Usually I pay for an annual travel insurance which costs between £80 and £100 a year. This means you are covered for any impromptu trip and is cheaper than getting separate insurance for every trip.
I went to the USA and Mexico this year. This time, rather than getting my usual annual travel insurance, I called Nationwide and asked what the situation was about travelling to the States. They charged me £80 extra to be covered. I wasn’t expecting to make any claims so I was happy with that.
I was surprised not to receive any kind of booklet detailing what I could claim for, nor was I told on the phone of the insurance claim limits. I had booked this trip very last minute so I didn’t have time to pursue it.
Unfortunately, as will happen in life from time to time, this trip was full of incident. I was robbed of money, camera, glasses, iphone at my hotel room while I was asleep which wasn’t a very nice feeling. I was hospitalised twice with dehydration and sunburn partly due to a reaction with my medication. I dropped my other camera on the concrete floor.
You could say it was a bit disastrous although I had a great time. Still, hey, I was insured. So everything was covered right?
No. My first morning in Mexico, I discovered I’d been robbed in the night. I called the Nationwide travel insurance emergency number to let them know. A hatchet voiced woman spoke harshly and unsympathetically. ‘You won’t be covered. If they weren’t violent then you aren’t covered.’
I gaped: ‘But thieves…er…they aren’t always violent. What do you mean? I have to be attacked?’
‘Did they smash the door or window in?’
I subsequently realised that the thieves had climbed over the balcony, (we found the footprints in the dust), that a workman had left a ladder next door. Unfortunately I’d paid in advance for the hotel so we had to continue to stay in the same place. Creepy.
On the route home I try to buy a present, some perfume, for my daughter at Duty Free. After several tries my Nationwide card is rejected at each turn.
I put some money on my skype on my iPad, because I don’t have a phone anymore, and call Nationwide in England. My card is being rejected, why?
The woman says ‘We could see that you were using in the United States and Mexico, so we blocked it’.
‘But I called you to say I was going away beforehand. I’ve also taken out your travel insurance so you could see it was me travelling.’
Woman: ‘I’ll reinstate your card. It may take a while’
I return to the UK. I have no phone. In fact I have no phone for over two months, all the while paying my phone contract.
Taking a deep breath, I call Nationwide insurance.
Another call centre woman ‘You aren’t covered for most of that. The most you can claim for cash is £250. The most you can claim for stolen goods is £400. And there is a £50 excess on every part of your claim.’
I’m shocked at how little the Nationwide insurance covers and that by paying £80 extra, I was not covered for any more, except for geographically, than the ‘free insurance’. If I’d known, I would certainly have gone to another insurance company. Four hundred pounds to cover your belongings is very little. Most people have a phone that cost more than that. I complain that I wasn’t made aware of what I was covered for.
I get a very defensive response, all about they shouldn’t have to let people know.
Eventually: ‘Would you like to make a complaint?’
The Nationwide complaints guy writes to me several weeks later, complaining that I haven’t answered the phone and that they are completely in the right and I am completely in the wrong and that my complaint is dismissed. I still have no phone. So of course I haven’t bloody answered the phone.
It takes me, between work and other trips, two months to gather together the extensive paperwork for my claim. I’m not allowed to email anyone, there is no email address, it has to be by letter.
These are the documents:
Proof that I went abroad at all: flight records. (But you know I was abroad, I told you, you blocked my credit card. Nationwide guy: ‘Nationwide insurance doesn’t collate information with Nationwide’.)
Proof from my phone company that I possessed a phone
Proof that I didn’t have phone insurance
Proof that I had a camera.
Proof that I had glasses.
Proof that I had a glasses case.
Proof that I had withdrawn the stolen cash, which was difficult, as some of it was dollars from a previous trip, some was given by my dad.
Proof of the two medical incidents.
I also send the taxi bill to the hospital.
And the local doctor’s bill, written on a scrap of paper, who said I should go to hospital.
Proof of the theft.
The police report (for which I had to pay a bribe of 100 pesos)
A repair estimate for the broken camera, they wouldn’t replace it. (The repair costs 2/3rds of the replacement value but of course it’s actually my time, and the lengthy time for repair, and the travel there and back, that also counts. But in insurance terms, my time counts for nothing)
I send off the claim with detailed explanations. I send it registered.
