Why Every UK Traveller Should Have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

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A European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) gives you access to health care within Europe at the same rates as a local resident, allowing for reduced cost or free state-run medical care. It should be in every UK residents’ travel wallet, as it can save you a lot of money and hassle on holiday in Europe. While TPG UK covers credit card portfolio strategies, you should also be sure this little card has a place in your wallet, too.

Photo courtesy NHS.
(Photo courtesy NHS)

EHIC Basics

All UK residents (excluding the Channel Islands and Isle of Man) are eligible, but there are some restrictions to read about. The card is valid for five years and each EHIC covers one person. If you have a child under 16, include them on your registration and you’ll receive cards for each of you. More than five million EHIC are due to expire in 2019, so it is worth checking the expiry date on yours if you already have one.

Where It Is Valid

The EHIC is valid within the European Economic Areas (EEA) and Switzerland.

The EHIC covers lots of connected areas that are connected politically but not necessarily physically to Europe, including Martinique and Guadeloupe as part of France, and the Balearic Islands and Canary Islands as part of Spain. However, it does not include Monoco or the Vatican, so it is worth reading here for a full list of countries.

How to Use

The card itself does not have a photo, so you may be asked to provide a photo ID as well depending on the country. The card has to be with you at the time that you’re treated, so remember to always keep it with you. How to claim and the coverage in each country can vary.

What Is Covered

The EHIC provides you with cover at state-run (not private) medical facilities that will treat you as a local resident, which can mean instant free treatment in some countries. In others, such as Switzerland, you’ll need to pay a portion of the cost. Pre-existing illnesses are covered but medical tourism and private health care are not.

Fees and Application

The EHIC card is free, although beware of websites that claim to fast track you for a fee. You can apply for here for free through the NHS website.

EHIC Is Not Travel Insurance

The EHIC covers medical protection only, and not other benefits of travel insurance such as flight delays and lost luggage. Even though your travel insurance may ultimately reimburse you for your overseas medical care, the EHIC will effectively treat you like a local and mean you will have less to claim back and may avoid paying an excess altogether. Your best bet is to have both, plus protections from your credit cards.


Like most things Brexit, the future of the EHIC is unknown past 31 October 2019. The NHS website states to assume the cards with expire then and will have a new arrangement, so continue to watch this space.

Bottom Line

Even if you carry travel insurance, the EHIC should be in your travel wallet to save you the hassle of dealing with any claims at a time that you need to concentrate on you or your family’s health.

Featured photo courtesy of NHS.

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