Although you may opt for some additional travel insurance before an expensive (maybe adventure-heavy) trip to a foreign country, first explore what you already own through your existing health insurance, credit card, homeowners, and life-insurance policies.

You may get a few pleasant surprises.

To be sure you have the coverage you want, though, make sure you ask the right questions and always, always, always, read (or ask about) the fine print.

Start with these queries, directed at your health-insurance company (you may find the answers on your insurer’s website):

** Am I covered outside of the country?
** Does the service coverage include transportation to a hospital?
** Are there any limitations?
** Can I select the hospital?
** Is airlift available and included in an emergency?

For example, United Healthcare’s Select Policy will cover overseas emergencies, even those resulting from high-risk activities such as bungee jumping. If you go to an in-network hospital or physician, you will pay a $20 co-pay and receive 100% coverage; if you go out-of-network, you will pay a $250 deductible and get 80% coverage.

Blue Cross/Blue Shield operates similarly.

Oxford’s Liberty Plan will not cover routine medical needs abroad (nor will most health insurers). But, for a $75 co-pay, it will cover medical emergencies, including transportation to a specialized facility. Once again, every single plan — even from the same provider — is different, so be sure to get details on your specific policy.

Next… call your credit-card providers and get the answers to these questions:

** Do you provide travel insurance and what does it include?
** Is there a monthly charge or enrollment fee for that insurance service?
** Does it cover family members traveling with me?
** Do I have to purchase my flights on that credit card for the trip to be covered?
** What are the limitations?

Credit cards are a thorny area with more differences than similarities. However, many of the major providers do include accident insurance.

For example, if you use the Visa Signature card to purchase your tickets, then you and your family would be covered for accidental death and dismemberment at a minimum of $250,000. If you purchase the tickets before you depart for the airport, your transportation to the flight by a common carrier (bus, limousine service, etc.) would also be covered, but transportation in your personal vehicle would not be.

Through American Express and, specifically, its AMEX Global Assist arm, card members can enjoy a veritable Chinese menu of options, some at very reasonable prices.

For example, its basic plan offers both emergency medical and dental treatment as well as prescriptions for lost eyeglasses, and other benefits, on a per-trip or annual basis. The fees are based on age and destination, among other factors.

You can, if you’re an AMEX cardholder, buy coverage piecemeal, too. If you’re interested in Premium Baggage Protection, you can purchase it for $9.95 per covered person, per trip. Or you might choose Travel Delay Protection, also available for $9.95, which offers $250 per day for up to two days. However, keep in mind that a lot depends on the “prestige” level of your card — American Express Platinum cardholders receive far more benefits than their Gold Card peers.

Ask your rental-insurance or homeowner-insurance provider these questions:

** Does my policy cover my belongings when I take them out of the house?
** Does my policy cover my baggage if it is lost or delayed during a vacation?
** How long do my bags have to be missing before I can make a claim?
** If I pack valuables, such as art or jewelry, are they covered?
** If the answer to the preceding question is “no,” ask: Do you offer personal article insurance that would cover me on a trip?

For example, State Farm’s lost-luggage policies cover “routine” contents, but may require additional property insurance to insure valuables, depending on the terms of your individual policy. The company also offers free Travel Accident Insurance (up to $250,000) and free rental-car insurance, but only through the State Farm Bank Visa Card. Depending on the fees associated with that card, it might make sense to use it.

Encompass Insurance includes coverage for lost luggage and its contents, but you’d have to satisfy a $2500 deductible before you could benefit. Again, different plans and policies, different travel-insurance benefits.

Finally, call your life-insurance company and ask the following:

** Am I covered if I die in a foreign country?
** What are the benefits — and limitations — should I die or suffer loss of limb in an accident abroad?
** In the case of death (overseas or in-country), will my policy cover the cost to ship my body home?

Depending on the answers to these questions, you may or may not need to purchase extra travel accident insurance.
For example, if you own a life-insurance policy with Nationwide, a lot depends on what type of policy you own (Term, Whole Life, etc.) and on your travel destination. Your policy may cover certain circumstances or allow you to purchase additional accident insurance, but neither Nationwide (nor virtually anyone else) covers the cost of injuries or death resulting from acts of war or terrorism.

To see what your life-insurance policy will cover, you’ll need to complete some paperwork, allowing your insurer to make a risk assessment.

Next week, we’ll look into some of the major players in the travel-insurance industry and I’ll give you a few quick resources for getting quick quotes to help you make a smart decision about whether or not you need it. Stay tuned…

[Editor’s Note: Learn more about opportunities to profit from your travels (and even from your own home) in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.]

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