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Protections to consider when booking travel during COVID-19

Memorial Day Travel Photo
Posted at 4:36 PM, Jun 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-12 00:43:01-04

PHOENIX — Spaced out seating, required face coverings, and new boarding measures, are just a few new policies airlines and other companies have rolled out during the COVID-19 pandemic, but is it enough to make you feel safe to travel again?

What if you book a trip and change your mind about going?

The Let Joe Know team is getting a handful of emails from you at home, unsure of what to do next.

Like Jeanne and her husband who had a summer vacation planned for Jamaica, COVID closed the resort they planned to stay at. They were offered a refund, but being in their 70's and unsure of when they would travel next, they wanted their cash back.

Jeanne writes they had travel insurance, but couldn't get any help sorting out a refund.

The same goes for Liz who planned a beach vacation in the Caribbean. She had an insurance policy through the company and when COVID-19 restricted international travel, she requested a refund for her flights and hotel.

The insurance denied the claim because the pandemic isn't covered.

Like many people, Jeanne and Liz thought they were covered, but as we've found out during this pandemic, unexpected events don't entitle you to a refund. In most cases, they only cover you if you are sick, not if you think you'll get sick on the trip.

So what can you do as more places reopen and the possibility of travel is back on the table?

Sara Rathner, a personal finance expert with Nerdwallet, says there are really two ways to protect yourself outside of travel insurance.

First - use a credit card to pay for your trip.

"You're not liable for charges when a company has not provided the service that you paid for. You're not going to get that level of protection by paying in cash or paying with a debit card," said Sara.

Some cards may also give you protection should you get sick before a trip, so be sure to check with your company.

Second - Avoid base fares or non-refundable rates.

"While it does add on to the cost of your travel budget, it can give you that peace of mind and flexibility you need to be able to book travel with confidence right now, and so much is still up in the air," said Sara.

Now travel policies are constantly changing, with some companies offering to wave fees while others are not.

Nerdwallet has compiled a list of airlines and what they are doing. In some cases, they recommend avoiding certain airlines altogether due to cancellation policies.