Checklist for travel insurance

Here are seven questions to ask yourself when buying travel insurance.

Q Do you understand the policy benefits and scope of cover?

A Key details such as the sum assured (the maximum amount the insured party receives if a claim is made) may not seem important during the excitement of planning your holiday, says Mr Brandon Lam, Singapore head of financial planning group at DBS Bank.

"But such details can make a huge difference should something unfortunate occur. Make sure you understand the coverage, benefits as well as any exclusion in your travel insurance policy before purchasing," he says.

After all, there are different kinds of plans that provide varying benefits and coverage. Some common benefits include personal accident, trip cancellation, delay in flight, lost baggage, emergency medical evacuation and so on.

These benefits vary among insurance companies and by plans in terms of limits/excess, definition and insured perils. Find one that best suits your needs.

Q Have you read the policy documents?

A It is prudent to read the policy document carefully, including the fine print. For example, coverage for flight delays may vary across insurers and some may not cover terrorism, and delays caused by strikes, riots or civil commotions or delays caused by operational factors instead of mechanical reasons.

Trip curtailment gives you insurance cover if you have to cut short your holiday when you are already overseas, due to reasons specified in your contract (such as official travel alert, serious illness and so on).

"Also, if you need emergency medical evacuation while you are overseas, you should first contact your insurer or its authorised representative in the country you are in. This is because it is often stated in the insurance contract that their opinion is required on whether it is medically appropriate to evacuate you to another location for treatment, or to return to Singapore," says the Financial Industry Disputes Resolution Centre (Fidrec).

In addition, it is important to clarify with the insurer whether emergency medical evacuation arising from pre-existing conditions is covered before your take up the policy.

In the case of a flight delay, the insurer would usually state in the policy that the delay must be for a minimum of six consecutive hours before claims can be made. So if your flight is delayed for less than six hours, you would not be eligible to file a claim.

Q What is a "known event"?

A Your insurer may also not cover you for what is often termed a "known event". Usually, this means a civil commotion, natural disaster and so on that threatens your health or disrupts your trip. They are typically made known to you by your airline or hotel, or publicised through media reports or government travel advisories, before you sign up for the policy.

If the known event happens after you have bought your policy, you may be able to claim for cancellation of trip, if that is included in your policy. But check the exclusion clauses to ensure eligibility of your claim, Fidrec advises.

Q When is a police report required?

A Most travel policies cover accidental loss of your personal belongings by theft, for example, subject to the specific terms and conditions of the policy.

You should first make a police report of the incident at your travel destination. The local police report is often a required document when you submit your claim upon return.

Q What if you have pre-existing medical conditions?

A Most travel insurance policies do not cover pre-existing medical conditions. This is similar to most health insurance policies, which have such exclusions in their coverage.

So if you want travel insurance that covers you for a particular medical condition you already have, shop around carefully for one that suits you. Don't hesitate to ask the insurer if you have any questions about this, including the amount of coverage.

Furthermore, note the definition of pre-existing medical condition in the policy before you buy. This is typically expressly defined to mean any injury or sickness - including any complications that may arise - that you know about before you start your trip. It can also include ailments for which you have received diagnosis, consultation or medical treatment for a period (say, 12 months) before you start your trip, adds Fidrec.

Q Can you claim for medical treatment after your trip?

A If you sustained an injury or suffered sickness while overseas and you did not seek medical treatment there, then normally (depending on the terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy), you have up to 72 hours upon your return to Singapore to seek treatment here, and then claim for these expenses.

But if you sought treatment overseas, then you usually have (again, depending on your policy) up to 30 days upon return to Singapore to continue your medical treatment here.

Q Is an annual travel policy more appropriate for you?

A Mr Lam advises that if you are travelling by yourself, you should opt for individual cover. If you are travelling as a family with children below 18, choose a plan that offers family cover.

If you travel often, consider an annual plan to get more bang for your buck. Most annual plans cover an unlimited number of round trips within a 12-month period.

However, note that each of your overseas trips must not last more than 90 days. And some plans have restrictions: For example, if you are over 70, you can buy only a single-trip travel insurance plan.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 12, 2017, with the headline 'Checklist for travel insurance'. Subscribe