Beware the nasty surprises in travel-insurance small print

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Your travel insurer could ruin your holiday if you’re not careful

Look out for the devil in the detail of your travel insurance policy.

Most people are aware that travel-insurance policies can be fiendishly complex and that you can end up with nasty unexpected bills if you don’t get the right level of cover. Most people also, understandably, neglect to read the small print carefully before selecting a policy. Here are some of the key pitfalls to look out for.

In one story, reported in The Observer last year, a woman ended up with a bill for £30,000 to cover the cost of medical treatment abroad for kidney problems. Her insurance provider, Axa, would only cover a third of her care costs because she had not declared a single prescription for sleeping tablets when she bought the cover from broker Coverwise.

When asked if anyone on the policy had in the last five years suffered from a medical condition that required prescribed medication, she had said no, and hence been directed to a basic policy. She was later reimbursed for the full cost of her treatment, but this was presumably down to The Observer’s intervention. So this should not be relied upon as an example of getting away with failing to declare a condition.

Check pre-existing medical conditions

It is crucial, then, to check your insurer’s list of pre-existing conditions it must be informed about before you travel. The most common, according to Money Saving Expert, include heart conditions (such as high blood pressure), breathing conditions (such as asthma), cancer and diabetes.

Note that if you have, or have had, mild asthma or high blood pressure, you may still be able to get traditional – and therefore probably cheaper – insurance. If you are travelling with someone who does have a pre-existing medical condition, make sure you compare the prices of single and joint policies, as it may be cheaper to go with two single ones.

Nevertheless, if you do buy a joint or group insurance policy, keep in mind that some insurers charge individual excesses – the amount you must pay before you can claim. So a claim affecting you and your partner could mean a double deduction, as independent consumer group Which points out.

The Guardian warns of a situation where a couple was charged two lots of excess because one partner had their wallet stolen, containing money that technically belonged to both of them.

Similarly, if you got a family policy and claimed cover of, say, £500 because you had to cancel your holiday, this could be split between all family members rather than apply per person.

Finally, have a look at what is covered under each category of cover. With some insurers, for instance, you may have to pay more than one excess if you are unlucky enough to lose both your mobile phone and wallet in the same incident.