DAN HYDE: Travel insurers really can be a cynical bunch.... so beware the traps they set
Travel insurers really can be a cynical bunch.
I'm sure you've noticed that most firms now advertise millions of pounds of cover for unexpected medical bills, knowing full well that the likelihood of your submitting such a large claim is almost nil.
Behind this clever veneer, they hide nasty catches that — as 62-year-old retired teacher Marian Mortimer found — can leave you deeply out of pocket.
What rankles most about her story was that the £7,500 bill she incurred was the result of a medical disaster.
Fit for purpose: It's surely only logical that basic travel insurance should cover the most basic eventualities any family could suffer on holiday
Yet, because her husband Stephen died before they could return home, her insurer Avanti counted it as 'repatriation' costs where the cover only extended to £5,000, leaving her scrambling to find the remaining £2,500 from her own savings.
To be crystal clear about this: Avanti and its underwriter Mapfre stuck to the letter of the contract. They have done nothing illegal or underhand.
But I can't help feel that it was unfair in the first place to offer such a measly amount to bring a loved one home for a funeral when up to £10 million would have been available if Stephen had pulled through in hospital.
I've racked my brain, but the only explanation I can come up with is that the cap is either mean-spirited or an oversight.
It could be a significant problem for many holidaymakers, as around half of the travel insurance policies listed on price comparison websites contain this snag if someone dies abroad.
You might argue travel insurance is there to cover only the individual named on the policy. And if that individual is no longer with us, then it is somehow less important.
However, that ignores the reality of family life.
If you fall ill and need emergency treatment, everyone in the family benefits if the insurance covers the cost of getting you back on your feet.
You see this principle most clearly with life insurance, which pays out when the customer dies so the family can cover mortgage payments, inheritance taxes and funeral bills.
It's surely only logical that basic travel insurance should cover the most basic eventualities any family could suffer on holiday.
Sadly, between 3,000 and 4,000 Britons die abroad every year. The only way to make sure their family is fairly treated in a time of tremendous emotional turmoil is for travel insurers to clean up the mess they've made of their travel policies.
They should get rid of the 'repatriation costs' clause in their contracts and simply include any such bills in the overall medical cover. The good news is that Avanti has now done this — albeit too late for Marian.
Now let's see other companies step up to that same mark of fairness and quality.
It's hard to imagine the fear that Kim Kardashian must have felt while she was bound and robbed at gunpoint in a luxury apartment in Paris on Monday.
But it's less difficult to work out how the criminals knew to target the celebrity.
Ms Kardashian had earlier that night posted a picture on social media of her Lorraine Schwartz engagement ring, estimated to be worth £3.5 million.
She'd been flaunting it for weeks to her millions of internet followers — and seemingly that's what let the thieves know she had it with her in her plush Paris hotel.
I'm sure that Ms Kardashian and rapper husband Kanye West will be looking into their travel insurance as anyone who's burgled abroad would.
But it would be worth someone reminding celebrities that any normal person who posts pictures of their expensive jewellery on Facebook or Twitter — and lets the world know exactly where they are — might face a struggle to win a payout on their insurance.
Underwriters drag their feet on these claims as, essentially, you've just drawn a treasure map for burglars and put an 'X' to mark the spot.
Thank you for the fantastic response to our call for memories of family finances in the Sixties.
Your letters and emails were an enormous help in putting together our 50th anniversary edition of Money Mail, published last week. Goodness, hasn't life changed dramatically in the past half century?
For the most part, you shared happy memories of how you bettered yourself over the years with a helping hand from Money Mail's weekly tips. But of all the letters I've received over the past week, one stood out.
Aubrey Vickers, a former mayor of Eastbourne and chairman of the town's council housing committee, says: 'Money Mail data clearly demonstrates that the prime staple of the average family budget, housing (house prices), have multiplied by nearly 60 times over the period, while salaries have risen by a mere third of this, and other staples such as bread and milk are down in real terms.
'Put simply, family budgets are today tied-up with staggering housing costs like never before.
'All walks of life, whether old, young or working people, require homes. Around the time of Money Mail's inception, my Young Conservative friends and I throughout the country were calling for 300,000 homes per year to be built to address national needs, and they were. The need and call for new homes remains the same today.'
I couldn't agree more — and it's good to see our new Chancellor Philip Hammond pledging £3 billion to this cause.
I still have my doubts that our politicians are doing enough to solve the housing crisis facing future generations, though.
We don't just need more homes, we need affordable houses in the right places and of the right size.
That's going to take more than throwing a few billion pounds at the problem, I fear.