I briefly read an article about the tedious steps in making travel claims some time ago and thought that I would share my “knowledge” on insurance claim matters because some of my dear friends actually gave up their right to make claims as they thought that it will be a difficult process. Having met and dealt with insurance-claims experts from the industry during my career, I learnt how to handle insurance claims though sometimes via the hard way. I have had also enjoyed maximum claim benefits just by knowing “how to”. Next time you’re in need, don’t just throw the receipts to your agent. Know what your entitlement is 🙂
So, you’ve decided on travelling to the city/town/village that has been on your bucket list for the longest time. You’ve booked your flight and accomodation. What next? While most people return from a holiday problem-free, some met with issues when they were supposed to be having fun. Depending on your individual level of comfort in accepting losses during your trip, you should consider shopping for a travel insurance the moment after you pay for the trip’s key costs – flight & hotel. A travel insurance policy can save the day and provide that extra cover you never thought you would need. And most times, there is no need to get the most expensive tier.
I have encountered a fair share of experience in making travel insurance claims, sometimes picking up a knowledge from friend’s losses as well. Instead of an A-Z list of whats and what nots, I shall work around my personal experience and try to shed some light for those who constantly face problem from insurance companies and wonder why they are always shortchanged.
Additional Expenses Incurred / Losses due to Accident or Medical Reasons
Destination : Cruise Holiday
When : 2 months before trip
Reason : Dad injured with leg fracture with estimated 6-mth recovery period. Mum cannot proceed on her own as a result.
Travel Insurance Coverage : Bought individual plan for them both from two different insurance companies because the cheaper quote for family package does not undertake for my dad due to his age (I think 75 yo is the limit).
Dad’s Travel Costs => Claimed in full
Dad’s Hospitalisation & Surgery Costs => Claimed in full separately (MediShield + Rider)
Mum’s Travel Costs => Claimed in full
What To Do
- Contact your insurance company immediately – Open a case report with affected NRIC no(s) of policy holders/claimants. Let them know what had happened and that you will be making a claim. You do not need to remember the case no or policy no.. Just remember which insurance company your travel insurance is purchased from. Even though there is 24hr hotline and the staff from insurance company is supposedly there to tell you what to do, do not always rely on what you hear over the phone. Use your common sense to help you. You need to be clear-minded when handling insurance claims. Note that in Singapore, everything is required in black & white. For insurance company to make payment to you, their paper work need to be SOLID GOOD without giving any chance to the auditers for questioning. So you want to get as much money back as possible? Helping them = Helping yourself.
- Get support from medical professionals – Let them know that you are covered with a policy and get them to assist you with the medical certificate (MC) or hospitalisation leave, doctor’s letter & recommendation (this is super useful), hospital admission slip (if any), doctor’s prescription, invoice, etc. The more of such “paper” you can get, the better covered you are. Get your invoices and medical certs, sort them out in chronologically and make sure Doctor’s letterhead, stamp & signature is in order. Medical professionals will also be more than gladly assist you with such requests. Perhaps they may even breathe a sigh of relief knowing that you are financially backed. >.<
- Call the travel agency/airline/cruise/hotel – Inform them of the unfortunate event ASAP. Due to the nature of many restrictions on promotional fare & charges, you will hardly be able to get a single cent back from these companies. They also often have a comprehensive terms & conditions which you have to sign agreement on whether you agree or not. However, they can help you. Ask them to give you a company letter stating that they are unable to carry out refund and the T&Cs backing it. Submit the letter, receipts, trip itinerary, hotel information (together with item #3 above) to your insurance company.
- Proof of relationship – I mentioned that my mum is the sole caregiver and hence had to cancel her trip as well even though she is physically able to proceed with the holiday. This is where you will need to submit a copy of Marriage Certificate and both NRICs if not the insurance company will not even bother to entertain a compensation. This is also where Doctor’s Note of Recommendation comes in useful. Doctor must state that patient needs care and support upon discharge from hospital. Same applies if it’s parent-child relationship, with submission of Birth Certificate.
