Add to this the basic cover provided by an EU CEAM card for access to healthcare in Europe and it begs the question: do we need travel insurance?
It depends largely on where you are going and on what cover you want.
When it comes to accidents and emergencies a European CEAM (EHIC) card, from your health caisse gives you the same health cover as a resident of that country, though you should check your top-up policy as cover can vary for trips outside France.
A CEAM card however will not cover private medical healthcare or costs such as mountain rescue in ski resorts or being flown home in an emergency. Nor, of course, will it help if travelling outside Europe.
Standard Visa and Mastercard credit cards can help and their insurance usually covers everyone in the household, including unmarried dependants under 25, whether travelling with the cardholder or not. It is usually valid for three months when travelling over 100km from home.
However this will only apply up to a limited amount. The maximum total healthcare claim is €11,000 which is insufficient if travelling in the US, for example where a single day in hospital could cost up to €7,500 euros.
Visa Premier and Gold Mastercard offer better cover with a maximum of €155,000, but one operation and 10 days in hospital could amount to this.
So if travelling to a country where healthcare is expensive, private cover is advisable. Note also that there are likely to be amounts you have to pay out of your own pocket before the insurance kicks in. Many credit card franchises (‘excess’ levels) are €50-75 so, for example, with a Mastercard, if your consultation with a specialist costs €80, you would pay €75 and the insurance would only pay €5.
When it comes to other aspects of travel cover, neither Visa nor Mastercard standard cards cover cancellation of a holiday. With Visa Premier and Gold Mastercard you are covered (up to €5,000 euros per card, per year) only if a cancellation results from death of a family member, serious damage to your home or being sacked.
When it comes to loss of or damage to your luggage, ordinary Visa and Mastercard holders are not covered but Visa Premier and Gold Mastercard cover up to €800-850 with an excess of €70. However this is only if the luggage was lost or damaged by a transport company.
When buying travel insurance, it is preferable to check what you are getting for your money - and that it is appropriate to your needs. For example why insure luggage if all you have is a hold-all containing a bikini and a pair of flip-flops?
However if you are travelling outside the EU, taking expensive belongings, taking part in dangerous sports, or travelling for extended periods, it makes sense to consider buying the best travel insurance you can afford.
Be aware that debit cards do not usually offer free insurance, even if they carry a Visa or a Mastercard logo. The insurance guarantees quoted were correct at the time of going to press but are liable to change.