Updated January 13, 2015

Study: Best Travel Insurance - Travel Guard vs Travelex vs CSA

If you always have sweaty palms in the weeks before your vacations, feeling constant fear that something will go wrong – and all your hard-earned travel money will go to waste – you may have a more pleasant experience by signing up for travel insurance. By letting go of some cash that you likely won't get back (chances are your trip will go just fine), travel insurance does offer peace of mind, which for some people doesn't have a price.

Having travel insurance could end up saving you thousands, maybe even hundreds of thousands, of dollars should your trip not go as planned. But coverage can get complicated, and it’s a good thing to really read through the fine print of the plan and add-ons you purchase to make sure that any fears you might have are assuaged. In an article in USA Today, Charisse Jones most succinctly breaks down the issue: "A basic package generally covers the non-refundable costs of a trip up to the particular policy's limits, has medical coverage and offers assistance for various emergencies."
This is especially true if you travel internationally, as your domestic health insurance plan might not cover medical expenses in another country.

Ultimately, you will need to evaluate your own needs, risk factors and finances to determine whether travel insurance is worth it to you and your family. There are several variables that will play into the cost of your insurance – including the age of you and your traveling companions, the destination itself, the cost and length of the trip, and the total number of travelers who will fall under your policy. CreditDonkey compared three of the top travel insurers, CSA, Travel Guard and Travelex, to help determine the best option for you.

Study Methodology

CreditDonkey used three main factors in determining the best travel insurance companies:

  1. Cost
  2. Coverage
  3. Help and Support

As travel insurance is specific to destination, age, and cost of trip, CreditDonkey based its reviews on a $3,000 trip to France for a 40-year-old, utilizing the mid-level plan packages from each company.

You don’t want to pay more than you have to, of course, but you also want decent coverage. What a policy covers depends on the benefits that are most important to you. Illness, missed flights due to accidents, lost luggage, cancellations, emergency evacuations and many more travel-related issues are all covered under various plans. If you're not concerned about the two pairs of pants and two shirts you've packed for a weekend getaway, then lost luggage might not be something worth paying for, and you might choose coverage a la carte. There are also liability limits, which fluctuate depending on the plan. Most of all, it’s important to read the policy’s fine print to clearly understand what you’re covered for and what exclusions apply. All these must be considered carefully when choosing a travel insurance provider.

The last thing you want, if you do have an emergency, is to hassle with customer service. You want a company that is there for you and provides the support you paid for. You also want to rest assured that you can file a claim quickly and easily, either via phone or website.


  • Cost: Competitive with similar plans, $7 non-refundable service fee 3/5
  • Coverage: Comprehensive plans for specialized vacations, medical limits at lower end 4/5
  • Help & Support: Website confusing for plan comparisons, but clear for claim filing 4/5
  • CreditDonkey Score: 3.7/5

Travel Guard is a well-respected name in the travel insurance industry, offering a fair number of plans to cover most passengers’ needs. A major plus is a "build-your-own" plan that allows you to insure based on your priorities, rather than some pre-determined plan that covers things that don't apply to your trip. The company also offers an annual plan for those who travel extensively.

Writing from personal experience, Deborah Jacobs of Forbes stated that, in the wake of 9/11 when she decided to cancel her December trip, "Travel Guard was … obliging. When we told them we weren’t going, they offered to give us back our premium, although the contract did not require it."

Why We Like Travel Guard
After you order your insurance, the company provides a 15-day review period during which you can request a refund. The company is willing to send a hard-copy policy via regular mail or express mail (for an additional charge), while other companies will send the information only via email. Moreover, it has very responsive emergency services.

The Downsides
Travel Guard has lower medical limit benefits compared to the other companies, and the website is a bit cumbersome when putting in your trip details.

Who Travel Guard Works Best For
Frequent travelers who need an annual plan rather than paying on a per-trip basis. Golf, adventure and sports travelers also benefit from it, as the Travel Guard has plans that target those specific trips.