- Fill in forms – As soon as you have settled down with major issues, download a copy of travel claims form from your insurance company’s website. Fill in the necessary details. PDF or photocopy a set of your forms (including #2 to #4 above) before you attach to the claim form. Mail it out via REGISTERED post.
In this scenario, there was a confusing and duplicating lot of paperwork to be submitted as there were 3 insurance companies involved – 2 for travel policies and 1 for hospitalisation policy. I needed to triplicate everything. To help me, I label all my originals and photocopies properly with 3 separate folders so that I know which goes where before I submit anything.
Destination : LegoLand Park Admission
When : During trip, and trip has already started
Reason : Child has fever. Mum/Dad has to take care of sick child. Dad/Mum has to take care of the other child.
LegoLand Park Admission Tickets (PRE-PURCHASED online with 20% DISCOUNT) => Forfeited for whole family
Medical Fees at Malaysia GP => Claimed in full
What To Do
- This was a small issue without implicating hospitalisation. No loss of payment for accommodation because our plan was only a LegoLand Park day trip on the way back from Desaru, then drive home. Just print out forms from website of insurance company, fill it in, attach Medical Certificate, Doctor’s prescription & invoice.
- We also submitted our e-Ticket for pre-purchased park tickets. It was a good deal at 20% off for tickets purchase. However, the fine print nailed us dead in this case. Our insurance company highlighted the T&Cs on the Legoland e-ticket, that is, no refund or cancellation whatsoever for promotional tickets. Few hundred dollars lost there *cry*
Moral of the story : Sometimes it is not wiser to buy promotion tickets. Like for this month of rainy December with sicky bug everywhere, I refused to let my hubby pre-purchase tickets. Rather pay a little bit more for what or when we need it, than to suffer total loss when we had to be contained at home. 😦
Destination : Taipei, Taiwan
When : During the trip, and trip has already started
Reason : Child has fever. Dad & child stayed in hotel to take care of sick child. Mum & other family members proceeded with planned itinerary.
Places of Interest / Park Admission Tickets => No loss as it was F&E itinerary and not pre-purchased
Taxi to Taiwan Private Hospital => Claimed in full
Medical Fees at Taiwan Private Hospital ICU => Claimed in full
Meals in Hotel => Claimed in full
Braun Digital Ear Thermometer => Claimed in full
What To Do
- Didi’s sudden fever happened a few days into our trip. It was very high at 40 deg. C. He was just about 3yo then and we were naturally worried as we did not have a thermometer with us though we did pack all the medicines. The hotel Concierge helped to call a cab for us and we reached Taipei’s private hospital within 30 minutes. Asked for the taxi receipt and gotten the driver to help write something like place of embarkation/destination for our own good too.
- We were directed to the NICU without the need for hospital admission. As usual, we informed the medical staff that we were tourists and requested for a note from Doctor on didi’s medical condition and her advisory on what to do. We also made sure to tell her that we do not have a thermometer, and got her to write another note for us to buy over the counter at the pharmacy. Having settled and discharged from the outpatient consultation, I went to get the most trustworthy and (make sure it is the most) expensive thermometer I could get from the Pharmacy. However the receipt print out from the cash sales machine did not indicate anything except very briefly date/time/cost as far as I could remember. There wasn’t even a shop name or item description. So I got the sales lady to help and explained my situation. They later wrote onto the receipt the brand/model/item of my purchase and gave me a company stamp over what they had written (to prove that it wasn’t me faking a receipt). This secured my claim of a brand new Braun Thermometer when I return to Singapore.
- My hubby and son had their meals in-room on that day too. I also tried my luck to submit for claims and it was recovered in full. So, no harm trying for claims even if the hubby suspect it might not be claimable. Keep an open mind with the acceptance that if it’s not covered, then just too bad (lor!). But then you can always argue – how if not dining in-room with a sick young child? Brave the wind and rain to tabao?? Or leave the child alone in the room while he’s out to buy lunch? For logical reasoning like such, insurance companies normally wouldn’t question too much. They are most of the time compassionate human beings too.
