All About CSA

We're going to concentrate a little more on CSA than the other insurers because they're different enough in their coverages and pricing that it can be confusing when comparing their offerings to any other plans out there.

Your travel agent may offer you a CSA plan and if you do some shopping around for your insurance you'll come across it on the various online comparison sites. What you may not pick up on is that CSA offers several series of plans that are very similar but also very different in important ways, some of which can save you money or cost you money. They are:

Custom and Custom Luxe plans: These are the plans that you'll find on the largest comparison sites (insuremytrip, Squaremouth, Quotewright) and also if you go directly to the CSA web site. If you call CSA this is the plan you'll be offered.

Freestyle and Freestyle Luxe plans:  These are the plans you will be offered by your travel agent. If you call CSA directly you can only purchase these plans if you have your travel agent's producer code. It's also available through a few other online comparison sites such as

The plans are very similar in terms of coverages and benefits. But there is one very big difference -- if you need the waiver of the pre-existing medical condition exclusion and are looking at the Custom series of plans you can only get the waiver if you step up to the Luxe version. And, as with any product named "Luxe", you just know it's going to involve a higher price.

But if you instead use the Freestyle series of plans you can choose the standard Freestyle plan (not the "Luxe" version) and still get the waiver.

What's the difference in cost? Here's an example
60 year old traveler that needs the pre-existing medical condition waiver traveling for one week to a resort in the Caribbean. Trip cost $2500 and buying the policy 90 days prior to departure:

Custom Luxe plan:  $177
Freestyle plan: $134

The Custom Luxe does have higher limits on the medical and emergency evacuation coverages so perhaps this traveler will decide the higher premium is worth it. But if not, why pay an extra $43 to get the waiver if you don't have to?

Per Person vs Per Policy Coverage Limits:

CSA is not the only insurer that does this but it is fairly unusual. For the medical and the emergency evacuation coverage the policy limit is per policy, not per person. For example, the Freestyle plan has a $50,000 limit on the medical coverage. If you have a family of four and they are are involved in a traffic accident and all are injured the $50,000 has to cover everyone's injuries.

If that's a concern it might be a good idea to split this family onto individual policies so that each traveler has his or her own $50,000 limit. Doing this has absolutely no other effect on the coverages. What's the downside? CSA charges a $6 per policy administrative fee at the time of purchase. If this family of four is on one policy they are just charged $6 once. If they split up onto four policies they're charged the $6 four times -- an additional cost to them of $18.

Pricing on the Custom and Custom Luxe Plans

Most plans in the travel insurance industry have premiums based on basically two factors -- the traveler's age and trip cost.

The Custom series of plans take into account a variety of other factors, the most important of which is the time between the policy purchase date and the departure date. Here's an example:

60 year old traveler to the Caribbean with a $3500 trip cost buying his policy 90 days prior to departure using the Custom plan:    $118 premium
Same trip but now he's buying his policy 30 days prior to departure:  $86.25

This makes sense. The shorter the time period the insurer has to cover this traveler, the less chance of something happening that will cause a cancellation.

With the Freestyle plans and just about every other plan out there the premium for both of these trips would be exactly the same.

Pricing on the Freestyle and Freestyle Luxe Plans

The Freestyle plans are priced the same way as almost every other plan in the industry -- by the traveler's age and trip cost. Here's a small section of the Freestyle premium chart:

Trip Cost Age 0 - 30 Age 31 - 50 Age 51 - 60 Age 61 - 70
$1500 - $2000 $76 $91 $108 $133
$2001 - $2500 $93 $113 $134 $166
$2501 - $3000 $112 $134 $156 $198

So three 60 year old travelers all on the same policy and with a per person trip cost of $2500 they would pay:

$134 + $134 + $134 = $402 + $6 administrative fee   Total $408.  Simple enough.

But what happens if one of those travelers is using frequent flyer miles for her air ticket and has a trip cost of only $2000? Shouldn't the premium now be $382? ($108 + $134 + $134 + $6)

Nope. According to CSA the premium remains at $408. What the heck is going on?

Unlike most other insurers, CSA figures the insured trip cost by taking the total trip cost for all travelers on the policy and dividing it equally. So in this second example, the total trip cost for the three travelers is $7000 ($2500 + $2500 + $2000). When that's divided by three you end up with a per person trip cost of $2333 which still leaves everyone in that $2000 - $2500 trip cost bracket. You're paying $36 too much.

What to do? In this case you'd be best off by splitting that person with the $2000 trip cost off onto a separate policy. It will have no effect on the coverages and the only downside is that you're now paying that $6 admin fee twice. So you'll net a savings of $30.

Here's another example. Two 35 year old adults on a cruise with a 12 year old child, all sharing one cabin. Each adult is paying $3000 and the child is paying $2000.

By the chart the total premium should be $350 ($134 + $134 + $76 + $6).

But CSA is going to charge them $386. They've added up all of the trip costs ($8000) and divided by three so the per person trip cost is $2666 and the premium is figured as $134 + $134 + $112 + $6. Again, these cruisers would be better off splitting the child off onto a separate policy even though they'll be paying an additional $6 processing fee.

It doesn't always work to the travelers' disadvantage. In fact occasionally this method of figuring the premiums actually comes in less than it would otherwise. But any time you are insuring travelers whose trip costs are not exactly the same you should get a comparison quote using separate policies. You may save some money.

travel insurance basics