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What a Bargain! Why Is Your Travel Insurance So Cheap?
Sorry to use the tired old adage “you get what you pay for”, but as many people have found out to their detriment, this is especially true when it comes to travel insurance. It’s all too easy to pick up the first font offered to you rather than having to wade through font details and comparisons to understand exactly what you’re getting. Trying to figure out insurance lingo is about as much fun as an advanced level puzzle with lots of blue skies.
It has become a way of life for pale, sun-deprived Britons who desperately need the sun to plod in the rain to their local travel agency and book a holiday package. Why not? After all, the sun brings you a good dose of vitamin D, and everyone knows that vitamins are good for you! (Remember to apply sunscreen to help prevent skin cancer).
Many travel agents and tour operators will try to sell you travel insurance together with the vacation, or give you the insurance for free or for a “little extra”. How many people pass the glossy brochures full of tanned bodies lying on sunny, palm-fringed beaches to read the fine print of the insurance policy? At this point you are already mentally in a bathing suit and dive into this warm, azure water.
Travel insurance is often advertised by banks, credit card companies, pharmacies, supermarkets, coach companies, airlines, retail stores and the post office. On the surface it may seem adequate, but open the box and look a little deeper inside. Compare the levels of cover they offer with a good comprehensive policy and you will find that pieces of the puzzle may be missing. These are often also the vital corner pieces! For example, you may find that there is no coverage for lost luggage, or that coverage only extends to excursions arranged by their tour operator or representative.
Once you arrive at your destination, would you stop to think about the consequences of going to a local water park for fun on the waterslides, a coach tour or an elephant ride? When the carefree spirit of the holidays grips you, you’re likely to do all kinds of activities on a whim. What if you get injured at the water park, the bus crashes or you fall off the elephant? It would be a very unwelcome shock and perhaps an unhappy end to your holiday to find out too late that the insurance your travel agent sold you only covered activities that were arranged by your tour operator. They’d put the lid back on the holiday puzzle and you’d be puzzled as to how to collect the pieces and pay the bills!
Travel insurance doesn’t have to be expensive, so it’s important to make sure you get the right coverage for your needs. It is a waste of money to purchase more insurance coverage than necessary. If you only plan to make one trip to France per year, then a single trip policy will be the one for you. If you’re planning a short trip to Spain and then a ski trip later in the year, you’ll save money by taking out a multi-trip policy and adding extra cover for skiing and winter sports. If you have any pre-existing medical conditions you have to declare them and it may cost a bit more, but it pays to be completely honest and make sure you’ll be covered if something goes wrong. If you need to make a claim and it turns out that you weren’t honest in any aspect of your claim, your entire claim could be invalidated!
The next time you’re at your travel agent’s desk, caught up in the excitement of booking your trip; don’t be lulled into a false sense of security. You might think it’s easier to take care of holidays and insurance at the same time. This way you can forget about the boring parts and get on with shopping and packing for your vacation. Instead, give the free insurance offer some time to ponder, get quotes from reputable travel insurance companies, and do a comparison. For example, check to see if the free policy includes personal liability and legal fees. Often they don’t!
This issue will no longer be an issue after January 1, 2009. The government’s financial watchdog, the Financial Services Authority (FSA), will thereafter require any company selling travel insurance to be regulated by the FSA. In the meantime, be on your guard. Banks may be regulated by the FSA in relation to their banking activities, but until the new rule comes into effect, they are not required to comply with FSA regulations to sell travel insurance! A standalone travel insurance company should be regulated, and you benefit from the ombudsman if their services fail you in any way.
Just like a puzzle, your dream vacation should contain everything you see in the box photo. If parts are missing or everything falls apart, you’ll need a good travel insurance policy and someone to ask for help. Don’t risk ruining your vacation and lamenting ‘Now I know why you were so cheap!’
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