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Choosing the Best Life Insurance Provider
Each person seeking life insurance isn't looking for the same policy, and in fact they may be looking for a completely different type of coverage altogether. For someone who knows that they want term or whole life insurance, going straight to those lists below is beneficial. There are also top life insurance companies for seniors and other companies that offer the lowest rates around.
The 3 Best Cheap Life Insurance Companies
The 3 Best Term Life Insurance Companies
The 3 Best Whole Life Insurance Companies
The Best Life Insurance for Seniors
What Life Insurance Features Matter and Why?
Financial Strength refers to the overall stability and long-term outlook of the insurance company. This data is compiled by companies such as A.M. Best, S&P, and Moody's who each use different scales and sets of criteria for evaluating financial strength. Looking closely at features like the credit rating of the insurance company as well as their ability to meet outstanding obligations provides an indication of how financially stable they are. Since life insurance is essentially a long-term contract that pays out at some point in the future, it's critically important that a company has a positive long-term outlook.
- A.M. Best "Excellent" or Better - The insurance company has an A.M. Best rating of "A-" or better.
- ICR Rating "Stable" - The insurance company has an A.M. Best Credit Rating of "Stable" or better.
- Moody's "Very Strong" - The insurance company has a Moody's rating of "Aa3" or better.
- S&P Rated "Very Strong" - The insurance company has an S&P rating of "AA-" or better.
Policy Features is a broad category describing any benefits included in various policies. These features can range from level death benefits to limited premium payments. The features most interesting to an insurance buyer will vary depending on their priorities and their reason for needing a policy. As an example, an aging policyholder who would like to be able to purchase additional coverage with their annual dividend money would look for a company that offers paid-up addition features. Someone planning a future withdrawal of their policy's cash value to start a small business might be more interested in partial surrender features.
- Cash Value Access - The policy owner can access or borrow against the value of policy accounts.
- Dividends - The policy owner can receive periodic dividends based on account performance.
- Dynamic Premium Amount - You decide the amount and date of premium payments, subject to basic minimums.
- Expiration or Lapse Guarantee - The policy does not expire if premiums paid are insufficient.
- Graded Premium Option - The life insurance company offers a policy that starts with a low initial premium and gradually increases over time.
- Guaranteed Level Premiums - Premiums do not increase over time but remain constant for the entire life of the policy.
- Interest Rate Guarantee - You receive a guaranteed minimum level of interest in the contract.
- Level Death Benefit - A policy where the death benefit remains level is available.
- Limited Premium Payments - Whole life insurance premium payments can be limited to a fixed number of years.
- No Exam Term Conversion - The insurance company guarantees conversion of a term policy to a cash value or permanent policy offered by the life insurance company without a physical exam.
- Paid-Up Additions - You can purchase additional insurance with paid-out policy dividends.
- Partial Surrenders - You can withdraw funds up to a certain percentage of the policy value.
- Tax-Deferred Growth - The cash value of the policy grows tax-deferred.
- Term Renewal Guarantee - You are guaranteed a renewal option annually after term expiration.
- Variable Death Benefit - A policy where the death benefit increases or decreases with your policy account value is available.
- Waiver of Monthly Deductions - Future monthly deductions are waived in the event of disability.
Policy Riders are attachments that can be added to insurance policies to provide increased coverage or certain types of additional benefits. Though each individual type of insurance can have varying riders, there are some that are common across multiple types of insurance. Long-term care riders and accidental death riders are both good examples of general coverage that can be added to any policy. Since these features have an impact on the type and level of life insurance coverage provided, they are very important factors in the buying process.
- Accelerated Benefit for Terminal Illness - A rider which grants early access to the death benefit to defray the cost of a terminal illness is available.
- Accidental Death Benefit - A rider that pays an additional death benefit in the event of the accidental death of the insured is available.
- Additional Insured Rider - A rider that extends coverage to an additional person/spouse is available.
- Child Rider - An added rider that covers the death of your child is available.
- Disability Income Rider - An added rider that provides income in the event of a bodily injury that prevents you from working is offered.
- Estate Protection Rider - A rider that provides extra coverage to offset estate taxes if the policy is included in the insured's estate is offered.
- Final Expenses Policy - A rider or a policy that covers funeral expenses is available.
- Long-Term Care Rider - A rider is available that covers the cost of long-term care if needed during the policy term.
- Whole Life Guaranteed Insurability Rider - An option to guarantee future insurability at standard rates without further proof of insurability is available.
Coverage Options are features that can be added to or included in various life insurance policies. These options can pertain to the type of coverage, who it includes, or even how benefits are paid out. These options can be very important as they fundamentally change the nature of the coverage. Joint and survivorship options extend coverage to more than one person and govern how the policy is handled if one or more parties dies. Cash surrender and reduced paid-up options help policy owners whose coverage has lapsed or expired to cash out their value or purchase a new policy.
