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Details, Details

Sonja Haggert

DO YOU SKIM OVER the fine print? Two recent incidents involving insurance coverage made me rethink my tendency to do just that. One incident alerted me to a major problem. The other saved me money.

Let’s start with the problem. It was time to renew our homeowner’s insurance. In looking over the policy, something didn’t look right. In the section for dwelling, which is defined in our policy as alterations and other improvements, we had $5,000 worth of coverage. That sum would potentially need to cover the replacement of appliances, flooring, fixtures and so on. Meanwhile, for personal property, we had $250,000 of coverage. This is defined in our policy as furniture and clothing.

I think you know where this is going.

When I called our insurance agency to ask if I understood the designated amounts correctly, an employee acknowledged there was a problem. I was told to call the insurance company directly.

What we discovered was that our coverage had been flipped. Even though we all have the impression that our personal items are valuable, it’s far more important to be able to replace the essentials in our homes, such as appliances and flooring. The $5,000 would barely cover the price of one or two appliances.

What about the happier incident? We have some trips planned, and there’s the issue of travel insurance. Since the pandemic, travel has gotten dicier, so finding the right policy is important.

In my research, I discovered something positive: We already have significant coverage through our credit cards. For example, according to the American Express literature, I’m covered for $3,000 of lost or stolen baggage. Not bad.

The amount for trip cancellation also looked good to me. I was skeptical, so I called American Express. The fine print said it provides secondary coverage. A rep confirmed that if I didn’t have primary coverage, its secondary policy would indeed cover me.

Still wanting to see this in writing, I went to the website to confirm what I had been told. That’s where I came across the “noncontribution clause.” That means the coverage won’t apply if any other insurance is in place. Since I plan to use only American Express’s coverage, that won’t be a problem. I discovered that other credit cards have similar features.

There are still restrictions, such as the coverage not being available in all states. The coverage could also change or be eliminated at any time. I’ll have to check if there are any changes when the card renews and pay attention to emails from American Express.

Will I read all the fine print from now on? Probably not. I let my husband do that.

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