To summarise, so long as you keep a clear mind and learn from friends’ experience, the claim process actually is very simple. I hope that with the above “sample” incidents, it can help you with a better position to make your claim. Rather than going back & forth with multiple submissions and clarifications, know what to do at first instance, cut down all these time-wasting paperwork and focus on what you should be doing for your family instead.
Destination : Bangkok, Thailand
When : 1-month before the trip
Reason : Street Bombing
Places of Interest / Park Admission Tickets => No loss / No Claim as it was a F&E trip
AirAsia Flight to Bangkok => Total Loss
Hotel in Bangkok => Total Loss
Travel Insurance Company => AirAsia
What To Do
My hubby booked the family trip to Bangkok during one of the AirAsia promotion for cheap flights. Being convenient, cheaper, and a good overall packaged deal, he booked the hotel through AirAsia’s website too, and selected their bundled travel insurance plan at the same time. Sounds good right – everything under one website and conveniently cheap. Read on!
Some time closer to the departure date, Bangkok started suffering from street bombing around Erawan Shrine and don’t know which other corner. We took the last straw when Big C, the supermarket along the same street as our hotel got bombed. Despite our Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) not issuing travel advisory against travelling to Bangkok, we made the decision to cancel our own holiday plans just 1 month before the scheduled departure date in an effort to cut loss according to the T&C of trip/flight cancellation tied to the flight tickets and hotel booking.
To our horror, we were unable to get any compensation at all because we cancelled the trip on our own initiatives without “any reason” at all. Because MFA did not issue a red alert travel advisory, we suffered total loss of about S$500+ (if I don’t remember wrongly) for hotel and flight. Not only was the claims process a tortuous one with more than half the time talking to different idiots (pardon me but it’s true) located in other countr(ies), it was a fruitless one because AirAsia itself it not a local company. Neither was the hotel website, travel insurance or customer service has anything remotely associated to Singapore. I made countless emails and calls and eventually gave up after receiving multiple case numbers with no real person to follow up.
It was the one and only family trip we booked under the same roof by AirAsia. Never, ever, buy insurance from flight companies or rely on your bank issuing the credit card which you have paid for the flight and hotel with. It was also our last transaction with AirAsia. Never again will we have anything to do with AirAsia & it’s related company. It was a horrendous nightmare. The only consolation from the trip cancellation – safety right here at home. ❤
In this scenario, probably other insurance companies might not have compensated us anything too due to lack of support from MFA. But they have real office and real people to talk to in Singapore. This alone beats AirAsia down flat. Just to share, to have an operation in Singapore selling insurances, is not as simple as clicking a few buttons on ACRA website. The company has to have a strong financial backing and also needs to deposit a large sum of money with the Monetary Authority of Singapore to protect consumers’ interests.
Travel Insurance Purchase and Benefits
Always buy your own 3rd party travel insurance. Tenet, MSIG, Aviva, AXA are some of the big guys in Singapore that my family purchases travel insurances from. They are my family favourites because we experienced great assistance and fast settlement personally and/or heard from friends. They also often have 20% discount from their regular price plans, especially 1-2 month ahead of school holidays or during major travel fairs like NATAS Show.
We always look out for reasonable claims benefits but not necessarily will get the top-tier travel plans. It depends on individual needs on coverage. A mid-tier one would be a good cushion for most families. Nowadays, we do make a conscientious look into the coverage for personal equipment and gadgets like laptop and cameras, especially when we recently made a new purchase. We would want the best coverage for them simply because these gadgets could still be very new at the time of travel.
The school holiday is coming to a close with my Facebook flooded with travel pictures from my friends the entire month. The top 3 destinations seem to be Taiwan, New Zealand and Japan for this holiday. Have you faced any problem during your holiday and need to make a claim? Do feel free to drop us an email at email@example.com and I will try to assist if I can. If you don’t mind sharing your claims experience with others, pls feel free to leave a blog comment below. We mummies all learn from each other in the best way! ❤
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~ SAys! Shirley ❤