Travel insurance cover behind the times

A Which? investigation has revealed that travel insurance policies have failed to move with the times, providing inadequate cover for the full costs of lost or stolen valuables abroad and potentially leaving holidaymakers hundreds of pounds out of pocket.

Our research shows that many travel insurers have not updated their policies for years leaving cover inadequate to replace now everyday expensive gadgets and valuables, like mobile smartphones, tablet computers, watches and cameras.

We looked at the standard policies from 20 of the largest travel insurance companies and compared the limits insurers set to cover the cost of replacing one item (single item limit), as well as the overall valuables limit that you can take abroad with you.  We found that nearly all had set unrealistically low limits on what people could claim back, especially once the excess had been deducted.

More than half (52%) of Which? members say they take their smartphone on holiday with them but we found you could be up to £375 out of pocket if your iPhone5 was stolen. We also discovered that if your iPhone, iPad and valuable watch were stolen from your hotel room you could end up with a bill of £1,160 to replace the items.

The investigation revealed:

  • All the companies we looked at had a single item limit for valuables on their standard policies of only £300 or less, with four companies (Axa, Columbus Direct, Insure & Go and Virgin Money) having a limit of only £200;
  • Three quarters (15 out of the 20) set the overall valuables limit at only £400 or less, with two companies (Insure & Go and Virgin Money) with overall limits of just £200. Which? Members estimated the average value of their laptops at £671, iPads at £428 and smartphones at £372; and
  • Nearly all of the companies (19 out of 20) had an excess fee of at least £50, the highest was £100 from Barclays.

Travel insurers told Which? that consumers could find greater cover for their valuables when travelling abroad via their home insurance instead.

Our findings come as the Financial Conduct Authority announces a review of the UK insurance market, with a particular focus on household and travel claims.

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said:

“Travel insurance has not kept pace with the changing times.  Insurers should raise the outdated limits for everyday items like smartphones and laptops or, at the very least, always clearly offer the option of cover at a higher premium.  It’s not good enough to expect people to use their home insurance policy to pick up the tab.

“To avoid a nasty surprise, travellers should shop around and read the small print or they could find themselves seriously out of pocket.”

In a separate investigation, we found that consumers could also be left out of pocket when it comes to buying their foreign currency. Our research suggests that you can get up to 10% more foreign currency by shopping around and not leaving it until the last minute.

We found:

  • Buying from the airport just before you fly came out as the most expensive, with rates offered at airports outside of London faring the worst;
  • The best exchange rates we found were online. We discovered some big name brands, like Asda and Sainsbury’s, had keen online rates which even beat their in-store offers;
  • Most people, however, still buy their foreign currency on the high street. We found supermarkets like Asda and Tesco offering good deals.


Notes to Editors:

1.    Table of the 20 travel insurance companies we surveyed and their valuables limits can be found here

Provider Policy Maximum cover for valuables Excess Single Item Limit
Tesco Bank Standard £300 £45 £300
Age UK Single trip/annual multi-trip £600 £50 £300
Aviva Single trip/annual multi-trip £400 £50 £300
Churchill Single trip/annual multi-trip £300 £50 £300
Halifax Single trip/annual multi-trip £500 £50 £300
HSBC Single trip/annual multi-trip £400 £50 £300
LV Essential £300 £50 £300
Allianz Global Assistance Gold £500 £50 £300
Natwest Select Silver £500 £50 £300
Saga Single trip/annual multi-trip £500 £50 £300
Holidaysafe Premier £300a £60 £300
John Lewis Plus £300 £60 £300
Direct Line Single trip/annual multi-trip £250 £50 £250
Avanti Silver £250 £70 £250
Barclays Travel £250 £100 £250
M&S Bank Single trip/annual multi-trip £250 £50/£100b £250
Columbus Direct Silver £250 £60 £200
Insure & Go Silver £200 £60 £200
Virgin Money Silver £200 £60 £200
Axa Essential £300 £75 £200
a= Maximum possessions limit of £2,000 with different maximum sums for various categories, e.g. electrical items and photographic equipment (£300), eyewear (£100)  b= Customer can select £50 or £100

2.    We asked 1,300 Which? Members about the kinds of valuables they take on holiday.  We found 52% took a smartphone, 24% took a laptop, 20% an iPad and 16% an iPod.

3.    Our research on foreign currency rates was carried out over a 6 week period in February and March 2013, where we looked at exchange rates for euros and dollars.

4.    As part of our investigation we also looked at where travel insurers offer extended cover on gadgets for a higher premium E.g. Virgin Money’s ‘valuables endorsement’ insures specified items up to £1000 and John Lewis’ optional Technology Cover offered a limit of £1,500. We also found some companies offer consumers the option to “top up” their standard policy with additional cover for valuable items, on request. These include Insure & Go and Columbus Direct.

5.    If consumers feel they have been unfairly treated by their insurer and wish to complain we offer advice here

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