FAQs on Travel Insurance
Do I really need travel insurance?
There are many things to consider when travelling overseas including passport, tickets, exchange rates, accommodation, and what to pack. While overseas travel can be an exciting prospect, there can be situations where things may go wrong and travellers find themselves needing urgent medical assistance, help with replacing lost luggage and/or assistance with making an urgent trip home. This is where Travel Insurance can help – along with providing peace of mind for travellers who may find themselves in any of these situations. Travellers should thoroughly read the policy before they purchase travel insurance to ensure it meets all their needs and provides the appropriate level of cover.
We've all heard the horror stories of people losing their money, passport, sometimes their entire luggage, leaving them stranded far from home. Or worse, being injured or just getting sick in the wrong part of the world.
If you can't afford the insurance, you can't afford the trip. Travel insurance isn't an option when you are travelling overseas.
My credit card is offering me free cover – why should I pay for travel insurance?
Carefully read the fine print when you see advertisements offering free travel insurance when you pay for the trip with your credit or charge card. This is not always comprehensive travel insurance that you are being offered. Insurance will usually be provided to the individual cardholder and will cover any immediate family if they were travelling together, if their travel itinerary is identical or, in some cases, if it is very similar. To qualify for the insurance, cardholders need to either purchase the return airfare on their credit card or spend a certain dollar amount while overseas.
It is not enough to assume that the cover is deluxe quality and comprehensive because it is attached to a premium card.
What is ‘Cancellation’ cover?
Cancellation Cover applies to lost deposits and cancellation fees for pre-paid travel arrangements due to unforeseen circumstances neither expected nor intended by you or which are outside your control.
There is provision to claim for cancellation of your trip for a variety of reasons including becoming redundant, being called for jury duty or the death of a close relative, sickness, accidents, and natural disasters however if you merely change your mind about your trip, there is no cover.
A travel insurance policy should cover you for the entire duration of your trip. But you might also want to consider adding a couple of extra days to your policy so that you're covered if there are delays or cancellations, or if you change your travel plans.
Why do I need insurance against medical treatment?
What would happen if you were run over in rural Thailand, broke your leg in Africa, or if you where injured in a car accident in the United States. The average hospital bed in the United States is approximately $2,000USD /day. The cost to repatriate you from anywhere in the world is at least $50,000AUD. Contemplate having no travel insurance if you take ill wherever you're planning to travel.
Travel insurance is essential. If you can't afford the insurance, you can't afford to go.
What is a pre-existing medical condition?
It can be any physical condition, illness, or disease that you had in the period before you took out the travel insurance policy. That includes any chronic or ongoing medical condition. But don't worry too much about it. Most insurers will cover you if you have a pre-existing medical condition, but will require you to provide details and may charge a higher premium to cover.
I am pregnant, can I fly?
You will need to refer to the policy wording of each policy you are considering, as there are some restrictions.
Is there an age limit on travel insurance?
There's usually an upper age limit. But insurers are aware of the fact that more and more of our older citizens enjoy international travel - and also that many are fitter than travellers half their age. Some budget-priced travel insurance policies place limits on travellers over 50, with cover ceasing at age 65. However, most travel insurers only ask for a Traveller's Appraisal Form, which details the customer's state of health, when they are aged 70 or more.
I’m planning to take my video camera and sound equipment with me, are they covered?
The amount paid for loss of your video, camera or sound equipment will depend on your insurance policy, but there is a maximum single amount. It's usually about $3,000 to $4,000 but refer to your individual policy wording.
I was robbed of $300 in local currency. Do I have a claim?
There is a nominal limit a to the amount the insurer will reimburse following the theft of cash whilst travelling overseas. It's always safer to use traveller's cheques or credit cards.
What features should I look for in a travel insurance policy?
There is a very wide variety of travel insurance policies available. They all have their good features, and they all apply various restrictions. It's important that you know what you want covered, and understand what your policy actually covers you against.
We've all heard the horror stories of travellers injured in places like the United States or Europe, where a hospital bill for a relatively minor condition can exceed $50,000. In such circumstances, that insurance premium is a worthwhile investment.
Travel is one of the most hotly contested classes of insurance when it comes to claims. Last year, Insurance Enquiries and Complaints, the insurance industry's dispute resolution system, reported that the vast majority of disputed travel claims revolved around two areas: what the policy was intended to cover and how much goods claimed for really cost.
· Read through the available policies very carefully, taking into account where you are going, what you are likely to have with you and what the costs are likely to be if you are injured.
· Don't take out the first policy you're offered, without understanding what it contains. And don't leave your travel insurance to the last minute because the choices on offer are quite wide.
Most policies offer cover for singles and partners. These policies generally cover children travelling with you, however in each case you should refer to the policy wording.
What you should look for:
· Medical and additional expenses
Including cover for the costs of medical, surgical, hospital, ambulance, emergency dental, medical evacuation and additional expenses.
