The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is a travel essential for anyone visiting an EU country. It grants the bearer access to state-provided healthcare in up to 27 countries at the same cost as native citizens and permanent residents. In many cases, this means free healthcare while you’re on holiday.
However, Brexit has thrown something of a spanner in the works for UK holidaymakers and travellers who have an EHIC card.
If you have an EHIC Card which is about to expire, read on. We’ll give you the full lowdown on whether or not you can renew an EHIC card, plus how to apply for the new GHIC card.
We’ll also share a hot tip for cheaper holiday money - a Wise debit card, with which you can spend in 200+ countries for low conversion fees, zero transaction fees and the real, mid-market exchange rate.
But more on that later. Let’s get back to what you came to read - how to renew an EHIC card.
Now that the UK has left the European Union, it’s no longer possible to renew EHIC cards if they’ve expired. Nor can you get a EHIC replacement card, as they will no longer be issued to most UK citizens.
The only exceptions are for people who are¹:
- Nationals of the EU (or Norway, Iceland, Switzerland or Liechtenstein) but were a resident in the UK before 31st December 2020
- Living in the EU (or Norway, Iceland, Switzerland or Liechtenstein) with a registered E109, E106, E121 or S1 form
- Studying in the EU (or Norway, Iceland, Switzerland or Liechtenstein) but are a UK resident who does not have nationality in any of these countries.
None of these circumstances apply to you? Unfortunately, this means that you won’t be able to renew your EHIC card.
But the good news is that there is a new card you can apply for, the UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). We’ll look at what this is and how to apply for a GHIC in just a moment.
You may not be able to renew your EHIC card, but you can still use it if the card has some validity remaining. As part of a deal between the UK and EU, anyone with a valid EHIC can still use it as normal until the expiry date printed on the card².
EHIC cards last five years in total, so it’s likely that many UK travellers will still have quite a few years left on theirs.
So, the EHIC card is no longer an option for most UK citizens, except in certain circumstances. But this doesn’t mean you’re left completely high and dry, as the UK Government has launched its own equivalent - the UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC).
The new GHIC entitles you to free or reduced cost state-provided healthcare during temporary visits to countries within the European Union. The only exceptions are Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein. If you’re visiting any of these countries, you’ll need to make sure your travel insurance has the appropriate healthcare cover.
It’s completely free to apply for the GHIC card. And just like you used to get or renew an EHIC card online, you can fill in a quick online application form for the GHIC and it’ll arrive in the post a few days later.
To get your GHIC, you’ll need to have the following information to hand²:
- Your full name and address
- Date of birth
- Your NHS or National Insurance Number (CHI number in Scotland or Health and Care Number)
You’ll need to apply on the NHS website. The online form should only take a few minutes to complete, and your new physical GHIC card will arrive in the post within 10 days³.
Each member of your family or travelling party will need their own GHIC. You won’t be able to access state-provided medical care in the EU using someone else’s card.
You should also be wary of unofficial companies and websites offering the GHIC card. Most will try to charge you to apply, but don’t be fooled - the card is available completely free of charge through the NHS.
Lastly, remember that just like the EHIC, the GHIC is not a replacement for travel insurance. You’ll still need to get cover for cancelled flights, private healthcare costs, lost baggage etc.
If you’ve got an exciting trip planned, make sure to get your application in for a GHIC card to replace your old EHIC card. Once you’ve done that and sorted your travel insurance, it’s time to find the cheapest and most convenient way to manage your travel money.
Get your Wise multi-currency account and you can also get a contactless Wise debit card. This is an ultra-powerful, low fee way to spend while on holiday in Europe or anywhere in the world, as you can use it in 200+ countries.
It takes just a tap of your Wise card to cover travel tickets and hotel expenses, restaurant bills and shopping purchases. What’s more, you’ll pay zero transaction fees, only tiny conversion fees and your money will be automatically converted into the local currency at the real, mid-market exchange rate. It could save you a bundle.
To sum up what we’ve covered in this guide - for most of us, it’s not possible to renew an EHIC card, online or otherwise.
But nothing has really changed for UK travellers and holidaymakers, as the GHIC is an almost like-for-like replacement. It’s quick, easy and free to apply for, and you’ll get most of the same benefits. If you’ve got a trip planned, make sure you have a GHIC in your wallet.
Sources used for this article:
Sources checked on 01 March 2021
This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
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