Making Cents: Check the details of your insurance before you travel

Gráinne McGuinness offers more consumer advice - this week she tackles summer holidays and insurance.

THE summer holidays are in sight, and many of us are spending our evenings browsing sunny destinations online.

Last week Áine Carroll, communications director with the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, offered advice when booking accommodation and flights. These are the areas most of us tend to focus on but she says consumers should also be aware of potential pitfalls when it comes to the smaller details of a trip, such as car hire and insurance.

“There are so many things to consider when it comes to travel insurance,” she said. “I think everyone at some point is guilty of booking it the day before their holiday or even at the airport. Like a lot of insurance policies that we pay less frequently, we probably don’t pay that much attention to what we are getting.”

Insurance is there to protect consumers against damaged luggage, flight cancellations, theft, and other mishaps. While all policies will cover these things, the terms and conditions can differ widely.

“Policies can vary a lot, particularly on the excess. So very, very cheap holiday insurance policies often have a very high excess. The kind of things you might be claiming are if your handbag got stolen. You might not be talking about huge value claims, so if the excess on the policy is €1,000 you’re not going to be able to make a claim.”

Multi-trip cover may be the best option for many.

“If you go away more than once in the year, it might be worth getting a multi-trip/annual policy, which can work out better value — particularly if you have a family and different family members going away at different times,” Ms Carroll said.

You can take out a family policy that covers you all for the year and they can be better value than buying lots of individual ones.

She also has advice for those booking with a travel agent.

“If you are booking a package holiday, travel agents and tour operators can insist you have travel insurance and very often they will. But that doesn’t mean they can insist on you buying travel insurance with them. All you need to do is prove you have it, not take it out with them.”

Another area that often causes problems is car hire.

“You don’t have to look too far to find people who run into problems hiring cars,” Ms Carroll said. “You’re in a foreign country, you get to the desk, and then they are asking you all these different questions, it can be really overwhelming.”

Her advice is to familiarise yourself with the company’s policies ahead of the trip itself.

Get the terms and condition from their website and have a read, or any FAQs they provide. Do a bit of reading before you get there.

Things to watch out for are exactly what level of cover is provided, what is not covered, and any other costs. If you are going to have more than one driver or need a car seat, check how much extra that is, they are not likely to be included in the initial price.

Insurance tends to be the major issue and Ms Carroll suggests taking out excess cover before you go.

“Most car hire will include some amount of basic insurance but the excess on those policies can be really high, it could be thousands of euro. So what you do is take out additional insurance, that covers that excess. You can get that additional insurance with the car hire company but it can be cheaper to do it before you go.

“If you are the kind of person who wants to know that no matter what happens to that car you are not going to have to pay for anything, it is definitely worth looking into getting your own policy before you go.”

Check the car thoroughly before you leave the car hire company and make sure any marks are known to the company. Take pics or a short video to record its condition when you get it and again dropping it off.

The fuel policy can also vary. Full-to-full offers the best deal for consumers. Be careful what card you use when booking — most hire companies will insist that the cardholder must be the main driver, so remember this when booking.

[hs]DEAL OF THE WEEK[/h2]

If home improvements are on your to-do list, it is worth checking out the furniture sale underway in Argos. The retailer is offering 20% off thousands of indoor furniture items, with everything from beds to sofas included.

Offers in living room and dining room furniture include a three-piece living room pack reduced from €649.99 to €501.49 and a solid oak dining table and four chairs down to €171.99, from €229.99.

A wide range of bed frames and mattresses are reduced and there is an additional 15% off if buy a frame and mattress together.

There are also reductions in bed frames and furniture for children’s rooms, a mid sleeper bed with a step ladder and four extra-deep drawers is down to €284.99.

Argos also offer customers a €10 voucher when they spend €100, or a €5 voucher when they spend €50.

The furniture offers are available until May 8, and you can browse all items at argos.ie.

If home improvements are on your to-do list, it is worth checking out the furniture sale underway in Argos. The retailer is offering 20% off thousands of indoor furniture items, with everything from beds to sofas included.

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