Private medical insurance (PMI) offers you the peace of mind that should you need medical treatment, you'll be seen quickly and in comfort.
Choosing to buy PMI means you'll have access to medical care either privately in an NHS hospital, or in a separate private hospital, and it covers a range of short-term curable medical conditions.
The range of policies on offer is endless and many providers add-on an impressive range of perks to lure in new customers, besides simply competing on price.
Aviva offers the Aviva Advantages programme, which offers a range of discounts to members.
Current deals include up to 20% off car insurance with Aviva and up to 25% off gym membership.
Bupa has its own Reward scheme, which offers cut price deals from a number of retailers.
Vitality (formerly PruProtect) offers a range of discounts spa days, bikes and more. You can also earn treats like free cinema tickets and coffee if you hit a step target twice a week.
Counselling services are often thrown into PMI packages and typically are available for those aged 16 and over. This can include a 24-hour helpline, as is the case with Aviva and Bupa, for example.
Always check with these that the phone number is free so you're not racking up unnecessary costs.
If it's not you can find alternative free numbers.
24-hour GP helpline
Having access to a GP at any time of the day or night will be an attractive option to some, and it is a standard extra across most PMI policies.
Again, check you do not have to pay extra for the phone call. And if you do, you could always try the free NHS Direct line on 111 instead.
Encouraging healthy living is a popular trend with PMI providers.
With Vitality, for example, you can get up to 25% off 'healthy foods' when you shop at Ocado as well as free delivery.
Free child cover
[ADVERT] One of the most common extra perks with PMI is free cover for your children.
This is clearly popular with families and also a good way for PMI providers to bring in new customers from an early age.
Aviva, for example, includes free cover for second and subsequent children when you take out cover for an adult and your eldest child (under 20).
Several PMI providers pay out bonuses when their customers choose healthier lifestyle options, such as going to the gym.
Vitality's PMI policy can get you a 50% gym discount, for example, while Aviva has a similar policy called MyHealthCounts. It offers free services such as health trackers which let you set health goals and offers a discount on your premium if you achieve them.
No-claims bonuses are common with PMI policies and, as with motor insurance, they will reduce your overall premiums depending on the number of years you haven't made a claim.
This is a good perk, but it shouldn't put you off making a claim for a treatment you need.
Choosing the best deal
The extra perks you'll receive when buying PMI could be very useful.
If you have a large family, for example, and want them all covered you should choose a policy which includes free cover for protecting additional children. On the other hand, if you think you're not going to make that many claims a policy which allows you to build a no-claims bonus could be an option.
However, you always need to look past these perks to find out what the policy includes. This is what you're paying for, so don't be tempted to buy something on the basis of the perks if the actual PMI policy isn't right for you.
Paying less for PMI
If you've chosen to go for PMI it's important you're not being ripped off. It doesn't cover all medical eventualities so before you buy anything read the small print and check the policy you're buying is suitable for you.
As there are numerous providers offering it, shopping around is the best way to make sure you're getting the right price. Read How to pay less for private medical insurance.