Back in March 2020, Australia’s international borders closed. For many, it’s been a long 2 years of not being able to travel, missing out on important events overseas, and not being able to see loved ones.
Now though, there is light at the end of that tunnel, with the lifting of the travel ban and quarantine requirements for some states.
In line with the National Plan, states and territories can open up to international travel as they reach 80% double dose vaccination, welcoming back Aussies stranded overseas, while allowing their own fully vaccinated citizens and residents to travel abroad.
And, as home quarantine trials for vaccinated travellers continue, those returning to Australia should be able to complete a seven-day quarantine at home, rather than shelling out for 14 days in hotel quarantine. Check your individual state rules before travelling!
“The government’s intention is that once changes are made in November, the current overseas travel restrictions related to COVID-19 will be removed and Australians will be able to travel subject to any other travel advice and limit,” Mr Morrison said in a statement.
So then, where can you go? Currently, the travel ban is still in place. That means – with the travel bubble with New Zealand still on pause – the only way you can travel overseas at the moment is with an exemption granted by the Department of Home Affairs.
In his statement, Mr Morrison indicated the travel ban would be lifted in November. Although the exact date is yet to be announced, it will likely be in line with Australia reaching 80% double dose vaccination, which is projected to be on November 7.
From there, it will be up to each state and territory to reach that 80% target among their own residents, which will then allow them to make their own plans to open up.
It’s expected NSW will open up first, with their 80% target projected for October 20, and home quarantine currently being trialled there. The ACT is predicted to reach 80% one day before NSW, while Victoria is on track to hit 80% on November 11.
The remaining states and territories have been less forthcoming about their plans to open up both their internal and external borders – with some saying they will wait until they reach a 90% vaccination rate instead.
Nevertheless, Tasmania is projected to reach 80% vaccination by November 11, South Australia by December 2, Western Australia by December 8, Queensland by December 10, and the Northern Territory by January 7.
Keen to travel overseas? After pencilling in December 18 as the date it would restart international flights, Qantas brought forward its new international flight schedule following the Prime Minister’s announcement.
“Assuming current projections hold and the 80% vaccine threshold is met, Qantas and Jetstar plan to trigger a gradual restart as outlined below. If those assumptions change or dates move, the restart plans will adjust accordingly,” a statement from the airline said.
A further statement issued by Qantas mentioned its plans to reroute its Melbourne to London flights through either Darwin or Singapore, due to border closures in Western Australia.
Aside from Qantas, other global airlines, including Emirates, Singapore Airlines and Qatar Airways, are also offering flights to major destinations from November. How many flights there are – and what availability they offer – will likely depend on how long it takes the Australian government to provide a firm date for opening up, and also provide detail on the lifting of travel caps.
In other good news though, late last month Trade Minister Dan Tehan said Australia could potentially form travel bubbles with similar nations – such as New Zealand, the Pacific and Singapore – to enjoy quarantine-free travel once vaccination rates hit 80%.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the past 19 pandemic-stricken months it’s that things don’t always go according to plan. Especially when it comes to travel.
With borders opening and shutting, opening and shutting, booking travel has become something of an extreme sport here in Australia. You book, then you wait anxiously with everything crossed, hoping that borders will stay open long enough for you to get away and enjoy your trip, without getting hit by some kind of lockdown.
So, what’s to say that won’t happen with international travel?
While no one knows exactly what will happen, the National Plan indicates that when states and territories reach 80% vaccination, there will be no need for sweeping state-wide lockdowns.
With that being said though, localised lockdowns may still be used, which could prevent you from travelling. And, if you are unfortunate enough to be deemed a close contact, you will need to isolate for the recommended period of time, which could again, scupper your travel plans.
Remember travel insurance? Back in the day, when we could all travel wherever and whenever we wanted, we booked travel insurance to cover ourselves, our travel plans and our belongings.
When COVID hit, however, not only did travel go out the window, so did our cover. While some insurers paid out on lost travel bookings, others refused on the grounds that their policies did not cover ‘world events’ such as outbreaks of infectious diseases, pandemics or endemics.
The question is now – can you get cover for COVID as travel opens up overseas?
To answer that, in this post we’re going to check out cover offered by credit card travel insurance, as well as other cover options provided via standalone travel insurance.
First up, let’s dip into cover offered on credit cards with regards to domestic travel.
Depending on where you live, you may still be able to travel within your state or territory – or even inter-state if you’re really lucky. So, what can you expect from your credit card travel insurance as you make these trips?
When it comes to travel insurance for international travel, the major drawcard is often the cover it provides on medical expenses. This type of cover is not required on domestic travel, as you should be covered anywhere in Australia thanks to Medicare, or your own private health insurance.
With that being said, domestic cover offered by credit card insurance tends to focus on the following:
What To Be Aware Of:
Now, onto the big stuff. International travel. Will your credit card travel insurance offer cover on COVID-related claims made on overseas travel bookings? Let’s take a look at what each of the three major underwriters for Australian credit card insurance have to say.
|When COVID hit in March last year, Allianz’s stance was as follows: |
Now, 19 months later, not much has changed. This is taken from Allianz’s FAQs on the subject.
After outlining what a General Exclusion is, what a pandemic is, and then confirming that COVID-19 is indeed regarded as a pandemic, the FAQs go on to answer questions surrounding whether its credit card insurance policies have a General Exclusion for pandemics.
“Terms, conditions and exclusions differ between policies.” In other words, what cover you enjoy will depend on the policy you hold.
If your policy contains a General Exclusion for pandemics, it essentially means any claim relating to COVID-19 will not be covered.
