Don't let your age be a barrier to travel cover

You've taken your pension and now it's time to see the world. But retirees can end up paying up to five times more for travel insurance. Chiara Cavaglieri reports

Older people looking for travel insurance face a massive premium hike compared with younger travellers, with some policies costing more than five times as much for over 65s.

"The premiums can vary enormously between providers, sometimes by hundreds of pounds on an annual policy. No one provider is best for all age groups or medical backgrounds, so check out at least three or four before parting with the money," says Andrew Hagger from Moneynet.

Exclusive research for The Independent on Sunday by financial website Confused.com found that the cheapest price for a traveller aged between 65 and 74 for a single trip to Europe is £17.98 from Greatcover compared with £5.81 from Travelinsurance-uk.org for 18 to 54-year-olds. On an annual European policy, the difference is even more severe with Travelinsurance-uk.org offering the younger age group a top price of £17.95, compared with £94.50 from Travel Insure Genie for over 65s.

The price difference is down to risk; the older you are, the more likely you are to make a claim and the more likely you are to have a pre-existing condition. In fact, travellers over 65 are three times more likely to claim. However, rather than facing a gradual price increase, many travellers will find that their premiums take a sudden turn for the worse.

"There are three general age bands: 18-54, 55-65 and 65-74. Once customers reach age 75, prices either go up annually or every five years (ie 75-79, 80-84) depending on the provider, although the level of cover remains fairly consistent. It's all rather arbitrary," says Steve Williams, head of travel insurance at Confused.com.

As well as paying more, some older travellers will find that many insurers refuse to offer them cover altogether. According to Which?, out of 98 annual worldwide policies, only five covered people aged 80 or over.

These problems are exacerbated by the fact that older people are more inclined to go via their bank or travel agent for a policy, where cover is typically more expensive and the likelihood of being rejected is higher. High street travel agents such as STA, Trailfinders and Thomas Cook, for example, will refuse point blank to cover anyone over the age of 80. This can often mean that older travellers go without insurance altogether but this is very risky. Medical bills in countries such as the US can run into the tens and even hundreds of thousands.

For anyone struggling to find cover, specialist providers such as Age Concern and Saga are one option. Rather than lump everyone of a certain age bracket, the niche insurers will offer quotes on an individual basis. However, these can be expensive, particularly for travellers over 75, so it's still a good idea to check prices elsewhere. According to Confused, an 80-year-old travelling to Spain for one week would pay £64.52 with Saga, with an excess of £50, while an equivalent policy from Staysure costs £44.31.

There are some insurers who specialise in pre-existing illnesses – such as a heart condition or cancer – but finding the right policy will vary widely depending on your specific needs. You might have to pay an additional premium, but this is will depend on the condition and the insurer.

"It's impossible to say which is best as it depends on individual circumstances. Some will have higher excesses in order to keep the premium down, so be sure to check the excess figure you get quoted for. Take a look at Orbisinsurance.co.uk, MIA online or Travelbility.co.uk which is also good for travellers with disabilities," says Mr Hagger.

The good news is that more providers are cottoning on to the fact that the senior travel market is worth exploring. FreeSpirit, for example, covers travellers with many pre-existing medical conditions and has no upper age limit, although if you're over 80 you can buy a policy only over the phone. Other providers include Staysure, which covers travellers up to age 80, and Flexicover Direct, which offers cover up to age 85. Don't write off all mainstream providers either; Marks & Spencer offers single trip policies with no age limit, with the exception of over 80s travelling to the US, Canada or Caribbean islands.

Members of the M&S Premium Club, paying £10 per month, are offered annual worldwide, multi-trip travel insurance for couples up to the age of 80, which includes travel to the US, Canada and the Caribbean. "The policy includes a range of benefits you would expect from an M&S policy, including winter sports cover and cover for those booking a holiday independently," says Simon Coughlin from M&S Money.

A quick scout of the price comparison sites also reveals that Virgin Travel, All clear insurance, World First, Travelinsure Genie and Saga all claim to offer cover that is tailored to many common pre-existing conditions.

If you do find that cover is still too expensive, another useful option is EHIC Plus from the Medical Screening Company. This has no upper age limit and works as a top-up product to the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). The card enables you to access state-provided healthcare in the member countries at a reduced cost or free of charge. With EHIC Plus you have the traditional protection of a travel insurance policy including cancellation, repatriation and lost baggage, but without the expensive medical insurance needs, as these are covered by the EHIC card. So, your reduced premium reflects the fact that the EHIC Plus product is filling that gap. You'll need to look elsewhere for cover, however, if you are travelling outside of the EU member countries.

Another port of call should be your current account as several banks offer free travel insurance with their paid-for accounts, and some have fairly generous age limits. The Lloyds Gold account, for example, which costs £12 per month, comes with free travel insurance for holders up to the age of 80 as well as various other benefits. As a word of caution, though: make sure you want the account in the first place and check that the level of cover is suitable as these tend to offer fairly basic cover.

Closed doors: 'They want you to work longer, but you can't go on holiday'

At 74, retired college lecturer Shirley Norgan is in good health and looks forward to her annual trip to Spain in the winter. But she has been forced to spend part of her summer looking for a new travel insurance policy.

Her current travel insurer, Marcus Hearn, will no longer offer cover when she turns 75 in December, and finding a policy without internet access has been a lengthy and painstaking process.

"I'm very sorry that I can't continue with them. I've had insurance with them for several years, and at £76 for an annual policy I was very pleased with both the cover and the price," she says.

After calling Age Concern, Saga and other providers, Shirley eventually had to rely on a neighbour with an internet connection for help. "I first asked Age Concern but it was extremely complicated and they wanted to know all about my medical history. It was much the same when I phoned Saga."

Shirley is now going with Netcoverdirect.com and is pleased at the price of £87.90, but she is disappointed that she faced closed doors and pricey premiums elsewhere. "They're asking people to work longer but then you can't go abroad on holiday because there's no cover. If you're working longer you need a holiday."

Expert View

Steve Williams, Confused.com

'Older travellers often stick to their bank or travel agent when looking for cover which may not offer a policy at all or be very expensive and uncompetitive; hence the misconception that they can't get insurance. There are options out there but you have to cast your net wider.'

News
The current recommendation from Britain's Chief Medical Officer, is that people refrain from drinking on at least two days a week
food + drinkTheory is that hangovers are caused by methanol poisoning
Life and Style
techConcept would see planes coated in layer of micro-sensors and able to sense wear and tear
News
Patrick Stewart in the classiest ice bucket to date
people
News
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Senior Network Engineer-(CCIE, CCNP, Cisco, London)

    £65000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-(CCIE, CC...

    Senior Network Analyst - (CCIE, Cisco, CISSP)

    £70000 - £80000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Analyst - (CCIE, C...

    Senior Network Engineer-(Design, Implementation, CCIE)

    £60000 - £80000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-(Design, ...

    JavaScript Developer (C++ / C# / HTML, Java Angular.js) London

    £50000 - £60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A world leading business intellig...

    Day In a Page

    All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
    What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

    What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

    Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
    Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

    Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

    Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
    Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

    Radio 1’s new top ten

    The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
    Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

    Florence Knight's perfect picnic

    Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
    Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

    Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

    The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
    Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

    Mark Hix's summery soups

    Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
    Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

    Tim Sherwood column

    I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
    Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

    Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

    The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition