Britain has been known to be a nation of animal lovers for centuries and there are now more domestic pets in the UK than ever before. Probably as a consequence of the covid crisis and the increased time people have been staying at home, records show that almost 60% of households now own pets and this number is growing.
In 2021, it is estimated that there are around 12 million dogs and the same number of cats living in homes across the UK. Naturally, along with increasing pet ownership is the amount of money we spend on our furry friends. Research shows that in 2020, a whopping £4bn was spent on Britain’s pets which is almost double the amount spent twenty years ago.
One of the biggest financial considerations when acquiring a pet, are vet’s bills. Aside from the regular vaccinations and health checks, there is always the possibility for an unexpected expense which can sometimes run into several hundreds, if not thousands of pounds.
For this reason, the majority of pet owners take out a comprehensive pet insurance policy to ensure they have a contingency in place should anything happen to their furry family member. In this article, we take a closer look at what’s involved in pet insurance and how you can choose the best provider for your own needs.
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How to Choose the Best Pet Insurance
When it comes to choosing the best pet insurance policy, it can be very confusing as there are so many different providers. Many people opt for familiar names such as Marks & Spencer which offers its own pet insurance but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will get the best cover for your money.
In this review, we take a closer look at M&S Pet Insurance in comparison with some other providers to see how well-rounded their cover is. Emerald Life has considerable experience within the field of pet insurance and we are here to help you make the best choices for your pets.
The main objective of a good pet insurance policy is to get your pets covered for any medical eventuality. That said, around 67% of dogs and 84% of cats in the UK are uninsured according to the Association of British Insurers, (ABI). This means there are around 12.4 million British pet owners who are leaving themselves exposed to potentially crippling vet bills.
What Marks and Spencer Pet Offers
M&S Pet Insurance is actually underwritten by the same company that handles many other pet insurance brands, Royal & Sun Alliance. However, not all pet insurers offer the same level of cover and so it’s always important to check out the small print and find out how prices compare and importantly, what existing customers have to say.
M&S offers three pet insurance options: Lifetime plan, Max Benefit/Lifetime plan and Time-Limited plan. Their best plan provides up to £7,000 in annual vet fees and there are also two tiers of cover, Standard and Premier. Emerald Life’s research shows that premiums for M&S pet insurance are competitive, with the basic plan (providing £4,000 annual cover) representing the most value out of their range.
However, the standard M&S pet insurance policy has a limitation that restricts cover per health condition to just £1000. This can often be insufficient if an animal has been in an accident that requires several x-rays or scans or hospitalization. If you’re considering M&S pet insurance, you should see if your budget stretches to their Premier plan which provides much more cover for single conditions or medical emergencies.
Some breeds of dogs and cats have a propensity for certain genetic conditions. This means it is essential to check any pet insurance policies breed exclusion list just to make sure your pet will be fully insured if anything bad happens.
One benefit of M&S pet insurance is that they offer dental injury across their range of plans, although only on the top tier, which is Premier. This is not always offered by pet insurance providers, mainly because dental injuries are relatively rare in dog and cats. All M&S policies provide cover for euthanising your pet should it be necessary, including cremation or burial.
Limitations of Marks & Spencer Pet Insurance
In order to make a claim on M&S pet insurance, owners have to submit it within 60 days of when vet treatment started. We feel that this is a very short time-frame, particularly in cases where diagnosis is difficult or if long-term care hospital is required. Many competing pet insurance plans offer a 12-month window which is a much more realistic period of time.
One quite significant drawback is that M&S will only pay for vet costs when treatment is delivered outside of normal surgery hours. In other words, if your pet is well enough to wait until the surgery is open; it does not constitute a medical emergency.
Another downside to M&S pet policies is that the Standard tier on all their plans is limited to just £1,000 for any one medical condition. Anyone who owns a pet will know that this amount can quickly be ramped up just when undergoing tests to diagnose the issues that need attention. Even a vet’s consultation fee can be hefty when added to the balance.
This means the Standard level of cover is not really offering great value for money.
The M&S Pet Excess Charges
The excess charge is the amount you will have to pay towards each claim you make on your pet insurance. With M&S, there are a few options from £50 to £150 for younger animals and £200 to £250 for cats or dogs over the age of 9.
In the same way as your car insurance, if you choose a higher excess, you’ll pay less in premiums. Although it sounds attractive to pay less for your pet’s insurance cover, it can easily be a false economy if anything should happen to them.
The best option to go for really depends on how many claims you anticipate making on an annual basis. That’s virtually impossible to predict, particularly with younger pets you are still getting to know. The team at Emerald Life feels that the best value route to take is to pay higher excess in return for lower premiums and reassess on a yearly basis.
M&S Pet Insurance Customer Reviews
Despite the famous name, there isn’t a great deal of customer reviews of M&S pet insurance available online. However, we did find a few comments on MoneySavingExpert and SmartMoneyPeople, which mainly focused on complaints about increasing premiums but with a smattering of complimentary testimonials on how M&S handle claims, especially in end of life situations.
Here are some genuine customer comments that we found:
“Supportive & understanding following the death of my pet – Rung to tell them my pet had died, were very sympathetic on the phone. Sent me a letter with a cheque for time not used on the policy and offering me the use of a pet counselling phone line free of charge to help with my grief. can’t fault them – treated me like a human not just a customer.”
