Packaged bank account travel insurance - don't get caught out by the small print
Travel insurance that comes “free” with your bank account might sound great – but it pays to double check the policy is right for you.
All the big high street banks offer packaged current accounts. In return for a monthly fee, accountholders get a package of perks or benefits such as car breakdown, gadget cover and travel insurance.
Travel insurance isn’t compulsory if you travel overseas, but it’s well worth having as (unfortunately) so many things can go wrong, such as needing to cancel your trip for some reason, falling ill abroad, or your luggage going walkabout.
But don’t assume the travel insurance offered with your bank account is necessarily right for you. Before you jet off, it’s important to check the small print to make sure you’re covered for where you’re going and what you plan on doing.
Here’s what to look out for.
Most travel insurance which comes as part of a packaged bank account comes with an age limit. Where partners are covered, they will need to be under the age limit too.
The maximum age can vary between banks, and the policies they offer. For example, with Lloyds’ Silver account, you’re covered up to the age of 65, but if you have a Lloyds Gold, Platinum or Premier account, the age limit is 80. With Nationwide’s FlexPlus current account, you’re eligible up to your 70th birthday.
If you’re over the age limit set by your bank and the rest of the policy meets your needs, it’s worth calling and asking for an ‘age upgrade’. NatWest charges £75 for this – potentially more if you have a pre-existing condition – so compare this fee with buying cover elsewhere.
Travel insurance policies are normally just for Europe or worldwide (or sometimes worldwide except the US, Canada and the Caribbean).
The more expensive packaged bank accounts tend to offer worldwide cover, while cheaper ones just cover Europe. For example, NatWest’s Reward Silver account (£10 a month) offers European cover, while the bank’s Reward Platinum account (£20 a month) includes worldwide cover.
Make sure you read the small print about the countries covered. Virgin Money’s M Account offers worldwide cover “with exceptions” – these include Iran, Syria and North Korea (fair enough, as they are arguably quite dangerous countries) but also Cuba which is a more popular holiday destination.
The travel insurance which comes with packaged bank accounts will assume you don’t have any pre-existing conditions as there’s no medical questions when you open the account. If you or anyone else covered by the policy (i.e. your partner and kids) have a pre-existing health condition, you’ll need to give the bank a ring to check it’s covered.
Some common conditions, such as well-controlled asthma or arthritis, are likely to be covered as standard, but you might need to buy extra cover for more serious chronic conditions. If your bank won’t offer cover for a particular condition, you can approach a specialist insurer instead.
EHICs and GHICs
Many travel insurance policies – not just those offered with bank accounts – require you to hold a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) or Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). These offer state-funded medical care in the EU and a handful of other countries. If you don’t have an EHIC or GHIC, your insurer might not pay a medical claim.
For example, the travel insurance policy which comes with the Co-op’s Everyday Extra current account excludes “any costs incurred in Europe which would have been covered by the use of an GHIC card had you obtained one, and you failed to obtain one prior to travel.”
Skiing and other sports
Most packaged bank account travel insurance includes winter sports – but double check your policy documents just in case. Some will put limits on winter sports cover– for example, the Co-op won’t cover medical expenses incurred during winter sports if you are over 64. Meanwhile Virgin Money only covers winter sports for up to 17 days in total each year.
When it comes to other sports, some fairly adventurous pastimes might be covered as standard, but adrenaline junkies will usually find that more hazardous activities will be excluded. For example, with a NatWest Platinum account you’ll be covered as standard for horse riding (if you wear a helmet), trekking up to 3,000 metres, surfing and parascending over water. But you’ll need extra cover for abseiling, bungee jumping and shark diving.
Partners and children
Most packaged bank account travel insurance covers your partner and children too. You’ll need to be cohabiting with your partner or married – your other half is unlikely to be covered if you don’t live together.
Rules on covering children vary. With Virgin’s M account, there is cover for up to four dependants under 18 either in full-time education or living with you. With Lloyds, children must be under 18 or under 24 and in full-time education and must travel with the account holder, their spouse, partner, civil partner or a responsible adult.
Nationwide and NatWest both won’t cover your offspring if they are married or in a civil partnership, even if they meet the age requirements.
All travel insurance policies have small print dictating where you can leave your baggage and possessions for them to be covered. Anything deemed negligent – such as leaving your stuff unattended on the beach – will result in a claim being rejected. Valuables are generally only covered while on your person or in a locked hotel safe.
Check the baggage cover limit before you set off. This might vary depending on where you are travelling. For example, with Virgin’s M Account travel insurance, you’re covered for up to £1,500 if your baggage is lost or stolen outside the UK, but just £500 in the UK.
Minimum and maximum trip length
All travel insurance policies will specify a maximum trip length, even on annual policies. About 31 days is typical, but you can often pay extra for an extended trip. More expensive accounts may cover longer trip – Lloyds’ Premier account holders are automatically covered for trips up to 62 days, for instance.
Most policies will only cover UK trips for a minimum of two or three nights, and it will usually need to include pre-booked accommodation.