If you’re going on holiday, you normally need a travel insurance policy. As well as paying your medical bills, travel insurance will also pay out if you have to cancel your holiday or if your luggage is stolen. So what should you look for in a policy?
Tips on getting the right travel insurance policy for less
There are several things you can do to reduce the cost of your travel insurance policy. Don’t leave it until the last minute or you may not have enough time to get the policy that’s right for your needs.
1. Start by shopping around
The first thing is not to go for the cheapest policy as it may not give you the cover you need. Look at two or three different price comparison sites (such as Moneysupermarket.com, GoCompare or Compare the Market). Consider using a broker if you’re going on an activity holiday, are older or need specialist cover (you can find a broker on the BIBA website). Holiday sold by specialist companies, such as ski holiday providers, may be more comprehensive than a policy you can buy on a comparison site.
SAVVY TIP: Insurance companies generally have their policy documents online. Don’t check the policy summary, but look at the policy document. If you’re comparing policies and don’t want to read the full document each time, do a keyword search on things like ‘exclusions’, ‘activities’ etc to find out what it says about specific areas.
2. Check levels of medical cover
You should get at least £2 million of cover if you’re travelling in Europe and an absolute minimum of £5 million if you’re travelling elsewhere, particularly the United States. You can get some medical treatment free or at low cost in Europe if you have an EHIC — a European Health Insurance Card. But it won’t cover things like being airlifted to hospital or transport home.
SAVVY TIP: If you travel in Europe you can get some free medical treatment with an EHIC card (see my article that explains what an EHIC does and how to get one).
3. Check levels of baggage cover
Make sure you have enough cover in case you lose your luggage or have your money or valuables stolen. Some policies have very low limits on luggage cover, of just a few hundred pounds. It’s also well worth finding out what the single item limit is. This is the maximum you can claim for any single item (useful if you’re taking jewellery or an expensive camera).
SAVVY TIP: If you’re taking something valuable abroad, it may be worth taking a photo of it before you go and telling your insurer. Insurers sometimes suspect fraud if expensive items are lost on holiday.
4. Watch out for family cover
If you’re travelling with your family, make sure you check that your children are covered. Family policies will normally cover children who live with you all the time, but may not insure children if they don’t normally live with you. It’s also worth checking the age limit if your children are over 16.
5. Check the excess levels
Check the excess levels – the amount that’s deducted from any payout if you make a claim. All insurance policies will have an excess and most will apply this excess to each part of the policy. So, for example, there may be an excess of £50 if you make a claim under delayed departure, another excess of £50 if you claim because you’ve lost your luggage and another excess if you claim because you’ve lost your passport or money. Some insurers apply an overall cap (so you’ll only ever pay, for example, two lots of excess).
6. Make sure sports and activities are included
If you’re the kind of person whose idea of a perfect holiday is to go camel racing, paragliding or deep sea diving, make sure your insurance will cover those activities! Even if you do something like pony trekking or take a hot air balloon flight, not all policies may cover you. Some only cover trips that are booked from the UK and other insurance policies will cover some activities but not the riskier ones.
7. Existing illnesses and medical conditions
If you’ve been ill in the past, or you have a medical condition – even if it’s being controlled really well by medication – you must tell the insurer before you buy the policy. Some insurers won’t cover medical conditions, some will increase the premiums and others will restrict cover.
SAVVY TIP: If you get turned down by one of the big insurers on a price comparison site, go to one that specialises in insurance for people who have existing medical conditions. Read more in my article on Getting the right travel insurance if you’re over 75, which includes information on pre-existing conditions.
8. Will you have to provide proof of loss?
Ask the company, or check on the policy documents, what evidence you have to provide if you want to make a claim. Some insurers will ask that you provide receipts for everything you’re claiming for. Others will say you have to get a police crime number within 24 hours or that you have to get a police report if an item has been lost, not just if it’s been stolen.
9. Making a claim
You should always contact your insurer straight away as soon as you’ve lost something or when you know you will need to make a claim. That way you can make sure you do what’s expected of you. If your travel insurer won’t pay out, first of all, go back to them and ask them why not. It may be that they need more evidence or that they want some extra medical information.
10. If the policy won’t pay out
Make sure your complaint is dealt with and not pushed to the back of the heap. Contact the chief executive – by letter or email – if your complaint isn’t being dealt with. They probably won’t respond but most chief execs have an executive team to deal with complaints like these.
SAVVY TIP:If you don’t get anywhere, make a formal complaint. It’s best to do this in writing – by letter or email. The insurer then has eight weeks in which to respond and if they don’t agree with you, you can take your complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Another option is to contact the media or social media, such as Twitter or Facebook. If you’re going to do this, take care because you are essentially ‘publishing’ and you could be sued if you say something that’s untrue.
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