Today, we bring you a guest post from a good friend, Chris, who lives in San Diego. Chris is a life insurance agent that I met through a personal finance conference I attend each year called FinCon. We talk strategies about traveling with our families a lot. And when my daughter was born, I told him how I needed more life insurance but had some concerns because insurance companies have questions about people who travel internationally. So, Chris offered to address the issue of getting declined for life insurance due to travel because so many of us love to travel to new countries.
How to Avoid Being Declined for Life Insurance Due to Travel
For those who travel the world, getting life insurance can be tricky. In fact, go to the wrong agent, and you’re very likely to be declined for life insurance!
But here’s the real kicker:
Each life insurance company treats foreign travel differently.
So depending on your travel plans, one company may be better than another.
In other words, it’s not enough to get a quote from a few different agents or get a few quotes online.
You need a very specific agent… one who has access to multiple companies: An independent agent.
Independent agents represent multiple insurance companies and can save you hours of time and headache.
“They are free to use whoever is the best fit for their clients,” says Jason Fetherland from TermLifeInsuranceBrokers.com.
But it gets better…
They can also look at your travel plans, and recommend the best company for your particular situation.
Let me explain…
Why insurance companies care about your travel plans
Depending on where you travel and how often, insurance companies need to know how much of a risk they’re taking on.
It depends on where you’re going.
The biggest concern for life insurance companies is that you’re not traveling to dangerous areas of the world.
…take the Middle East, for example. If you travel there regularly for (regardless of the purpose), life insurance companies may decline you coverage outright. This is because of the region’s instability.
Editor’s note: I travel to Mexico a couple times a year and have been to Costa Rica, Sweden, and Grand Cayman in the last year. If you’re not with the right company, these destinations could get you declined for life insurance. – Lee
Some insurers are more lenient than others when it comes to destinations.
For example: Some will simply ask if you plan to travel outside the U.S. at all in the next year or two, while others will give you a list of approved or excluded countries.
TransAmerica is one such company. Its application lets you to visit Canada, Western Europe, Hong Kong, Australia, and New Zealand without needing to note it.
It also specifically defines excluded countries as “areas of the world where the State Department has issued travel advisories.”
Other insurance companies can be more vague, declining to give specifics on the application. Their underwriters end up making the final judgment. Your best bet is to find a company with more relaxed travel policies.
It depends on when you’re going (or when you went).
Another area where insurance companies diverge is the question of timing.
In a lot of cases, you may be asked only about your foreign travel plans for the next 12 or 24 months.
On the stricter end, Brighthouse’s application asks you about foreign travel over a four-year period. That means noting overseas trips you’ve taken in the last 24 months and overseas travel plans over the next 24 months.
Keep in mind that a one-time vacation to Europe may not trigger a higher premium or result in being declined for life insurance. Rather, issues usually arise if you’re going on long trips (e.g. 4 weeks at a time) or if your cumulative trips exceed a certain amount of time (e.g. 3 months out of the year).
…They may even postpone approving your application if your planned travel is happening in the next few months.
The type of insurance could make a difference
Life insurance companies offer many types of life insurance such as whole life, term, no exam policies, and accidental policies.
If your agent is striking out, you might ask him/her to check out the applications for no exam or accidental policies, to see if their questions are more lenient.
For example, Genworth used to have a universal life policy whose application phrased the travel question in such a way that you could literally be traveling to Iraq or Somalia next week, and you wouldn’t have to disclose it.
That’s because their question asked if you plan to visit any country outside of the US for more than 4 consecutive weeks for any reason other than business. In other words, if you were going for 2 weeks, you could simply answer the question “no.” If you were going for 5 weeks and it was for business, you could also answer “no.”
You may find similar, more lenient, questions on no exam or accidental death applications.
It’s not just travel, either
Life insurance companies also want to know if you plan to reside in a foreign country in the near future (or in some cases have resided in the recent past).
…This means you may be declined for life insurance right before taking an expat assignment or moving to a different country permanently.
Again, with some insurance companies, you’re going to get a free pass with certain countries. But with others, whether or not they’ll charge higher premiums or you’ll get declined for life insurance isn’t as clear.
Think twice about bending the truth
If you travel internationally often, you may be tempted to just leave the foreign travel section blank so as not to deal with the process.
Why is this important? Because if you don’t state applicable recent travel or future travel plans, you’re committing insurance fraud.
…It doesn’t matter if the trip is already booked or not, either. If you’re planning on it, be sure to list it.
Keep in mind, too, that insurance companies don’t just pay out the death benefit if you pass away without question. They’ll often inquire about the cause of death and the surrounding circumstances.
If they establish during that investigation that you were dishonest on your application, they can refuse to pay out.
Also beware of buying from a life insurance company with a low financial rating, because their application process allows you not to disclose your travels. I would be suspicious of any company with an A.M. Best rating of less than “A-”.
If you already have a life insurance policy in place, you don’t need to worry. As long as everything was stated correctly on your application regarding foreign travel, the insurance company won’t make changes based on your later travel plans.
If you list foreign travel on your application, the insurer will reach out for more information. This may include your occupation, frequency and purpose of travel, and how much time you spend in each country.
If you do end up getting declined for life insurance because of your travel plans, not all hope is lost. There are travel insurance companies like Allianz or InsureMyTrip.com that can insure you for accidental death and dismemberment during your vacation, regardless of the destination.
If you’re planning to travel to a safe country, you may feel like this whole process is just an unnecessary headache. You can resolve that concern by finding an insurance company with a more relaxed foreign travel policy.
…The problem is there are so many insurance companies out there; it could take you hours to search through their applications and underwriting guidelines.
Independent Life Insurance Agent
That’s why I recommend working with an independent life insurance agent. Unlike life insurance agents that work for a specific insurance company (called captive agents), independent agents have access to a multitude of insurance companies.
The best part? Independent agents have also done a lot of the research you need to do already. So they’re better equipped to help you find the right company more quickly, saving you valuable time.
If you need life insurance and do have travel plans in the near future, start the application process sooner than later. The longer you wait, the bigger the chance they may delay your application until you return.
Chris Huntley is president of Huntley Wealth & Insurance Services in San Diego. He also owns eLifeTools, a site dedicated to online marketing for insurance agents. He can be reached on Twitter @mrchrishuntley.
The Bald Thoughts
Chris provided a lot of really great information to ensure we don’t get declined for life insurance due to international travel. I agree with Chris that you need to be truthful and answer all of the questions on the application. It is the same thing as when you apply for a credit card. Don’t hide the truth, because it will just cause more problems in the future.
If you’re a parent, please make sure that you are covered by life insurance. With the birth of my girl I bought an additional life insurance policy to make sure that Anna, Timmy, and Scarlett are well taken care of in case something happens to me. I travel a lot and accidents do happen. We’ve all seen the news about plane crashes, terrorist attacks, and animal encounters gone wrong. Life insurance is a small price to pay for piece of mind.