Don’t get burned on travel insurance

Check the cover you need and the small print for exclusions and excess payments

Tue, May 21, 2013, 01:00

If you intend to travel farther afield than Lahinch or Rosslare this summer, getting travel insurance is probably on your mind. But what do you need to know to ensure that you, your family and your possessions are adequately protected?

And, with upward pressure on travel insurance prices due to the increasing costs of healthcare in European countries such as Spain, how can you do so at the best price?

Age does matter
While insurance providers are no longer able to differentiate prices based on gender, they can still do so for age – and unfortunately this means that the older you are, the more expensive travel insurance is likely to be.

“Age is a big factor affecting the price of travel insurance. Rates go up dramatically for every decade over 50,” says Fergal Lynch, head of retail and marketing with Chill Insurance.

Cost is not the only factor at play. Depending on your age, you may find that you will be turned down for travel insurance altogether. However, while some insurers won’t provide cover for some age groups, others will. Zurich Life, for example, operates no age restriction on its policies.

Nonetheless, you might still find it difficult to find an annual “multi-trip” policy. For example, Axa will offer cover for single trips of up to 90 days for travellers up to the age of 79 – but it bars anyone over the age of 65 from taking out an annual policy.

If you turn 65 during the life of the policy, it will, however, remain in force until the renewal date.

Other restrictions are also likely to apply. AA Ireland, for example, will insure you as an individual up to the age of 79, but as part of a family, only up to the age of 64.

Some insurance providers, such as Ace and, offer specific products for the over-65s.

Ace’s 65+ product provides cover for those aged up to 74. To qualify for this product, you must have your own private health insurance policy which covers emergency medical expenses abroad.

At, you can get cover up to the age of 79 on a single trip policy, or up to 75 for an annual policy.

If you are older than that, you can get cover on Cleartotravel. com, where there is no upper age limit.

At the other end of the age scale, cover is typically inexpensive or even free for children aged 17 and under in family policies.
Don’t double
up your cover
If you have private health insurance, remember to let your travel insurance provider know, as this could secure you a significant discount – although this does vary.

With the AA for example, you can get a discount of about 20 per cent if you have your own private health insurance policy. On the other hand, Axa offers a discount of just 7.5 per cent.

Don’t forget to
take what’s free
As a first step in ensuring that you are adequately protected this summer, remember either to renew or apply for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which has replaced the old E111 form.

This card allows you to access publicly available health services when travelling in the European Union and Switzerland. So, for example, if dental fillings are provided for free in the German public health system, you will be entitled to the same treatment while there.

The card lasts for two years and you should receive it within about 10 days of applying, so if you haven’t done so yet, now is the time. If you are stuck for time, your local health office can issue you with a Temporary Replacement Certificate for a fast-approaching holiday.

Remember though, that while useful, the EHIC may not cover in full the cost of care in another country, and also does not cover the cost of repatriation. See

Check that excess isn’t excessive
Once you’re happy with your quote for travel insurance, it’s easy to think “job done” and go back to more pressing concerns such as what to pack for your holiday. Before you do this, however, it’s worth remembering that most policies carry an excess – and this will differ among providers.

“This [excess] can be as high as €250 for different elements of the cover, such as compensation for trip cancellation,” says Lynch.

So, while you might be happy with your first quote, ensure you are getting as good a deal as you think.

With the VHI, for example, you will pay the first €85 of any claim you may make, although this will be waived if you add €8 to the cost of your policy.

Similarly, at an excess of €75 applies, unless you opt for the excess waiver option at €8.99 a year.

Pre-existing medical conditions
While some insurers might prevent you from getting cover if you have a pre-existing medical condition, this isn’t always the case. Some will require you to discuss your illness before getting cover, while others won’t even do this.

“If you’ve got private health insurance with medical cover abroad, you don’t have to disclose medical conditions,” says Ciaran Mulligan, joint managing director of Exceptions do apply, however, in the event of a terminal prognosis, or when you’re awaiting results of tests or investigations. And don’t be tempted to save on your cover by omitting any problems you may have with your health.

“It is best to declare all medical conditions, as not doing so may void a claim. Also let the insurance company know of any health issues of close relations on whom your travel depends,” advises Lynch.

‘Bond’ with your travel agent
If you book your holiday through a travel agent, don’t feel compelled to purchase insurance from them also, as there might be a healthy commission to be earned by the agent in selling these policies.

However, whether you get such a policy with them or not, remember that travel agents are bonded, which means that if they should go belly-up – a not unlikely outcome in the current environment – the State is obliged to step in and cover your losses. It should also arrange to bring you home if you are stranded on holiday when the company collapses.

Put family first
Generally, buying insurance as a couple or as part of a family is going to work out cheaper although, as Lynch asserts, “check that the policy doesn’t specify you always travel together!”

It can also make sense to buy an annual multi-trip policy, rather than getting insurance to cover a particular holiday. According to Lynch, it makes financial sense to go for the multi-trip option if you plan to take more than three holidays or breaks in a year. “It saves you time and money,” he says. However, if you intend going away for extended periods, be sure you check whether your policy covers a specific number of days travel only or you might find yourself out of cover on one of your trips.

Beware stormy weather
If the chaos in 2010 as a result of the volcanic ash in the atmosphere is still fresh in your mind, you might want to ensure that you have cover for any such repeat, or indeed any other unexpected “natural catastrophes”.

According to Lynch, should you opt for this extra cover, it will provide benefits such as travel re-arrangement expenses, accommodation, and cancellation cover, due to exceptional “natural disasters” that are not classed as weather disruption.

Be prepared to pay extra, however, with policies typically increasing by about €15 for an individual if this cover is included.

At, you can get travel disruption cover, which costs €17 extra on an annual policy, and protects you in the event of incidents such as volcanic ash or bad weather. “It covers 99.9 per cent of what can go wrong on you,” says Mulligan.

Don’t forget your flexible friend
Most travel insurance providers operate on a reimbursement-only basis. This means that should an unexpected situation arise, you will need to fund it first out of your own pocket, although medical expenses might be covered directly.

In this respect, Lynch urges you to remember to keep all your receipts and paperwork to give to your insurer in order to recoup your money. If property is stolen, you must report this to the local police, and a police report is needed for the claims form on return.

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