Q. I bought travel insurance directly from AIG Travel Guard. But then my mother was diagnosed with cancer and I was not able to take the flight. I thought I was covered under the terms of the policy, but the insurance company refused to reimburse me for my non-refundable airfare because my mom is not a US citizen and lives in a foreign country. Is this a common exclusion? I'm a US citizen and I was the one who bought the coverage. This doesn't seem fair at all to me.

A. There are all kinds of loopholes in travel insurance policies, and although it's difficult to read all the fine print (some of which runs to 7000 words or more--we checked it by pasting a contract into Microsoft word and doing a word count), it's a good idea to read the contract. Travel Guard does appear to exclude non US citizens from coverage in this scenario. And here's another loophole: one of our readers bought travel insurance directly from an airline site (the insurer was again TravelGuard) but was informed that she wasn't covered due to a pre-existing condition. If you buy insurance directly from TravelGuard within 15 days of purchasing your travel, you are covered for pre-existing conditions. But it seems that protection bought through airline web sites when buying your ticket is not the same thing. These airline-sold policies are relatively cheap, but don't buy them unless you study the fine print.

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