Travel insurance: have you got the big 3?

By Staff Writer

Travel insurance: have you got the big 3?

In the excitement of organising your holiday it's easy to overlook an essential accessory: travel insurance.

Vanette van der Merwe, Travel Insurance Manager at AIG, says people tend to put a lot of effort into planning the perfect trip but sometimes overlook their safety net.

"In the event of something happening it's best to be prepared. The costs of medical care abroad can be exorbitant and you may face severe financial difficulties if you're not adequately covered," she said.

"For example breaking a leg while holidaying overseas can cost you anything from R300 000 to R500 000.

"And there are extra costs of getting home that can bump these expenses even higher.

"When you have a leg in plaster, or any other severe incapacitation, you may need a business class ticket for the extra leg room, medical attendants for the trip or even the chartering of a private plane in extreme cases."

Van der Merwe advises travellers that it really doesn't make sense to spend tens of thousands of rands on a holiday and then try to save a few hundred rand skimping on travel insurance.

Here are AIG's "Big 3" insurance tips for your holiday:

1) Pay for your flights and hotel booking with your credit card and check whether you have automatic Emergency Medical Cover and Personal Accident Cover and the value of that cover.

Also check whether there are age limits on the cover; whether pre-existing medical conditions are excluded; and if that hazardous pursuit like rock-climbing is covered as well as ascertaining if any other exclusion may be applicable. AIG underwrites insurance for many leading credit cards, which includes automatic cover for emergency medical expenses and personal accident claims. Terms and conditions differ depending on your card, so it's worth checking what you are and aren't covered for.

2) Once you have identified the extent of this cover, consider an incremental top-up of "Inconvenience Benefit" which will cost about R250 to R1000, depending on the duration of your journey and the benefit limit option you choose.

The top-up will increase the cover of all the medical benefits enjoyed but also cover travel delays, missed connections, lost and destroyed baggage claims, and personal liability. This benefit also includes events such as natural disasters, hijacking and wrongful detention.

3) Enquire what your medical aid covers. Don't just assume you're covered because often you won't be. Additional travel insurance is beneficial, since even if your medical aid provides international travel cover, using it will usually draw from your own savings first. With the current Rand exchange rate, overseas medical expenses will deplete these savings rapidly.

Once you have purchased the cover review the policy wording to understand its operation, terms and conditions as well as the relevant exclusions.

"And finally, take all your insurance documents with you on your trip and make sure your travel buddies know the international number to call if you can't speak for yourself," said van der Merwe.

Van der Merwe cites a recent AIG travel claim, the largest ever paid by the company, where an AIG policyholder contracted pneumonia while travelling in the US and was hospitalised in Las Vegas for three months.

"Had she not been insured, she might have had to re-mortgage her house to cover the medical costs which amounted to well over R7 million."

Van der Merwe concludes, "Insurance remains a grudge purchase, but if you can afford to travel, you can afford travel insurance.

"The alternative of having to pay medical bills out of your own pocket could be financially crippling. Considering the incremental cost of this type of insurance, this is a risk that is simply not worth taking."

AIG Travel offers personal and business travel insurance with a broad range of cover options and rates.

This can easily be purchased directly from AIG by visiting www.aigtravel.co.za, by calling 0860 100 491 or through various travel agents and brokers.

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