Even if your policy doesn’t have a General Exclusion for pandemics, “other exclusions, such as an exclusion for change of plans or an exclusion arising from government interference with your travel plans (such as by closure of borders) may apply”.
In saying all that, Allianz does say you may make a claim for consideration.
What’s the takeaway then? Read your PDS carefully, and follow up with your insurer if you have any questions before you rely on your cover.
|ANZ: An Example |
Time to check out an example of credit card insurance offered by Allianz via ANZ.
Other exclusions may apply depending upon the circumstances of an individual claim. General Exclusions include but are not limited to:
Any interference with your travel plans by any:
For example, if Smartraveller has a warning, ‘Do not travel’ due to the risk of COVID-19 infection for a destination and a customer chooses to ignore the warning and is infected with COVID-19, cover may be excluded.
|Back in March 2020, Chubb’s stance was as follows: |
If you entered into a policy after 2 March 2020, coverage is unlikely. Earlier timeframes apply for China but, aside from that, the insurer will assess claims on a case-by-case basis.
In a statement, Chubb provides the following updated info:
However, it goes on to explain that COVID-19 is a “foreseen circumstance”, and as such:
In relation to travel outside of Australia, Chubb considers COVID-19 to be a “foreseen circumstance” for policies issued and/or travel arrangements under an existing policy that are paid for where travelling to the following areas and after the following dates:
In relation to Australian domestic travel, Chubb notes that COVID-19 was declared a pandemic on 11 March 2020, and continues to be deemed one. The potential impact of the ongoing COVID-19 situation has been known since at least 11 March 2020 and therefore remains a “foreseen circumstance”.
Therefore, where a policy was issued and/or travel arrangements are paid for after the above dates, COVID-19 is considered a “foreseen circumstance” and as such claims for trip cancellation or disruption are unlikely to be covered by the policy.”
And for future travel bookings?
“We are monitoring the roll-out and success of the vaccination program around the world. In the meantime, we note the Australian Government is maintaining its ‘do not travel overseas’ advice, and domestic travel continues to be affected by local outbreaks.
It is still uncertain when COVID-19 will be contained to the point where the risk of further outbreak is no longer a foreseen circumstance.
We also note the risk of further outbreak is likely to continue even after government travel restrictions are lifted and if there are no local outbreaks – meaning that claims for trip cancellation and disruption will remain a “foreseen circumstance” (and so not covered under the policy) even in those circumstances.
Once the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak ceases to be a foreseen circumstance, but a customer still does not wish to travel, then Chubb may consider any cancellation of this travel to be a disinclination to travel which is not covered under the policy.”
The takeaway here? Chubb seems to be saying that as COVID is deemed a “foreseen circumstance”, any claims made relating to COVID will not be paid out. Much like claims for pre-existing medical conditions are typically not covered.
However, Chubb does suggest checking your policy wording for full terms, conditions and exclusions.
|When COVID hit Australia’s shores in March 2020, Zurich’s stance was as follows: |
If you have travel insurance with Cover-More via your credit or debit card, this event is excluded and there is no cover.
We found a further update regarding COVID in December 2020 (and no more since), stating:
The takeaway here? There seems to be no change on Zurich’s stance. What it essentially boils down to is if you have credit card insurance via Cover-More, any claims that relate to COVID will not be paid out.
|An Example: CommBank |
To back that up, let’s take a quick look at CommBank’s credit card insurance COVID FAQs.
Quoting the policy:
The FAQs go on to reiterate that there is no cover for cancellation, either if you:
• Cancel pre-emptively because you’re concerned about COVID,
In terms of medical coverage, the FAQs do not specifically say the policy won’t pay out if you catch COVID and require medical attention.
The FAQs do, however, say there is no cover for:
• The additional expenses involved in coming back to Australia as a result of COVID,
For the most part, it seems credit card travel insurance does not cover claims that relate to COVID in any way, shape or form. However, that may vary from policy to policy, so it’s worth checking your PDS and asking for more info if you’re unsure.
You may still be covered for non-COVID related events, however, such as medical costs, lost, stolen or damaged belongings and cash, travel delay, transport accidents and car hire excess. As long as your claim doesn’t involve COVID in any way, you could still enjoy valuable cover from your credit card insurance.
With that being said, it is worth finding out more about your policy before you travel. As we mentioned previously, the Federal Government still has a Do Not Travel advisory for all countries except for New Zealand.
If you travel under this ban, you may find you cannot make a claim, regardless of whether it relates to COVID. It’s a good idea to check out the Do Not Travel list before you book, and most definitely before you rely on your policy.
If you want more from your cover, you may want to look into standalone COVID insurance. This is being offered by a number of insurance providers now, and can cover travel in Australia and within overseas destinations deemed safe by Smartraveller.
While cover varies according to provider, you may find COVID-specific policies that cover:
It should be noted that cancellation claims and claims for additional expenses are typically not paid out if the claim is related to border closures or lockdowns. Claims will also not typically be paid out to cover costs relating to mandatory quarantine or isolation.
Insurers may also choose not to cover medical costs resulting from COVID if your claim is related to you having travelled on a multi-night cruise, or if you travelled to a country subject to Do Not Travel advice from Smartraveller.
💡 TIP: Some tour operators and airlines are currently offering complimentary ‘COVID insurance’ when you book travel with them. As with the standalone COVID cover mentioned above, this will likely come with plenty of exclusions, so read the PDS before you rely on the cover.
Pauline is a personal finance expert at CreditCard.com.au, with 8 years in money, budgeting and property reporting under her belt. Pauline is passionate about seeing Aussies win by making their money – and their credit cards – work smarter, harder and bigger.
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