Cover for cancellation charges on prepaid arrangements.
· Luggage and personal effects
This covers you for your personal belongings that are taken on the trip or purchased during it. Note that there is usually a limit per item, with an overall limit for electronic equipment like cameras and personal computers.
· Travel documents
Cover for travel documents, credit cards or travellers cheques that are lost or stolen. There is usually a limit - either per item or overall.
· Personal liability
If you accidentally injure another person or damage their property, this provides you with cover against the possible cost of the damage. In some parts of the world, the liability can be huge.
· Return airfare
Some insurers offer to reimburse the cost of your airfare if you suffer an accident or need to return home due to a covered event outside your control.
· Travel Delay
Reimburses you for additional meals and accommodation expenses if your journey is delayed for more than a certain number of hours. Delays due to industrial action and - even worse - weather are far more common than you might think.
· Emergency luggage
Allows you reimbursement of your purchases for essential items if your luggage is temporarily delayed by the carrier.
· Accidental death
It won't make you feel any better (how could it?) but a payout to your estate should you be killed on your trip will certainly make things easier for your family. Limits usually apply, ranging from $10,000 to $25,000, depending on the type of policy.
· Resumption of journey
If you have to return home early due to the unexpected death of a relative, some insurers will offer you cover for the costs of resuming your overseas trip. Note, however, the word "unexpected".
· Out-of-pocket expenses
Provides you with spending money for each day that you are confined in an overseas hospital.
· Loss of income
The accident you had while you were overseas may prevent you from working on your return home, so some policies provide a benefit ranging from $5,000 to $25,000.
· Domestic pets
Those kennel and cattery fees can accumulate rather quickly if you are caught up overseas by injury or an unforeseen delay.
· Rental vehicle insurance excess
Provides cover for the insurance excess on your rental vehicle if it is involved in an accident or stolen. If you're planning to do a lot of driving on your overseas holiday, it can be a very handy cover to have.
· Free cover for children
Some insurers offer free coverage for dependents under the age of 21, accompanying the policyholder.
· Amateur or action sports
If you're partial to skiing, ice sports, hot-air ballooning, scuba diving, bungee jumping, white-water rafting, parachuting, paragliding and so on, look for a policy that offers specific cover for amateur or action sports. The policy will define exactly what is covered. If your favourite activity isn't on the list, ask your insurer.
What’s ‘due care and attention’?
If you leave your hand luggage unattended in a public place (outside the toilet at the airport, for example) and it disappears, your insurer may reject your claim, as you haven't paid due care and attention to your goods.
Equally, if you leave your luggage with somebody you don't know – for example at the airport while you buy a cup of coffee – that, too, is not giving due care or attention.
This duty of care spills over into your baggage and rented cars. Most policies will not pay out if your luggage is stolen from your rented car when it is in the boot overnight. Other insurance companies can refuse the claim if it is stolen from the main part of the car.
What is a duty of disclosure?
Under the law, we as agents for Allianz are required to inform you about your Duty of Disclosure. We have asked and will ask various questions of you. You have a duty at law when answering them to give us honest and complete answers and to tell us everything you know and that a reasonable person in the circumstances could be expected to tell us.
You answer the questions for yourself and everyone else covered by the policy, because you apply on their behalf and with their consent. If you breach the duty, we may cancel the policy or reduce the amount we pay for a claim. If fraud is involved, we may treat the policy as if it never existed and pay nothing.
Does my insurance only cover me for the one trip?
Usually you take out insurance for a period of time. Most insurers offer unlimited trips for the duration of the policy. Refer to the individual policy brochures.
If I develop a medical condition after taking out the insurance, but before I leave Australia, am I covered?
With the exception of cancellation policies, your insurance only applies after you begin the trip. Prior to that it's your responsibility to tell your insurer of any changed conditions. Your new medical condition may now be considered pre-existing, and you should consider applying for additional coverage for this condition whilst your are overseas.
How do I obtain advice from my insurer while I am overseas?
Many insurers provide a phone number you can call from anywhere in the world that will give you advice and assistance. Enquire with your potential insurers to see which ones offer this service, because it can be very useful when and if the need arises.
Should I obtain police reports or doctors' details for insurance purposes?
We know it cuts into your valuable holiday time, but there isn't a lot of point in trying to obtain such vital information once you have returned to Australia. Get the information you need as soon as possible, and store it in a safe place.
My golf clubs were lost by the airline, so I had to hire some. Can I make a claim?
Refer to the individual policy wording. Some insurers accept that sporting equipment - particularly skis and golf clubs - are normal holiday equipment for some people. So they will pay you the necessary cost of hiring replacement equipment, usually up to a limit of $150 to $300. Of course, you will have to support your claim with receipts.
If I decide to return home because I am ill, do I need the insurer's agreement?
Yes, whatever the circumstances. If you intend to do something that you will claim for later, you first have to obtain your insurer's agreement.
