Warning over holiday health card scams

Many UK holidaymakers planning to head overseas are unsure over the protection given by the new Global Health Insurance Card – as scammers capitalise on uncertainty over foreign travel.

As restrictions on travel begin to ease, passengers travelling are advised to familiarise themselves with the proposed traffic light system, new documentation rules and emergency healthcare rules before they travel abroad.

Research, commissioned by travel insurance provider battleface, shows that 70 per cent of adults do not know how, or when, they need to apply for a GHIC. Only 25 per cent of adults surveyed were even aware of the GHIC, which gives them access to emergency and medical care when travelling in the EU.

This data emerges as government ministers discuss the traffic light system for restarting travel on May 17. The system will involve enforced hotel quarantine at the cost of £1,750 for red-listed countries as well as a strict testing protocol, a pre-departure test and at-home quarantine for up to 10 days for amber-listed countries.

No quarantine is necessary but pre-departure and post arrival tests are required for green-listed countries.

Katie Crowe, director of communications at battleface, said: “In the current climate, it’s crucial that travellers are aware of how they’ll be protected in the event of an accident or medical emergency when abroad.”

“Recently, there has been an influx of online scammers who are trying to charge for processing GHIC applications, which is absolutely not the case as they are always provided for free. People are profiting from the gaps in consumer knowledge, and it’s essential that this is rectified.”

She also reminded potential travellers of latest surrounding health care during overseas trips

Ms Crowe added: “As per UK government guidelines, when travelling to the EU, you need to have a passport that is more than six months away from its expiration date. If your passport is due to expire in less than six months, you must renew it before travelling.

“You are still able to use your EHIC until its expiration date, at which point you can apply for a GHIC. I would remind those travelling that your GHIC does not replace travel insurance. Your card will only cover state-medical provision, and you might still have to pay at the point of provision.”

She stressed that passengers should also take out the necessary travel insurance to ensure that any other associated costs, including repatriation, are covered.

As restrictions on travel begin to ease, passengers travelling are advised to familiarise themselves with the traffic light system, the new documentation, and their travel insurance policies before they travel abroad.

Laura Howard, personal finance expert at Forbes Advisor UK, added: “While the GHIC, like the EHIC before it, is a must-have for anyone planning a trip to Europe, it’s not a substitute for a good travel insurance policy, despite its name.

“But the GHIC is certainly a useful companion to travel insurance, because many insurers will reduce or even waive the excess that’s usually payable on a medical claim if the policyholder also has a GHIC. And as the GHIC is free, this really is a no-brainer.”

Top tips for travelling overseas when rules are relaxed:

  • As soon as possible after you’ve booked your holiday, find and take out a travel insurance policy. Make sure each traveller is covered, and add any information such as the country or region you are going to, whether you are going on a business trip, taking part in winter sports, or have any pre-existing conditions. It may seem like you don’t need cover until you’re actually on holiday, but you’ll benefit from cancellation cover as soon as you take the policy out.

  • Apply for a GHIC directly with the NHS – there are websites that offer to do this for you, for a fee, but this is completely unnecessary and could be a scam.

  • Check the Government’s travel advice for the country/countries you’ll be visiting. If you book a holiday to a destination that the Government advises against travel to, your insurer won’t cover you. But if you book a holiday and the country is subsequently added to a ‘no travel’ list, you will be covered by your insurer as long as your policy was taken out before the travel advice was published.

  • Now more than ever, travel providers – whether agents, package tour operators, airlines or hotels – are offering Covid-19 ‘guarantees’ to their customers. This can include things like refunds and flexible rebooking that would not normally be available. Make sure you read the terms and conditions of any of these assurances before you book.