Winter travel insurance: 10 questions you need to ask
Figures from Aviva show the average amount for medical claims last winter was a huge £1,410. The best way to get complete peace of mind is by picking the right policy. Here, we look at the 10 key points you need to consider when purchasing ski cover.
1. What are the minimum levels of cover I should look for?
Bob Atkinson, travel expert at moneysupermarket.com, recommends a minimum of £2 million for medical expenses, along with £1 million for personal liability, £3,000 for cancellation and £250 for cash.
MoneySupermarket also recommends delay cover of £20 per hour for the first 12 hours, because weather-related delays are not always covered by standard compensation.
When it comes to equipment, cover levels vary but the key is to ensure you have enough to replace all of your gear if it is lost, stolen or damaged, according to Jeremy Cryer, head of travel at gocompare.com.
You also need to check the cover provided for ‘own equipment' and ‘hired equipment' as levels can vary, depending on the policy.
"For your own equipment, check whether the policy applies wear-and-tear limits based on the age of the equipment," says Mike Powell, insight analyst at Defaqto. "For example, some will only pay the replacement costs up to 90% if the equipment is up to one year old, and up to 20% where the equipment is up to five years old."
2. What other features should I consider?
Some policies also insure against closure, no snow, loss of ski pass, and avalanche delay.
"Cover for piste closure is useful in case you can't ski due to a lack of snow or other adverse weather conditions," says Cryer. "It will pay something towards transporting you to an area where skiing is possible – or give you some compensation if you can't ski at all."
However, you need to check the policy wording, as some will only provide cover if the closure is for more than 24 hours.
Avalanche cover can also be useful if you are prevented from arriving at – or leaving – the ski resort. Your policy will typically provide for additional travel or accommodation expenses incurred.
3. Do budget plans offer sufficient cover?
"Budget policies often come with lower cover limits or higher excesses, which could leave you short on protection or having to pick up a bigger part of the bill before the insurance pays out," says Cryer.
Atkinson adds that the cheaper the policy, the fewer types of cover may be included. The best way to keep costs down is by comparing several policies for cover and price, and scouring the policy details to ensure you're getting the best product for your needs.
4. I already have travel insurance. Can I bolt on winter sports cover?
Most standard insurance policies don't include winter sports insurance but some insurers will allow you to bolt on this cover at additional cost. If this is not an option, consider buying another standalone policy, which will provide the extra cover you need.
But first check you aren't already covered elsewhere. "If you've got a packaged bank account, you may find you already have travel insurance included as one of the benefits," says Andrew Hagger, personal finance expert at MoneyComms.
If your annual multi-trip policy does include winter sports cover be careful not to fall foul of the maximum number of trips you can make each year, or the maximum duration for each individual trip.
Analysis from Defaqto shows some policies will provide a maximum ‘per trip' limit of 21 days, and an overall ‘per policy year' limit of 120 days.
5. Which sports are included in winter travel insurance?
If you plan on taking part in other snow-related activities, such as sledging, ice-climbing, ski-touring or ice-diving, you should not assume you're automatically covered.
"Depending on the policy, you may have to pay a higher or additional premium if you want to be protected. Crucially, other areas of your cover may also be affected, such as having an increased excess for medical treatment, or losing personal accident or personal liability cover – so check this," says Cryer.
And remember not all policies include cover for ‘off-piste' skiing, or may only provide cover subject to certain conditions, such as being with a qualified instructor, according to Powell.
6. What can jeopardise a claim?
With winter travel insurance, it's possible to invalidate your cover unintentionally.
"You're unlikely to be insured if you're drunk, or under the influence of drugs, at the time of the accident," warns Cryer.
The same may be true if you fail to follow local guidelines or piste guidelines.
"You will not be covered if you ski against local authority warning or advice," says Michael Ward, founder and managing director of comparison site payingtoomuch.com.
"Many policies won't cover you if you are injured or have an accident if you've been deliberately careless or negligent."
Always read the rules, which are displayed at the entrance to the slopes, to ensure you do not stray from permitted activity.
7. How do I make a claim?
If you're a victim of theft, you may need to inform both your insurer and the police of the theft, within a prescribed timescale. You may be asked to provide a crime reference number. If so, you should do this right away while still in the resort. The same applies if you need to claim for loss of possessions.
"Similarly, if you need to claim for ‘piste closure' or ‘no snow' you will need to get proof of closure while still in the resort," says Atkinson.
The best way to avoid falling foul of these rules is to check your policy in advance – and again at the time of the incident – so you know exactly what the requirements are, to improve your chances of making a successful claim.
8. Is it compulsory to wear a helmet?
Some insurers are getting tough about safety equipment, with Essential Travel the first UK firm to stipulate that helmets are mandatory for winter sports insurance.
"While a helmet does not reduce all sports injuries, it seriously reduces the risk of potentially fatal injuries," says Stuart Bensusan, spokesperson for Essential Travel. "Skiers who do not wear a helmet risk invalidating their insurance policy."
He adds: "To be on the safe side, the key with any policy is to check the details."
9. What cover do I need if I've booked my ski holiday independently?
If you book a package holiday, you will be covered by the ATOL scheme should something go wrong. This means your operator will have greater responsibility for sorting out problems with airlines and accommodation.
The same is not true if you book flights and accommodation independently.
It's advisable to take out a policy offering cover for scheduled airline failure insurance and also end supplier failure, as this will cover you if an airline, hotel or car-hire firm goes bust after you've booked.
Further, there is additional protection on offer under Section 75 in the Consumer Credit Act if you book your flight or hotel using a credit card (assuming you have spent £100 or more); similar protection is on offer under the Chargeback scheme when using a Visa or MasterCard debit card.
10. I've got the European Health Insurance Card, surely that's enough?
While a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is always worth carrying in Europe, its benefits are far more limited than those offered by dedicated winter travel cover. The card is free and valid for five years, and entitles you to the same medical treatment as a national of that European country.
"The EHIC card will not provide the same levels of cover that insurance does," says Simon Warsop, business development director at insurer Aviva. "It would not, for example, cover a rescue from a mountain top or repatriation home."
This is more usually a feature of car insurance but it can also crop up in contents, mobile phone and pet insurance policies. An excess is the amount of money you have to pay before the insurance company starts paying out. The excess makes up the first part of a claim, so if your excess is £100 and your claim is for £500, you would pay the first £100 and the insurer the remaining £400. Many online insures let you set your own excess, but the lower the excess, the more expensive the premium will be.
Issued by a bank as part of a current account and, in a nutshell, serves as electronic cash. Unlike a credit or charge card, where you get an interest-free period before you have to settle the bill, the funds spent on a debit card are withdrawn immediately from your current account. Unless you’ve arranged an overdraft, if you don’t have the cash in the account, you can’t spend it.
Used by the holder to buy goods and services, credit cards also have a monthly or annual spending limit, which may be raised or lowered depending on the creditworthiness of the cardholder. But unlike charge cards, borrowers aren’t forced to pay the balance off in full every month and, as long as they make a stated minimum payment, can carry a balance from one month to the next, generating compound interest. As the issuing company is effectively giving you a short-term loan, most credit cards have variable and relatively high interest rates. Allowing the interest to compound for too long may result in dire financial straits.