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

Amtrak.

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Amtrak.
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Amtrak/SmarterTravel.com

  • 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 Amtrak, horror stories of delays that I couldn’t shake from my head convinced me it might be worth the investment for my cross-country trip this fall.
  • 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.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

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, like the 183 passengers who were stuck on a train for 36 hours earlier this year, 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.


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

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Graham Rapier / Business Insider

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.

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Graham Rapier

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.

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Allianz

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.

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Graham Rapier / Business Insider

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.

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Graham Rapier / Allianz

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.

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Graham Rapier

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


Now read:

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An Amtrak assistant conductor stands at the coach door of a train stopped to pick up and discharge passengers at the railroad station in Lamy, New Mexico, near Santa Fe. Amtrak’s Southwest Chief, which transports passengers between Chicago and Los Angeles, makes daily stops at the small Lamy station.
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Robert Alexander/Getty Images

It took me 96 hours to ride an Amtrak train from coast to coast. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.