10 things you must know about travel insuranceAvoid the pitfalls and get a great insurance deal

07 July 2010

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As thousands of holidaymakers jet off on their summer holidays, it's vital to avoid the potential pitfalls of travel insurance. Our top tips below will help you get the best cover without paying over the odds.

1. Buy online for the best deals. Many of our Best Buys are internet only and insurers often offer a discount of between 5% and 10% to online buyers.

2. If you're a regular traveller, buy an annual policy. It's cheaper for you to buy an annual travel policy if you take more than two or three trips a year instead of buying a single-trip policy for each.

3. Not all insurers cover pre-existing conditions. Of our Best Buys, American Express, Castle Cover, Golfguard, Karma Insurance, Multi-trip.Com and Saga are good for pre-existing medical conditions.  New research from Sainsbury's Finance also estimates that 500,000 people in the UK with a pre-existing condition travelled abroad without telling their insurer about their medical condition in the last 12 months. This could invalidate their claim.

4. Some insurers have upper age limits. Insurance also gets more expensive as you get older, so choose an insurer offering a Best Buy policy in your age group.

5. Not all insurers cover you for Volcanic ash-cloud disruption. Check your policy carefully to see whether it covers natural disasters such as erupting volcanoes. Some companies - including Columbus Direct, Direct Line, Fortis and Leisurecare - have said they are treating the ash cloud as a 'bad weather' event and customers are entitled to claim. Direct Travel is also treating the ash disruption as a weather-related incident and will continue to provide cover to new customers. Check your policy on how to make a claim as this varies between providers.

6. Do you have travel insurance with your packaged bank account? If you pay a monthly fee for your current account, chances are it offers a travel insurance policy. Check it meets Which? Best Buy criteria before you travel.

7. Take your EHIC card, but don't forget insurance too. In January 2006, a new card replaced the E111. Like the E111, the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) gives access to free or reduced-cost medical treatment in the European Union. To apply, go to the NHS website or pick up an application form from main Post Office branches. You can also apply by calling 0845 606 2030.

Don't forget though, the EHIC card is not a replacement for travel insurance as it only covers you for medical treatment in the EU. Travel insurance will cover you for much more, including cancellation, lost luggage and money, repatriation and personal liability cover.

8. Don't buy travel insurance from a high street travel agent. When we investigated how travel agents sell insurance earlier this year, we found poor selling practices and expensive premiums.

9. Beware credit card 'travel accident cover'. Many credit cards offer a product called 'travel accident cover'. This is not the same thing as travel insurance as it only covers you while you are actually travelling. It will not cover you before you travel or from when you arrive at your destination.

10. Buy your travel insurance as soon as you've booked your holiday. You may think that travel insurance only covers you while you're actually away. However, most good insurance policies will also pay out if you need to cancel the trip before you leave, for example because you fall ill and can't travel.

Travel insurance tips

If you’re planning a trip this summer, make sure you buy a good-quality travel insurance policy before you go.

Which? Travel insurance reviews rate travel insurance policies on the level of cover they provide as well as how much they cost, so you can be sure of getting a good deal. For more information on why you need travel insurance, and what to look for in a policy, read the advice guide.

Meanwhile, if you were affected by the Icelandic volcano or want to be sure of your rights in the event of another eruption, check out our Iceland volcano advice.

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