How to find and choose the right travel insurance policy

Mar 11, 2020

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“If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel”.

This is a saying you may have heard in the past and here at TPG U.K., it’s an adage we really believe in. Ideally, you will never have to actually use your travel insurance, but if something unexpectedly goes wrong, you will be very grateful you have it.

You can read TPG U.K.’s complete guide to travel insurance here. Once you’re well versed on what travel insurance is, here are some tips to find and choose the right policy.

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This guide assumes you are looking to purchase a policy rather than relying on a complimentary policy from your credit card.

(Photo by Cultura/Seb Oliver/Getty Images)
(Photo by Cultura/Seb Oliver/Getty Images)

Searching for a policy

You can use a travel insurance comparison site like Uswitch to compare different policies offered by different providers in the one place. (TPG is owned by Red Ventures, which is an investor in Uswitch.)

In order to show policy options, you will be asked to enter details of your travel, including:

  • How many people will the policy cover: Family policies will be more expensive than policies for a single person, as there are more people to cover.
  • Age of each traveller: The older you are, the more you will pay for your coverage as providers believe you will be more at risk of requiring medical assistance.
  • Where you are travelling to: You’re unlikely to have to list every single country if you’re planning to backpack around South East Asia for a month in order to find your quote, but medical costs especially vary enormously from country to country (never get sick in the U.S. without coverage), so you will be asked to choose broad regions you want the policy to cover.
  • What activities you want covered: If you want to be covered for something with a moderate or higher level of risk, such as skiing or mountain climbing, this may increase the premium.
  • Valuable personal items: If you want that fancy (and expensive) new phone or laptop you’re planning to take on the trip covered, you will need to disclose this when searching for a policy.
  • If you are already travelling: Most policies are conditional on your travel having not started yet. However, if you have forgotten to set up your coverage before your trip, there are providers that give out special policies in these situations. Expect the premium to be significantly more expensive than the same policies for those who have not yet started travelling. There will also be waiting periods — if your suitcase full of valuables has been stolen abroad and you have no travel insurance, don’t think you can just jump online, find an “already travelling” policy and make a claim straight away. Insurance companies aren’t that foolish.
  • If you have existing medical conditions: You need to be honest about your health and medical situation. Most policies won’t cover pre-existing medical conditions, or if they do, the cost of the premium may increase significantly.

You’ll then be offered a page of search results, likely with the prices for different policies offered by multiple providers, showing the prices and some basic limits and excesses.

Here are the search results for a couple travelling to the U.S.A. for a week looking for a single-trip policy.

(Image courtesy of Uswitch)

There may also be the option to filter your search results, so only well-rated providers are shown and/or policies that have no excess.

Zero excess policies will be significantly more expensive than those policies with a significant excess.

Related: Trip wrecked: 7 ways to prepare for any kind of travel disaster

(Image courtesy of Uswitch)

Selecting a provider

It may be tempting to simply choose the lowest price and click through to purchase, but be warned. The cheapest search result may be cheap for a reason. It’s prudent to do some research on the provider first.

You can read reviews of the insurance provider to get an understanding of what existing customers have experienced when purchasing and most importantly, making a claim on the policy.

But do take these reviews with a pinch of salt. Unlike, say, reviews of a gadget purchased from Amazon, the vast majority of people who take out travel insurance won’t leave a review. Why? Because their experience is perfectly fine, without being memorable enough to leave a review. Many people leaving reviews will be those who have an axe to grind because they had an unpleasant experience. For this reason, all insurance providers may have seemingly low reviews and it may be difficult to find an insurer that has overwhelmingly positive reviews.

What reviews can be useful for is understanding the process and ease of the claim process. Some insurers may have 24-hour help desks to answer your questions, which could be a huge help if you’re in an odd timezone on the other side of the world. Others may have a handy app, which makes lodging claims faster. The last thing you want when making a claim while you’re travelling is a complicated and frustrating claims process.

I would always recommend being guided by the reputation of the insurance provided over the price of the policy, especially if there are several providers with similar prices. You might wish to research the ratings on three different insurance providers with similar/lowest prices from your search results before looking at the different policies they offer.

Once you’re comfortable with the reputation of a provider, check on the search results page if different policies are offered by that same provider. There may only be a small additional fee for higher limits, or a lower excess. Once you have found a policy you like the look of, select it from the search result page and you will be taken to that provider’s own site. You will then be shown more details of the policy, like limits for less common types of claims.

Related: Why every UK traveller should have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

(Image courtesy of Uswitch)

If you are unhappy with the limits or the excess, that provider should give you the option of choosing another policy at a different price point.

Excess

Choosing an excess can be a tricky one. Say your policy has the option of a £30 premium with a £50 excess or the option of a £100 premium with £0 excess. If you were to only make one claim over the course of the policy, you would be better going with £50 excess policy, but if you made two or more claims, then the £0 excess policy option would be better value.

Of course, the catch is that you don’t know how many claims you will be making. Perhaps consider your travel history with previous policies. If you seem to have bad luck and need to constantly claim on your insurance, a more expensive £0 excess policy may be a better option. On the other hand, if you have held numerous travel policies in the past and never made a claim at all, you might feel comfortable paying less premium for a policy with no excess and hoping your good luck continues. There’s no right or wrong answer — it’s up to your personal acceptance of risk.

Once you’ve found the policy and provider you’re happy with you will need to make some declarations before you can purchase the policy. Ensure you answer these truthfully and don’t just click all “yes” or all “no”. If you declare something that does not satisfy the requirements the provider sets, you will likely either be declined the ability to purchase the policy, or you may need to purchase a different, more expensive policy because you are high risk, or you may find it difficult to obtain travel insurance at all.

Related: Some very expensive phone calls: TPG reader mistake story

(Image courtesy of Uswitch)

Once you’re approved for the policy, you’ll be taken to the payment page where you can pay with a points-earning credit card and then you’ll be emailed a payment confirmation and a copy of your policy (with start and end date) to keep handy if you need to make a claim.

Bottom line

Choosing a travel insurance policy won’t be as exciting as finding a great flight deal or booking a luxury hotel for your travels. But it is arguably more important than both.

Do not leave home without your travel insurance in place.

There’s no perfect travel insurance policy for you to choose. The most comprehensive policy by the best-rated provider with the highest limits and zero excess will give you the best peace of mind. Note this could be five times the price of the cheapest insurance available for the same destination(s) for the same travellers for the same period. How much you want to pay — or save — for your policy depends on the level of risk you are personally comfortable with accepting.

Featured image by Tatomm/Getty Images

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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