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Sort out insurance before you go

Insurance. It’s the last thing you want to think about with Christmas just around the corner. But between wrapping presents and packing bags, Consumer NZ says you should check your cover.

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Consumer NZ chief executive Sue Chetwin says there are some simple steps you can take to ensure you’re covered in case disaster strikes this silly season.

“The first step is to read your policies and make sure you’re familiar with the exclusions. You stand a much better chance of making a successful claim if you understand the terms of your cover,” Ms Chetwin says.

Before you hit the road for your well-deserved Christmas break, follow these top tips:

  1. Travel insurance (see our free guide) is essential if you’re heading overseas. But be sure to tell your insurer about any medical conditions you have when you arrange cover — and any ailments that develop before your departure. If you’re relying on credit card travel insurance, check your cover has been activated before you go.

  2. Make sure the cover limits in your contents or travel insurance policies are enough to cover valuable items. For instance, your travel insurance policy may only cover your laptop up to a maximum of $2000, even if it cost you $3000. You can usually arrange a higher cover limit with your insurer in exchange for a higher premium.

  3. Check your car is roadworthy before you depart. Even if you have a current WOF, you still need to ensure components, such as your car’s tyres and brakes, are in good nick. Your insurer may decline your claim if your car is unsafe – and this contributed to your loss.

  4. Lock up your belongings over the festive season. As a condition of cover, home, contents, car and travel insurance policies require you take reasonable care to avoid circumstances that could result in a claim. For example, making sure your home is locked up while you’re away or not leaving baggage unattended in the airport.

  5. Register with safetravel.govt.nz (a site run by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade) if you’re heading overseas. The site provides the latest travel advice for different countries. Also, visit your travel insurer’s site to see if it has placed any limitations on cover due to events in your planned destination.

  6. Keep your insurer’s contact details and your policy details close at hand. This makes life easier if you have to lodge a claim following a car crash, theft or some other stressful situation. In addition, travel insurers operate emergency call centres, which may prove invaluable if you encounter problems overseas.

  7. If you need to claim, get in touch with your insurer as soon as possible. You may have to provide evidence to prove your loss. For instance, travel insurers often require you report theft to the local police within 24 hours – and gather a written statement to show you reported the theft – before they’ll settle claims for stolen belongings.

  8. Challenge your insurer if you think your claim has been unfairly declined. Insurers must belong to an independent dispute resolution scheme, such as the Insurance and Financial Services Ombudsman. If you and your insurer can’t settle the dispute, you can refer it to the applicable scheme.

“If you get a handle on your insurance now, you can rest easy over the summer holidays,” Ms Chetwin says.

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