Gillian Bullock sorts the good features from the bad when it comes to travel insurance policies.
The old adage goes that if you can't afford travel insurance then you can't afford to travel. It's probably a wise observation given that between seven percent and 10 percent of travellers end up making a claim on their insurance.
But when you are buying insurance, how do you know whether the policy you have is effective?
In most cases, the quality of an insurance policy is never tried until you have to make a claim. So if you buy the cheapest insurance in the market and never make a claim, who's to know whether it was a good or bad policy?
Admittedly all insurers in Australia have to abide by the industry's code of conduct that requires all claims, once all the correct documentation has been provided, to be processed within 10 days.
In addition, there are processes in place for you to make a complaint, in the first instance, through the insurer and if that fails to bring satisfaction through the independent Insurance Ombudsman.
These days there are many places to buy travel insurance, such as your local travel agent, plus the traditional insurance companies, health insurance groups and credit card providers.
While it is often cheaper to buy online, John Colless, general manager with global travel insurance and assistance provider, Mondial, says it is probably not suitable for those with a pre-existing medical condition or who want to insure a specific item.
And even if the Internet policy is right for you, there may be some value in asking your travel agent to match the premium.
"Most travel agents will match the Internet prices," says Colless. "This can be useful if you have to make a claim as the large travel chains have preferred insurance providers so they can influence how your claim is managed."
While you cannot necessarily gauge the claims performance of an insurer when taking out a policy, one thing you should ensure is that you can access 24/7 assistance.
It's no good being with an insurer whose office is only open from 9am to 5pm Australian time and you need help on your trip to Europe. It's not too bad if you have had your camera or suitcase stolen and can wait till you get home to make your claim, but what if you are in an accident and need urgent treatment? Waiting until the Australian office opens is not your solution.
Another issue is to make sure that if you plan to go bungee jumping or parasailing that your policy insures you for adventure sports should anything go wrong.
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