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Choose travel insurance wisely urges Which?

Fewer than one in 100 travel insurance policies provide ‘complete’ cover for Covid-19 disruption, a Which? analysis of more than 250 policies has revealed.

While some travel insurers boast of offering impressive-sounding ‘Covid-19 cover’, the consumer rights body found that this means different things for different providers.

Which? found that many policies exclude plausible – and often expensive – scenarios, such as new lockdowns in the UK or destination country.

The organisation looked at 263 travel insurance policies’ Covid-19 cover and gave them ratings ranging from ‘basic,’ to ‘low,’ ‘superior’ and ‘complete’.

Just two policies, HSBC Select and Cover and Barclays Travel Pack, were rated as ‘complete’, which meant that they protected travellers against:

  • Cancellation due to changes in advice from the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) or government lockdowns prohibiting travel.
  • Testing positive for Covid or being told to self-isolate.
  • Medical costs and repatriation.

Both of these policies are available to customers of these banks and can only be bought alongside other insurance products.

A further 85 policies were ranked ‘superior’, providing cancellation cover for travellers having to self-isolate without a positive test, but not for FCDO advice changing.

Policies with ‘superior’ Covid-19 cover included those from popular providers such as AA, AXA and Staysure.

Just over half of the policies (142) were ranked ‘low’, including policies from Nationwide, Admiral and the Post Office.

This means that they offer some cancellation cover – but that does not go as far as covering travellers for cancelling in the event of needing to self-isolate without having a positive Covid-19 test result. 

There were 34 policies ranked ‘basic’, the lowest ranking.

Such policies provide travellers with cover for Covid-19-related emergency medical costs and repatriation, but not for cancelling a trip if a traveller contracts Covid-19.

Among well-known providers offering some ‘basic’ policies were Direct Travel, esure and Sheilas’ Wheels.

Every policy analysed offered cover for medical and repatriation costs for travellers that had caught Covid-19 while travelling.

Which? is calling for the government to work with regulators, such as the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), to make every effort to ensure all travellers adequately understand their travel insurance cover and can access cover that protects them against sudden changes to travel restrictions when they would otherwise struggle to get their money back.

It should also be giving as much notice as possible if rules change.

Travel and insurance providers should be giving travellers clear information about their policies, including those relevant to cancelled flights, changes in travel advice and refunds, and clearly highlighting the policies’ limitations.

The FCA should monitor how well insurers are presenting this information.

Gareth Shaw, head of Which? Money, said: “As the removal of Portugal from the green list shows, last-minute disruption to holiday plans can happen – and our research shows that many travel insurers don’t offer much protection if it does.

“The government should work with regulators to ensure that travellers, should they choose to go abroad, are given clear information about what they will and won’t be covered for – and make sure that providers don’t make bold and confusing claims about their cover without being clear about the limitations. ”

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