Sunseekers need decent cover: Conal Gregory looks at some holiday insurance offers

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Two key areas often overlooked in the field of holiday insurance are possessions taken outside the home - which may well be covered under the all-risks contents section - and cover provided through the use of a credit card.

If your household policy already insures for loss of personal articles while on holiday, a valuable discount of 20 per cent off travel cover costs can be obtained through General Accident policies sold by the Bradford and Bingley and National and Provincial building societies.

These levels rise to 25 per cent off with Endsleigh Isis and by as much as one-third off with the Northern Rock Building Society.

If you are paying for baggage insurance, check that it is adequate. While most insurers offer an overall pounds 1,500 many have a single article limit of pounds 250, which may not cover an expensive camera.

If a credit card was used to book the holiday there are two built-in complimentary facilities, accident insurance when travelling - but only for death or permanent disability - and compensation if the travel company or tour operator stops trading.

The latter cover requires at least pounds 100 to have been paid through the card and is a benefit from the terms of the Consumer Credit Act.

Several gold credit cards are competitive on travel insurance without requiring special forms.

NatWest's Gold Plus allows up to pounds 100 per person to be spent replacing items delayed four hours and a further pounds 400 if the baggage is not restored within 48 hours. The usual policy pays only pounds 100 in total, and that is after either 12 or 24 hours' delay.

Compensation for a delayed departure - whether through mechanical problems, industrial action or simply the weather - is also available through the gold cards, usually amounting to pounds 200 if there is a four-hour delay or more. In comparison, the AA and RAC offer pounds 60 and most others pounds 120, although the Sun Alliance (ABTA) policy offers pounds 250, one of many good features.

The E111 form gives limited health cover in Europe. In France this can amount to 80 per cent of hospital costs, but in Spain it is only 60 per cent of the cost of prescriptions and there may not be a health scheme doctor near you. Therefore independent health cover is vital.

Check if the insurer offers 24- hour English-speaking emergency medical advice. Abbey National uses Mondial Assistance, while others use Europ Assistance.

Most companies exclude medical conditions existing before the holiday. One that does not make this exclusion is the Bradford and Bingley.

If you have to cancel or cut short the holiday, check the grounds for reimbursement. Good policies include injury, illness, redundancy, jury service, witness summons, damage to your home and even a breakdown, accident or theft of the car in which you are to travel prior to the journey.

Many policies only cover for a breakdown on public transport, but will not pay out if you merely miss the ferry or flight. A few, like the Bradford and Bingley, will cover a breakdown or accident with your own vehicle.

A new and important dimension is loss of hotel facilities. If electricity or water supplies to your room or swimming pool affect the holiday, or the waiter or kitchen services are interrupted, both the ABTA Travelguard and Royal Bank of Scotland pay pounds 30 per day up to pounds 300 and pounds 150 respectively.

Lloyds Bank will compensate for 'loss of enjoyment' if you are confined to the hotel on medical advice. If excursions are pre- booked and paid for in the UK but cannot be taken through ill-health the Norwich and Peterborough pays up to pounds 75.

Hijack, kidnap and detention cover is included in several policies. The Co-op, Endsleigh and NatWest pay pounds 50 a day, while Abbey National pays up to pounds 1,000 per person plus pounds 15,000 expenses if held for more than three days.

Watch excess clauses. Bradford and Bingley stresses that it does not impose any. You can remove them from the ABTA policy by paying an extra pounds 3.20.

Two warnings - Barclays excludes 'property stolen from an unattended vehicle' and Abbey National only covers camping equipment 'provided it is not left unattended'.

Children over two benefit by special rates except with the RAC and Thomas Cook-Midland. Yet Thomas Cook has no surcharge for the elderly, nor does ABTA.

While 65 or 66 is the usual age to raise premium levels for travel outside Europe, Barclays, Lloyds and the Norwich and Peterborough put it at 70.

Annual holiday cover from the Bradford and Bingley can be just pounds 57.94 without baggage ( pounds 72.43 with) and the family ABTA rate for 17 days in Europe is pounds 35.80.

---------------------------------------------------------------------- Travel insurance for 17 days in Europe ---------------------------------------------------------------------- Adult With Child With Child baggage baggage age if discount discount not 2-15 pounds pounds pounds pounds ---------------------------------------------------------------------- Abbey National 18.00 9.00* 3-15 ABTA Travelguard 17.90 8.95 3-15 Automobile Association 20.95 13.97* Barclays Bank 19.50 9.75** Bradford & Bingley 19.44 15.56 9.73 7.79 Clydesdale Bank 17.10 11.40* Cooperative Bank 18.42 9.21 Endsleigh 17 12.75 8.50 6.37* Halifax 19.00 12.70

Leeds Permanent 19.50 9.75* Lloyds Bank 17.65 8.85 National & Provincial 16.75 13.40 11.15 8.92 National Westminster Bank 17.80 8.90 Northern Rock 19.00 12.67 9.50* 6.34* Norwich & Peterborough 20.95 10.47* 2-17 Royal Automobile Club 17.00 17.00 Over 4 Royal Bank of Scotland 17.35 11.55 Thomas Cook/Midland Bk 23.85 23.85 Over 2 TSB 18.03 13.49* 2-16 Yorkshire Bank 17.45 11.63* ---------------------------------------------------------------------- *Provided accompanied by an insured adult on same policy ** Provided two full premium adults on same policy are accompanying ----------------------------------------------------------------------

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