How Much Does Insurance Go Up After an Accident?

How Much Does Insurance Go Up After an Accident?

Those moments right after a car accident deliver some of the worst stress imaginable. You’re figuring out if anyone is hurt and how bad your car’s been damaged. And before too long you’re asking yourself this stomach-churning question: “How much will my insurance go up after an accident?”

There are many factors at play, including who was at fault, how serious the injuries and damage, your driving record, what state you live in, and the policies of your chosen insurance company.

Understanding these factors and digging into the forces controlling car insurance rates can help you pursue the best options possible.

Why Do Rates Go Up After an Accident?

Auto insurance is a highly competitive business, and that competition plays a role in keeping rates low. But it also means that when an accident happens, there can be quite a jump in what you pay for coverage.

When you’ve had a car accident and you are at fault, your insurer now assumes you drive in a way that could cause an accident. That may sound unfair, but that’s part of how car insurance works. They are assuming a higher risk, and that is passed on to you in the form of a higher rate.

If you are found not at fault in the accident, your insurance rate may go up by a small percentage. California and Oklahoma are two states, however, that mandate insurance companies cannot raise insurance rates after an accident where the driver was not at fault.

This is yet another reason why it’s important to go over policies carefully when making your choice. It’s smart to compare the rates among top insurers and even look at how much insurance increases after an accident with various insurers.

There is one bright spot in the insurance landscape when dealing with an accident. If your insurer offers and you elect to pay for accident forgiveness, your insurance rate will not go up after your first at-fault accident. Driving record and driving experience requirements must be met before this benefit is available.

Recommended: Auto Insurance Terms, Explained

Average Rate Increases by State

After an at-fault accident, yes, your car insurance is likely to go up. Rates can increase by about 50% a year on average after an accident, according to 2023 WalletHub research. But as the Forbes Advisor analysis below shows, just how much your rate jumps can depend on the state in which you’re insured and whether the accident caused injuries and/or property damage.

Average Car Insurance Rate Increase After an At-Fault Accident

State Average Rate Increase (%) After At-Fault Accident With Property Damage Average Rate Increase (%) After At-Fault Accident With Injuries
Alabama 44 43
Alaska 46 53
Arizona 47 48
Arkansas 47 48
California 72 97
Colorado 35 33
Connecticut 51 52
Delaware 34 34
Florida 38 39
Georgia 47 47
Hawaii 37 37
Idaho 37 37
Illinois 49 49
Indiana 48 48
Iowa 45 47
Kansas 41 41
Kentucky 53 53
Louisiana 48 48
Maine 40 41
Maryland 52 52
Massachusetts 67 67
Michigan 45 45
Minnesota 41 42
Mississippi 46 47
Missouri 36 37
Montana 41 41
Nebraska 48 48
Nevada 43 44
New Hampshire 55 55
New Jersey 42 43
New Mexico 37 37
New York 40 40
North Carolina 79 90
North Dakota 39 39
Ohio 45 45
Oklahoma 44 44
Oregon 42 43
Pennsylvania 47 51
Rhode Island 55 45
South Carolina 39 39
South Dakota 42 42
Tennessee 44 45
Texas 54 54
Utah 44 44
Vermont 47 47
Virginia 45 45
Washington 36 37
West Virginia 41 41
Wisconsin 50 50
Wyoming 31 31

Source: Forbes Advisor

How Do I Keep My Rates Low After an Accident?

If you’ve had a car accident, there are some things you may be able to do to keep your car insurance rates from rising.

First, explore discounts that you may have overlooked. Check with your insurer to make sure you’re receiving discounts you’re eligible for.

•   If you haven’t already signed up for paperless billing, now might be a good time to take advantage of the discount you may receive with this option.

•   The number of miles you drive annually is one factor that goes into calculating your insurance rate. Check with your insurer to make sure your rate correctly reflects your annual mileage.

•   Consider a usage-based insurance that tracks different elements of your driving habits and sets your rate accordingly. Better driving habits equate to lower rates.

•   Ask about multi-policy discounts if you have all your policies with one insurer.

•   Check into military and government employee discounts.

