25 min Read
26 Nov 2019

Written by Andy

Vitality Health insurance review – What are the rewards and is it worth it?

Vitality Health insurance reviewIn this independent review we take an in-depth look at Vitality Health insurance, paying particular attention to the benefits and rewards that are on offer.

Even if you don't know much about health insurance, it is pretty difficult to escape the marketing might of Vitality with its bright pink branding and distinctive dachshund adorning billboards and sports events across the country. While the cute dog does a great job of grabbing your attention it does little to explain the product or the benefits which is why we have created this in-depth review of Vitality health insurance. So is it worth the money?

In short, Vitality health insurance is a fantastic product with some incredible benefits and rewards but it isn't for everyone. Health insurance is a complex product and so you should always speak to an independent specialist who knows the product well and who can offer alternative options if Vitality isn't right for you. We explain the best way to buy health insurance later in this article and we would recommend that you read the full article to understand the product fully, however you can jump to each section by clicking on the headings below.

Who is Vitality?

Vitality is owned by Discovery Holdings, a worldwide insurer and investment manager which protects over seven million people in 19 countries around the world, including Europe, the United States, Australia, South Africa, Canada and China. They were the pioneers of a revolutionary concept that rewarded customers in the form of cashback, discounts and partner offers in return for leading a healthier lifestyle. They launched the concept in the UK in 2007 with the help of established insurance company Prudential, eventually buying out Prudential's stake in 2014 leading to the launch of Vitality Life and Vitality Health.

Vitality Health has quickly established itself as one of the top providers of health insurance in the UK, which, marketing budget aside, could be attributed to its compelling membership model that rewards activity and engagement. Where Vitality has struggled however is explaining the product to potential new customers, clearly detailing the pros and cons and providing a simple journey for those that are interested in learning more.

What is private health insurance and how does it work?

Private health insurance (also known as private medical insurance or PMI) is a type of insurance that will pay for private medical treatment if you fall ill. Some insurance companies offer three levels of private health insurance, often described as basic, intermediate and comprehensive cover. The level of cover you receive will depend on the level of cover you select and as every insurance company offers a slightly different policy, you are best speaking to an independent specialist in order to truly understand the difference between each policy. We explain the best way to buy health insurance later in this article.

Vitality Health does it slightly differently as it offers a comprehensive 'core' cover, which includes advanced cancer cover (something that other insurance companies charge extra for. Vitality's Health insurance policy ranks somewhere between intermediate and comprehensive when compared to its peers, but it also offers additional cover options such as mental health cover, dental cover and out-patient cover that can be bolted on to the core cover at an additional cost. Vitality Health insurance will cover you for conditions which you have not sought any medical advice or treatment within the past 5 years, as well as a variety of additional benefits which we go into more detail below. You will also need to select the type of medical underwriting (how you would like the insurance company to medically assess your application) as well as the excess you are prepared to pay in the event of a claim. We explain more about underwriting and excess later in this article.

How does Vitality Health insurance work?

Generous customer incentives such as half-price Virgin Gym membership, free Amazon Prime and free cinema tickets make Vitality Health insurance a hugely appealing product, however it has one unfortunate drawback. By creating a product that provides activity-based rewards they have made an already complex product even more difficult to understand.

The job of this article is to cut through the jargon and explain in simple terms exactly what you get with Vitality Health, as well as the best way to apply for it (and it isn't by applying with Vitality directly). So, first things first. What cover do you get?

Vitality Health insurance - Core Cover

Vitality Health 'core' cover provides access to private medical treatment as well as a variety of additional benefits, listed below:

  • Virtual GP consultations
  • Out-patient surgical procedures
  • Mental health support
  • In-patient treatment
  • Day-patient treatment
  • Advanced cancer cover
  • NHS hospital cash benefit
  • Childbirth cash benefit
  • Home nursing
  • Private ambulance
  • Parent accommodation
  • Oral surgery
  • Pregnancy complications
  • Rehabilitation
  • Lifestyle surgery

Vitality Health insurance - Additional Cover Options

In addition to the core benefits listed above, you can select additional cover options with Vitality Health, all at an additional cost.

