Five insurance tips for college students and parents

Freshmen moving into a dormA decade ago, students heading back to college in the fall may have just shown up with an old TV, a couch they found on the side of a road and a suitcase. But these days dorm rooms contain more goodies than the local Best Buy. Combine this wealth of gadgets with open doors and the occasional party and it's no surprise that items tend to "walk away" from a dorm room easier than they would at home. The good news is that insuring the stuff your student takes to college is easy to do and pretty affordable, too.

As you send your son or daughter back to school with a U-Haul full of expensive items, it's a good time to make sure all of their items are covered. While most of the time these items are covered under the parent's homeowners insurance, to make sure our readers are not surprised if something does happen, we spoke to Sean Meehan, second VP of property strategy and design at Travelers Insurance -- also known internally as "Travelers' College Insurance Expert," via phone to find out more about what you need to know about insurance on campus.

Most students are already covered -- For many students living on campus, there is no need for additional coverage since they will be covered under their parent's homeowners policy. This coverage is dependent on the student still calling mom and dad's address their primary residence and Meehan is quick to tell us that parents should call their insurance company or agent to double check that their student is covered.

But, you may want to buy extra coverage -- For students with expensive laptops, HDTVs and other expensive items in the dorm room, Meehan recommends investigating a "Valuable Items Endorsement," which provides blanket coverage between $10,000 to $20,000. The price, and name, of this coverage will vary from company to company, but you should expect to pay in the neighborhood of $100 to $120 a year.

Don't forget about that engagement ring -- If your son or daughter got engaged over the summer, now would be the perfect time to make sure that they insure the engagement ring against loss, theft and accidents that could dislodge the stone from its setting. Depending on the value of the ring, it may be covered under a Valuable Items Endorsement, but if the value begins to approach $10,000, you should be sure to have it covered separately.

Discount for the car left at home -- If your child can't take their car to campus for the first year or two, and the car will sit in the driveway at home for most of the year, call your agent and ask for a discount. While you are on the phone, find out if the company offers a good-student discount to further increase your savings.

It's a different ballgame off campus -- The second your student moves off campus, the situation changes and they are no longer covered under their parent's homeowners policy. Instead, they will need to purchase a tenant's or renter's policy to cover the items in their apartment or rented house. These policies can be quite affordable -- at $15 to $20 a month. Meehan describes this type of policy as covering all the stuff you own that would fall out of your apartment if you "turned it upside down and shook it." You can also add the valuable items endorsement to a renter's insurance policy if you need the additional coverage.

The thing that Meehan kept coming back to while speaking to WalletPop was to "Call your agent." Given the variances from policy to policy and from company to company, Meehan suggests a conversation to make sure you have the coverage you need. It should only take a few minutes, and it will save you a headache down the road if something does happen.

Finally, take basic steps to protect your investments. Invest in an inexpensive laptop lock like the Kensington ComboSaver, and use it when you leave your laptop on your desk. Also, keep track of the items in your dorm room by taking a picture of all of your gadgets and their serial numbers and uploading it to Evernote, where you'll be able to call the information up from any computer, or your smart phone, in case something does happen and you need to file a claim.
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