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The travel insurance industry is a hall of mirrors, full of unclear language and companies masquerading by various names. To help you pick the best policy, we've selected eight travel insurance companies we're confident are at the top of the heap.

To choose these firms, we made sure they're vouched for by such major brokers as SquareMouth (www.squaremouth.com), InsureMyTrip.com (www.insuremytrip.com), TripInsuranceStore.com (www.tripinsurancestore.com), or QuoteWright.com (www.quotewright.com). Each company offers comprehensive policies directly to consumers, not just medical assistance. It's clear who owns the insurers and who's underwriting their policies, and both the companies and their underwriters get good ratings from AM Best (www.ambest.com, an insurance rating agency) and the Better Business Bureau. They've been in business at least ten years. And they're all members of the US Travel Insurance Association (www.ustia.org).

We also scanned Google News to make sure there were no recent headlines about the insurer having business troubles. (There are always going to be stories about people being denied coverage; nobody likes an insurance company.)

There's only one major travel insurer that's gotten a black mark in the news recently: Travel Guard was part of AIG, an insurer which had to be bailed out by the government in fall of 2008 because it was "too big to fail." The hullaballoo surrounding taxpayer dollars and executive bonuses doesn't affect Travel Guard's policies, which are monitored by state insurance commissioners.

Here are our top eight travel insurers, in alphabetical order:

Company Name: Allianz Travel Insurance
Company's Website:
www.allianztravelinsurance.com
Based In: Richmond, VA
Parent Company: Allianz
Founded In: 1983
Underwriters: BCS Insurance Company, Jefferson Insurance Company
Underwriters' AM Best Ratings: A- (Excellent), A (Excellent)
Insurer's BBB Rating: A+

Company Name: American Express
Company's Website:
AmericanExpress.com
Based In: New York, NY
Founded In: 1850 (Yes, that's eighteen fifty)
Underwriters: Amex Assurance Company
Underwriters' AM Best Ratings: A (Excellent)
Insurer's BBB Rating: A

Company Name: CSA Travel Protection
Company's Website:
www.csatravelprotection.com
Based In: San Diego, CA
Founded In: 1991
Underwriters: US Fire Insurance Company; Stonebridge Casualty Insurance Company
Underwriters' AM Best Ratings: A (Excellent); A- (Excellent)
Insurer's BBB Rating: A+

Company Name: MH Ross Travel Insurance Services
Company's Website:
www.tripinsurance.com
Based In: Kansas City, MO
Parent Company: Travel Insurance Services
Founded In: 1952
Underwriters: Old Republic Insurance Company
Underwriters' AM Best Ratings: A+ (Superior)
Insurer's BBB Rating: A+

Company Name: Travel Guard
Company's Website:
www.travelguard.com
Based In: Stevens Point, WI
Parent Company: AIU Holdings (AIG)
Founded In: 1985
Underwriters: National Union Fire Insurance Company
Underwriters' AM Best Ratings: A (Excellent)
Insurer's BBB Rating: A

Company Name: Travel Insured International
Company's Website:
www.travelinsured.com
Based In: East Hartford, CT
Founded In: 1994
Underwriters: Arch Insurance Group
Underwriters' AM Best Ratings: A (Excellent)
Insurer's BBB Rating: A+

Company Name: Travelex Insurance Services
Company's Website:
www.travelex.com
Based In: Omaha, NE
Parent Company: Travelex Insurance Group
Founded In: 1996
Underwriters: Old Republic Insurance Company
Underwriters' AM Best Ratings: A+ (Superior)
Insurer's BBB Rating: A+

Company Name: TravelSafe Insurance
Company's Website:
www.travelsafe.com
Based In: Wyomissing, PA
Parent Company: Chester Perfetto Agency
Founded In: 1971
Underwriters: Stonebridge Casualty Insurance Company
Underwriters' AM Best Ratings: A- (Excellent)
Insurer's BBB Rating: A+

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