You know the drill: you’re checking out on Orbitz or Expedia, and a pesky pop-up offers you trip insurance, practically daring you to fly on a non-refundable fare without extra protection. So what’s the real risk?
Should you need to cancel your trip, a non-refundable fare is exactly what it sounds like: non-refundable. Unless you get a very sympathetic agent on the line, you’re not likely to get your money back.
But there is a silver lining. If you booked with a domestic carrier you’ll usually be able to cancel and receive a credit with the airline. Of course, you’ll have to pay a change fee—which can exceed $150 in some cases—and use the credit to travel by a certain deadline, often a year from the date that your original ticket was issued.
Beware: some international carriers are not so generous and offer credit only in emergencies and "unplanned events" (read: death, illness, or—believe it or not—jury duty). And if you bought your ticket through a third-party website, such as Priceline or Hotwire, it may be subject to further restrictions. So always read the fine print.