What does travel accident insurance cover?
"I get travel accident insurance with my credit card, is it any good?"
Travel accident insurance is one of those free "extra" services offered with some credit cards and current accounts.
Unfortunately, in this case, debit and credit cardholders are getting what they pay for: travel accident insurance is far from a substitute for full comprehensive travel insurance.
While full travel insurance is available with some accounts, it's usually reserved for those paying for a packaged current account or a credit card with an annual fee.
In this guide we look at where both full travel insurance and travel accident insurance are available and the potential benefits of, and problems with, both.
Who offers travel insurance?
Here are the products which currently include insurance.
Travel accident insurance
As we said above, when financial providers say they offer free travel insurance, they very often mean accident insurance.
The good news is that it's a much less common "extra" than it used to be, and at present there's only one card provider issuing cards that include travel accident insurance:
American Express: Almost all of their UK-issued cards offer travel accident cover (only the Basic charge card and Nectar credit card don't). Four of them also offer travel inconvenience insurance:
- American Express Green charge card (cost of credit)
- British Airways American Express Premium Plus card (cost of credit)
- Preferred Rewards Gold American Express charge card (cost of credit)
- Starwood Preferred Guest American Express credit card (cost of credit)
See more on the American Express site.
Full travel insurance
Credit card and current account holders with full travel insurance will know they've got it: they'll be paying out for the policy in the form of an annual fee for holding the card.
Products currently offering travel insurance are:
|Product||Cover offered||Fee and/or eligibility requirements|
|American Express Platinum Charge Card
(cost of credit)
|Worldwide travel insurance for cardholder, supplementary cardholders, and family||£450/yr fee|
|Barclays Bank Account
|Worldwide family travel insurance with Travel Pack add-on||Travel pack costs £10.50/mth|
|Halifax Ultimate Reward current account
|Worldwide travel insurance for account holder||£15/mth fee|
|HSBC Premier Bank Account
|Worldwide travel insurance for account holder||Applicants must have at least £50,000 in savings/investments with HSBC in the UK, or an annual income of £100,000 or more plus an HSBC mortgage, investment, life insurance or protection product|
|Nationwide FlexAccount current account
|Annual European multi trip travel insurance for account holders||Account holders must pay in at least £750 a month|
|Nationwide FlexPlus current account
|Worldwide travel insurance, including winter sports cover, for account holders||£10/mth fee|
|NatWest Reward Silver current account
|European travel insurance for account holders||£12/mth fee|
|NatWest Reward Platinum current account
|Worldwide travel insurance for account holders||£18/mth fee|
|NatWest Reward Black current account
|Worldwide travel insurance for account holders||£28/mth fee
Applicants must have at least £100,000 in savings/investments with NatWest, a minimum sole income of £100,000, or a outstanding mortgage borrowing of more than £300,000 with NatWest
|TSB Platinum current account
|Either Worldwide Family or Winter Sports travel insurance for account holders||£17/mth fee|
As should be clear looking at some of the fees and eligibility criteria, these are far from free extras: account holders should consider carefully whether the cost of the account makes the insurance worthwhile - and check for exclusions and policy terms to ensure that they will actually be covered.
Existing credit card deals
Credit card offers do change over time, from the cards being removed from sale to new customers, to the terms and conditions (and benefits) for existing customers being altered.
We focus on the products available to new customers (as they stand at the time of writing), so it may be that those who have a card offering these benefits but not listed above are be entitled to cover that's no longer available to new customers.
Similarly, there may be products listed above that haven't always offered travel insurance or some other extra: it's worth cardholders digging out their most recent terms and conditions to check.
Travel accident insurance: what's covered?
Travel accident insurance differs from normal travel insurance in that it usually only covers extremely serious bodily injuries and fatalities whilst travelling.
Every policy is different but, in general, the policies cover the cardholder and, sometimes, selected members of the party they're travelling with, in the event of:
- loss of limbs or sight
- accidents which lead to permanent disability
As with all insurance policies, exclusions abound, but in the case of travel accident insurance, exclusions seem even more frequent than with other insurance policies.
For example, most policies only cover transport accidents in the event that the ticket to travel was specifically paid for with the credit card.
Most importantly of all, unlike full travel insurance, much more common travel problems - loss of luggage, say, or transport delays - aren't covered.
Additionally, and somewhat more importantly, less "serious" medical problems, such as getting ill abroad and needing hospital treatment for example, wouldn't be covered either.
So, if travel accident insurance doesn't cut it, what does?
The "right" policy will be dependent on individual circumstances - that is, the type of trip the policyholder is going to take, as well as various other factors including age, how many trips we plan to take throughout the year, and pre-existing medical conditions.
For example, many travel insurance policies still take it as read that the policyholder has booked a package holiday: the flight and accommodation all with one provider.
That means that those who book flights and accommodation separately are often not covered for the indirect losses they will suffer if one part of the journey goes wrong.
Comprehensive ("full") travel insurance polices like those listed above are more likely to cover all of the things we'd expect an insurance policy to take care of, but policyholders should never assume they're covered: exclusions are very common.
Credit card holders looking into travel insurance should also note that no policy invalidates the protection offered to those paying by credit card under law.
Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act states that credit card providers are equally liable - with retailers or service providers - for offering redress when an item or service is faulty, misrepresented or not delivered at all.
For travellers this has proved invaluable: many have received refunds on flights where the airline has gone bust.
However, even Section 75 is no substitute for a full travel insurance policy.
Denied Boarding Regulations
Insurance is also unaffected by EU rules which offer compensation for delayed or cancelled flights.
Under the Denied Boarding Regulations (DBR) - guide here - all air passengers who have been subjected to a delayed flight starting from an EU airport, or with an EU-based airline, are entitled to compensation, unless the delay was due to "extraordinary circumstances".
As this is an EU regulation, it may change with Brexit, but in any case it shouldn't affect insurance policies.
Whether looking into travel accident insurance or full travel insurance, the core advice remains the same: check terms and conditions in full before relying on a policy.
Knowing exactly what is and isn't covered avoids a nasty surprise when policyholders really need to rely on their cover.