Credit card giant American Express turned up the heat in the travel insurance sector this week by becoming an underwriter.

American Express revealed its plans after the company's subsidiary, the Swedish Insurance Co. Viator, was given clearance by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) to underwrite UK policies.

The credit card firm was unable to confirm how many policyholders it has or its premium income.

But American Express head of insurance services, Sarah Harper said: "This step increases our visibility within the travel insurance market.

"The link with Viator enables us to design products that are tailored to meet our customers' individual needs.

"As a result of underwriting our own policies, we can now take new products to market quicker."

Incumbent insurer Europ Assistance had been underwriting American Express' policies.

The credit card giant has been selling travel cover for the past 25 years.