Is your gadget covered? Travel insurance is behind the times

Man on beach with iPad

You’d expect your travel insurance policy to foot the bill if your expensive iPhone was stolen on holiday. Well, we’ve found that many travel insurers are covering only a fraction of the total value of your gadgets.

Many of us take lots of gadgets and valuables on holiday with us these days – sitting on the beach catching up on the latest TV blockbuster on an iPad is a nice way to relax. Then there’s the expensive jewellery, watches and cameras that we pack for our trips abroad.

If one of these items is lost or stolen on holiday, you’d assume you’d be reimbursed under the personal possessions part of your travel insurance policy. However, we’ve found that the cover levels are usually insufficient and will be an unpleasant surprise if you have a mishap.

Of the 20 travel insurance providers we examined, all had a single item limit of £300 or less, with four companies (Axa, Columbus Direct, Insure & Go and Virgin Money) having a limit of only £200. This isn’t very much when you compare it to the average value of the items you told us you take away – smartphones (£372), iPads (£428), laptops (£671), watches (£1,667) and jewellery (£3,212).

Will travel insurance cover your iPhone 5?The numbers don’t add up

Companies will also take off an excess from the claim. So if you lose your brand new iPhone 5 while on holiday in Spain, you’d be able to claim back just £250 from a typical travel insurance policy (the £300 limit minus an excess of £50). That’s £250 less than it would cost you to replace the phone.

Insurance companies are also being far from generous when it comes to the overall limit for your valuable items. Some 15 insurers only cover valuables up to £400, and seven companies have paltry limits of £250 or less.

What can you do?

If you want to take expensive valuables away with you, travel insurers told us that your best bet is to take out ‘personal possessions away from home cover’ on your home contents insurance.

I don’t know about you, but I would assume that my travel insurance would meet my requirements. I wouldn’t think to double check my home insurance!

Ultimately, cover limits haven’t kept pace with the times and don’t reflect the equipment travellers take away with them. Our findings come as the Financial Conduct Authority announces a review of the travel insurance market. We want insurers to increase their limits or, at the very least, offer the option for higher cover levels for an additional premium.

Would you agree that travel insurers are being stingy with their cover limits? Or should travel insurance be more about the medical cover rather than gadgets?


Even the American Express Platinum Card gives travel insurance cover of only £500 per item. With the most basic iPhone 5 costing £529 and the 64GB version costing £699, this £500 limit is inadequate and not fit for purpose. This is particularly disappointing in view of the annual fee of £450 for the Platinum Card, which comprises travel insurance and other travel-related benefits such as airport lounge access and airline/hotel loyalty scheme upgrades.

I think it is unreasonable to expect personal travel insurance to cover high tech items that you haven’t bothered to insure for use in the UK. There is simply too much scope for fraudulent claims that the rest of us will end up paying for.

And why take expensive watches and jewellery on holiday with you? If you are visiting a third- world holiday destination it is simply not appropriate to be flaunting your wealth amongst the local community, regardless of any heightened risk of theft.

Michael Vinall says:
22 May 2013

I also agree with the first contributor in that expensive items should be covered specifically by the owner, and for loss or damage within this country or abroad. Otherwise insurance premiums would have to increase for all, including those who can’t afford such expensive items. I suggest that anyone who spends £1667 (your example) on a watch can afford to lose it.
Unfortunately on this occasion I think that Which magazine is giving the wrong messages.

will g says:
23 May 2013

I’ve just trawled through about a hundred different policies to find one where the limit is as high as £500 per item. This should be one of the ‘headline’ facts about insurance, not buried deep in the T&C.

M Parsons says:
24 May 2013

Anyone who takes expensive watches and jewellery on holiday (especially a watch costing £1,667) is taking a risk that it is unfair to expect insurers to cover on basic holiday insurance. A watch basically tells you the time: a £15 watch does this equally as well as one costing hundreds of pounds. All premiums would have to increase dramatically if such expensive items were to be covered automatically – higher value goods should be protected by an upgraded policy.
I know Which is here to protect consumer rights but really this is too much.

I absolutely agree that people who have these expensive items should insure them on their household policies. Presumably if they are taking these items on holiday, they also take them outside the home in the UK and should therefore be insuring them with ‘All Risks’ cover. It’s fine for Which? to point out to people that their holiday insurance might not cover the replacement cost of these items, but for once I don’t think they can blame the insurance companies.

Michael James says:
27 May 2013

I think Which is barking up the wrong tree here. I feel sure that anyone having these expensive, highly mobile items would have them covered by their home insurance through the ‘personal possessions away from home’ add-on. Getting them covered fully as well by travel insurance will only be causing extra, unnecessary expense for most consumers through increased premiums. It is better to have personal possessions removed from routine travel insurance altogether in order to reduce premiums, and then for the insurers to give the option of ‘special’ cover for personal possessions, graduated as required, as an extra if it’s really needed.

