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I‘ve always thought travel insurance was a scam – but it saved me $124 my first time using it

Amtrak.Amtrak/SmarterTravel

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  • I can‘t even begin to count the number of times I‘ve declined travel insurance when booking plane tickets.
  • But when it came to , horror stories of delays that I couldn‘t shake from my head convinced me it might be worth the investment for
  • Turns out I was right. The first train of my journey was delayed so long I missed my connection, and spent an unplanned night in Chicago.
  • .

As I booked a cross-country Amtrak journey this fall in pursuit of stories for Business Insider, there was a cacophony of horror stories I couldn‘t get out of my head.

Beyond anecdotal tales of massive delays, , data shows these tales are far from outliers. My first train for this journey, the Lake Shore Limited, was on time just about 42% of the time last year, according to Amtrak‘s annual report.

So when the railroad‘s booking website hawked travel insurance for just $17 on my $900 fare, I bit the bullet and bought for the first time what I had long considered to be a scam and didn‘t think of it again. Here‘s how it ended up saving me $124. {{}}

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That‘s not entirely true. I started to think about the travel insurance policy again less than 24 hours after leaving New York.

That‘s not entirely true. I started to think about the travel insurance policy again less than 24 hours after leaving New York.

As we sat behind a freight train outside of South Bend, Indiana, already a full three hours after the train should have arrived in Chicago, I started to wonder about my missed connection. My next train was scheduled to depart Chicago at 2:15, but as we creeped slowly into Illinois I knew that wasn‘t going to happen.

Booking the insurance in the first place was easy. I was hoping the claim would be similar.

Booking the insurance in the first place was easy. I was hoping the claim would be similar.

Allianz sent me a separate email a few minutes after I received my Amtrak ticket. It had a link to my full policy and other details, which I admittedly did not read until I needed them.

In the meantime, I started reading Allianz‘s policy that I admittedly had not read when purchasing. For a “travel delay” my policy said I was entitled up to a daily limit of $150.

In the meantime, I started reading Allianz‘s policy that I admittedly had not read when purchasing. For a “travel delay” my policy said I was entitled up to a daily limit of $150.

To Amtrak‘s credit, the rebooking line when we finally arrived in Chicago was long, but moved quickly. As I waited, a representative went down the line with new tickets, and hotel and food vouchers for everyone who had missed their connections. I waited maybe 15 minutes in total.

Another important note: Amtrak did offer hotel vouchers for those of us who needed to wait overnight. I had rescheduled meetings for early the next day as a result of the delayed train, and didn‘t feel like schlepping to The Loop during rush hour from Midway Airport. It also proved a worthwhile moment to put travel insurance to the test.

Sitting in Union Station — while contemplating the plight of this beautiful depot of yesteryear compared to its companion in New York — I found a hotel that fit in Allianz‘s limit for “travel interruption” accommodations and booked a room.

Sitting in Union Station — while contemplating the plight of this beautiful depot of yesteryear compared to its companion in New York — I found a hotel that fit in Allianz‘s limit for “travel interruption” accommodations and booked a room.

The only downside to the plan, of course, was having to front the money and not knowing if the travel insurance would actually work.

A day later, and a few dollars shorter, I headed west on the same train as originally planned (and even lucked out with a room). But back in New York four days later, it was time to file a claim.

A day later, and a few dollars shorter, I headed west on the same train as originally planned (and even lucked out with a room). But back in New York four days later, it was time to file a claim.

Filing the claim was easy, all I needed was my email address or policy number, and the date I departed for my trip. The form was simple and quick, all I had to do was upload my hotel receipt. It didn‘t even ask for proof of my delay.

Six days after my claim was submitted, a check showed up in my mailbox.

Six days after my claim was submitted, a check showed up in my mailbox.

Not only was it sooner than I expected, but easier too! I had worried that I would need some way to prove my train was delayed significantly enough to require a hotel stay, but that was not the case.

All things considered, the travel insurance was easily worth $17

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