In the meantime, the American hospital starts hassling me with invoices. I gave the American hospital my insurance details at the time so they could invoice directly. I’m guessing they tried to invoice Nationwide and got no response. This is why many hospitals abroad will not accept your medical insurance folks, because our insurance companies will do everything they can to not pay.
Several weeks later, I get a phone call from a creature called Alex, a guy who works at Nationwide. Alex says he won’t pay most of the claim. I complain once more that I was never sent a leaflet, that I was unaware that I was basically not covered for any belongings. He says, I think, none of this is in writing so it’s hard to follow, £300 is the largest single claim you can send in, up to £400 and that he will only pay a proportion of that for reasons I cannot remember/understand because each item has it’s own exclusion. You need a degree to understand how to claim on insurance.
He absolutely refuses to concede that perhaps Nationwide should explain to people how little they are covered for: ‘that would take too much time’.
He absolutely refuses to concede that perhaps Nationwide should send a booklet detailing their travel insurance. ‘You have admitted yourself that perhaps you got a booklet when you first took out the account, 20 years ago’. and ‘it would be too expensive to send information’.
Every time I try to move on with the conversation, saying that I have a lot of work today, that I don’t have time to argue with him, he batters me verbally, refusing to back down. He threatens to hang up if I don’t shut up and listen to him yell at me. Because he’s the boss right. I’m just the paying customer. He accuses me of yelling at him but I’m raising my voice just to try and finish a sentence without interruption from him.
I try to get him to talk about the rest of the claim. Eventually he says they won’t pay the medical bills, he says that I must pay it first then get refunded, minus £50, by Nationwide. They won’t pay the Mexican medical bills at all. I’m shocked and frankly, I’m starting to feel very angry. He, on the other hand, is clearly having fun. He’s got the upper hand, he’s enjoying this.
In the end, the phone call is so stressful and upsetting, I hang up. I can literally feel my blood pressure rising, making me ill, and it’s not worth having a stroke to deal with this immoral man.
Because bullying people for a living, as Alex does, is immoral. Yes I’m sure there are many fraudulent claims on insurance but I think it’s quite clear that my claim isn’t. Nationwide starts from a position in which you are a liar, a cheat, a thief. Nationwide doesn’t think, this person is a valued customer who has paid for a service and that this service should be as stress free as possible. The fact that you are making a claim in the first place, means that you have been through something unpleasant.
And actually, I’m sure Alex doesn’t think I’m a fraud. He’s doing this because he’s paid to beat people down, no matter what. He’s paid by Nationwide insurance to do this. To argue, to stress people out, to do everything he can to not pay out. He’s paid to do this by phone, when you have no time to get away, to think it through, when it would be less stressful and less time consuming to do this by email.
It was like being in court or something but he’s the judge and jury and executioner.
As I put the phone down, I burst into tears. I’m not a cry baby by any means but I have so much else to do, I can’t cope with this.
I don’t have the money to pay £2k medical bills and I certainly don’t trust Nationwide insurance to pay me back. So I will ignore the hospital bills. What else can I do?
I paid out, believing that, at the very least, my medical care was covered by Nationwide insurance.
I feel very lucky that this was my first claim since 1989 on travel insurance. I had no idea how bad it was. How you are treated like a criminal even when they have the proof in front of them.
I now have a phone which I bought second hand from someone on Twitter (another nightmare, they didn’t mention the phone was locked to Orange who took a leisurely 5 weeks to unlock it).
I still don’t have any glasses which were prescription.
I’ve paid the camera repair bill, because I needed a camera sooner than the 8 to 10 weeks suggested by Nationwide. (It’s been longer than that now). He wants proof of this. The estimate for the same amount was not enough. His phonecall to the camera repair people was not enough either.
The moral of this tale is: don’t rely on Nationwide travel insurance, you won’t be dealt with fairly. And they are not free. Even when they say they are.
This is a time when many people are going on holiday. Has anybody had any good experiences with travel insurance? Who do you recommend? Do you usually get annual travel insurance? Is that better or worse? Call centres are the bane of modern life I believe. They hate their jobs and they hate you the customer. Do you agree? Please let me know in the comments.