I read the Which article in the June edition on Travel Insurance and was surprised you did not cover pre existing medical conditions. As another member said if you have expensive portable gadgets, you would normally have them covered under your Home Contents insurance. Travel insurance for those with medical conditions is very expensive and can not be found easily through price comparison websites. Are you planning a review, before the holiday season, on Travel Insurance for travellers with medical conditions.

The person who wrote this article is obviously not qualified to do so. Does he really only bother about insurance for his valuables when he goes on holiday ?
Does he think they are perfectly safe in this country the rest of the year ?
For once the insurance companies gave him the correct infromation but it seem that Which ? magazine now loves bashing insurance companies.

RPB says:
2 June 2013

I was about to leave a comment when I realized it has all been said – this is a bad campaign!! You and the public should be more concerned whether the policy will actually pay out for serious illness abroad than covering expensive trinkets which can be better insured elsewhere. Better cover for pre – existing illnesses etc would be a more valuable use of your efforts. Perhaps they should also drop payments of a few pounds for relatively short delays etc and concentrate on what matters.

If you want to take valuable items abroad you should be able to, that’s anyone’s personal choice and it’s sensible to ensure you have insurance. However, your premium should reflect the value of those items as well as factor in any risk on the type of travel and your destination/itinerary.

So, if I want to take my iPad/iPhone I should be able to and my premium should reflect that. That’s only fair. If my policy was at the lower end I should only expect that the level of cover may not be enough – but it’s up to us to check before we purchase it.

However, I think a bigger issue with regards to any insurance is one of being able to standardise policies (not the amount of cover but the types of things to cover) to allow people to make like for like comparisons.

Laurence Flasher says:
3 June 2013

There was another way my (then) travel insurer, Multitrip, declined my claim for repairs to my ipad following screen damage that occurred whilst it was on charge in the hotel room & we were out.

The small print required all “valuables” that were not actually with you to be locked in the room safe. Trouble is that “valuables” are defined as including cash, jewellery, watches, passports, ipads, iphones, mobile phones, computers, laptops, televisions, dvd players, cameras, camcorders etc…. the list goes on!

Not only is it physically impossible to fit some of these “valuable” items in a regular hotel roomsafe but the insurer also knows perfectly well that items such as ipads, iphones & the like depend on being left on charge for their functionality.

The lesson I learnt was that the policy item limits are irrelevant if a claim is likely to fail as a result of wholly unrealistic requirements to keep items that are physically larger than the typical hotel safe you are required to keep it in!

As to pre existing medical conditions I have taken out annual policies for many years and have obtained medical cover without difficulty by disclosing my circumstances to the underwriters when taking out the insurance. Thankfully I’ve never made a claim but there’s always the worry that the insurers will find a way out of their obligations just when you need them most.

the level of cover is only half the story. I am quite happy to insure valuables etc on my house contents policy (so they are covered in the UK too) but looking at the small print (Direct Line) I am only covered for theft away from home if “force or violence” is used. So if a pick pocket takes your wallet/purse/camera etc you are not covered – hard luck. Travel policy is linked to this so it is the same. Was it always like this or is this another new way insurers are trying to avoid paying out?

Not really. If you leave your camera on a table or chair where someone can just whisk it away – hard luck. If you have the camera around your neck or in your hand, the thief has to wrench it from your grasp – “force or violence”. Same with a handbag, watch, etc., worn about your body rather than left unattended.

Keep a man’s wallet in a zipped pocket and you may well be aware of the attempted pick pocket. In any case, the limits on loss of cash are quite low. Provided you don’t have wads of money in your wallet and a spare credit card, just take the hit.

it is not quite so simple. I had my camera stolen by a pickpocket on the Rome metro. It was in a zipped camera bag over my shoulder but I never felt a thing. My wife had her phone stolen from a zipped handbag in Selfridges, never felt a thing. This sort of non violent theft is is rife whichis presumably why Direct Line exclude it.

Like you I dont want to pay for fraudulent claims but I think Direct Line have gone too far. I will insure with somebody else next time to get better cover even if i have to pay more.

I’d welcome a kind of ‘CAT’ standard for many insurance products – this would guarantee a minimum standard. The trouble with many price comparison sites is that whilst they tell you how much a policy is and what cover you get they don’t often tell you what you’re NOT covered for.

Travel insurance is no different. Many people will opt for the cheapest without scrolling down the results to slightly dearer policies but which offer more comprehensive cover. It’s only when they make a claim do they find out what they’ve done.

