What does portable contents insurance cover?

Digital Editor · 5 August 2021
Many people may choose to take out insurance for their personal possessions within their home, but what happens when you take an item out the door?

Whether wearing your diamond necklace to a gathering, taking your laptop to work or using your camera at a family event, there will be times you take these valuable belongings away from home.

So, once they are out your door, are they still covered by insurance?

What is portable contents insurance?

Portable contents insurance, also known as personal effects insurance, can provide a level of financial cover for personal items that regularly leave your address with you such as handbags, laptops, musical instruments, sporting equipment, or items on you such as spectacles, jewellery or clothing.

Where is this insurance available?

This cover may be included under your home and contents insurance, or available to add to your existing policy at an extra cost. Some insurers may also offer portable contents insurance as a separate product. Separate portable contents cover may be considered by those who need extra cover on particular items, or who do not have an existing contents or combined home and contents policy that includes portable contents cover.

What is covered?

Portable contents insurance typically provides cover for your personal items for theft, accidental loss or damage while you are away from home anywhere in Australia or New Zealand. Some policies may extend this cover to other countries when you are travelling for a certain period of time.

Due to COVID-19 pandemic travel restrictions, it may be a good idea to check with your insurer as to whether overseas cover for your personal items is available at this time or if any exclusions may apply.

Types of portable contents insurance

There are generally two types of portable contents insurance to choose from – listed and unlisted. They may also be referred to as specified or unspecified cover.

  • Unlisted (or unspecified)

When taking out this type of cover, you can typically choose from available limits per item and the total sum insured for all items per claim, without having to list items individually on your policy. The limits you can choose from will be set by your insurer, including a maximum payout amount.

  • Listed (or specified)

For this cover, you may be able to insure certain items separately for their full value by listing them individually on your policy and estimating a replacement cost for each one. The value will need to be agreed on between you and your insurer. There will likely be an additional premium for any listed or specified items.

What is not covered?

Each portable contents insurance policy will carry its own list of exclusions. Depending on the policy, these exclusions may include:

  • Items used for business, a profession or trade, which are owned by you or any company, trust or other legal structure in which you have an interest.
  • Loss of or damage to any item on exhibit or up for sale.
  • Accessories to any motor vehicle, watercraft, sailing craft or aircraft, such as keys and keyless electronic starters.
  • Loss, theft or corruption of electronic records.
  • Loss or damage to sporting or recreational and leisure goods and equipment while in use. This may include surfboards, golfing equipment or skis.
  • Cash, smart cards, phone cards, vouchers or money orders.
  • Loss caused by intentional or criminal acts carried out by the policy holder, a household member or a guest.
  • Wear and tear of your portable contents. This may include depreciation, gradual deterioration or lack of maintenance.
  • Inherent defects. This may include faulty design, structural defects or poor workmanship.
  • Contents acquired illegally or illegally held.
  • Lack of care and security. You may not be covered for loss resulting from your failure to take care of your contents or to secure them properly. For example, if you were to leave items unattended in a public place or in an unlocked vehicle and they were stolen, you may not be covered.

Can you get standalone cover for valuable items?

If specified portable contents insurance does not provide enough cover for some of your high-value items, you may be able to take out standalone insurance for these. There are usually insurance options available for smartphones, jewellery, laptops, tablets, cameras, musical instruments and some expensive sporting equipment.

You can check with the providers of these items to see if they offer insurance, or enquire with your preferred insurers.

What to consider when purchasing portable contents insurance

When researching your portable contents insurance options, consider assessing these factors along with the premium on offer:

  • Listed or unlisted cover: What type of cover does my policy provide? If I want an unlisted portable contents policy, can I get enough cover for high-value items?
  • Separate portable cover: Can I get portable contents cover if I don’t already have a contents or combined home and contents insurance policy?
  • Claim process: How can claims be made? Is there a 24-hour helpline? Can I make claims or check the progress of claims online or by phone?
  • Content inclusions and exclusions: What portable items are included? What conditions apply to theft? Is sporting equipment covered when it’s in use?
  • Worldwide cover: Is there cover when I take these items overseas, and if so for how long does this cover apply and are there any exclusions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic?
  • Cover limits: What is the maximum dollar claim allowed for unlisted items on a per-item basis?
  • Excess: How much excess will I need to pay when I make a claim and can I adjust the amount? Are there multiple excesses that apply?

Before you take out portable contents insurance for your items, it may be a good idea to shop around and compare different cover options to find a policy that best suits your needs and budget.


Cover image source: Nusara/Shutterstock.com

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