proof of payment for each expense you are claiming
  • an accident report from the policy, your rental vehicle company, or other relevant authority
  • a quote or repair invoice from your rental vehicle company for the damage (this can sometimes take a few days or weeks to obtain)

4. Flight delays or other travel expenses

  • receipts and proof of payment for each expense you're claiming for
  • original and amended flight itinerary with the terms and conditions/fare rules and the cost of these arrangements
  • documentation outlining the causes of your expenses (e.g. medical reports, a letter from the airline if there is a delay)

Be aware that if the airline is at fault for a delay e.g. overbooking, mechanical issue, a pilot sleeping in, etc, then your travel insurance is unlikely to cover it, and you should seek compensation from your airline. If the airline is not at fault, e.g. bad weather, natural disaster, a strike, then it would generally be covered (provided that it wasn't a known event at the time of purchase). Check out our guide on missed flights and delays for more information.

how to make travel claim

Travel Insurance Claims faqs

How can I make claiming on my trip cover easier?

Travel insurance claims don't have to be hard work. Reading through your policy documents before you buy and before you claim is really important, so you know exactly what you can and can't claim for. Check the policy for any exclusions, and make sure you have all the documentation your insurer needs to validate your claim. In the event of a theft or loss, make you sure you report it to the police or the relevant authority, such as an airline or cruise company within 24 hours (it may be more or less with different insurers) and hold onto the receipts for any items you might need to claim on. Giving your insurer a call to check what documents they need at the start of the process can save you a lot of back and forth. 

What I have an emergency travel claim?

If you're in an emergency medical situation, all reputable travel insurers have a 24/7 hotline you can call or email. Get yourself to a hospital, and contact or have your hospital contact the emergency hotline. These teams, typically staffed with medical and logistics professionals, can approve guarantees of payment to the hospital, liaise with your doctors and family, and arrange transfers or evacuations back home. If you are hospitalised, you must get in touch as soon as possible, otherwise insurers may decline your claim.

What is an excess?

Most travel insurance policies have an excess - typically of $100-$250. An excess is the amount above which your insurer will pay for an event. So if you have a $200 excess and $800 medical bill, the most the insurer will pay you is $600. If your $2000 laptop is stolen, the insurer will pay at most $1800, minus any depreciation. Typically, an excess is per event, not per item, so if your backpack was stolen, you would only have one excess - not one for every item in the bag. If your wallet was stolen one day, and then you fell down and broke your ankle another day, this would be two events, and would generally have two excesses. Not all benefits have an excess - check your insurers' policy documents for details as to which benefits do. 

What if I don't have a receipt for a lost or stolen item?

You can still submit a claim, but it may make it more difficult for your insurer to validate your claim. You may be able to substantiate your claim with other forms of proof, such as bank or credit card statements, photographs of you with the item, etc. Each insurer has different agreements with their underwriters, so they will have different rules about what they can and can't accept as proof of ownership.

What if I'm unhappy with the outcome of my travel insurance claim?

You can request a formal review of your claim within your insurer's complaints procedures. They are generally required to get back to you within a defined period (typically 15 business days), either upholding or overturning the original decision. If you disagree with the outcome, you can request that it is sent to the next level (typically with the underwriter). If you are still unhappy after this level, you can contact AFCA (the Australian Financial Complaints Authority) and they will make a determination. If you don't go through the first two steps, AFCA will refer you back to your insurer's complaints process.

What is an item sub-limit?

Within some benefits, like luggage and personal effects benefits, there are sub-limits for individual items. You might have a total benefit of $7,500-$10,000 for luggage, but you may have an individual item limit of $500-$750, or $3000 for computers, or $1000 for phones. These sub-limits will vary between insurers. Check your policy documents for more information.

What is depreciation?

Depreciation is the decrease in value of an item over time. The amount an item will depreciate is calculated according to the agreements insurers have with their underwriters. It assumes that items become less valuable as time passes, with either wear and tear, outdated technology, and a typical decrease in market value. Unless a travel insurance policy states it is a 'new-for-old' or 'replacement value' policy, it will generally have depreciation for luggage and personal effects benefits. To avoid depreciation, many insurers allow you to list your item as a high-value item. For a small increase in premium, you can list a specific item on your certificate of insurance and it will not be subject to depreciation.

How long should my travel insurance claim take to process?

Under the General Insurance Code of Practice, your insurer has 10 business days to assess your claims. If they don't have enough information, they must let you know within the 10 business days of any additional information or documents they need to validate your claim - then the ball is in your court. If it's been 10 business days and you haven't heard back, give your insurer a call and find out what's going on.

How do I make a travel insurance claim?

For most claims, you would pay for expenses and be reimbursed them with a successful claim. The general exception to this is emergency medical treatment in a hospital, where your insurer offers a guarantee of payment so you don't have out of pocket expenses. When you're making a claim, make sure you have all the documents required by your insurer, find their claims procedure - typically this is an online form - and then upload your documents. Checking your travel insurers claims page of your policy documents can help you be aware of any rules specific to claiming with them.

How do I find out my IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) number if my phone was stolen?

Your IMEI is an identification number specific to your handset (it's not your mobile number). It is printed on the box you received your phone with, and is typically also on the receipt from the retailer you purchased from. You can also typically find out your IMEI number from your phone service provider, and request that they block your IMEI number. This means that no one else can insert another SIM into the phone and start using it. Most insurers require proof that your IMEI has been blocked to cover claims related to phones.

Do I have to wait until I get home to claim?

No, most insurers now handle claims online, so you can make a travel insurance claim from your hotel room.

Contributor Crystal Moran

Crystal Moran

With a research and journalism background, and certified in Tier 2 General Insurance General Advice, Crystal is passionate about investigating customers’ tricky travel questions and helping them find the answers they’re looking for. A writer and filmmaker whose favourite trips have been to film festivals in Cuba and South Korea, and campervanning around the USA, she loves getting to know new people and seeing a glimpse of the world through their eyes.

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