  • Cost: Lowest comprehensive package with solid benefits, no service fee 5/5
  • Coverage: Maximum benefit limits high, limited plans, but suited to most consumers’ needs 4/5
  • Help & Support: Good customer service, concierge services included, online claim forms 4/5
  • CreditDonkey Score: 4.3/5

CSA is a highly regarded leader in the travel insurance business. It often ranks No. 1 on comparison surveys among the other travel insurance leaders. The comprehensive plans are not only the most cost-effective on the market, but the maximum benefits far exceed almost any other company out there.

Julie Halpert of The Wall Street Journal writes that a customer's primary concern is how to access help in the event of an emergency. In a recent article, she reports that CSA and other providers pride themselves on emergency response: "CSA, for instance, says it provides travelers with a 24-hour emergency toll-free number that is answered within 20 seconds, and local numbers that can be called collect."

Why We Like CSA
It's an affordable plan with good customer service and high dollar maximum limits. Rental car insurance is included in the mid-level custom plan.

The Downsides
The company has a limited number of plans, so you might end up having to pay for coverage for something you won't need on your journey (i.e., rental car coverage but you won’t be getting a car.) CSA also requires that you purchase its insurance within 24 hours of the final payment of your trip.

Who CSA Works Best For
Budget-minded travelers who want a sense of security, vacationers who want peace of mind during their long-awaited trip, and the business traveler who's familiar with CSA's plans.


  • Cost: Costlier than competitors, kids not free with basic plan, $8 non-refundable service fee 3/5
  • Coverage: No deductible on medical plans, 60-day lookback for pre-existing conditions a plus 4/5
  • Help & Support: Brochure via website clearly lays out coverage, claims paid quickly 5/5
  • CreditDonkey Score: 4/5

Travelex has been a worldwide leader in both travel protection services and currency exchange for decades. With the company’s recognizable logo, consumers might be more inclined to choose it based on brand recognition alone.

In a CNN.com column appropriately titled, "Travel Insurance 101," writer Marnie Hunter noted the pluses of the coverage that Travelex provides: "A handful of insurers, such as Travelex, offer primary insurance, meaning the insurance provider will reimburse your claims first and follow up with your other insurance companies." This adds a level of comfort for consumers whose nerves will likely already be racked by having to file a claim.

Why We Like Travelex
Via its website, Travelex breaks down its plans and assesses who its plan works best for – i.e., a basic plan for minimum protection, a family-friendly plan, and the plan to use for your luxury, "saved up for this my whole life" trip. It also includes business trip related plans.

The Downsides
There is no identity theft coverage available for purchase, although Travelex customer service will assist you in obtaining a replacement passport. There's also no "cancel for any reason" policy (even for an additional cost) on a mid-range plan, which would be especially helpful if unforeseen circumstances arise.

Who Travelex Works Best For
Families, as children under the age of 21 are free under the "Travel Select" option, and people who are brand loyal and familiar with all the services Travelex offers.

Other Travel Insurance to Consider

There are a fair amount of travel insurer's vying for your business. Other than the three we covered, others deserving Honorable Mentions include: Allianz, which offers only four plans, broken down simply; MH Ross, which has been in the business for over 50 years and offer waivers for pre-existing conditions in each of its four plans; and TravelSafe, which was the first to offer the "Cancel for Any Reason" benefit for all or part of your trip.

Two great resources for a cohesive breakdown of top travel insurance companies are www.insuremytrip.com and www.squaremouth.com. Based on the information you provide, these companies lay out the selection of insurers clearly, allowing you to click on individual plans for quick side-by-side comparisons. They also provide a menu where you can choose which services you'd like to consider insuring, i.e., those most important to you. Also, don't be afraid to call the companies if you're confused and ask for the best plan for your needs. When ordering a la carte insurance, speaking to a live customer service rep will also be in your best interest. In the end, what matters most is knowing you have the coverage you need to ensure that you have the best time possible on your trip. It’s worthwhile to note that while several credit cards do offer travel insurance, they're often not full-coverage policies as provided by the stand-alone travel insurance companies. In addition, most credit card travel insurance has limits, including maximum trip duration, no evacuation coverage, and no pre-existing medical condition coverage. However, many do provide rental car insurance and lost luggage benefits, provided you pay for your trip or rental with that card.

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