Travel Insurance Tips To Make Your Policy Effective

Travel insurance is usually an after thought when booking your holiday but can be a blessing if things should go wrong, especially when you're thousands of miles away from home when it happens. The policies vary from one provider to another. Generally speaking, the higher the premium, the more comprehensive the cover. They provide a little extra peace of mind allowing you to fully relax whilst you are on vacation.

However, do be careful when you are buying cheap travel insurance. Read the small prints and check what you are covered for the premium you are paying.

With travel companies estimating 10% of claims being fraudulent, you should take precautionary steps to ensure that if and when you make a claim, you insurance policy lives up to its promises.

Whether you are buying a business travel insurance, a student travel insurance or any type of travel insurance, when asking for insurance quotes, make sure that you make a full disclosure. Amongst other things, your policy premiums will be affected by the following factors:

• age – over 65s pay higher premiums

• health – chronic illnesses or conditions may push up the premium

• vacation destination

• sporting or dangerous activities during vacation

• duration of your vacations

• single trip or multi-trips

• amount of the excesses

You can take a number of simple but important precautions to make sure your travel insurance is valid.

1. Check the insurance cover and smallprint before you buy

Many people assume one travel insurance policy is the same as the next but a lot of disputes arise because people think they're covered and discover too late that they're not. In particular, look out for:

• Excesses: don't just compare premiums - check how much of a claim you would have to pay. If the excess is £50 per item that means you have to pay the first £50 of any claim for each item you are claiming for.

• The level of medical protection you have, particularly in countries like the USA where medical costs can be higher.

• What you're not covered for such as pre-existing medical conditions.

• If you're covered for lost or stolen cash and how much.

• If loss is covered as well as theft.

• If 24-hour emergency assistance is included or optional.

2. Be honest and disclose any existing medical conditions.

Your travel insurance policy is based upon "utmost good faith". This requires you to disclose anything that may affect the acceptance or terms of a policy, any exclusions or its price.

Be completely open and honest about your medical history and the activities you're likely to be involved in. If you are in doubt declare it anyway. One of the most common defenses made by insurers when declining a claim is that information was not discolsed or not correctly disclosed.

3. Take a copy of the policy documents with you.

Most good policy documents will tell you the claim procedures to follow in the event of theft or loss, what you are covered for and most importantly who to call in an emergency.

4. Document any expensive items you take with you.

Take photos and keep receipts for expensive items such as camcorders or cameras you plan to take with you on vacation. Having proof helps enormously if you claim for these high value items

5. Report any thefts or losses quickly.

If your belongings are lost or stolen, report it immediately to the local police. Get an accident report number or similar documentary proof that you've reported the loss and if you're on a package holiday, report the incident to the hotel or travel representative.

If your bag is lost, stolen or damaged at the airport, report it immediately and get a receipt from the airline or baggage handler.

6. Get the right forms ready for medical claims

The old E111 forms have now been replaced by the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) which entitles the holder to free medical treatment within Europe equivalent to that available on the NHS. These forms are available from Post Offices and should be submitted at least ten days before you travel. This is based upon agreements between EU countries and qualifies visitors for the same medical treatment as local citizens.

Before you leave check your policy document or contact the insurer to confirm what precise steps your insurance company requires you to take in a medical emergency. If you have to buy any treatments or medicines, again keep receipts and original prescriptions if possible.

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7. When you arrive home

Examine the small print, contact your insurer and work out what you can claim for. Submit all supporting documentation via recorded delivery (keeping copies for yourself) as evidence of your claims and feel free to deluge the insurer with receipts, photographs and copies of any police or medical reports you have.

Keep copies all correspondence and make detailed records of every phone call, including the name of the person you spoke with and the time of your call.

8. What happens if your claim is declined?

Your claim could be declined by the insurer for many reasons but they will examine it against their policy terms and conditions first. For example most policies won't cover alcohol-related incidents and like all insurance you must take 'reasonable' care of your belongings.

Your first step is to appeal against the decision. You have to provide detailed and specific points for your claim backed up by any additional evidence. If you feel you have been unfairly treated you can take your case to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

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