Travel insurance buying guide

Are you paying too much to insure your holidays? Here's how to find a good deal on travel insurance.
 
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04.Travel insurance FAQs

Q. Will I be covered if the government issues a travel warning about my destination?

A.The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) prefers to use the term travel ‘advice’ and notes that whether you’re covered depends on the insurer, the policy and its exclusions. There are different levels of advice. Depending on the type of advice you may not have strong enough grounds to cancel and get a refund. If DFAT advises against all travel you may be covered. However, policies and definitions can vary.

The best advice: check your policy and ask the insurer. For travel advice go to www.smartraveller.gov.au.

Q. Is terrorism covered?

A.Policies normally don’t cover cancellation expenses if you decide you no longer want to travel because of terrorism at your destination. You may also not be covered if you cut short your trip to return to Australia after a terrorist event (you may feel unsafe and want to get out of the country immediately).

As you’d expect, if you’re injured because of terrorism your medical expenses or evacuation should be covered, but check your policy or ask the insurer — for example, in our 2004 survey we found one policy with a limit of 1% of the total medical limit.

Q. Is my gold card good enough?

A.The Insurance Ombudsman Service (www.insuranceombudsman.com.au) warns against the pitfalls of free travel insurance with some credit cards. A recent case saw a claim refused because the consumer paid the trip deposit in cash.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade also reports that Australians have travelled overseas thinking they were covered by their credit card and discovered later that they weren’t, for example because their credit limit wasn’t high enough.

Check your credit card provider does in fact provide proper travel insurance on your card. Some cards only provide cover for injuries at the trip’s point of departure or arrival, not while you’re at your destination; others don’t cover domestic travel, even for trips to Norfolk Island; and there may also be a time limit to your trip, such as three months.

If you are covered, make sure you fully understand the conditions attached to the insurance policy:

  • What exactly are you covered for?
  • Is there a minimum amount of money that must be spent on the credit card for the insurance policy to be valid?
  • What purchases must be paid for by the credit card in order for the insurance policy to be valid (such as airfares, hotel accommodation, rail tickets, cruises)?
  • Does the policy have an excess, and how high is it?
  • Are family members travelling with you also covered? (Especially check this for business credit cards.)

Before you travel get written confirmation of the coverage. Don’t just assume your application has been accepted and processed.

Q. Are all emergency assistance companies the same?

A. No. While you should get a free or reverse-charge phone number with all insurance policies, the quality of the medical and other services you can call on when overseas may vary. Some companies have a presence in many countries; others have offices in Australia only, outsourcing medical emergency services to other foreign assistance companies.

Ask your insurer what emergency services are provided at your destination.

Q. Is there a downside if I don’t buy the tour operator’s ‘preferred’ insurance?

A. You can’t be forced to buy a tour operator’s insurance. If they claim it’s superior, compare cover, exclusions and price with other policies.

 

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