- All Policy Types - Term, whole, and universal coverage options are available.
- Cash Surrender Option - Policyholders of lapsed or surrendered policies can request immediate cash disbursement or remaining balances.
- Flexible Coverage Options - Low initial coverage options below $100,000 are available.
- Mortgage Life Option - A policy in which the death benefit stays level for a fixed number of years but then decreases over the remainder of the term is available.
- Return of Premium Option - An option is available where the premiums paid over the life of the policy are returned at the end of the term less any deductions or loans taken.
- Survivorship/Joint Coverage Option - The policy covers two people and is paid when the first or the last of the two people covered in the policy dies.
- Term Conversion Option - Conversion to a cash value or permanent policy is offered by the life insurance company.
- Whole Life Vanishing Premium Option - A whole life policy whose dividends can be used to reduce future premium payments is available.
Customer Support includes any method for policyholders or prospective buyers to get in touch with the insurance provider. It may not be a frequently used feature, but when questions arise, the ability to speak with someone who can help is of great importance. Most companies offer traditional telephone support, but many are branching out in an effort to improve the customer experience by offering email and social media support as well as live online chat for quick questions.
- Email/Ticket - An email or ticket system dedicated to support is available.
- Live Chat - You can get support through live chat.
- Phone - You can get support by phone.
- Social Media - You can contact the insurance provider with questions through social media websites.
Contract Provisions refers to anything included in the insurance contracts that impose certain stipulations or requirements of the contract, or provide benefits or discounts to the policyholder. These provisions can include nearly anything, but they are very important. Things like minimum and maximum ages are fairly straightforward, but other contract provisions can be very complex. Assignment clauses and waivers of premiums can be difficult to understand initially but can have a significant impact on the coverage provided by an insurance policy. It's critical that buyers pay very close attention to these policy details.
- Assignment Clause - The insurance policy is freely assignable to anyone.
- Automatic Premium Loan Provision - The insurance provider can automatically pay an outstanding premium with a policy loan, preventing a lapse of coverage.
- Grace Period - The insured has a grace period after missing a premium payment before the policy is cancelled.
- Incontestable Clause - After an initial period, the provider can no longer contest or revoke the policy.
- Interest-Free Cash Value Loan - You can borrow against the cash value of the policy without paying interest.
- No Maximum Age - No maximum age for policy coverage is imposed.
- No Maximum Coverage Level - The provider does not impose a maximum coverage level.
- No Medical Exam Required - A medical exam is not required in order to qualify for a policy.
- No Minimum Age - The provider does not impose a minimum age for policy coverage.
- No Minimum Coverage Level - The provider does not impose a minimum coverage level to start a policy.
- No Minimum Premium - The provider does not impose a minimum premium amount in the early stages of a policy.
- Policy Discount - A discount is offered if you hold additional insurance with the life insurance company.
- Waiver of Premium - An option that waives the premium payment if the policyholder becomes disabled or otherwise unable to pay is available.
Online Tools and Materials encompass a variety of features available through the insurance company's website. These can include basic learning materials like knowledge bases and FAQ sections as well as more complex tools that determine levels of coverage or make insurance product recommendations based on individual needs. Many life providers also offer online quotes that allow users to quickly and easily get an estimate of premiums for the exact policy they want. Ê
- Claim Status and Management - Death claims can be managed online.
- FAQs - You have access to a collection of relevant frequently asked questions and answers.
- Glossary - You have access to an online resource that explains commonly used insurance terminology.
- Learning Resources - You have access to online resources that explain the various types of life insurance.
- Level of Coverage Calculator - An online tool to determine the level of insurance coverage that you need is available.
- Online Agent Contact - You can forward the details of your online rate quote directly to an agent for review.
- Online Purchase - You can purchase a new policy over the Internet.
- Online Quotes - You can obtain a term insurance quote online.
- Policy Selection Guidance - A tool or guide to help you select the best type of coverage is offered.
Payment Options are the various ways to pay premiums. Payment options are critical to insurance providers because missing premium payments can lead to cancellation of coverage. Traditional options include mail payments, phone payments, and direct debit from bank accounts, but many insurance providers are beginning to offer added flexibility and convenience. Some companies allow customers to schedule automatic payments, pay premiums online, and alter payment terms to meet the individual's financial needs.
- Automatic Payments - Premium payments can be automatically scheduled.
- Bank Account Payment - You can pay your premiums with a linked bank account.
- Credit Card Payment - You can pay your premiums with a credit card.
- Online Premium Payment - You can pay your premiums online.
- Phone Payments - You can pay your premiums over the phone.
- Single Premium Payment - An option to pay a single life premium payment up front for whole or universal life insurance is available.