Travel advice: the best travel insurance for over-65s
One of the main disadvantages older travellers encounter is much higher insurance premiums. Nick Trend reveals how to keep the cost of travel cover down.Photo: Photolibrary.com
Two weeks ago I wrote about some of the advantages that older travellers enjoy – especially the free or reduced-price access they get to many sights and attractions in Europe and Britain. But a couple of readers have written in to remind me that there are disadvantages too. In particular, they pointed out the significantly higher prices they face when arranging travel insurance.
Many travel insurers won’t even offer cover to those aged 65 and over, and those that do increase the premium sharply as soon as you reach that age. Commonly the rate doubles, and then continues to increase as you get older, with higher price bands cutting in every 10 years, or even every five.
So, for example, the cost of Preferential’s Deluxe policy covering a week’s holiday in Europe goes up as follows: age 65 or under: £19.43; 66-70: £35.55; 71-75: £39.69; 76-80: £44.94.
But some companies don’t increase premiums until age 70, and virtually all have different rates of increase and different age bands as well as different maximum ages. So how do you find the best deal? Here’s a guide.
Why do premiums go up?
The blanket response from insurers is that premiums rise to reflect an increased risk of medical claims, which are also among the most expensive to settle. Put simply, older people fall ill more often, are more prone to accidents and are more expensive to treat. There is no doubt that plenty of 80 year-olds are just as fit as some 60 year-olds, but the insurance industry doesn’t work in that way, it just looks at averages. Insurers like to make sure they win both ways: while they won’t offer you a discount for being fit, if you already have an illness or a health condition there is a good chance they will charge you even more – see below.
How much cover should I go for?
One problem with comparing premiums is that no two travel insurance policies offer exactly the same levels of cover or terms and conditions. The best policy for you may not be the cheapest overall; it will be the one that offers you enough cover at the best price. So there is no short cut to having a look through the summary of cover and checking that you are happy with the amounts offered.
What sort of policy?
If you travel a lot – say, six times a year or more – it will probably pay you to take out an annual “multi-trip” policy, which will cover you for all the travel you do in that year. The added advantage of this is that cover is continuous: you don’t have to keep buying policies, and it takes effect automatically as soon as you make a new booking. Unfortunately, upper age limits for this type of policy are usually significantly lower than for insurance that covers single trips.
Only a tiny handful of insurers offer multi-trip policies for the over-75s. If you are going cruising, on the other hand, note that some companies also offer special policies for cruising holidays (see below), and these may be better value and have a higher age limit than standard travel insurance.
Note, too, that all premiums are sharply higher if you are travelling outside Europe (often they double) and more expensive still (by about another 50 per cent) if you are travelling to North America (and sometimes the Caribbean, too), because of the cost of medical treatment there.
Which companies will insure me?
This is a selection of companies that offer cover to over-65s and older people. Given its links with charities for older people, I would be inclined to include Intune in your price research.
All Clear Insurance (0845 250 5250; www.allcleartravel.co.uk) offers cover to “all ages”.
Avanti Travel Insurance (0800 066 5604; www.avantitravelinsurance.co.uk) can cover those up to 85 (75 for annual policies). If you still ski, you can include cover for this until the age of 70.
Flexicover (0800 093 9495; www.flexicover.co.uk) has no age limit on single-trip policies, and its annual multi-trip insurance goes up to the age of 85.
Freedom Insurance (01223 454290; www.freedominsure.co.uk) policies have a maximum age of 85 for a single trip, but 75 for annual policies.
Intune (0800 022 3192; www.intunegroup.co.uk) is owned by the charity Age UK, which represents Help the Aged and Age Concern combined. It offers all types of single-trip and annual policies, with no upper age limit.
Holidaysafe Club 65 policy (0845 658 0570; www.holidaysafe.co.uk) has a maximum age for single trips of 84 (74 for its annual policy). However, it also sells cruise policies, and there is no upper age limit on these.
Insurancewith (0845 230 7159; www.insurancewith.com) offers standard policies for travellers up to 85, but there is no age limit on its cruise policy.
JD Travel Insurance (01689 859102; www.jdtravelinsurance.co.uk) has no age limit for single trips, but 85 is the maximum age for annual cover.
PJ Hayman (0845 230 5000; www.free-spirit.com) imposes no upper age limit: you can apply online up to the age of 79; if you are older you need to telephone.
Preferential (0843 208 1928; www.preferential.co.uk) offers single-trip cover up to the age of 80, annual up to 75 years, though some age limits are dependent on destination and duration of trip.
Saga (0800 015 8055; www.saga.co.uk) sells policies to those over 49 only, but there is no upper age limit. There are no age/price bands as such; premiums are quoted on an individual basis depending on health, age, holiday destination, etc.
Staysure (0844 277 0844; www.staysure.co.uk) sells a single-trip policy up to 85 years, annual up to 80 years.
World First (0845 908 0161; www.world-first.co.uk) covers those up to the age of 100 for a single trip, but only up to age 74 on annual cover.
What about existing medical conditions?
This is what worries insurers most. If you are taken ill because of a condition that you did not declare when you bought the insurance, your claim will not be paid. Even if you have an annual policy, you must inform the insurer if you develop a condition during the period covered by the insurance (see Ask Gill, Page 23). Typical conditions might be high blood pressure, diabetes, or cancer, even in remission, but if you are in doubt talk to the company before you buy cover, and have all the details recorded in writing.
It may not increase your premium by much (Insurancewith gave an example of a premium of £45.88 for 14 days in Europe for someone aged 66–75 who has had treatment for cancer), and the insurer might not be concerned about it. On the other hand, it might result in a specific exclusion on treatment, or cover might be refused.
Do not despair, however; some insurers above specialise in this type of cover. Try: Avanti Travel Insurance; All Clear Insurance; Insurancewith; Freedom Insurance; JD Travel Insurance; PJ Hayman; Staysure and World First.