The tour company in charge of your European holiday goes bankrupt. A volcano destroys the Indonesian city you intend to visit. You twist an ankle while trekking through Nepal, or suffer a life-threatening illness while on a cruise to Brazil. Your house burns down while you’re exploring the jungles of South America. These unforeseen events, and countless others like them, are more common than you might think and can easily destroy a vacation—unless you have travel insurance.
Squaremouth is a travel insurance website that has been simplifying the comparison process for U.S. consumers for more than a decade. RewardExpert recently spoke with Megan Singh, the company’s project management director, about the inspiration behind the service, how it works, and the types of travel insurance you should consider when planning your next vacation.
The Founding of Squaremouth
Squaremouth was founded by Chris Harvey in 2006.
“Chris was born in England and had worked in insurance systems, software, and insurance sales,” Singh explains. “Over there, travel insurance is quite popular, much more so than it is here in the United States. When Chris moved to the U.S., he saw an opportunity to create a comparison engine for travel insurance projects in a market that had barely been tapped.”
The company, which Harvey started in his garage with a couple of software developers, has since grown to over $17 million in annual travel insurance sales and employs a staff of 39 in its offices in Fort Wayne, Indiana and St. Petersburg, Florida.
Hundreds of Policies at Your Fingertips
Consumers can compare 110 travel insurance policies from 21 insurance providers on Squaremouth’s website.
“We sell close to 200 policies a day, or about 80,000 a year,” Singh says. “We’ve seen steady increases every year, with this January our best to date so far. Our goal is to help travelers find the least expensive policy that has all the benefits they want.”
Visit the website and answer a few questions about your trip including your travel dates, the number of people you want to insure, the cost of your trip, and the country to which you are traveling.“We have information on all the major insurance products on the market,” Singh explains. “Once you’ve answered the questions, the website will display all of the plans that are available to you.”
A quick search for insurance for two travelers planning a one-week vacation to Norway in May yields 51 policies and a selection of filters that can be used to further narrow the options. The policies can also be sorted by price, insurance provider, and consumer star ratings. The policies found on Squaremouth have been reviewed by more than 40,000 consumers, and the company has licensed customer service agents available 24/7.
“We try to make the comparison process really easy,” says Singh. “More than 90 percent of our sales are done online, so we try to make sure the website works as simply as possible for the customer. Once you’ve purchased your policy, you’ll receive an online confirmation immediately as well as a confirmation email.”
Every policy comes with Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee.
“We understand, just like any other insurance product, travel insurance certificates are very complicated. They are several pages long and worded like legal documents. Sometimes people misunderstand what their benefits are or find it difficult to navigate the claims process with their provider. We can get involved and answer their questions or mediate on their behalf.”
Benefits to Satisfy Every Need
According to Singh, trip cancellation is the most commonly purchased travel insurance benefit through Squaremouth.
“Eighty percent of the policies we sell are trip cancellation policies,” she says. “These policies insure the consumer’s trip costs in case they become sick and are unable to travel. Or, perhaps, their mom gets sick and they need to stay home and care for her. Consumers can insure the cost of their trip and get reimbursed for 100 percent as long as the reason they are not going is covered under the policy. Sometimes you can get reward points back or a voucher towards a future flight, but if you want your actual cash back, you need insurance.”
Trip interruption insurance is also available. This benefit provides coverage if you have to miss a portion of your trip or return home early for reasons covered by the policy (such as a family death or illness, natural disaster, terrorist attack or another unforeseen event). It will reimburse you for your unused trip costs and transportation expenses to come home.
Many travelers, particularly seniors on Medicare, which does not cover medical care outside the country, choose to purchase emergency medical and medical evacuation coverage.“We typically recommend about $100,000 in medical coverage when you’re traveling internationally, but you can increase that to $1 million,” Singh explains. “This coverage is reasonably affordable when you consider what you are getting. A policy with just emergency medical coverage can cost as little as 3 to 4 percent of your trip costs.”
Consumer interest in hurricane and weather and terrorism coverage has increased in recent years according to Singh, as has the number of travelers concerned about disease outbreaks abroad.
“Zika has been a major concern,” she says. “While we always see a year-over-year increase in the number of policies travelers are purchasing, I would say that without a doubt, the Zika virus and terrorist attacks have played a major role this last year.”
“We’ve actually been recommending the ‘cancel for any reason’ benefit to a lot of customers who are pregnant and planning a trip to an island where Zika is not currently big but might become bigger,” she continues. “The standard cancellation benefit won’t allow you to cancel just because you’re scared to travel. But if you have ‘cancel for any reason’ coverage, you actually can. It’s an upgrade, and you have to pay more for it, but you’ll receive close to 75 percent of the cost of your trip back.”
Total costs for a travel insurance package will vary based on the benefits you choose and the value of the trip you’re insuring as well as where and when you intend to travel.
Other Important Considerations
Singh encourages travelers to explore their options before purchasing any travel insurance.
“You can get travel insurance a lot of different ways, such as through your airline, your cruise line or a tour provider,” she says. “A lot of times, they’ll have an insurance package available and all you have to do is click that you want it. It might cover everything you need, but it might not. We just really recommend researching and comparing all of your options.”
She also says you shouldn’t be afraid to purchase an inexpensive policy.
“We see customers all the time who don’t want to buy the least expensive policy,” she says. “They think it costs less because it’s missing something, but in terms of travel insurance, that probably isn’t the case. Most of these policies are more similar than they are different. Just look at the benefits and make sure that what you want is covered.”
Finally, she suggests buying your travel insurance as soon as you make any payment towards your trip.
“If you want trip cancellation coverage, you should buy your policy as soon as possible,” she explains. “If you wait a few months and something happens during that time that will prevent you from going, it won’t be covered. The earlier you buy, technically the longer you have coverage for. And it doesn’t cost any more to buy it sooner rather than later.”