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Only two travel insurers offer ‘complete’ Covid cover, according to new Which? analysis of over 250 policies.
Whether you’re travelling to a ‘green list’ country this year, or booking a trip further in the future, the pandemic has made travel insurance indispensable.
But with no universal definition of ‘Covid cover’, it can be hard to tell what different insurers will and will not pay out for.
Our experts have examined more than 250 travel insurance policies to tell you which are the best overall, and which have the most comprehensive cover for coronavirus-related incidents.
Find the answers to your questions by clicking the links below:
- Who has the best Covid cover?
- What does the traffic light system mean for travel insurance?
- What should I look for when I’m buying travel insurance?
- How can I make a claim?
- Can I claim on insurance if I’m offered rebooking vouchers?
Which policies have the best coronavirus cover?
From fresh lockdowns and changing lists to getting sick or being denied boarding, there are still dozens of ways the pandemic could wreck your holiday, even if you’ve been vaccinated.
Thankfully, there are some insurers who offer protection for all or many of these.
We’ve sorted policies into four categories based on the strength of their Covid cover. From weakest to strongest these are:
- Basic For policies providing emergency medical cover and repatriation for coronavirus while you’re away.
- Low Insurance that covers unrecouped costs from cancelling your holiday if you’re diagnosed with Covid-19.
- Superior Policies that cover cancellation if you’re told to self-isolate without testing positive yourself, for example if you receive a test and trace notification via the NHS app.
- Complete Our highest rating. Complete policies cover you for cancellation if you can’t travel due to changes in Foreign Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) advice, or because of a lockdown.
We gave our Complete rating to just two policies (1%). Both of these are from banks. Barclays’ Travel Pack add-on is for current account holders, and HSBC’s Select and Cover, is available to current account, savings account, mortgage and credit card customers.
You’d be eligible for HSBC’s travel insurance if you opened an Online Bonus Saver account with a minimum of £1.
While this might sound discouraging, the good news is one third of policies (32%) achieved our Superior rating, providing a decent level of cover.
Just over half (53%) of the policies we analysed had Low cover, and one in seven (14%) received our Basic rating.
All readers can find a breakdown of different policies’ Covid cover levels on our best and worst travel insurance page. We’ve also given each of them a Policy Score, based on their wider cover, including for non-Covid related incidents. Which? members can log in to see these on the same page.
- Find out more: best and worst travel insurance
- Find out more: best travel insurance if you have a medical condition
‘Covid cover’ confusion
When we surveyed 2,800 travel insurance customers between February and March 2021, there was a gulf between what they thought was covered and the likely reality.
Around half of respondents thought they’d be covered for cancellation in the case of another lockdown, or if the FCDO changed its advice on travel to their destination. In reality, we found only two policies that would cover this.
On the other hand, only half of respondents thought they were covered for medical treatment if they caught Covid-19 overseas (the equivalent of our Basic rating), when in fact every insurer we analysed offered at least this much protection.
To address this disconnect between what customers think is insured and what insurers actually cover, we are urging travel insurance providers to be clear about Covid-cover terminology, and to clearly outline what is and isn’t covered on their websites.
- Find out more: best and worst travel insurance
What does the traffic light system mean for travel insurance?
Whether a country is on the green, amber or red list will decide which measures you need to take before you leave and when you return. Some of these measures will make travel more expensive.
Even countries on the green list will require multiple PCR tests, which could cost up to £200, while trips to red list countries will land you with a £1,750, 10-day stay in a government-run quarantine hotel. If your destination switches lists while you’re away, these costs could come as a nasty surprise. This was the case for many holidaymakers in Portugal earlier this month.
- Find out more: where can I get a cheap Covid-19 test to travel?
Don’t expect your insurer to pay out for unexpected quarantine hotel costs, as it currently looks like they won’t be doing this.
The Association of British Insurers (ABI), which represents the insurance industry, indicated that insurers will not fund the cost of quarantine hotels on return to the UK, but that you should check with your insurer. You can find more detail on the ABI’s FAQs page.
The government has said people should not go on holiday to countries on the amber list. Ignoring this and traveling anyway is dangerous, as the FCDO still advises against travel to some amber list countries, which could invalidate your travel insurance completely.
This would leave you unprotected for everything, including claims unrelated to the pandemic such as lost luggage or injury.
- Find out more: green list countries revealed
What should I look for when I’m buying travel insurance?
People in England and Scotland are once again allowed to travel internationally, though the choice of destinations is slim. A ‘green list’ of countries has been drawn up by the government, detailing the countries and territories you can visit without having to quarantine when you get home.
Still, even if you’re travelling to one of these countries, and even if you’ve been vaccinated, the pandemic could still disrupt your holiday.
When searching for a policy, make sure you look for the following things:
- Coronavirus medical and repatriation cover To cover you if you’re infected when you’re away.
- Coronavirus cancellation cover You’ll need this if you want to be able to claim on insurance for refunds if Covid-19 stops you travelling for any reason. Our ratings will tell you how much Covid-19 cover an insurer has.
- Scheduled airline failure insurance (SAFI) To cover you if your airline goes bust.
- Excesses This is what you’ll pay towards what your insurer pays out. You’ll need to be able to afford them if you’re claiming.
Which? recommends getting the following levels of cover:
- Emergency medical cover £5m worldwide
- Cancellation, curtailment and missed departure £2,000 or the value of your holiday
- Personal belongings and money £1,500
- Personal liability £1m
Find out more: flight cancellations and compensation
How can I make a claim?
The pandemic has left thousands of holidaymakers out of pocket. If you had a trip booked that you now can’t take, you might need to make a claim yourself.
Insurers will only pay out for costs that can’t be refunded by travel or accommodation providers, so you should get in touch with them first. If you approach insurers with a claim before exploring the refund route, they will want you to do that before you can progress further.
Next, make a list of all the non-refundable costs you want to claim for. Not just hotels and flights, but transfers, tours and excursions.
After that, you’re ready to contact your insurer. We’ve gathered the claims numbers for more than 40 travel insurance providers in the table below. Click the name of the insurer to see our review of its service and find more details about how to make a claim.
If we don’t have a review, contact your insurer directly for more information.
- Find out more: claiming on your travel insurance
Can I claim on insurance if I’m offered rebooking vouchers?
If you accept vouchers or refund credit notes (RCNs) as compensation, you can’t claim for cash from your insurer as well, as this would be a double claim.
Legally, you should be able to reject vouchers and get cash refunds instead, but many holiday firms have ignored this rule.
Your insurer will likely advise you to pursue this legal right if you’re in this situation. The Association of British Insurers (ABI) told Which?:
‘Where travel operators have a legal obligation to refund customers, insurers expect them to honour that legal agreement. Insurance cancellation cover kicks in when no other safety net is available.’
After campaigning from Which?, the government confirmed that RCNs will be covered by the travel industry’s Atol scheme. This means if you accept an RCN and your holiday provider goes bust, your money will be protected.
If you’re not offered a cash refund by your travel operator, and you don’t want to accept an RCN, Which? believes banks should refund customers under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974, for purchases by credit card of more than £100, or through the chargeback scheme for other purchases.
Banks don’t always accept these claims, but card issuer Mastercard has confirmed that chargeback is valid in these cases.
This story was originally published on 25 February 2020 and has been updated since then. The last update was to reflect new Which? travel insurance reviews and was published on 15 June 2021. Additional reporting by Dean Sobers.