Falling through the net…The Top 5 Travel Insurance Misconceptions

1 May 2015

Travel Insurance

It’s obviously a very good idea to take out travel insurance before you head away from the UK, to provide a safety net if the worst-case scenario does indeed arise. Travel insurance can provide cover for emergency medical treatment, reimburse you for lost or stolen belongings and also cover you for the loss or theft of your passport, among a host of other benefits. However, people are sometimes unclear about some aspects of setting a policy up correctly, and this can mean that a policy is potentially invalidated if a claims situation arises. When you spend some of your hard-earned cash on a travel insurance policy, you want to make sure that it is correctly set-up, and that your safety net has not got a great big hole in it in your hour of need….Every traveller’s plans and medical history are different, and you need to check that you’ve got cover for what you need in your unique situation.

However, here are 5 common travel insurance pitfalls to avoid when setting up a standard single-trip travel insurance policy with a UK provider:

1. When do I set the policy start date? The policy start date should be set for the day that you are planning to leave the UK, not the date that you actually buy the policy. Once travellers start booking flights and accommodation, they should ideally take a policy out which has cancellation cover if they are unable to travel. However, the cancellation element of a policy starts when the policy is purchased (not necessarily the policy start date) and so the start date needs to remain the date that the traveller leaves the UK.

2. Can I take out a couple’s policy? Only buy a couple’s policy if you are a couple who live together at the same address. You can of course be a couple without living together, but for the purposes of travel insurance, that is the criteria that you need to meet to be eligible. If you don’t live at the same address, you will need to take our individual policies. Taking out two individual policies is sometimes slightly more expensive than taking out one couple policy, but it is obviously better to have both policies correctly set up.

3. Do I meet the residency requirements?

This is a trap that many frequent travellers fall into, as they don’t realise that they need to meet a minimum residency requirement to be eligible to take a policy out. This requirement does vary between insurers, but UK insurers have this requirement to protect them against the risk of insuring people who actually spend the majority of their time away from the UK, or who are no longer registered with a UK GP. People with second holiday homes away from the UK are often passionate that they are a ‘resident’ of the UK as they have a house here and a British passport. Unless you were actually in the UK however for e.g. a minimum of 6 months out of the last 12, then you are often not eligible to take a policy out from a UK insurer. Other options like taking out a policy with a global insurer, or taking out a private medical policy may be more appropriate.

4. Can my policy start whilst I’m already away from the UK?

In short, no! For a single-trip travel insurance policy to be valid, you need to be both starting and ending your trip in the UK. Even if you meet the residency requirements outlined above, your policy won’t be valid if you don’t insure yourself for a round trip away from the UK. If you are travelling on a one-way basis (you might be emigrating perhaps or returning to your home country) then there are specialist one-way policies that are tailored for you. In the event of a Claims situation, your insurer may ask for proof that you were intending to return to the UK by the end date that the policy was set up for e.g.  the booking of a return flight back to the UK or a study or work commitment back in the UK. A common mistake that people make is using the 30-day travel insurance that is free with a bank account for the first portion of their travel, but then ‘topping it up’ with additional insurance, that won’t be valid, as the second insurance policy that has been taken out, does not reflect the actual date of leaving the UK.

5. Can I choose the area cover that reflects the region that I will be spending most of my time? Not necessarily…For example, if you were going travelling around Australia and New Zealand for a year, but were spending 3 days in Thailand en route – you would have to choose the area cover of Worldwide excluding USA, Canada and the Caribbean, rather than Australia and New Zealand. Although that is where you are spending the majority of your time, you are spending some of your time in an area that is deemed to be higher risk, and you are expected to pay a higher premium to reflect that. Many insurers allow a gratuitous period to be in another area outside of your chosen region of cover (for example, up to 48 hours) but you need to upgrade area cover if this is exceeded. If you had suffered an injury in Thailand, and received treatment for it there, and follow-up treatment in Australia, none of this would be covered as you were outside of your chosen area cover at the time that it happened. Upgrading to a more inclusive area cover often makes sense, as it gives you more options and flexibility, and is often not much more expensive.

As mentioned previously, the requirements of each UK insurer will have variations, and it’s always best to make enquiries with a potential travel insurance provider before taking a policy out, if you have any queries at all or need to clarify anything regarding what you are covered for, and whether you are eligible to take the policy out.
If taking the policy out online, make sure that you enter your email address carefully, as you may not receive your documents if you mis-spell something. When you do get your documents, check that all of the details on the insurance schedule are correct, and read the policy wording carefully, so you understand what cover is in place.
Hopefully, this little round-up of common errors will help avoid potential problems when setting up your next travel insurance policy, sometimes a little time in preparation and research can save a whole lot of issues further down the line…

If you’d like us to provide you with a quote to cover your travel plans, please complete a quote request form and we’ll email you back with quotes for the most suitable policies.

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