BRITS who've booked a holiday abroad may want to look at buying travel insurance to cover the costs if the trip is cancelled due to the coronavirus.
The rapidly changing rules regarding foreign travel means there's never been a more important time to make sure you've got the right insurance.
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It comes as thousands of holidaymakers have had their trips to France thrown into chaos after the government imposed a last-minute travel ban.
The new rule follows suit to similar bans on all non-essential travel to Spain, Andorra, Belgium and the Bahamas due to rising coronavirus cases.
And there are fears that Turkey could be the next tourist destination to be added to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's (FCO) list of travel bans.
Best practice is to buy travel insurance as soon as you've booked your holiday in case anything goes wrong before you depart – you won't be able to make a claim retrospectively.
But not all travel insurance providers will cover you if your trip is cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, while some will only let you make a claim for medical costs if you contract the illness while abroad.
Here, we take you through the policies that will cover you if your trip is cancelled because of the pandemic after you've made the booking.
What should I look out for when buying travel insurance?
The number of travel insurance policies taken out in March ballooned by an almighty 277 per cent in the wake of the outbreak, according to comparison site GoCompare.com.
In the following months, most major insurers stopped selling new policies altogether or added clauses to remove cover for trouble caused by Covid-19.
What should you look for in a good travel insurance policy?
TRAVEL insurance policies can vary a great deal, but here are some "must have
- Medical expenses – A good policy will give cover of £1million or more for travel in Europe and £2million or more for the USA
- Repatriation service – The costs of getting you back to the UK for medical reasons should be covered automatically by your policy
- Cancellation and curtailment – A good policy will cover you for £2,000 or more if you have to cancel or shorten your holiday
- Missed departure – Covers additional accommodation costs and travel expenses up to £500 or more if you miss your flight due to circumstances out of your control
- Delay – You'll usually be covered for £250 or more if your travel plans are delayed due to circumstances out of your control
- Baggage cover – Covers you if your baggage is lost, damaged or stolen. Look for policies that have cover of £1,500 or more.
Some providers are offering new policies that cover medical costs if you catch the virus while abroad but stop short of covering cancellation costs.
However, over the past month a handful of insurers have said they will cover coronavirus cancellation costs but it all depends on the circumstances.
Before buying a policy, you will need to look out for any pandemic exemption clauses that mean you won't be covered.
There are three keys areas you need to look when buying travel insurance, according to consumer group Which?:
- Travel disruption cover – This will protect you for costs incurred as a result of delays, missed flights or being put in quarantine while abroad. Sometimes, you'll need to opt for it to be added on.
- Emergency medical cover – This is how much the insurer will pay out if you need medical treatment. The consumer group recommends you take out £2million for Europe and £5million worldwide.
- Excess – This is how much you'll have to pay before your insurer pays out. Make sure it's affordable for your otherwise you won't get help if you can't afford the initial payments.
What travel firms will cover coronavirus cancellations?
Before purchasing your policy you should always read the small print. Here's which insurers will cover coronavirus cancellation costs:
- AA – The AA will cover essential travel if the FCO advises against all but essential travel. It will also payout for transport and accommodation costs if the FCO bans all but essential travel after you've made a booking.
- Admiral – The provider won't cover you, even if essential travel is allowed. You will be able to claim the cash spent on your holiday if the FCO changes its advice after you book.
- Aviva – You will be covered if your travel is essential if an FCO all but essential travel ban is in place. You'll need to buy a travel disruption add on if you want cancellation cover for a change in FCO advice due to the pandemic.
- Axa – Axa will cover you for essential travel if an all but essential travel ban is in place. You'll also be covered if you have to cancel your trip because yourself or a family member has been diagnosed with Covid-19 but it doesn't include cancellations caused by a change in government advice.
- Churchill – The provider offers cover for cancellations caused by a change in FCO advice regarding essential travel. You will also be covered if you travel to a country where the FCO has banned all but essential travel as long as your journey is necessary.
- Coverwise – You will be able to make a claim on your insurance if the FCO changes its advice to all but essential travel after you've booked your trip.
- Co-op – Policy holders will be covered if the FCO advise changes to all but essential travel after they've booked the trip.
- Direct Line – Policies offer cancellation cover for if you can't go any more due to an FCO ban on all but essential travel comes into force after you booked the trip.
- Halifax – The bank will cover policy holders if the FCO advises against all but essential travel after you paid for the holiday. It will also cover you for essential travel if your trip needs to be made while the ban is in place.
- Nationwide – The provider will cover you if FCO advice changes to all but essential travel after you booked the holiday. You will also be covered if you have to travel during this time. A holiday isn't classed as essential.
- Trailfinders – You can claim for cancellations only if your trip can't go ahead because you've contracted Covid-19 or have been ordered to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace.
- Virgin Money – If the FCO advice changes to all but essential travel after you've paid for the holiday then you'll be able to make a claim to recover the costs. You are also covered if you absolutely have to travel while the ban is in place.
What won't my travel insurance cover?
Your travel insurance is unlikely to cover you if you travel against government advice.
For example, if the FCO puts an all but essential travel ban on a country but you decide to go ahead with the holiday then you won't be covered.
Travel: What are your rights to a refund?
MILLIONS of Brits have had holiday plans cancelled.
Firstly, speak to your airline or holiday firm about a refund or rearranging your plans.
You are entitled to a cash refund if they've cancelled your holiday but many have large delays or may offer vouchers instead.
If the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advises against all but essential travel to countries or regions, you may also be covered for cancellations by your travel insurance if the holiday provider or airline is not helping you.
Keep in mind the travel insurance must have been taken out before the FCO advice changed, otherwise you won't be covered.
If you don't have travel insurance, you may be able to claim your money back through your credit or debit card provider.
Credit card payments between £100 and £30,000 are covered under Section 75 of the Consumer Rights Act.
To start a claim, you need to contact your credit card provider directly – Which? has a free tool that can help you do this.
Debit card claims or credit card claims of under £100 may be covered under similar Chargeback guarantees.
This is because a holiday isn't considered to be essential travel.
Most of the providers outlined above will only pay out if your holiday has been cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic, not if you can no longer go on the trip.
This means that if you can't go on your holiday any more because a quarantine period has been imposed after you've booked it you won't be able to make a claim.
Many providers have said that they will only pay out if the airline, holiday provider or credit card provider won't refund you so you'll need to go to them first before approaching your travel insurer.
Can I claim a refund through my credit card?
Before claiming the costs on your travel insurance, you'll need to try to get the money back from your card provider first.
You will only be able to claim a refund through your credit card if the holiday provider has cancelled your trip and refuses to refund you.
You won't be able to make a claim if you choose to terminate it, even if quarantine rules change and you can't go any more.
Credit card payments of between £100 and £30,000 are covered under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.
This means where you don't get the service you paid for, eg. your trip is called off, your credit card provider is jointly liable and you can reclaim costs from it.
To start a claim, you need to contact your credit card provider directly.
For flights and hotels booked by debit card you may be able to claim a refund via the similar Chargeback scheme if your provider has cancelled your booking.
This also applies to credit card bookings of under £100.
As with Section 75, Chargeback can be used to reclaim cash for goods and services you didn't receive.
But unlike Section 75, it's not a legal requirement so there's no guarantee you'll get your money back.
To start a Chargeback claim, you need to contact your card provider within 120 days of the transaction.
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