Access America paid off

This item appears on page 30 of the September 2011 issue.

When I went online and booked my air travel with Continental Airlines for a February ’11 trip to Belize and Guatemala, I impulsively added on the Access America trip insurance offered with my ticket, since the insurance cost only $25.

I then remembered that I also had trip insurance by virtue of having paid for both the trip and the plane ticket with my Continental OnePass Plus MasterCard (issued by the airline but administered through Chase Bank).

My Feb. 4 flight from St. Louis to Belize City via Houston was canceled due to ice in Houston and rescheduled for Feb. 6, causing me to miss the first couple days of my tour.

The group was to meet in the Belize City airport on Feb. 5, then travel to Tikal, Guatemala (which I had visited on two previous trips, anyway), before returning to Belize to spend the remaining four days in Hopkins, a fishing village on the coast. After arriving, I stayed in a hotel near the Guatemalan border for two nights, finally connecting with the group when they returned to Belize.

After the trip, I contacted the Continental OnePass trip insurance office and was told that I would need a letter from Continental verifying the canceled flight and new reservation.

To get this information involved my being put on hold, only to find out I’d been given the wrong number to procure the needed letter, and then holding again for another 15 minutes to be given an e-mail address to contact, (Why couldn’t the insurance representative have given me the e-mail address to begin with?)

I e-mailed my request, but when the requested letter still had not arrived after a month, I tried using my “impulse purchase” insurance and contacted Access America (Richmond, VA; 800/284-8300).

I initiated my claim online and got an identification number and a contact phone number. A very courteous, friendly and efficient representative answered my questions about what supporting documents would suffice (a letter from Continental was not needed) and gave me a number to fax them to.

On April 7 I faxed copies of my original reservation; the cancellation notice and rebooking; my boarding passes (not required but helpful); the bill from the hotel (in Belizean dollars) for lodging, meals and transport from the airport, and a copy of my credit card statement showing the charge in US dollars ($314).

On April 19 I was very pleased to receive a check in the mail for $300 from Access America. (The limit on trip-interruption coverage was $150 per day, hence the 300-dollar payment.)

I had missed three nights of the tour, Feb. 5-7, but claimed expenses for only the two days in Belize. (I had spent the night of Feb. 5 back in my own home. There was a tank of gas involved, but I thought requesting reimbursement for it would gum up the works. I kept my claim as simple as possible.)

I do purchase annual medical insurance from MedjetAssist (Birmingham, AL; 800/527-7478), which pays for transport to a hospital of my choosing, repatriation of remains, etc., but, as in this case, for a short, inexpensive trip I often do not purchase additional Medjet coverage for trip-interruption/cancellation, lost baggage, etc. However, Access America’s coverage was so inexpensive that I hit the button when booking.

Richland, MO