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Coronavirus travel cover update - are you covered?

Coronavirus travel update, cheapest British Gas tariff since 2016 and stamp prices rising. These are our Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis’ Tips of the Week.

Remember, deals can change quickly, even while I’m on the programme. So always double-check the terms and conditions before spending. Plus, while I hope these deals will save you cash, don’t spend if you can’t afford it, don’t need it, or won’t use it.

Coronavirus – travel cover update

Last week I covered your travel insurance rights when it came to Coronavirus. Yet as this is a fast-changing situation with new developments daily, I’m constantly receiving huge number of questions from more concerned travellers. So, I’m going to address two of the most common new questions asked here. For full help see Martin’s full Coronavirus travel and work rights guide…

Booked a ticket for an event, if it is cancelled, can you get your hotel and flight costs back if you decide not to go? Many events around the world, including sports (both watching and participating), festivals and more are being cancelled or postponed. When events are cancelled you should get the ticket money back. But the issue is if you’ve flights and hotels linked with it.

Sadly, even if that was the primary purpose of your trip, if the Foreign Office hasn’t issued an advisory against travel to that country, then if you booked your flight, hotel and event ticket separately it’s very unlikely you’ll be covered for any costs.

However if you booked it as a package, then there’s a chance you may be able to get a refund from your tour operator, as arguably the event being cancelled has caused a significant change to your package and you aren’t obliged to go.

So, if you don’t have a free cancellation option for the hotel or flight, you’re probably best to wait rather than cancel straight away. This is because the FCO advice may change later to say you can’t go and this would trigger a travel insurance pay out. If you cancel before the FCO advice changes you won’t be able to get your money back.

What happens if the Foreign Office haven’t put a travel ban on a country but the country itself doesn’t let us in? Currently, there are few restrictions on UK travellers entering countries, for example Israel has said you can only travel there if you have a place (not a hotel) where you can put yourself in quarantine for a couple of weeks. This is likely to get more common.

In most cases, sadly you won’t be covered, so it’s important to be looking again at cancelling only if it’s free (if so note in your diary your last free cancellation date and be prepared). Of the eight insurers we checked only three said they would cover in these circumstances, as they’d count this as a regulatory authority, two wouldn’t.And again, if you don’t have insurance yet, do it urgently – especially as travel insurers are starting to change and limiting what’s available.

Martin’s Quickies:

Cheapest British Gas tariff since 2016: British Gas has just relaunched its super-cheap tariff (sadly not for those on prepay, or in Northern Ireland), and has made it even cheaper. The new dual-fuel ‘Energy Plus Protection Mar 2021v2’ costs a typical £839/yr - £315 cheaper than the average big standard tariff most people are on (including British Gas itself), and it’s by far the cheapest tariff from any Big 6 supplier on typical use, and close to being the market's all-round cheapest. Only a few tiddlers with little or poor customer service feedback can beat it.

The rate is fixed for a year, so there'll be no price hikes (though what you pay can change with your usage). And importantly new and EXISTING customers can get the deal. But you can't just call British Gas to get it - it's ONLY AVAILABLE via comparison sites. So use Martin’s Cheap Energy Club (which also gives £25 cashback on top) or any other Ofgem approved site. Plus, as your cheapest depends on where you live and what you use, it lets you see how it stacks up against other tariffs.

It’s worth checking, as savings can be huge like Gary who emailed “We changed from British Gas to British Gas and saved £100/mth - reduced from £375/mth to £275/mth. In addition, I received free boiler, drainage and electrical cover. The drain blocked within our boundary last week and we utilised this and only had to pay the £60 excess. An added bonus to switching. Thank you."

So, for existing customers it’s a no-brainer - it’s the same gas, same electricity, same safety and for British Gas customers, the same service. Except far cheaper and it's 100% renewable electric (not gas) and gives 1yr's 'free' heating insurance for dual-fuel customers only. There are £60 early exit fees and smart meters are required (it'll install them for free if you don't have them already). Of course, I'd always suggest you do a whole of market comparison, but for the many scared of switching or loyal to British Gas, this is an easy win.

Stamp prices going up: A week on Monday (23 March) stamp prices jump for a standard letter from 70p to 76p and to 65p from 61p for a second-class stamp – the largest rise for 8 years. For a large letter the cost will go up by 9p to £1.15 (first-class) and to 88p (second-class). But as stamps just say 1st or 2nd on them (or 1st or 2nd large for the bigger ones) if you buy them now, they are valid in perpetuity after. So, while it’s only pennies, if you’re going to send, even a big batch of Christmas cards, you may as well stock up now.

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