  • Out-patient cover
  • Mental health cover
  • Therapies cover
  • Dental cover
  • Worldwide travel cover

By selecting additional cover options, you are essentially adding an additional policy to your core policy. Each additional cover comes with a list of extra features and benefits and these may be worth looking into if you wanted to bolster your core cover, but remember it comes at an additional cost.

Vitality Health insurance - Selecting your excess

One of the choices you have to make when buying health insurance is how much excess you are willing to pay. Most insurance companies require you to select one of the following:

  • £0 - This is usually the most expensive option
  • £250 - This is the most popular selection and represents the best value for most people
  • £500 - Sometimes only a little cheaper than the £250 option
  • £1,000 - Surprisingly, not always the cheapest option

Vitality Health insurance - How will your application be assessed?

When applying for health insurance your application will need to be medically assessed and you have two choices. You can choose to be fully medically underwritten which means you will have to provide additional medical information or you can choose to apply on a moratorium basis. If you decide to be fully medically underwritten then the application process will take a little longer and the insurance company will dig a little deeper into your medical past. With a moratorium policy you only need to give a limited amount of medical information, usually just a couple of yes or no answers. The policy will normally commence far quicker as a result however as you have not been fully medically assessed, you will not have full clarity on what you are covered for. If you apply on a moratorium basis, an insurer would exclude any conditions for which you have had treatment or advice within the last 5 years. Once you have taken a policy out however, if you remain symptom, advice and treatment free for two years, an insurer would normally cover you for that condition.

Vitality Health insurance rewards - What do you get?

When you take out a Vitality Health insurance policy with a premium of at least £35 per month, you automatically unlock a number of rewards. Additional rewards can be unlocked over time by tracking your daily activity, giving you access to free cinema tickets, free coffee, discounts on fresh food and even cashback. Some rewards will be based on weekly activity, some will be based on monthly activity and some will be based on your 'Vitality status', explained in more detail below.

Below we have summarised the rewards that you receive automatically and also the additional rewards that can be unlocked through getting active. We have also provided a table so that you can easily compare the rewards side by side.

What are the Vitality statuses and what do they mean?

Vitality uses activity points to motivate and reward its members. Some rewards are based on weekly or monthly activity however some are based on your Vitality status. When you take out a Vitality Health policy you begin on bronze status, once you earn 800 Vitality points you move to silver status, 1,600 points earns you gold status and 2,400 gives you platinum status, which is the highest status you can reach. The higher the status the better the rewards. We explain more about Vitality Health rewards below.

Vitality Status

Vitality Health - Automatic Rewards (not dependent on activity tracking)

Cashback

  • Up to 1% cashback when using a Vitality American Express credit card. (0.5% for the first £5,000, then 1% on everything else) Check out our Vitality American Express credit card review 
  • £99 cashback if you buy an Apple Watch (series 5) through vitality to track your activity and pay the £99 initial deposit using the Vitality American Express credit card
  • £50 cashback if you spend £50 or more at Runners Need using your Vitality American Express credit card

Health

  • Up to 50% off Virgin Active gyms
  • Up to 50% off Nuffield gyms
  • Up to 50% off David Lloyd clubs
  • 30% Headspace (annual subscription)
  • 50% off a screening at Bluecrest Health Screening
  • Free quit smoking programme with Allen Carr worth £299

Travel

  • Up to 75% off a stay at Champneys Spa resorts
  • 1 x 10% off Expedia pre-paid hotel stay
  • 1 x 15% off Virgin Atlantic flight
  • 25% off the first £200 spent at Mr & Mrs Smith luxury hotels

Sports Equipment

  • 50% off a pair of running shoes at Runners Need
  • Up to 40% off Garmin devices
  • Up to 40% off a Polar heart rate monitor

Vitality Health - Boosted Rewards (based on activity tracking)

Below are the additional rewards that you can unlock based on your activity. The rewards tend to either be based on your activity in the previous week, month or your current Vitality status. These rewards are in addition to all of the rewards above.

