8 December 2017
Unexpected disasters can interfere with travel plans, and that is what travel insurance is for – to cover you for the unexpected, says Insurance & Financial Services Ombudsman, Karen Stevens.
“During Bali’s Mt Agung eruption, many stranded travellers were even more stressed to discover they had no insurance cover,” says Karen. “This is a really unfortunate situation and we feel for these people.”
“But there has been some misinformation about why they are uninsured. Put simply, insurance exists to cover unexpected losses,” says Karen. “If you buy travel insurance after a natural disaster is widely known about and travel warnings have been issued, insurance is unlikely to provide you with any cover.”
The following checklist aims to help future travellers get the best value from their travel insurance, should anything unexpected go wrong. Many more common complaints could be avoided by taking note of these tips.
Summer travel checklist
1. Purchase insurance as soon as you book and pay for your tickets
This ensures you get the best value out of your insurance, and the benefit of cancellation cover should anything unexpected go wrong – at home or your destination – and you have to change plans. Likewise, if you buy insurance after travel warnings have been issued about an imminent disaster, it’s unlikely you will be covered.
Case example: Bali, Mt Raung: 2015
2. Read and understand your policy, including exclusions and limitations
Travel insurance is often purchased online, through a travel agent, or comes as a credit card benefit. Get a copy of your policy and read it. Limitations on credit card insurance, such as time limits and age restrictions, catch people out, as do monetary limits on valuable items.
Case example: Credit card, 90 day limit: 2015
3. Tell your travel insurer about your health conditions
Include all health conditions and symptoms you know about. Most often, you will not be covered for any pre-existing conditions, unless the insurer has accepted them in writing and charged you an extra premium.
Case example: Brain tumour, cancelled trip, pre-existing conditions: 2017
4. Take care of your valuables and bags
Taking reasonable care is a standard insurance requirement. Most insurance policies specifically exclude cover for personal items left unattended in a public place, including beaches, backpacker hostels and airports.
Case example: Bali, bag on beach + Mt Raung cancellation: 2016
5. Take extra care of jewellery and valuable items
Insurance policies will often have specific conditions for valuable items. Claims can be declined because jewellery was stolen or lost when it was not “worn or carried” on the person, or valuable items are checked-in rather than carried on to the plane.
Case example: China, jewellery not on person: 2014
6. Report incidents immediately
Contact the police and your insurer as soon as you can. Travel policies will specify the required timeframe, usually it is 24-hours, and often provide an emergency helpline. Insurers are likely to ask for copies of police reports, together with receipts, and proof of ownership of stolen items.
Case example: Fiji, stolen jewellery, no police report: 2016