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Comprehensive or fully comprehensive are terms used regularly by insurance companies. Where they have a common meaning, like motor insurance, it is fair and reasonable as we all know what we are getting and what to expect from the cover. However in the specialised field of single trip travel insurance or annual multi-trip travel insurance (or annual holiday insurance as it is sometimes known) what should this term mean?
Let me start by saying, all travel insurance policies are different. From the cover they offer, the cover limits they have – through to the details of the policy wording and the exclusions that they include. So what can be defined as the best travel insurance and who should you trust to buy travel insurance from?
Let us look at three of the more important sections of cover that most insurance policies will include:
Medical expenses cover
This is a must have for any trip, this section should provide cover for any unforeseen medical expenses whilst outside of your home country – This should include both inpatient (staying at hospital) and outpatient treatment (a visit to a hospital or clinic). Cover should be a minimum of £1,000,000, but if you are travelling to the USA a minimum of £2,000,000. You need to look out for the policy details in regard to a “pre-existing medical condition”. If you are buying web based, online travel insurance this should be made very clear on the website and you should be offered the opportunity to read these terms and either agree or otherwise to the statements made. If you buy via a call centre, this will be a condition of the sale and read to you over the phone. All travel insurance companies have differing criteria for what a pre-existing medical condition is, but in general they will want to know about any treatment for:
• any heart or circulatory condition
• a stroke or high blood pressure
• a breathing condition (including asthma)
• any type of cancer
• any type of diabetes
They will probably also want to know about anyone that has had treatment necessitating prescription drugs or is awaiting test investigations or treatments. It is important to point out that this will definitely apply to all travellers but could also apply to non-travellers upon whom the trip depends. It is also worth pointing out that should the health of someone change between buying the insurance and travelling, or in the case of annual holiday insurance throughout the course of the year, they are likely to want to know about this also.
Cancellation cover (and cutting short your trip)
This section covers unforeseeable accidents, illness and injury that necessitates you cancelling a pre-booked trip. The section should cover the value of the trip booked, or trips you plan to book in the case of annual holiday insurance. Many policies will have a maximum limit of £3,000 per person, which for most is enough, some go higher for those lucky enough to need it. As with the medical expenses above, pay particular attention to the “pre-existing medical condition” criteria as it impacts the cancellation section also.
Obviously this section covers your personal belongings whilst on a trip. Not quite so obviously, is the fact that most policies will have something called “inner limits” of cover as well as specific limits for some specific items When you consider that recent research revealed that 55% of all personal belonging claims were fraudulently inflated and 17% were completely made up, you cannot blame the insurance companies for needing to protect themselves.
Things to look out for:
· The single article limit (SAL) or the maximum amount you can claim for any individual item – this is often set around £250 but does fluctuate between insurers.
· The valuables limit and definition. The limit is usually also around £250 for all valuable items which will include items such as electrical gadgets, jewellery and cameras.
· The cover available for glasses and sunglasses, often limited to £100 in total.
· If there is any cover for mobile telephones, as often there will not be.
Lastly on this section, most insurers will require receipts or proof of purchase on items being claimed that are over £50.
Whilst most, if not all, insurance policies will include other sections the three mentioned above make up the most claimed on sections of travel insurance policies – combined they actually account for over 93% of all claims. Other sections exist which offer valuable cover and these include:
Delayed travel – cover in the event of delayed departure from your international departure point
Missed departure – cover in the event of the failure of public transport or mechanical breakdown of your vehicle on route to you international departure point
Delayed belongings – cover for the purchase of essential items in the event of your personal belongings being delayed in transit
Personal money – cover for the loss or theft of cash or currency from your person or from a safety deposit box or from locked accommodation when stored out of sight
Hospital benefit – a benefit payment, usually per 24 hours, to make a hospital stay slightly more comfortable. This is not an alternative to medical expenses cover, it is usually around £20-£40 per day up to £200-£400 in total to buy magazines, food and drink, etc whilst in hospital abroad
Personal accident – cover for your death or disablement whilst on a trip
Personal liability – covers amounts you are legally liable to pay that relate to an incident caused by you
Legal expenses – cover for legal costs and expenses incurred in pursuing claims for compensation
So the term “comprehensive annual holiday insurance” or “fully comprehensive single trip insurance” is, I think you would agree fairly ambiguous and open to interpretation. As such, I think it important that you research suitable cover and get the most insurance policy you can for the budget you can afford, whilst paying particular attention to the two key areas of travel cover – Medical Expenses and Cancelation cover.
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