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Can you bank on free travel insurance?

Share: looks at the policies that come with bank accounts

A bank sign on the side of a building with a reflection of the sky

Get a new bank account these days and it’s very likely that you will be enticed by the promise of lots of ‘free’ extras for a small monthly charge; and the offer of a lot for a little is particularly tempting in the current economic climate. Travel insurance is one of the products commonly available: but how just extensive are the free policies?

Travel insurance policy checklist

It may be free, but a bank account travel insurance policy can prove worthless if it doesn’t provide everything you need. According to advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, you need to check that travel insurance covers the following areas:

  • Medical – this will pay up if you need treatment whilst you are away, and it will also cover extra costs associated with getting you back home. The recommended amount of cover is at least £1 million for European holidays, and a minimum of £2 million for the rest of the world.

  • Cancellation – this will refund you if you need to cancel your holiday for specified reasons (for example, the death of a close family member). Make sure that the level of cover provided is equal to the amount you paid for your trip, or you will end up out of pocket; and having to shell out for a dream holiday that you can no longer go on will add insult to injury. If your flight is cancelled, you may also qualify for compensation from the airline.

  • Personal liability – this covers you for any damage that you may cause on your holiday (for example, if you accidentally ski into someone and break their leg). The FCO doesn’t specify an amount, but it’s generally accepted that you’ll need at least £1 million, especially if you’re travelling to somewhere particularly litigious, like the USA – or if you’re incredibly clumsy.

  • Possessions – this will shell out for replacements if your baggage is lost by the airline, or if any of your belongings are stolen whilst you’re on holiday. The amount of cover you need will depend on how much your possessions are worth, but bear in mind that many policies have quite small limits for single items (often only about £250). It’s often worth seeing if more expensive items can be covered under your home insurance if you’re lucky enough to have plenty of diamond jewellery or designer clothes.

  • 24-hour emergency assistance – this will provide advice and information about claims and cover. It’s important that the helpline opening hours are not restricted, as time differences may make it difficult to get through during the normal British working day; and being put on hold is particularly frustrating when you’re paying international call rates.

Potential problems with free travel insurance

So you’ve checked your cover against our list and it seems to measure up to FCO guidelines, but there are a few other points that you need to be aware of:

  • Make sure you know who is covered: if it’s a joint account, are you both insured, or just the first-named account holder? Or if family cover is offered, is this only on holidays where the account holder is present? Answering these questions before you go is important; you don’t want to wave off your kids at the airport and then discover that nothing can be done when their Spiderman suitcase disappears.

  • You need to inform the insurance provider about any pre-existing medical conditions; if you don’t your cover could be invalidated. This is easy to forget, as, unlike when you buy a traditional travel insurance policy, there are no application forms: but this won’t be accepted as an excuse for non-disclosure.

  • Many insurance providers impose age restrictions on free bank account travel insurance policies. Again, it’s up to you to check this in the terms and conditions as this may not be pointed out to you at the outset.

  • Participation in dangerous activities or winter sports, such as skiing or snowboarding, may not be included in the policy. You will have to pay to extend the cover, or insure yourself separately if this is the case; but inadequate insurance may be a good excuse if you’re actually too scared to do that bungee jump off the Eiffel Tower.

  • Similarly, the trip length may be limited; so if you’re sick of the UK, and plan on a few months of backpacking, you may want to consider multi-trip or annual cover.

If, after looking into the policy details, you find that the travel insurance that came free with your bank account does not provide the appropriate cover for your holiday – don’t panic. can quickly find you great comprehensive travel insurance deals, allowing you to pack the policy that’s right for your trip.


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