Travel insurance: Expert says refunds ‘are not compulsory’
Holidays have been on hold for some time amid the coronavirus pandemic, and though the world is celebrating a vaccination breakthrough, it seems there is still a long road ahead. With that in mind, travel insurance experts have offered a warning to Britons due to renew their annual policies.
Annual travel insurance policies are a great way for people who take multiple trips to ensure they are well-protected during their travels.
However, for many in 2020, they found themselves unable to use these policies.
What’s more, even those who did not use their travel insurance could not claim back a refund.
Though renewing an annual policy is usually highly recommended for globe-trotters, this year things are shaping up to be a little different.
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“With holidays officially banned until the Spring, I’d definitely hold off on purchasing annual policies until travel is once again permitted,” warned Danny Butler, insurance publisher at personal finance comparison site Finder.com.
However, this approach may change once the future of travel becomes clearer.
“With regards to the rest of the year, the decision to purchase an annual policy will depend on how many trips you’ve pre-booked or plan to take (in my opinion),” he told Express.co.uk.
“It will also depend on the state of affairs in regards to foreign travel as we eagerly await the impact of the vaccine rollout.
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“For example, if you’ve pre-booked over five holidays and plan to make up for a lot of lost time, I’d go ahead with an annual policy (as it should work out cheaper) than several single trip policies. The majority of providers now offer pro-rata refunds for the ‘unused’ portion of the year.
Alternatively, if you have one or two trips planned this upcoming year, I’d stick with a single trip policy – which you can usually move to another date if you’ve had to reschedule your trip (as long as the trip is still taken within 12 months).
Mr Butler added: “Different providers have different sets of terms and conditions so it always pays to double-check with your provider directly before going ahead with your purchase.”
However, a travel insurance expert at Holiday Extras has pointed out travellers who hold off on renewing their annual policy could find themselves shelling out more money.
“Our customers get the best deal with us if they renew their travel insurance policy when it expires, because we allow them to start the policy up to 60 days later and offer a 20 percent discount,” Howard Dove, managing director of Holiday Extras Group, told Express.co.uk.
“With a promised roll out-of vaccines to the highest risk groups by mid-February, it seems sensible to assume international travel will resume in the not too distant future.”
Sadly, customers who have previously purchased a travel insurance policy which did not end up getting much use in the last 12 months, are not necessarily eligible for any kind of reimbursement.
As Mr Butler explained: “With millions of trips cancelled across the UK in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, there was undoubtedly a large number of unused or partially used travel insurance policies.
“Unfortunately, ‘rolling over’ unused policies from the last calendar year isn’t an option due to these policies being taken out over a fixed 12 month period.”
However, there are some options customers can pursue if their policy didn’t quite get its chance to shine.
Mr Butler continued: “A number of providers offer pro-rata refunds for the portions of the policy that haven’t been used based on their own set of terms and conditions.”
Indeed, Holiday Extras are among these.
Mr Dove said: “For customers who are unable to travel during their policy term and haven’t claimed on their policy, we offer a pro-rata refund.
“We’re offering customers a 20 percent discount on renewals, and we’re letting new customers purchasing an annual policy start their cover up to 60 days in the future.”
There are also options for customers who have booked a single trip policy and found themselves suddenly housebound.
“If you’ve booked a single trip policy, you may be able to change this to a later date if you’ve had to reschedule due to pandemic,” Mr Butler explained.
“Each provider always has their own set of terms and conditions so it’s always best to contact them directly and read through their terms and conditions in regards to refunds and any potential discounts for an ‘unused policy’. “
Though the future of holidays remains largely unclear for now, travel insurance remains more important than ever.
“At a very small cost, customers can be protected for cancelling their trip for any unforeseen circumstance, losing their baggage, medical emergencies overseas, legal cover and a host of other possible risks,” said Mr Dove.
“Travel insurance represents great value for money, with policies costing a few pounds to cover a trip, providing protection in areas such as medical bills for up to £10million.”
Indeed, thanks to this array of coverage, Mr Butler says “travel insurance is much different than it was a few years ago.”
He concluded: “With the increased risk of trip cancellations, medical emergencies and ongoing uncertainty, travel insurance has never been so important.”
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