Price comparison websites have come a long way since their humble beginnings when they were little more than an online Yellow Pages. To the average person, however, purchasing travel insurance online can be like navigating a minefield. It can be so confusing that they don’t bother to delve any further than the price. Why bother when it’s easy to click on the cheapest quote and then hope for the best.
It is important to remember that some insurance companies tailor policies specifically for comparison websites, thereby sacrificing reasonable levels of cover in order to be competitive and offer the cheapest price.
Remember that the websites included on comparison sites are there because they have paid to be there – one way or another. They may not actually be the best deal – or the cheapest. Try pulling up a cheap quote, examine the levels of cover and then check them against a policy offered by another company – perhaps one that is not included on the comparison site. Notice any significant differences and then explore further to see whether the levels of cover on the cheaper quote are adequate. Obviously, a weekend break to Paris is not going to require the same levels of medical cover and liability as a fortnight skiing in Colorado.
When applying online avoid paying for cover that is not needed. Uncheck boxes for the addition of winter sports if not needed. Avoid paying for two single trip policies when an annual multi-trip policy would have been cheaper. Couples insurance is usually cheaper than two singles. A family policy for two adults and two children can be a very reasonable option. Most insurers offer single trip and annual multi-trip cover to include the UK, Europe, and Worldwide to either include or exclude the USA and Canada. Be careful to choose the correct option as cover for the USA can cause a significant increase. It may be worth opting for an annual multi-trip if it is just a few pounds more than a single trip in case you decide to take another trip, plus most policies provide cover within the UK when accommodation has been pre-booked for two or more nights.
If booking holiday components yourself rather than a package deal, make sure your insurance policy includes Scheduled Airline Failure and always book through an ABTA, ATOL, or similarly bonded travel company. As of January 2009 travel insurance can only be sold by FSA-regulated agents so many of the common pitfalls no longer exist. Despite taking out travel insurance, it is a good rule of thumb to always behave as if you are uninsured – and bear in mind that claims may be denied where reckless behaviour or abuse of alcohol or illegal substances is found to be a factor.
Travel insurance covers many popular activities people enjoy on holiday (snorkeling, camel riding, golf, jet skiing, etc) on an incidental basis (casual basis, rather than sole purpose of the trip). For more extreme or dangerous activities a specialist insurer may be needed, so if in doubt always check. This type of information and answer is not readily available on a comparison site.
Age can also be a factor. Just as a person in their late forties may not be able to take advantage of a cheap backpacker policy, a person aged over 65 may have trouble finding affordable travel insurance and need to seek out a specialist insurer – especially if there are serious pre-existing medical conditions.
Doing everything online has become the norm these days and is certainly very convenient. Gone are the days when our fingers had to do the walking. However, before clicking on the cheapest quote, stop and take a moment to read through the levels of cover, excess and exclusions. Understand what you are buying. This is especially important if your trip is unusual in any way or you know of any factor which may influence a quote if it were known; for example, neglecting to include a pre-existing medical condition because it was not easily found during the online application process. Purchasing a policy without submitting all the facts could result in a claim being denied and is simply not worth the risk.
We wouldn’t want to return to the old ways of doing things, but they were often much clearer for the customer. If you are confused or have questions don’t leave it to chance, call the company and ask. In some cases it is better to complete an application over the phone. So… Don’t be too quick to click – when you should stall and make that call!