You've booked the holiday, updated your summer wardrobe and checked the neighbours will water the plants. But have you bought travel insurance? If you are one of the millions turning to price-comparison sites to search for a policy the choice can seem baffling.
Cash logged into
However, table-topping names were mostly unrecognisable. We scrolled past a dozen or so before coming across a well-known brand. So how do you know you are buying from a reputable company?
Large insurers tend to trade under a range of different names, and an unknown brand could actually be backed by a company you have heard of. For example, Travelinsurance.co.uk is a trading name of InsureandGo, which is part of massive Spanish insurer
There is a handful of standalone players, including
If you are buying through a comparison site, the brands are authorised and regulated by the
In the unfortunate event you pick a small brand and it goes bust, the scheme will step in. "We may first try to transfer the policy to another insurer," says a spokesman. "If there is a claim already in process, we may be able to offer compensation, but this would be on a case-by-case basis."
Whether a provider pays out is what consumers really want to know. The Financial Ombudsman Service received, on average, 43 complaints a week in the year to
One of the most common reasons for a claim being rejected is when an insurer relies on a particularly restrictive or onerous term in the contract.
A spokesman for the ombudsman says: "Should the worst happen, keep a note of any correspondence. Keep electronic copies of your policy saved to your email account so the documents can be accessed wherever you are in the world. Taking pictures of an incident is another great way to record what's happened."
Complaint disputes make it important to consider how companies deal with customers. Look for 24-hour helplines, and check online forums to see if there are any comments about a brand.
Gocompare.com offers star ratings beside policies from independent financial researcher Defaqto. Some of the cheapest are only awarded one star out of a possible five. Consumer ratings are also a useful way of understanding which companies look after their customers. Of 20 travel insurers listed by consumer group Which? it only recommends Saga and
Fairer Finance, a service set up to help consumers choose the best financial products, ranks insurers based on what customers think of the brand, how good they are at handling complaints, and how transparent they are. The best score highly across all of these areas.
Among travel insurers LV=, First Direct, Tesco, Amex, M&S and Saga are gold-rated, while
"It's worth going to a comparison site first to see what the cheapest available policies are - but if you don't see any of these brands it could be worth going to them directly," says
Before any search make a list of what cover you need in a policy, says Tarling. If you are unsure if the policy will pay out for your needs, you could also call a broker. A list of these is available at biba.org.uk. They can advise you of the right policy for your requirements.
Here are some relatively unknown insurers that may crop up
This is a specialist insurance broker for the over-50s known for being prepared to cover holidaymakers with cancer or other serious pre-existing medical conditions. Staysure has above average happiness and trust scores from customers on Fairer Finance - in spite of having the longest policy document of all travel insurers (at almost 38,000 words)
Listed by Which? as offering attractive rates with a good level of cover for singles, family and couples. It is part of the larger
Surprisingly, it isn't a pet insurer. Cover is underwritten by
It specialises in insurance cover for over 65s. It is listed by Which? as providing among the best value European single trip policies for those over 80 with a good level of cover.
Many providers will remove or reduce some elements of cover or inflate excesses to bring the price down and appear at the top of the table.
As a guide, Which? recommends travel policies should cover medical expenses of at least pounds 2m (
¦ Missed departure This is often featured on a policy's summary document - but it does not necessarily cover both outbound and inbound journeys.
¦ Excess The excess is the amount you have to pay towards the cost of your claim. So if you claim for pounds 250 and your excess is pounds 50, the insurer will pay out pounds 200. However, watch out for an excess per person which can soon make a policy worthless in the event of a small claim.
¦ Baggage cover On some cheaper policies baggage cover has fallen from pounds 1,500 to pounds 750 or less.
¦ Valuables More of us are taking our laptops or iPads away - check the limit for individual items, as this can be as low as pounds 50, and does your home insurance cover this anyway?
¦ Medical exclusions Policies typically won't cover pre-existing conditions. However, this is not limited to medical conditions that have already been diagnosed. It may also apply to symptoms for which the customer has seen a doctor before buying the insurance, but where the cause of the problem has not yet been diagnosed.
¦ Stepchildren Stepfamlies should check the detail of their policy. According to research by Gocompare.com, of 472 policies only 297 covered stepchildren as standard.
¦ Booze There is a disparity between different insurers' attitudes. Some refuse to cover any claims arising directly or indirectly from excessive alcohol intake.
Some basic homework before you leave home can ensure peace of mind when you get to the beach. Alamy
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