How to make a travel insurance claim

Travel figurines on a pink and blue background.

Things can go wrong on holidays, but travel insurance can help you recover your losses, such as unexpected medical costs, baggage that takes its own holiday, or even a surprise rental car. Long story short: these days, travel insurance is as important as your passport.

So what happens when the worst happens and you need to make a claim on your travel insurance?

What do I need to know about making a travel insurance claim?

Before you leave Australia...

  • COVID-related claims may not be covered by your travel insurance provider, so make sure you know what you are (and not) covered for under your product disclosure statement (PDS). 
  • Check Smartraveller for any travel warnings against your destination, as territories listed as “Do Not Travel” won’t be covered by insurance.
  • Photocopy or take a photo of your travel insurance policy, so that you'll have a copy on hand to refer to as needed. 

While you're overseas...

  • Keep the receipts of any new items you purchase to prove ownership.
  • Report any theft to the local police within 24 hours, and make sure you get a copy of the police report to show to your insurance provider.
  • If you have a medical incident, call your travel insurance company's medical assistance hotline ASAP!

When you get back to Australia...

  • Contact your travel provider and complete a claim form within 30 days.
  • Include any documentation, receipts, police reports, etc. to help support the claim.
  • Make a copy of the claim for your records.
  • Submit the claim with your insurance provider and wait for the settlement.
  • If there is a dispute between you and the insurance provider, you can lodge it with the financial ombudsman service.

What does travel insurance cover?

The most common events covered by basic travel insurance policies include medical emergencies, theft/loss/damage to your luggage or valuables, and flight cancellations.

Comprehensive policies will offer additional coverages, so be sure to get across which level of cover you need before travelling.

How do you make a travel insurance claim?

Travel figurines, laptop, calculator, and folder on yellow surface.

Your insurance provider will let you know how to file a claim through their website or 24/7 overseas hotlines. Often, you’ll also find information on making a claim through your policy’s PDS, including who to call, and what website to visit. Make sure that you have all required supporting documents on hand, including a copy of your policy for your own reference.

How do travel insurance claims work?

Once you file your claim, your provider will assess your supporting evidence. If your claim is approved, they may reimburse you for the relevant expenses. How much you are reimbursed, and how much excess you will need to pay, depends on your policy’s sub-limits. This can help cover both prepaid, nonrefundable trip costs and emergency expenses.

Does travel insurance cover COVID-19?

A woman checks her COVID-19 phone vaccine certificate while packing a bag.

Depending on the insurance policy, you may be able to get reimbursed for pandemic-related events like unexpected border closures, quarantine costs, and medical services. However, some policies aren't covering pandemic-related events at the moment, so it’s important to consider the terms in your PDS, government travel restrictions, and your own needs before purchasing a policy.

A good rule of thumb to remember is that insurance providers will generally only pay out for ‘unexpected’ events. For example, if it was public knowledge (i.e. in the news) that a country was about to close its borders and you booked a trip there anyway, insurance probably won’t reimburse you for any fallout, including flight cancellations or hotel quarantine costs.

Top reasons why travel insurance claims get rejected

Collage of a woman screaming as anxious bars erupt from her head, blue background. She's probably mad that her travel insurance claim got rejected.

It’s every traveller’s nightmare, going to the trouble of paying for travel insurance only to find out, “Sorry, you’re going to have to cover that $10,000 medical bill on your own, your insurance doesn’t cover it.”

The reality is that most legitimate travel insurance claims will be paid out -- however, before you travel, be sure that you read up on your particular policy's exclusions, especially when it comes to COVID-19. 

However, you can easily avoid this happening to you, so here are the top reasons why many insurance claims get rejected.

(For a more colourful guide, check out our list of movie characters who'd get their claims denied, too).

  1. Forgot to lodge an official police report. Filing a police report counts as top evidence in the event of theft, loss, or damage to your belongings. This is especially important for the latter scenarios -- even if you just mislaid your sunnies by the pool, you should get an official report detailing where and when you last had them. Without official documentation, you run the risk of your claim being rejected.
  2. Leaving belongings unattended. Some insurance policies will cover you for "lost or stolen" articles that were on your person, but others will only cover items if they are stolen. Look out for the “unattended” exclusion. If you leave your wallet on the beach while you go swimming, your bag in the hotel lobby, or phone on the pool daybed, you could find yourself in big trouble as this will be considered leaving your valuables unattended. Some providers won't pay out even if you were just looking the other way and your bags get swiped at the airport terminal. Therefore, it's important to mind your belongings and read the fine print before you travel.
  3. Not filing your claims on time. While you don’t have to lodge a claim the minute the plane touches back down on Australian soil, don’t wait too long before lodging your claim. Many insurance companies will only accept claims lodged within 30 days after returning from your trip.
  4. Stopover destination wasn’t included in cover. If you’re stopping off in Hong Kong on your way to Italy, be sure you buy an insurance policy that will cover you for both destinations just in case something happens. Otherwise, any claims made during that portion of your  trip will be rejected.
  5. Not proving proof of purchase. If you are claiming compensation for items lost or damaged, you’ll need to show the insurance provider that you owned these items in the first place. Keep copies of receipts, or if you’ve owned the items for a while, photograph your luggage and jewellery before packing so that if you need to show proof of ownership, you can.
  6. Not having the right level of cover. Maybe you were not intending that spontaneous bungee jumping adventure when you first planned that New Zealand holiday. But if you don’t have the right level of cover and you’re injured on your adventure, you could find yourself footing the medical bills. Read your Product Disclosure Statement thoroughly before you purchase a travel insurance policy to ensure that it matches the needs of your trip.
  7. Excess. An insurance excess is an amount you pay whenever you make a claim on your policy. Generally, the higher excess you’re willing to pay, the cheaper your overall insurance policy will be. However, if you end up having to pay a high excess, it might be more than the item you want to claim. Also, be aware that you’ll need to pay the excess for every single event you claim, so if you're claiming for a stolen bag and a trip to the doctor and the excess is $100 per event, you'd be up to $200 in excess. If you don’t want to pay an excess fee, you can get a policy that includes an excess waiver, but this will generally mean you’ll need to pay a higher premium.
  8. Failure to disclose a pre-existing condition. It really is important to be upfront about any pre-existing medical conditions. This includes things like asthma, pregnancy, and other chronic ailments. Most disabilities, such as cognitive or sensory impairment, should be covered by policies, but others such as mental illness often aren't. However, if you don't disclose your condition, the chances it'll be covered are zero, so review your policy carefully beforehand and be upfront.

Compare travel insurance policies - last updated 18 August 2022

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^See information about the Mozo Experts Choice Travel Insurance Awards

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