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American Express says their travel insurance will cover Platinum cardholders for coronavirus

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There was some discussion in our comments yesterday about insurance coverage for the coronavirus outbreak.

A reader had contacted American Express Platinum and been told that, basically, he was stuffed.  Amex said that they would refuse to pay out if he travelled and fell ill but would also refuse to pay out if he cancelled.

I took a look at a different insurance policy I hold.  It includes this line, which I thought was standard across all travel insurance policies:

American Express Platinum insurance for coronavirus

Cancellation and curtailment/loss of holiday

If beneficiaries are forced to:

a)  cancel their trip as a direct and necessary result of any cause listed below: [snip]

(vi)  The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office or the equivalent government authority in the beneficiary’s country of residence advising against ‘all travel’ or ‘all but essential travel’ to the beneficiary’s intended destination. 

(vi) is, of course, where we are now with coronavirus, with the Foreign Office advising against all but essential travel.

I had a look at the Amex Platinum insurance document (download it here) and in theory it backs up what the reader was told by the call centre.  I also asked a barrister friend to take a look and he confirmed my interpretation.  With Amex Platinum insurance there appears to be no option which allows you to cancel if the Foreign Office says you should not go.  You need to look at Section 1.2.

However …..

The clause below, from Section 1.9, is from the list of reasons why American Express Platinum will not pay out:

14) Trips in, or booked to, countries where a government agency has advised against travelling or which are officially under embargo by the United Nations.

You can see why the call centre told our reader that he was not covered.  On a strict reading of the document, my interpretation is the same – Amex won’t pay up if you don’t go (see Section 1.2) and they won’t pay up if you do go and fall ill (see Section 1.9).

However, I spoke to Amex yesterday about this case.  It told me, in writing, that they would settle claims for anyone who has to cancel a trip to China due to coronavirus.  Confusingly it pointed to Section 1.2 as proof, but under Section 1.2 the ONLY acceptable reasons for cancellation are:

a) You, or a person travelling with You, or a person You are visiting for the main purpose of Your Trip, having an accident, suffering an unforeseen illness or dying before or during Your Trip;
b) Your Close Relative, or a Close Relative of a person travelling with You, or a Close Relative of a person You are visiting for the main purpose of Your Trip, having an accident, suffering an unforeseen illness or dying before or during Your Trip;
c) Your redundancy which qualifies for redundancy payments under current legislation;
d) You being called for jury service or being subpoenaed as a witness other than in a professional or advisory capacity;
e) Unforeseen severe damage to Your home or Your business premises if the damage caused is likely to be more than £25,000;
f) Theft at Your home or Your business premises that requires Your presence by the police;
g) A delay of more than 12 hours on the outward leg of Your Trip as a result of industrial action, adverse weather, mechanical breakdown of public transport, or a transportation accident which means You no longer want to go on Your Trip

….. which makes no sense as Section 1.2 clearly does not list ‘Foreign Office guidance’ as an acceptable reason to cancel – but I will take their word for it.  Any other readers who are being fobbed off by the call centre may want to call back.

This is not the first time that we have had issues with Amex and the wording of its insurance documents.  Anyone with raised cholesterol, for example, is not covered for any medical conditions which can be linked to it. 

That said, I can honestly say that – in numerous claims I have made over the years – it has paid out even when I had not acted strictly in accordance with the rules.

PS.  If you missed it, take a look at our recent article on 10 reasons why you should get the American Express Platinum card.

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Comments (215)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • The Original Nick says:

    Can anyone tell me if flying IB long haul do they have on board wifi installed? Flying MAD-HAV in 2 weeks.

  • The Original Nick says:

    Found it on IB site.

  • PaulC says:

    Can anyone please remind me the best number to call to make an Avios booking using my Lloyds upgrade voucher?

  • CraigyC says:

    I wasn’t very impressed with Amex platinum insurance last year, my flight to Verona was cancelled for the Tuesday morning with no other choice but to travel on the Monday night (we were booked in to the hotel at Gatwick). As we were already in the airport (hotel bar) we checked out and took the flight, booking a hotel for Verona while sat in the lounge.
    Assuming this would be covered I submitted a claim when I got home. I received a phone call where they started with “s we just want to check some details of the claim” where they went through the claim then bombarded me with clauses from the the policy as to why they wouldn’t pay. I arguedabout the spirit of the policy with the advertising slogan of “We’ve got your back” which they (Axa) of course couldn’t care less about.
    Angered I went through the policy to find clauses to help my cause, the cancellation policy clearly states that they will pay if the replacement flight is not within a certain time of the original, but does not say if this is before or afterwards. It also states that you must have been obliged to pay for any accommodation before getting on the replacement flight.
    As I’d payed for the hotel before getting on the flight and could prove this (the hotel booking I’d chosen meant I was obliged to pay upfront), I argued that this clause stands. The Axa representative still tried to argue this down with a supervisor who tried to claim “that’s not what we meant when that clause was written”, to which I pointed out it doesn’t matter what they meant, it’s what is actually written that counts. They reluctantly paid.
    However as I’d asked for the case to be reviewed prior to this conversation I received a letter a month later saying they’d reviewed it and they wouldn’t pay, which I simply ignored.
    I’m not overly impressed with Axa however, the way they dealt with this claim was poor with the initial “trap” phone call being handled very poorly. Normal insurance company simply looking for any way it doesn’t have to pay even when it’s clear that they should. I’d had to pay for an extra hotel room for the same night, due to a flight being cancelled.
    I wouldn’t rely on them to be any better with a large claim.

    • Lady London says:

      This is why it was such a deterioration when Amex switched its Platinum coverage from another underwriter to Axa a few years back. This type of customer service kept happening (it’s Axa – I think their agents go to the same school as the Accor customer service agents). Also more weasel words and inadequate coverage words are now in the policy since Axa.

      I would have just referred it to the Ombudsman or Money Claim Online. I have more faith in money claim if eligible, as Ombudsman decision can sometimes be perverse and appear to support the relevant industry rather than the consumer they are supposed to be there to get fair treatment for. I would try not to let it rest – even though I know part of the non-paying entity’s tactics are to wear you down so you get too exhausted to take the claim as far as it should go – because the more they get away with it, the more insurance companies and airlines will try to wear down the customer and get their claim to go away by that, as a deliberate tactic.

      I know it’s hard though.

    • SimonW says:

      I think every insurance company has loads of horror stories. It’s the nature of the beast. Take premiums and try not to pay out. Any firm that was too generous in payout % would soon get eaten up by competition and market forces….. With that in mind I’ve given up with using brokers and High End insurance companies for car and home insurance. As long as it is a decent well known brand, and the policy coverage seems reasonable, just got to hope that if i have to claim, I will be treated fairly.

      • Lady London says:

        forums are invaluable for feedback on insurers and whether they pay out when they should. Always worth a search. You may come across a treasure trove of positive or negative feedback. If I have a notable experience either way I am likely to post it if I see an opportunity – to pay back to what I benefit from.

        Wonder when Amazon will get into insurance?

  • Alex Sm says:

    OT: but on China and virus

    ‪It’s interesting that US and Canadian airlines only reduced the number of flights to China, not completely stopped flying there. Does anyone know why?‬

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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