Southern Cross and Travel Insurance Direct joint winners with 'outstanding value' in survey of 29 providers.
A survey of 29 travel insurance providers has found joint winners in the transtasman and international categories.
Analysts at research firm Canstar found Southern Cross and Travel Insurance Direct offered "outstanding value" in the survey of 55 policies across seven countries.
The survey gives a 50-50 weighting to prices and features of policies and found a wide variation in what was on offer.
Canstar's New Zealand general manager, Derek Bonnar, said consumers needed to carefully check the terms and conditions of policies.
"The reason that we give a lot of weighting to the features side of the policy is that in my view, although price is important, if you're paying slightly extra to get more benefits then that's a more valuable policy.
Read the research here.
"The one thing that is clear is that there is a lot of difference in the fine print of policies that are available."
Bonnar said Southern Cross Travel Insurance and Travel Insurance Direct (TID) offered competitive premiums, with TID winning five stars across all of the profiles and offering some "great features", including a reverse-charge 24-hour helpline.
Southern Cross had up to $100,000 cancellation and loss-of-deposit cover which included travel agent cancellation fees.
Kiwis make about 2.2 million short-term overseas trips each year.
"Even fairly routine illness or accident can end up costing travellers tens of thousands of dollars or more, particularly if medical repatriation is needed," Bonnar said.
He said he was confident the survey covered nearly all providers.
Canstar made its money by offering survey participants the chance to buy a licence to use the research company's endorsement in marketing their own business although there was no obligation to do so, he said.
Insurance Council research of 3000 New Zealanders who travelled overseas last year found 22 per cent cent of those who went to China and 18 per cent of those who went to Australia had no insurance at all.
Council chief executive Tim Grafton said a trip of a lifetime could quickly turn into a "holiday from hell".
The Insurance and Savings Ombudsman deals with about 3000 inquiries about travel insurance a year with most resolved before becoming formal complaints last year. Most complaints related to disputes over pre-existing medical conditions and the loss of property.
Ombudsman Karen Stevens said those with insurance through credit cards needed to check carefully about what was covered as they were often not as comprehensive as specialist policy cover.
Southern Cross lists five potentially costly mistakes:
• Doing activities not covered on your selected policy: Most travel insurance policies cover you for the things you're most likely to do on holiday, but when planning it always pays to check whether you are covered for specific activities.
• Forgetting to mention a medical condition when you apply: There's no obligation for travellers to declare their medical conditions when they buy a policy. But there would be no cover under all sections of the policy for any medical conditions you do not declare.
• Leaving it until the last minute: Things can happen before you leave as well as during the holiday, so would-be travellers should book their travel insurance the moment they pay any non-refundable deposits towards flights or accommodation.
• Getting "really really"drunk: Most policies do not cover claims when the direct cause was the excessive influence of alcohol, or reckless or unlawful behaviour.
• Not having it.