Robert Markowski says:
6 August 2013

My Fiacee and I were in Avignon, France in 2005. We were mugged in our hire car, her bag was stolen from her lap. It contained her glasses worth conservatively £650, and a recently bought camera worth £350. After reporting the incident to the local police and the insurers (Natwest travel insurance) we were reimbursed to the tune of about £250, losing out some £750. We were outraged, as not only were we robbed, we were mugged, and although we did not need hospital treatment we were in considerable shock. We felt really let down by the insurers, and since then have never taken valuables with us . we consider the insurance companies in this respect not fit for purpose.

JohnnieJohnston says:
24 September 2013

The article expresses serious concerns for all buyers of travel insurance. With spectacles easily costing £400 – £500 single item limits set at £100 – £300 and total personal / valuable items limits do not correlate to current day lifestyles, standards and prices.
Can you run an article reporting on travel insurance policies according to flexibility of individual and total limits? Surely many people would welcome the ability to choose the limit level to match their circumstances, and pay the appropriate premium.

When taking out any insurance you must firstly check the level of cover in the event of a claim. You all know the value of your gadgets so it should be easy to establish if they are covered. Several years ago I had very expensive camera equipment, approx. £1,500, which I had to insure on my home contents insurance under ‘items away from home’. This made sense as they were at risk as soon as I took them outside my door, not just abroad.

Which? should make it clear in their travel insurance reviews, the single item limit and total valuables limit on any policy. They must also cover psychological disorders and not just physical disorders. If you have been or are now being treated for depression, taking a happy pill or having talking therapy, are you covered under ‘pre existing medical conditions’ travel insurance policies?

Daniela says:
22 March 2015

I believe people that are commenting against this article gave missed the point. Sometimes you are forced to take with you on holiday expensive gadgets. I’ll be travelling next week to Budapest and have to take my laptop with me as I need to be available in case my company needs support. I.m forced to travel with an expensive gadget and I’m struggling to find a cover. I also can’t afford to lose it as some people commented as I would be without the tool I need to perform my job.

People think outside your world.

Just guessing, but there must be a way in which your company, in relying on you to be available while having a holiday, should be taking the insurance risk on your laptop. It should also take responsibility for vital data so that in the event of a terrible occurrence causing the loss of the laptop [which no amount of insurance cover coud prevent] the important part was still in existence.

AC says:
12 June 2015

I’ve just looked into this and John Lewis insure individual items up to 2.500 if you buy the premium travel policy

Tim M says:
13 May 2016

As others on this subject have found I’d assumed “Valuables” in travel insurance mean things belonging to me that were costly to replace, but having had a phone pick pocketed in Cuba recently, it does not! Almost all of the companies I’ve looked at this year (2016) have, in the small print under Baggage / Personal possession / Valuables and the heading “Things not covered”….mobile phones, tablets, laptops, Sat Nav’s, camera’s, audio visual / electronic equipment, e-readers and computer equipment, of any type!! Our current Home and Contents covers them away from home but not abroad, which I’ll investigate once its up for renewal.
I then went looking for separate gadget cover but found most of them will only insure items up to 18 months old (or less) and only if purchased from a UK VAT registered company. Many items purchased online today would appear to be from a UK company but on further investigation I’ve found that is not the case. Of the six “Valuable” items we own, only one would be covered under the above criteria, my £130 phone is shipped from Hong Kong as is the £60 e-reader, the UK high street purchased £400 tablet is over 3 years old, the £100 Sat Nav is over 4 years old and the £300 digital bridge camera is shipped from Holland, leaving only my partners £145 phone covered (we are both on SIM only phone deals so the phones are not covered by contract).
We don’t take all of the above items with us on every trip, which could be a long weekend or 4 weeks in Australia and I’m sure there are those who would suggest we “go back to nature” and not use modern technology at all on holiday. That is their choice of course but those of us who enjoy visiting other parts of their holiday destination (not just the “all inclusive complex”) will hire a car so why not be able to take and use the Sat Nav you already own? I’m sure everyone wants to take a camera to capture those cherished memories so why not be able to insure it at a competitive price. If you do decide you’re only going to sit round the pool and read, why take large heavy paperbacks that use up valuable weight and space on today’s fairly restrictive baggage limits, when you can take an e-reader?
Please understand I’m happy to pay an extra premium to cover specific items but feel the lack of clear detail or totally inadequate cover is not being explained fully by the insurance companies.
I did find two companies that currently include these items as standard but please note I’m not a legal expert so ensure you read the Policy and Key details to confirm the product is right for you before purchasing any travel insurance. One is Sainsbury’s Bank (not the Basic) and the other is EHICPlus Expand (which was the best deal for us) through a comparison site.
I realise there will always be people who take advantage of the insurance system but simply saying “don’t take anything expensive on holiday” doesn’t seem to be the answer.