Cashback

  • Vitality Amercian Express Credit Card - Up to 3% cashback when using a Vitality American Express credit card, depending on monthly activity and membership status. Your existing cashback will be boosted by up to 1% depending on activity, but this is doubled if you are a Vitality Pink member (this is where you have both a Vitality Health and a Vitality Life plan and pay a combined premium of more than £90 per month. We explain more in our 'What is Vitality Pink' section below) For a full breakdown on the Vitality American Express credit card check out our review 

Tech

  • Apple Watch Series 5 - pay an initial deposit from £99 (if you have a Vitality American Express credit card and use it to pay your deposit, you qualify for £99 cashback) This is a 24-month subscription and your monthly payment will depend on your activity. You pay between £0 and £12.50 per month. If you are an active person and earn 160+ activity points each month you will not have to pay anything.

Subscriptions

  • Amazon Prime - sign up to Amazon Prime through Vitality and get free annual membership, depending on your activity. When signing up, you will be placed on a 10-month payment plan, agreeing to a direct debit of £7.90 a month. If you earn over 160 points in a month, you will not be charged the £7.90 fee the following month. If you just miss out, points roll over and so even if you don't get Amazon Prime totally free, you are very likely to receive a heavy discount over the year.

Food and Drink

  • Ocado - Up to 25% off healthy food up to a maximum spend of £100 per month. The amount you save will be based on Vitality status. If there are two adults on your Vitality plan then the maximum spend is doubled to £200.
  • Starbucks - Free coffee every week depending on your weekly activity. You need to earn 12 activity points in a week in order to earn your coffee the following week.

Cinema

  • Cineworld and Vue - A free cinema ticket every two weeks depending on your weekly activity. You need to earn 12 activity points in a week for two consecutive weeks in order to earn your free cinema ticket. Each cinema ticket code can only be used once and is valid for 14 days from the Monday after your two-week activity period.

What is Vitality Pink?

You qualify for Vitality Pink if you have both a Vitality Health and Vitality Life plan with a combined premium of at least £90. Vitality Pink members receive additional benefits such as the potential to earn a further 1% cashback on the Vitality American Express credit card and an additional 15% on healthy food at Waitrose and Partners when this is launched in January 2020. In January 2020, Vitality Pink members that have serious illness cover will also qualify for a cancer benefit booster which entitles members to a payment pf £570 per month when undergoing active cancer treatment, as well as the value of their Vitality insurance premiums refunded. The payment is payable for up to six months per treatment. This protection benefit is a market-first and was added thanks in part to research provided by Macmillan Cancer Support that stated that the average person living with cancer is £570 per month worse off.

Vitality Health insurance rewards comparison table

Below we have summarised the annual savings you could achieve on partner rewards as a Vitality Health member. We have selected the most popular benefits and divided the table into three categories. The first column is the total saving you could make without tracking your daily activity. The second column is the total saving you could make if you maximise your rewards by reaching the maximum required weekly or monthly activity, as well as achieving platinum status. The final column is the total savings for a Vitality Pink member (you need to have a Vitality Health and Vitality Life plan with combined premiums of at least £90 to qualify).

