Can I top up my travel insurance after I leave for my trip?

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No matter how short the trip or how young and healthy the traveller, Canadians need to make sure they’re covered each time they leave the country — especially when travelling to the U.S., where healthcare costs are astronomical. You want to ensure that you are never unprotected in case of a medical emergency while you are away from home, even if you’re still in Canada.While companies use these terms in slightly different ways, top-ups and extensions refer to extending your existing travel medical insurance protection by purchasing some extra days of coverage to accommodate a lengthier trip than you had originally planned.

Many seasoned travellers start with a multi-trip plan

It can be cost effective to purchase an annual (otherwise known as a multi-trip) travel medical plan that allows for multiple trips up to a certain maximum of days at any time during the one year that is covered by the plan.

So, for example, you may have chosen a 15-day option on your annual multi-trip plan (from the typical 8, 15, 30 or 60-day options). You keep your wallet card with you at all times and love the ‘set and forget’ nature of your plan: you sign up just once a year and receive a fixed premium rate. It works well for you. If you score tickets to the big game in the U.S. or hear about a sale starting tomorrow across the border, your annual plan will let you leave without worry — because you’re covered.


Of course, you need to document your exit and entry from your home province in the event you make a claim, so you need to keep a paper trail of receipts. This will be your ‘proof of entry’ to your home province, since sometimes your passport stamp won’t be there to reflect that travel detail.

Then, on a trip to visit relatives, you decide you want to stay the month. What can you do to ensure you have insurance coverage?

You can extend your coverage while you are away

It is best to extend your trip coverage before you leave home.  But, if it turns out you need more days because your trip needs to be extended, you can purchase them after you have already departed your province, as long as

  • your current policy has not expired (you cannot extend your coverage if it has already expired)
  • you notify the insurer more than 48 hours before the expiry of your existing coverage
  • there are no claims outstanding on the plan that you will be extending and there has not been an event the may result in a claim (if you file a claim during the trip, your extension may be refused)
  • there is no change to your health status
  • the entire trip outside of Canada, including the extension period, must not exceed the duration allowed by your government health insurance plan.

The ‘top-up’ or extension coverage is subject to an extra premium charge.

Coverage will start on the effective date shown on your policy confirmation, and it will end on either the date you return to your province or the expiry date shown on your confirmation, whichever is earliest.

If you return home early, you can apply for a partial refund of the premium for the unused coverage, providing there has been or will be no claim reported or initiated against the policy, that no assistance or service has been provided, and that you have mailed a written refund request within 5 days of your return, along with proof of the date you actually returned home. Proof of early return (for example, a customs or immigration stamp, gas receipts) is required.  Keep in mind that most insurers charge an administration fee to process a refund and the refund amount must meet a minimum (typically at least $10.00).

Need to extend your coverage?

If you are already on your trip and need to apply for an extension of your coverage, simply call us at SBIS two days before your contract or coverage expires.  We can help!


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