Many people rely on 'free' travel insurance that comes as a bonus on packaged bank accounts, and while these can be great they will often not suit travellers with pre-existing medical conditions. 

If you suffer or have suffered from illnesses like cancer, diabetes or certain heart conditions, the free travel insurance often bundled as a perk from high street bank accounts is unlikely to cover you. 

Often the first time you realise your policy is not up to scratch is when you need to claim on it, landing you with a huge bill for medical expenses abroad.

Small print revelations

If you take a closer look at the small print for many packaged accounts on offer today you’ll find the travel policies don’t provide cover for pre-existing conditions as standard.

[Read more: The top 5 things you need to check before you take out insurance]

The Halifax Reward Plus account for example, which costs £15 a month and comes with worldwide multi-trip family travel insurance and other perks, states: “pre-existing medical conditions are not covered unless agreed by the insurer.’

In some cases, your policy is likely to exclude certain illnesses or charge extra for providing the right cover.

The terms and conditions of the NatWest Reward account for example, which comes with worldwide family travel insurance for £19 a month and other benefits, warns: “If you have an existing medical condition, you may have to pay an additional premium or accept that your cover may exclude certain conditions.”

Sadly, the packaged account trap is a problem likely to impact older people the hardest.

Last year Money Mail found that 2.6 million pensioners are paying as much as £25 a month for packaged accounts that come with travel insurance that don’t cover them because of their age or medical conditions.

Where to find the right cover

One way to ensure you have the best cover for your holiday if you have a pre-existing condition is to use a specialist provider.

AllClear, for example, is a search engine and insurer that offers medical travel insurance for over 1,300 conditions. It reckons it can cover ‘any condition, any age and any destination.’

It’s easy to find a policy that includes conditions like diabetes, angina, arthritis, cancer, stroke and asthma and there’s no age limit for both single and multi-trip policies.

The site also allows you to compare quotes with other specialist travel insurers like goodtogoinsurance.com, which offers cover for people even with a terminal prognosis and Ok to Travel, which offer policies with no age limit for up to three months.

Plenty of general insurers may be prepared to offer cover for some pre-existing conditions and consider your case even those behind packaged account insurance policies, but this will most likely require paying extra and calling up to go through screening questions.

That's not to say going down this route won't get you a competitive price, but going through a specialist insurer is slightly simpler as the medical questions are online and so set up to deliver quotes instantly.

In any case, it's a good idea to check with both. You can compare specialist providers offering tailored cover for pre-existing medical conditions online on sites like AllClear and use the our travel insurance centre for general quotes.

How much will the right cover cost?

The cost of a travel insurance policy with the right medical cover will vary according to your condition.

I found the cheapest quote on an annual trip policy for a 66-year old with type one diabetes (excluding the USA) for two weeks using the AllClear engine was £89.12 via AvantiClub.

The policy comes with cover worth £1,000 for baggage, £1,000 for cancellation and £5 million for medical.

This is around twice the cost of a general policy for someone of the same age wanting the same policy but with no pre-existing medical condition.

In the future, the cost could get better as the industry may adapt to better suit the needs of holidaymakers with medical conditions.

The Financial Conduct Authority is currently investigating the challenges those who have or who have had cancer face in getting suitable travel insurance, and the findings should ‘read across to many other pre-existing medical conditions and insurance products’.

[Read more: Time to clamp down on this holiday fraud before we all suffer]

Honesty is the best policy

The key – as with any insurance – is to tell the truth and make sure you are not under-insured.

While you might have to pay a premium for cover it will save you money in the long run.