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Does Your Homeowner Insurance Cover Damage from the New Airline Electronics Rules?

All politics aside, the latest U.S. travel policy is clear. Personal electronics larger than a smart phone are to be placed in checked baggage for flights to the US from such Middle East airports as Cairo or Dubai. Devices that need to be checked include cameras, laptops, tablets, game units, e-readers, and DVD players. But what happens when these devices are damaged inside baggage on your trip? You may be surprised to learn that your homeowner’s insurance covers you.

Ironically, the Transportation Security Administration advises packing fragile electronic devices in carry-on bags, which is what you’ve always done. But this suggestion is nixed by concerns that terrorists may use such devices as explosives on commercial flights. Unfortunately, such concerns don’t make your electronics any hardier, and if they’re damaged, here are your options.

• You won’t be getting any satisfaction from the airlines. They specifically do not cover damage to “fragile” items such as personal electronics.

• Your first line of defense should be your credit card. While exact policies differ by brand, you typically get free travel insurance if your tickets are purchased with either partially or wholly with the covering card. The American Express Platinum Card, for example, allows only $250 of loss for photographic or electronic equipment. The Citi Prestige Card covers up to $3,000 per traveler per trip, or up to $10,000 for all travelers in a group.

• Stand-alone travel insurance can be a possibility but you need to check for limits and exclusions. Typically, an annual policy offers more coverage than a plan purchased for an individual trip. Even then, losses may be limited to $500 or less.

• Your homeowner’s insurance actually covers such losses and did so even before the new airline rules came into effect. Keep in mind that your policy takes care of theft or damage to your possessions even outside the home. But such coverage may be subject to limits that do not cover the total cost of your electronics. Fortunately, you can usually purchase extra coverage in the form of a rider. Paying about $50 a year for an electronics rider may cover up to $5,000 a year in losses. Check with your insurance agent for specific information.

However you’re covered, it’s not enough to say that your laptop was lost or stolen on your way from the Middle East to LAX. You typically have to file paperwork with the airline, even if you know they won’t cover it. You then have to provide evidence that you submitted that claim in the form of a copy. Deadlines for filing such claims may be short – as little as three days – so be sure to check the coverage details before you travel.

You then need to provide evidence of ownership, such as purchase receipts. If you’re filing claims with credit cards or travel insurance, you’ll need additional travel documentation, such as the flight itinerary, a credit card statement showing that you charged the tickets to the covering credit card and the settlement or denial of the claim from the airline.

Of course, the best defense is not to bring any of the electronics that you have to check in. If your smart phone doesn’t have the resolution or memory to capture the vacation memories you need, or if you absolutely need a laptop for business at your destination, you can typically rent these items in the Middle East cities affected by the regulation.

If you need more information about how insurance can protect your new home and possessions, or if you’re interested in buying one of our many properties, please contact us.