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10 reasons to read your travel insurance small print

By MoneySupermarket.com  |  Posted: July 03, 2012

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Travellers have been warned they may not be covered by their insurance when claiming for holiday incidents while under the influence of alcohol or non-prescription drugs.

The alert comes from the British Insurance Brokers’ Association (BIBA), which has delved into the small print of 20 leading travel insurance policies. It found that all of the insurers surveyed had some form of alcohol and drugs exclusion – although the exclusions varied.

It is essential to take out a travel insurance policy when you book your holiday to cover you for everything from medical costs and lost possessions while away to cancellation. But this research highlights how important it is to find out what you are actually covered for before you take a policy out so you don’t have any surprises if you need to make a claim.

Below we detail 10 potential travel insurance exclusions that you should be aware of to prevent your claim being turned down.

1. Incidents involving alcohol and non-prescription drugs

As BIBA outlined in its research, most insurers have exclusions around alcohol or drug-related incidents. But these exclusions vary from insurer to insurer, so read your policy carefully before you take it out to be fully aware of what you are and aren’t covered for.

For example, the insurer LV states that it won’t cover you for a claim that is caused in any way or relates to “You or a travelling companion being under the influence of alcohol, solvents or drugs (except those prescribed by a doctor but not for the treatment of drug addiction), or as a direct or indirect effect of you using alcohol, solvents or drugs.”

Admiral, on the other hand, excludes: “Any claim arising directly or indirectly from Your drug addiction or solvent abuse, excessive alcohol intake, or You being under the influence of drug(s).”

2. Pre-existing medical conditions

In June we invited you to send in your summer travel questions and a common theme was travel insurance with pre-existing medical conditions. One reader, Edward, asked: “Are there any travel insurance companies that do not charge an arm and a leg for a healthy 70-year-old who had a stent fitted eight years ago, with no history of heart attacks or any other problem?”

While it can be tempting to hide pre-existing conditions from your insurer to keep costs down or to assume that, as you haven’t had problems for a while you don’t need to disclose them, it is essential to give your insurer a true picture of your medical history. If not and something were to happen while you were away causing you to claim, your insurer has the right to request access to your medical records. If they find anything that you haven’t declared, your claim could be deemed invalid.

And, while travellers like Edward may start to feel frustrated at some of the policy prices that can be quoted, there is no need to pay an arm and a leg for cover.

MoneySupermarket has a specialist channel for those looking for travel insurance with pre-existing medical conditions so you can compare prices and policies in one place to find the best deal for you.

3. Check your policy limits

Losing a bag or having your money stolen on holiday is extremely frustrating but it would be even worse if you were to make a claim on your travel insurance only to find out you weren’t covered for what you had lost.

For peace of mind and to prevent any unwanted surprises, check how much you can claim back for lost cash, luggage and cancellation cover, and check whether there is a single item limit on your policy. Some items, such as mobile phones, may not be covered by your travel insurance if lost – so ensure they are protected in another way if not.

Think carefully about what you have in your suitcase before you work out how much baggage cover you will need as items such as perfumes, trainers and designer clothing can soon add up.

TravelSupermarket recommends that you take out at least the following amount of cover:

  • £1,500 baggage cover
  • £250 to cover lost cash
  • £3,000 cancellation cover – or enough to cover the total cost of your holiday.

And don’t forget to check what your insurance excess is and whether this amount is per person for joint cover or per policy. We recommend looking out for a policy excess of less than £100 where possible.

4. Take reasonable care of your possessions

If you plan to take large amounts of cash away with you, or if you tend to leave cash in your room while you are out on holiday, check your policy wording carefully to find out whether you would be covered should it be lost or stolen.

Many policies will only cover theft or accidental loss of cash that went missing while on your person or money that was locked away securely in a safety deposit box in your room. If you were to nip out and leave some money on the side, for example, you wouldn’t be able to claim anything back for it on many policies.

5. Report any theft as soon as possible

Familiarise yourself with the procedure your insurance provider would like you to follow should something be stolen so you can stick to it and make your claim as effortless as possible. Many insurers specify a time period that they wish you to report a theft to the police within – usually 24 or 48 hours after the incident. If you report it later, or simply don’t get a police report, you won’t be covered.

6. Are you going on an action-packed holiday?

If you are planning on taking part in any activities while you are away – such as mountain biking, bungee jumping or quad biking – check your policy to see whether you would be covered should you have an accident. Many insurers have a list of “hazardous” activities that they don’t cover, but what is classed as hazardous differs between providers so it’s worth checking your individual policy, even if you have been covered for the activity before. Read more on this in Mark Hooson’s article ‘Are you covered for your action-packed holiday?’

And while you may assume this just applies to extreme sports, you may be surprised to know that you may not be insured to drive the nippy moped that you hire to get around as travel insurance policies tend to have some exclusions around two-wheeled vehicles – many specify that they won’t cover you when you ride a motorcycle over 125cc.

Winter sports cover is also often not included within a standard travel insurance policy, so if you are planning a ski trip or a snowboarding holiday, check whether you need to add this on.

7. How long are you travelling for?

Whether you are planning an extended trip-of-a-lifetime or are packing your backpack for a trot around the globe, before you take a policy out, check how many consecutive days abroad you will be covered for. Limits really vary from provider to provider and if you go over the time period – even by a day – your insurer won’t pay out for a claim.

8. Where are you going?

It may sound obvious but check that your policy covers you for the destination you are travelling to before you take it out. Turkey and Egypt are destinations to take into careful consideration when choosing a policy as some companies such as Columbus cover travel to them under their European policies while companies including the Post Office state that their European policies exclude travel to these countries.

Similarly, if you are taking out a worldwide policy and are travelling to the USA, Canada or the Caribbean, check that you have the correct worldwide cover.

9. Missed flights

Being stuck in traffic or on a delayed train on the way to the airport is a stressful enough start to any holiday, but did you know that many basic travel insurance policies wouldn’t cover you for new flights if you missed them through no fault of your own?

And, if your policy does cover you for missed flights, make sure you know what you will need to do to make a claim – some insurers require proof that you set out in sufficient time to make the flight while others have specified timeframes for you to lodge the claim.

10. Bereavement or cancellation

It is sensible to buy a travel insurance policy that covers you for cancellation at the same time as you book your holiday so you are protected should anything go wrong before your break – such as redundancy or illness. Read more about this in Clare Walsh’s article ‘Why you should buy travel cover as soon as you book’. But as mentioned above, check the cancellation cover limit and what situations you would be covered for.

If you care for a close family relative and they are ill at the time you book your holiday, make sure that you declare this to your travel insurance provider as, if not, and your relative was to take a turn for the worse before you jet off, you could not claim for cancellation.

And, also, check the closeness of the relative your policy would cover you for should the worse happen and you want to cancel a trip to attend a funeral.

As the above list demonstrates, it is vital to check what your travel insurance policy actually covers you for as if you get this right, it can be a godsend. Read some examples of this in our article ‘Why travel insurance saved us’.

If you are in any doubt about what you are or aren’t covered for, ask your provider before you buy a policy and carry a copy of your documentation with you while you are away so you can reference it should anything happen. If you have already taken out a policy and find out that it isn’t suitable, you have 14 days to cancel it and to find an alternative so long as you haven’t already taken a trip.

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