Holidaymakers risk being stranded abroad with huge bills after buying travel insurance that turns out to be worthless, according to a report today.
Many travel insurance policies fail to protect families against even the most basic of mishaps, including missed flights, lost bags and medical bills.
Some policies were sold for as little as £13, according to research by comparison site comparethemarket.com.
In many cases travellers were hit with such high excesses - the compulsory payments on a claim - that they made the policy almost valueless.
An analysis of hundreds of single-trip policies found that about 14% failed to reimburse for missed flights. The study found that almost a third (32%) failed to pay out for missed connections in the UK, even though many covered international flights.
Passengers flying from regional airports who have to pass through Heathrow on long haul flights may be at a disadvantage.
Researchers said that many travellers “may not receive a penny” if they cancelled their holiday before the departure date.
Gemma Sonfield, head of travel insurance at the website, told The Times that many travel insurance policies could “result in substantial costs for those who fail to read the small print”.
She said: “Many people may assume they are covered in all instances when they are in fact not. Many fall into the trap of buying insurance at the last minute.”
The study by comparethemarket showed that a large number of travellers had lost out after buying insurance but failing fully to understand what they had paid for. Forty-nine per cent of policies cover valuables worth only £250 or less, meaning that any loss of laptops, iPads, high-quality digital cameras or jewellery is not covered. Only a tenth of policies, including the very cheapest, offered cover for valuables of £500 or more.
Many families have to cancel holidays at the last minute, but 45% of policies offer cover only for cancellation expenses of less than £3,000.
Latest figures from the Association of British Insurers show that insurance companies paid out £370 million in 2014, with 581,000 people lodging travel claims. Of those, slightly more than 200,000 related to medical emergencies.
Ross Penstone-Smith, of the Association of British Insurers, said: “The main purpose of travel insurance is to cover the cost of medical treatment and repatriation . . . it is essential to have the right cover, taking into account your medical history.”
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