“Decent price, had issues with the level of cover – My cover is a great price but there’s been some issues with mis-advertising.”
“Not great – They advised me to claim regarding a particular health condition, rejected the claim then put the premium up. Shan’t fall for that again!”
Features of M&S Pet Insurance Policies
Dental Cover: A basic M&S pet policy does not pay out for any treatment relating to teeth or gums unless it’s the result of an injury. For both Standard and Premier tiers, the cost of a dental condition is not covered unless your pet’s teeth have been checked in the 12 months before submitting the claim. They will also be required to have completed any treatment prescribed as a result of that dental check.
Holiday Cancellation: Only the Premier tier provides cover of up to £3,000 for travel and accommodation expenses if you have to cancel your trip due to your pet going missing, falling ill or sustaining an injury. Cover is provided for no more than three trips each year, with a time-limit of 60 days on each trip.
Boarding Fees: If you are unwell and unable to care for your pet, Standard and Premier M&S pet policies will cover the cost of a pet minder or boarding fees for the whole duration of your incapacity. The hospitalisation must be as a result of medical advice and you’ll need a certificate or hospital letter to support any claim.
Death and Loss Cover: M&S provides up to £600 or £1,500 cover for the purchase price of your pet depending on which plan you opt for. Please note that claims for illness only are rejected unless your pet is over the age of 9.
Prescription Diets: Some cats and dogs require a particular diet in order to treat a medical condition. If your pet has been put on a special diet by your vet, M&S provides cover. The two exclusions are for diets prescribed for obesity or oral hygiene.
What are the 3 M&S Pet Insurance Plans?
The three types of M&S insurance policies offered include the following:
- Essential Plan: This is the most restrictive of M&S policies, offering the most basic insurance cover for your pet. Vet bills are covered for each new health condition or injury up to £3,000 over a 12-month period. If your pet requires extensive treatment and you reach the maximum cover £3k amount, you won’t be able to make a further claim for the same condition, even if you renew the policy.
- Standard Plan: This plan is designed to provide vet treatment for all injuries and/or illnesses up to a maximum of £4,000. However, there is a significant caveat that limits cover to £1,000 for each separate claim. This is a big problem if your pet has an ongoing illness.
- Premier Plan: This is M&S’ highest level of pet insurance cover, with annual vet fees of up to £7,000 provided. This amount resets on an annual basis which allows you to claim for ongoing illnesses or treatment with no time limit as long as you renew your policy.
What Makes Emerald Life Pet Insurance Different?
Delivering the best value for money together with excellent customer service are the particular strengths of the Emerald Life team. We believe that although it’s really important to continue attracting new customers, it is equally important to keep the ones we have happy at all times.
When you first bring your pet home, you are introducing a new family member to the household. It’s important to us as your pet’s insurers to be as involved in their health as you are. That’s why we put customer service at the top of our priority list and the reason why our customers stick around.
Many pet insurance providers offer all sorts of bells and whistles policies for new customers but they invariably have a cut-off period. Once that opening offer has expired, you get to experience your insurance provider as they really are – and how much their policy really costs.
Emerald Life is all about transparency which is why all our processes are super-easy to understand. We also take extra time when we first talk to you to establish your exact requirements. That enables us to design your personalized pet insurance policy that’s also within your budget.
The right pet insurance policy will give you absolute peace of mind that every eventuality concerning your beloved pet is covered. This is perhaps the most important reason you should take your time in making a considered choice about which pet insurance provider to go for.
Is Marks & Spencer Pet Insurance any good?
When you hear a familiar brand name like Marks & Spencer, it’s very easy to assume the quality of their pet insurance will be as good as their stores. That can sometimes blind people to reading the small print and seeing for themselves if M&S policies are good value for money.
In fact, the Premier plan is probably the only policy that represents true value, particularly if you have a pet that requires ongoing treatment for one health condition. The few customer reviews we found did not really focus on how claims were processed. We would just advise you to look at the policy documents.
Is Marks & Spencer a regulated insurance provider?
It is essential that your insurance provider is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and also registered in England and Wales. Just like Emerald Life, Marks & Spencer is a fully regulated insurance provider. This is important as it means you might be able to claim compensation if there is a dispute with your provider, whereas an unregulated insurance policy has no legal recourse. The main objective of the FCA is to protect consumer interests when it comes to financial services such including pet insurance.
Does M&S pet insurance offer lifetime cover?
Only the Premier Plan offers lifetime cover to the sum of £7,000 annually, without limitations on the amount spent on single health conditions like their other policies. As we say above, the Premier Plan is the best value pet insurance policy from M&S.
The conditions to this are the same as many other providers in that you must continue to keep your policy renewed and your premiums up-to-date. All insurance providers will have the condition of full payment of policies being maintained before any claim is considered.
Is pet insurance really worth the money?
Owning a pet is not only potentially expensive; it also requires you to take responsibility for your animal’s healthcare and wellbeing. As there is no way you can predict the future, what better peace of mind can you have than knowing any expenses are covered in worst case scenarios. No-one likes to think of their beloved pet suffering but accidents and illness nevertheless happen.
What better than to know you have a plan in place for any eventuality at any time of night or day. For these reasons alone pet insurance is incredibly good value for money as long as you ensure you get the best plan for your needs and your budget. It is also worth making sure you take extra time to read the policy small print before committing otherwise you risk unwittingly falling within the exceptions list and you won’t receive full cover for your pet.