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Jane Jeffries: Fine print can cost your cover

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Take careful note of the terms and conditions when using credit cards for travel insurance, writes Jane Jeffries.
There are pitfalls with credit card insurance. Photo / Thinkstock
There are pitfalls with credit card insurance. Photo / Thinkstock

Banks encourage credit card use for the big-ticket items like travel by offering loyalty points and free travel insurance for gold and platinum cardholders - but be wary.

Kerry Graham, director of the Private Travel Company, tells clients who want to use credit card travel insurance to read the terms and conditions of the policy before hitting the road.

But how many of us really do that?

Downloading the terms and conditions can be a tedious affair and the quantity of detail in small print - typically written in a legal language that's difficult to understand - can be overwhelming for many travellers.

The questions we want answered are hard to find in the myriad of text so we call the credit card company for clarity. In my experience, the knowledge of the customer service representatives of such companies is often superficial.

Ultimately, they will refer back to the terms and conditions, putting the responsibility back on the user.

It becomes a vicious circle with little clarity for the consumer.

Recently, a client of the Private Travel Company read the fine print of their travel card insurance and found they needed to send a copy of their itinerary for approval to their credit card travel insurer before travelling to Cuba.

How many other customers would have signed the form without noticing that condition?

Another client thought she was covered for the 42 days of her holiday, but was only covered for 40 days, the limit of her credit card travel insurance.

Her dependent daughter was travelling with her but returning at a later date, so had no cover.

There are pitfalls with credit card insurance because it's generic. Typically, the insurer does not sight the itinerary and no questions are asked.

The responsibility lies with the person seeking the travel insurance to be honest about travel arrangements and pre-existing medical conditions - and to understand the process of filling out the forms. If you are not sure, get expert advice.

Graham suggests phoning the credit card company to get travel insurance confirmation and recommends asking for an insurance certificate.

Your travel agent can also organise travel insurance. They will know where you are going, what activities you will be engaging in, who you are going with and for how long. They can tailor the insurance to your requirements.

The cost of insurance is minimal compared to the cost of travel. Make sure you have cover from the time you book your travel until you come home. And read the small print.

What you need to know

Don't assume you're covered.

Check your eligibility with the type of credit card you hold.

The duration of travel insurance varies depending on bank and card type, ie, gold or platinum.

Countries on the "extreme risk list" are not covered, check safetravel.govt.nz - it may surprise you.

Family members are only covered if they are your spouse or solely dependent children, and must be travelling with the cardholder at all times.

Business partners are not covered.

Many sporting activities are not covered.

Skiing may be covered but confirmation should be sought from the credit card insurer. Do not assume automatic cover.

Excess is about $200, but this can vary depending on the bank and card type.

Contact the insurance company's underwriters with any pre-existing medical conditions to ensure it is noted on your policy.

- NZ Herald

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