6 things you should know about travel insurance, Latest Travel News - The New Paper

6 things you should know about travel insurance

Travel insurance is a vacation expense that no one gets excited about and travel insurers know that.

“You don’t get a tangible product, so people can be reluctant to spend the money, especially if the perceived risk is low,” says Ms Shirley Tan, chief marketing officer of Etiqa Singapore.

This includes short trips such as day or weekend getaways, or when travelling by land or sea.

But paying for peace of mind has become more common as the pandemic eases.

In 2022, international travel insurance provider Battleface reported that about 60 per cent of travellers from the United States now buy travel insurance, compared with about 20 per cent pre-pandemic.

In India, some 76 per cent of people now fork out for travel insurance, up from 50 per cent before the pandemic, according to a survey by insurance company ICICI Lombard.

In Singapore, more travellers are now likely to purchase mid- to top-tier plans, compared with entry-level plans before the pandemic, says Ms Tan, though she did not reveal figures.

Industry players recommend shopping around for a plan that will suit your needs. For road trips, ensure your plan has personal accident coverage, says FWD Singapore chief executive Khor Kee Eng. Consider add-on coverage for car rental excess, which allows you to claim for accidental loss or damage of the rented car.

With the year-end travel season coming soon, here are six tips for buying travel insurance.

1. Get it early

Buy your policy as soon as you book your flight tickets or tour package. This protects you from various pre-departure scenarios such as death or illness in the family, natural disasters, civil unrest or should your travel agent go bust.

You can change your coverage start date if your trip gets postponed, as long as your policy has not commenced. FWD insurance, for instance, allows customers to postpone their policy start date within a grace period of six months.

And if you decide not to travel, insurance companies usually allow a refund on your policy if you have not made a claim, though some may charge an administrative fee.

Note that many insurers do not cover cancellations that occur due to Covid-19-related government restrictions, which include quarantines, new regulations and border closures, though these will hopefully become less common as the world moves past the pandemic.

2. Get hourly plans for day trips

Taking a day trip to Malaysia, Batam or Bintan? Your travel insurance can cost less than your lunch.

Income Insurance’s FlexiTravel hourly insurance policy starts at $1.80 for a six-hour block and costs 30 cents for every extra hour, up to a cap of $3 a day. One-day coverage for the company’s entry-level Classic plan for the Asean region costs $27.

Income, which launched the policy in May, conducted a survey in 2021 which found that 56 per cent of travellers do not purchase insurance for short trips of one to three days.

“Consumers felt that existing travel insurance offerings were costly for short trips and some benefits were irrelevant,” says Ms Annie Chua, Income’s vice-president and head of personal lines.

The hourly policy does not cover flight-related issues such as delays. Instead, it offers targeted benefits such as golfer’s cover, should customers find their golf equipment stolen from a locked car.

Ms Chua says that during the long Deepavali weekend in October, about 45 per cent of travel policies purchased for day trips to Malaysia, Batam and Bintan were FlexiTravel hourly insurance.

3. What to do if your luggage is lost

A major concern of travellers in 2022 is luggage mishandling, after a manpower crunch in the aviation sector left major airports in Europe and the US short-staffed. Travel insurers usually make payouts if your luggage has been delayed for six hours or more.

But what happens if it gets lost?

You will need documentation stating that your bags have been lost, along with proof of compensation or denial by the airline. If the airline has compensated you for the lost bags, travel insurers will not do so.

When making your claim, supply proof of items that have been lost. Some insurers, such as Etiqa, require this in the form of a declaration, while FWD and Income require original invoices of the lost items.

Unless what you have lost is a suitcase of new items, it is unlikely you will have proof of purchase for everything that has gone astray. Visual proof may help, so photograph the contents of your bags or take a video for more details.

4. Note age limits for the young and old

If you are buying travel insurance on behalf of your family, note potential exclusions or different terms for children and seniors.

FWD travel insurance, for instance, offers only a fifth of the payout for medical expenses incurred in Singapore or overseas for adults who are 70 and older.

The personal accident protection rates offered by Singlife with Aviva (str.sg/w9hg), which cover travellers for accidental death and disability, also pay about a fifth the amount for those under 18 and over 70. For instance, an entry-level Lite plan will pay a maximum of $50,000 for the accidental death or permanent disability of an adult, but only $10,000 for youth or seniors.

Look for plans that cover pre-existing medical conditions, such as asthma, eczema, diabetes and hypertension. Mid- and top-tier Enhanced PreX plans by Income (str.sg/w9hM) will co-pay 50 per cent for such claims.

Expect to pay more for such coverage. A five-day Enhanced PreX Superior plan for travel in the Asean region costs $100 for an adult, compared with $36 for an entry-level plan for the same duration and region.

5. Too much rain? Make a claim

Travelling during the rainy season? Prevent your trip from turning into a washout with rainfall protection, offered by Singlife with Aviva. This can be useful if you are travelling during the rainy season to destinations such as Tioman or the Maldives.

For trips three days and longer, travellers can claim up to $150 a trip if more than half of it is affected by accumulated rainfall of more than 6.4mm for each 24-hour period.

In Singapore, it is not uncommon for parts of the island to register rainfall levels of 4mm to 35mm on rainy days, especially during the wetter months at the start and end of the year.

6. The ultimate escape hatch: ‘cancel for any reason’ plans

If you really need flexibility, shell out for a plan that lets you cancel for any reason, such as change of mind.

Singlife with Aviva’s mid- and top-tier plans, Travel Plus or Travel Prestige, will cover half the trip’s irredeemable travel and accommodation costs, up to a maximum of $5,000 a trip. To qualify for such claims, you must purchase the policy within seven days of making the initial payment for the trip.