Should I suspend my private health cover while I’m away?
If you are going away for a long period, it may be worth contacting your private health insurance. Some health insurers will allow the suspension for anything from two weeks, but the amount of time and effort would probably make this an expensive exercise. But if you're going away for two months, then it maybe is a worthwhile consideration. You need to prove you are out of the country for that period with documentary evidence such as your passport and your ticket.
Refer to your private health insurance provider for more information.
Are there any no-claims bonuses?
Mostly travel insurance is a one-off thing, so if you have to make a claim you won't find your premiums suddenly bumped up the next time. Of course, if too many people make claims the premiums will rise anyway. But aside from maybe having to pay an excess, there is no reason not to make a claim.
What happens if I change my mind about the policy?
There is a cooling off period if you change you change your mind. Within 14days after the issue of the policy, provided you have not started your journey and you do not want to make a claim under the policy, you will be refunded the full amount of the premium you have paid. All the supporting information is in the brochure. If you have any further questions you can ring the 1300 number.
Will my selected insurer pay out?
If you are concerned about the reliability of your travel insurance company, contact the insurance regulators – Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) and/or Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).
When can I have my claims paid?
Usually when you return to Australia, and only then after the insurer is satisfied that all the paperwork is correct. If you plan to be away for a long period, or the loss you've experienced is causing you serious financial troubles, contact the insurer or the emergency assistance helpline to discuss the options.
General Insurance, Code of Practice
Members of the Insurance Council of Australia must adhere to the General Insurance Code of Practice, which sets out requirements such as proper training of staff, plain language wording and internal dispute handling procedures.
Insurance Enquiries and Complaints Limited (IEC) is responsible for the administration of the Code. IEC can provide independent advice to consumers and is also responsible for the administration of the General Insurance Enquiries and Complaints Scheme. The scheme is free to consumers and the IEC can be contacted on free call 1300 363 683.
I don’t understand. Who can I ask for clarification?
Don't be afraid to ask questions if you don't understand how a policy works or if you want to clarify how the insurer will apply special policy terms such as "unattended" and "reasonable".
If the licensed or authorised agent or broker selling the policy can't give you an adequate explanation, then contact the insurer direct for more information. It's often a good idea to make a note of any special advice or explanations that the agent or insurer has given you in case there is a disagreement about what was said.
How do I make a complaint?
As with all insurance, first talk to your insurance company. If the matter is not resolved, you can go to the Insurance Enquiries and Complaints Scheme for help.
Call toll free 1300 363 683.
To obtain information and advice on an insurance complaint, go to the Financial Industry Complaints Services website: www.fics.asn.au
For copies of the general insurance code of practice and information on dispute advice go to the Insurance Council of Australia website: www.ica.com.au/codepractice.
Think ahead. Leave a photocopy of your passport and tickets with someone at home, and carry another copy in your luggage. That way, if you lose your passport or tickets it's much easier to replace them.
Your state of health
If you have what the insurers call an "existing medical condition", it doesn't mean that you can't get travel insurance. Ask for a Traveller's Appraisal Form, which you must complete and submit, to the insurer. Sometimes an additional premium payment will be required.
If you have to rush home
Some insurers will pay for you to resume your holiday if you have to return to Australia because someone close - usually a relative - has become seriously ill. However, if you are aware of any conditions that may cause this to happen, you should tell your insurer when you take out the policy.
What's in your luggage?
Read the luggage section of your policy very carefully. You will find that individual item limits apply and the insurer will observe these limits.
Keep your valuables secure at all times
While you are travelling, keep your valuable items - laptop, cameras, and jewellery - with you. Don't expect your insurer to reimburse you for lost your luggage left unattended in a public place, or in a motor vehicle overnight.
Mobile phones, cameras, sound systems, and computers are highly prized. So don't leave them in a vehicle at any time. Remember that rental cars are normally identified through signs or registration plates, which makes them a hot target for thieves.
Don't trust strangers to look after your gear for you
In one recent case, a claimant tried to convince his insurer - unsuccessfully - that leaving his luggage in a New York taxi while he dashed into a shop was a perfectly reasonable thing to do.
Keep receipts for any claimable items that you buy
Keep receipts separate from the goods you buy while travelling.
Report losses to local police
If you have anything stolen, report it to the local police immediately and get a copy of their report. It's vital when you come to make a claim.
You can't claim for cash
Insurers don't normally compensate you for losing cash. Use your credit cards and travellers cheques whenever possible and limit the amounts of cash you carry.
Are you licensed?
Don't drive a motorcycle overseas unless you have a valid international licence. Wear a helmet, even if local laws don't require it. That's the best form of insurance there is.
I had attempted to obtain tickets for the Palace on Wheels (POW) from a specialist rail tour company in the United States, only to be informed that the ticket allocation has been exhausted on the date we wanted to travel. I incidentally mentioned this to Andre as part of a broaderPeter Bermingham