When Dary Merckens needed the name of a reliable doctor or the number for the U.S. embassy, he turned to an unlikely source: his smartphone’s travel insurance app.
“It helped me out in numerous situations,” says Merckens, the chief technology officer for a technology firm based in Las Vegas.
Travel insurance apps, which used to be simple programs that helped you contact an insurance company or file a claim, are coming of age. The best travel insurance apps for your next trip offer real-time access to medical and emergency travel assistance, extensive embassy and hospital contact information, and even the ability to buy insurance on the fly.
A stable and useful travel insurance app can make the difference between a bumpy trip and a smooth one. With the busy summer travel just underway, it’s an excellent time to consider what may be an important feature of your travel insurance policy.
The best travel insurance apps could “literally be a lifesaver”
“All the travel insurance apps do a good job of helping someone keep track of their policies and helping claims get processed faster,” says Kimberlee Leonard, an insurance analyst for FitSmallBusiness.com. “The better travel apps have additions for free, like where to find providers for medical attention or pharmacies, country emergency information, alerts, and other local travel aid information.”
Leonard says one example of a travel insurance app that does more is the Allianz TravelSmart Mobile App.
“TravelSmart has a medical translation feature,” she says. “Even if someone is fluent enough in a foreign language to get around, most people will not know complex medical terms and explanations. This tool could literally be a lifesaver when working with medical providers in emergency situations.”
Exploring one of the best travel insurance apps
No one officially tracks the most popular travel insurance apps, but with more than 470,000 downloads, TravelSmart appears to be one of the most popular.
“One of the things people love about travel is the discovery of new places and people,” says Daniel Durazo, a spokesman for Allianz. “TravelSmart helps travelers navigate unfamiliar territory and gives people the confidence to travel off the beaten path.
I’m a regular user of TravelSmart since I have an annual Allianz travel insurance policy. (It’s free to download and available to anyone, regardless of whether they’re an Allianz customer.) Mostly, I use it to file claims — I’ve had a few smaller ones earlier this year after suffering a minor medical condition on a trip to New Mexico and Arizona.
I was surprised to find that there’s more to the app than filing claims. It includes:
- An international medical dictionary and first-aid terms translator.
- Real-time flight status updates, available up to three days before your flight.
- The ability to access your policy and file and track claims when you’re logged into your account.
Perhaps the coolest new feature is the “Assistance Around Me” map, which uses geolocation to direct travelers to the closest hospital, clinic, pharmacy, police station or U.S. embassy. It offers turn-by-turn directions using a choice of Google or Apple maps. Allianz Travel flags recommended hospitals within the app so you can identify vetted facilities quickly.
The next version of TravelSmart, which should be available later this year, will also send safety alerts with information about travel issues at your location, including severe weather, civil protests, terrorism, transit strikes and other problems that may affect travel.
Here are some other terrific travel insurance apps
In addition to Allianz, here is a list of the best travel insurance apps for your next trip (note that some of these are limited to policyholders):
AIG Travel Assistance App
The AIG Travel Assistance App, available only to corporate account holders and certain other policyholders, offers many of the features you’re looking for, including access to in-depth travel, security and health information. Feature availability depends on the type of policy you buy. Merckens, the chief technology officer, used the AIG app. “It’s the best travel insurance mobile app I’ve used,” he says.
Chubb Travel Smart
Chubb Travel Smart, also available only to select policyholders, uses state-of-art information mining technology to enable quick identification and communication of potential threats based on your location or planned destination. It aggregates and filters information from thousands of different sources globally, including news media, government institutions, security and health information databases and social media. Chubb reviews the information to ensure accuracy and sends it to you, allowing you to avoid trouble.
This app, launched in Canada last year, takes a novel approach to travel insurance. It allows you to buy travel medical insurance in under 60 seconds through the app. You can purchase policies by the day or for longer periods, and up to seven days after a vacation has begun. “We know that if travel insurance is more accessible and affordable, Canadians will opt in and avoid thousands of dollars in medical bills during a travel emergency,” said Dejan Mirkovic, founder of Goose Insurance Services, at the time of the app’s launch in 2018. Goose works similarly to its U.S. counterparts, offering an in-app map and ‘911-equivalent’ list that gives you instant access to local emergency services. Goose is only available to Canadian travelers.
Travel Insured International
Travel Insured in late 2018 unveiled its new mobile app. It allows users to purchase a plan, file a claim, and access important information from a single application. Standout feature: detailed health and safety information for your destination, thanks to a partnership with Sitata.
Should you buy travel insurance based on a travel insurance app?
Travel insurance apps keep getting better and more sophisticated. But should you buy your next travel insurance based on one of these apps? The answer is no — and yes.
No, you shouldn’t ignore all of the other criteria for buying travel insurance. You still want to read the policy carefully before buying, and make sure it covers what you need. After all, even the best travel insurance app can’t fix a bad policy.
But, all else being equal, if one policy has a better app, you might consider going with it. A helpful smartphone app can make your next trip easier — and it might even save your life.
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