No Activity Maximum Activity & highest Vitality status Vitality Pink
Virgin Gym £480 £480 £480
Vitality American Express credit card (based on £1,000 per month spend) £120 £215 £335
Apple Watch £0* £399* £399*
Ocado healthy food (based on £100 healthy food spend per month) £0 £300 £300
Starbucks (1 coffee per week at £2.50 per coffee) £0 £130 £130
Weight Watchers £200 £200 £200
Cineworld / Vue tickets (assuming £12 per ticket) £0 £312 £312
Amazon Prime £0 £79 £79
Total Savings £800 £1,716 £1,836

*£99 refunded as cashback if using Vitality Amex credit card

The above table gives the best-case scenario and the reality is that most people will not be able to maximise the savings on every reward. That said, it really doesn't take much to earn the 12 points required per week to earn a free coffee each week and if you are doing that anyway, then you will automatically qualify for free cinema tickets too. Even a moderately active person can earn enough rewards to cover their monthly premium, which is ultimately what makes Vitality Health insurance so popular.

Of course, the reality is that even if you are healthy and tracking your activity, you are unlikely to benefit from or make use of every partner reward, for example, you might not like going to the cinema or you might already have an Apple watch. Below we have provided some case studies which demonstrates the annual savings you may make based on a number of different scenarios.

Vitality Health insurance Rewards - The healthy one

Partner reward No Activity Maximum Activity & highest Vitality status Vitality Pink
Discounted Virgin gym membership £480 £480 £480
Ocado healthy food (based on £100 healthy food spend per month) £0 £300 £300
Total Savings £480 £780 £780

Vitality Health insurance Rewards - The social one

Partner reward No Activity Maximum Activity & highest Vitality status Vitality Pink
Vitality American Express credit card (based on £1,000 per month spend) £120 £215 £335
Starbucks (1 coffee per week at £2.50 per coffee) £0 £130 £130
Cineworld / Vue tickets (assuming £12 per ticket) £0 £312 £312
Total Savings £120 £657 £777

Vitality Health insurance Rewards - The techy one

Partner reward No Activity Maximum Activity & highest Vitality status Vitality Pink
Apple Watch £0* £399 £399
Amazon Prime £0 £79 £79
Total Savings £0 £478 £478

Vitality Health partner reward changes and updates

In November 2019 a number of changes to the Vitality Health insurance rewards programme were announced. The changes will be phased in over the next few months and we have summarised the changes below.

Date Reward Details
Jan 2020 Discounted healthy food Ocado is being replaced by Waitrose and Partners
Feb 2020 Discounted hotels Up to 20% discount on Expedia hotels
March 2020 Free Coffee Starbucks is being replaced by Cafe Nero
March 2020 25% off food Cafe Nero introduces 25% off food once you have qualified for your free coffee each week
April 2020 15% discount on flights Discounts of 15% on up to 4 Virgin Atlantic flights

What is the best way to buy Vitality Health insurance?

While it is easy to praise Vitality for creating an innovative product and introducing the concept of member rewards there are areas where it falls down. Vitality's website is clunky, navigation is poor and can result in you going around in circles. As I've mentioned before, Health insurance is not a simple product to understand and so the addition of so many benefits and rewards has made Vitality's job of selling the product that little bit harder.

Unfortunately, it doesn't get any better when it comes to speaking to Vitality in order to get help with quotes, advice and applying for cover. The quality of service is inconsistent and the call can often feel pushy. One of the issues with speaking to Vitality directly is that they are not impartial. They are there to sell you a Vitality policy and are neither qualified or allowed to advise on similar products in the market. This is why it is always better to speak to an independent specialist whose sole job is to find the best possible health insurance policy for your own personal circumstances. It doesn't matter to an independent specialist whether you go for a Vitality Health insurance policy or a Bupa plan, so long as it is the best possible cover at the best possible price. You will never get that level of service or impartiality by speaking to Vitality to arrange your cover. An independent specialist will always have your best interests at heart and will bring the small print to your attention.

We have partnered with one of the UK's leading private health insurance comparison specialists in order to provide you with the best and cheapest policies available and they will go the extra mile to explain all you need to know about Vitality Health insurance. The best bit is that it will cost you exactly the same as if you went to Vitality directly. To get started, click on 'Get private health insurance quote'. You can either build your own quote or request that an adviser from Assured Futures call you back.

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