If you’re looking to buy online travel insurance, there are a number of factors to consider when comparing policies. Don’t be tempted to go for the cheapest, because you may find yourself out of pocket or even stranded due to excess costs and multiple exclusions.
Should you buy online travel insurance?
Most insurance companies now sell travel insurance online direct to the customer. Generally, online travel insurance policies are cheaper than purchasing through a travel agent. However, the purpose of an agent is to assist you in organising your holiday and getting the best deal, and travel insurance is a part of this. So, just like booking an airfare, unless you’re prepared to do all your own research and read the fine print to ensure you get the right product for you, ask your ATAS travel agent for help.
If you do need to make a claim while overseas, your travel agent can assist greatly in liaising with the insurer and other parties to ensure all goes smoothly. This can be a godsend in an emergency when you’re far away from home.
If you do decide to go it alone, or you simply want to understand what to look for when discussing insurance with your travel agent, these six tips will help you. Apart from medical and dental cover, all the items apply to domestic travel insurance as well as overseas travel insurance: cancellation costs, lost or damaged luggage, rental vehicle excess and possibly even snow cover.
When you compare travel insurance online, choose sites that allow you to see easily exactly what’s included and, importantly, are completely clear and transparent about what’s excluded.
Most online travel insurance sites will allow you to vary the excess on your policy and instantly see the difference this makes to the premium you pay. Bear in mind that if you do make a claim, the insurer may apply the excess to each incident or item. So if you claim for a lost laptop and camera, and your excess is $500, you could find yourself paying $1000 before you receive any compensation.
2. Medical and Dental
The most important part of an international travel insurance policy is medical and dental cover, as these can cost an enormous amount if you are hospitalised or need emergency treatment.
Australia has reciprocal healthcare agreements with New Zealand and various European countries, allowing you to benefit from publicly funded medical services while overseas. However, do check what’s covered before you leave, and remember that you may still need to cover out-of-pocket expenses and you might need to be flown home – all of which can add up to huge expenses. So medical cover is essential to any overseas travel insurance policy.
It’s worth checking to see if loss of income is included too, in case an injury prevents you from returning to work for a significant period of time. Read the fine print in any online travel insurance policy to make sure your insurer gives you the cover you want.
Note that there will be exclusions for pre-existing medical conditions, and additional restrictions or higher excess for older people. The age at which these kick in varies from one insurer to another.
3. Cruise, Sail and Ski Insurance
Some styles of holiday require additional cover for specific activities or contingencies. Amongst the most common for Australians are likely to be cruising, sailing and skiing.
Cruise insurance gives you all the benefits of ordinary overseas travel insurance but with relevant extras, such as compensation for cancelled shore excursions, cruise delays or confinement to your cabin due to illness. Some will even cover the cost of lost or damaged formal wear, given that this is an essential packing item for liner cruising!
If you’re going on a sailing holiday, look for a policy that includes an amount for search and rescue costs, and if necessary, ensures you are covered outside Australian waters.
Ski insurance, often referred to as snow cover, is another common add-on and essential if you think you might be taking part in any snow-based activities, due to their high-risk nature and costly equipment.
In general, check the details regarding sporting or adventure activities as there will be several rules and exclusions to bear in mind, and you might need to take out additional cover.
4. Cancellation and Delay
If your trip has to be cancelled due to circumstances beyond your control your travel insurer may allow you to recover cancellation and lost deposit fees up to a stated cap. However, the circumstances must be extreme (as stated in the policy PDS) and the insurer will usually only pay out if you have first tried to recover costs from other sources, such as the airline.
There are often a number of exclusions to this part of any domestic or international travel insurance policy, so again, check carefully and be prepared before you leave. If you know beforehand who to contact and what information to provide in an emergency, the stress will be significantly reduced and will likely result in a better outcome.
Cover should include expenses for changing your travel plans in case of emergency, such as an unexpected death in the family. You might be covered for travel delay too, which provides you with an amount for meals and accommodation. Again, the reason for the change or delay must be unavoidable and beyond your control.
Overseas and domestic travel insurance policies will include an amount to cover lost, stolen or damaged belongings. This can vary enormously, and as you’d expect, the smaller the cap, the lower your premium.
Important points to remember are that your belongings mustn’t be left unattended, and lost luggage must be reported to the transport provider within 24 hours. Personal money and travel documents are often listed separately, and you can list valuable items, such as your camera, separately as well. Be prepared for your premium to increase if you do though.
6. Car Rental
If you’re planning to rent a car, check your online travel insurance policy for collision damage excess cover, as this can be quite hefty. Again, read the fine print, because your insurer may only pay out if the car hire company has its own comprehensive insurance.
It’s advisable to obtain an international drivers licence before driving overseas to ensure you are fully covered.
Bonus Tip for Frequent Travellers
If you’re likely to be travelling more than once in a year, consider taking out annual travel insurance that covers multiple trips. The benefits are the same, but if you’re travelling more than twice, this can be more cost-effective than purchasing insurance for each individual trip.
Travel insurance gives you peace of mind, especially when travelling overseas. While medical and emergency evacuation cover is the most important, a number of unforeseen incidents can result in significant expense if you’re not adequately insured. ATAS travel agents can help you find the right cover for your trip, and support you if something goes wrong while you are travelling.
Do you need help choosing your travel insurance cover? Find your local ATAS accredited travel agent here and ask them to assist you with your travel insurance and finding the best cover for you and your family. Find more travel tips here.