Another tactic that might be worth pursuing if you’ve had an accident but are looking for ways to decrease your car insurance rate is to increase your deductible. The higher your deductible, the lower your premium.

Look into how much insurance you’re carrying on the car. It’s worth your time to determine how much coverage you need. If your car is worth less than the deductible plus your annual total for car insurance, it could be time to rethink your coverage.

And another thing to scrutinize is what kind of car you drive. Some cars are cheaper to insure than others.

When Does Car Insurance Go Down After an Accident?

Generally speaking, it takes three to five years for car insurance to go down following most at-fault accidents. The insurers are going by the statistical wisdom that if you’re in one accident, the chances are higher that you will be in another. Some insurers also take into account the seriousness of the accident and whether impaired driving was a factor in the accident.

One tactic people employ to lower their rates is to shop around for a new insurer. While the record of the accident and claim will be visible to a second insurer, you may still be able to get better deals.

Your insurance rates will also be affected by your credit. Merely being involved in an accident will not damage your credit, but an improvement in your credit score can be used as leverage in getting a lower premium.

Don’t rule out getting a brushup on your driving to improve those skills. Some insurance companies will discount your rates if you complete a defensive driving or driver education course.

Recommended: Cost of Car Insurance for Young Drivers

The Takeaway

The question of how much does car insurance go up after an accident has an answer that can seem hard to figure out. Rates can go up by about 50% a year on average after an accident. But that figure may fluctuate depending on a variety of factors including who was at fault, the seriousness of the accident, your driving record, and to a surprising degree, the state in which you live.

Taking the opportunity to compare car insurance companies before committing to a policy can be a smart move that might save you money on your insurance rate. When you’re ready to shop for auto insurance, SoFi can help. Our online auto insurance comparison tool lets you see quotes from a network of top insurance providers within minutes, saving you time and hassle.

Compare quotes from top car insurance carriers.

Photo credit: iStock/simpson33

Insurance not available in all states.
Gabi is a registered service mark of Gabi Personal Insurance Agency, Inc.
SoFi is compensated by Gabi for each customer who completes an application through the SoFi-Gabi partnership.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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green and white toy houses

FHA Loans: Requirements, Loan Limits, and Rates

Conventional loans are the most popular kind of mortgage, but a government-backed mortgage like an FHA loan is easier to qualify for and may have a lower interest rate. FHA home loans have attractive qualities, but borrowers should know that mortgage insurance usually tags along for the life of the loan.

As of March 2023, new FHA borrowers will pay less for insurance. The Biden-Harris Administration announced it was reducing premiums by .30 percentage points, lowering annual homeowner costs by $800 on average. The administration hopes the cuts will help offset rising interest rates.

What Is an FHA Loan?

The Federal Housing Administration has been insuring mortgages originated by approved private lenders for single-family and multifamily properties, as well as residential care facilities, since 1934.

The FHA backs a variety of loans that cater to the specific needs of a borrower, such as FHA reverse mortgages for people 62 and older and FHA Energy Efficient Mortgages for those looking to finance home improvements that will increase energy efficiency (and therefore lower housing costs).

But FHA loans are most popular among first-time homebuyers, in large part because of the relaxed credit requirements.

Recommended: Tips to Qualify for a Mortgage

FHA Loan Requirements

If you’re interested in an FHA home loan to buy a single-family home or an owner-occupied property with up to four units, here are the details on qualifying.

FHA Loan Credit Scores and Down Payments

Borrowers with FICO® credit scores of 580 or more may qualify for a down payment of 3.5% of the sales price or the appraised value, whichever is less.

Those with a poor credit score range of 500 to 579 are required to put 10% down.

The FHA allows your entire down payment to be a gift, from a family member, close friend, employer or labor union, charity, or government homebuyer program. The money will need to be documented with a mortgage gift letter.


Besides your credit score, lenders will look at your debt-to-income ratio, or monthly debt payments compared with your monthly gross income.

FHA loans allow a DTI ratio of up to 50% in some cases, vs. a typical 45% maximum for a conventional loan.

FHA Mortgage Insurance

FHA loans require an upfront mortgage insurance premium (MIP) of 1.75% of the base loan amount, which can be rolled into the loan. As of March 2023, monthly MIP for new homebuyers is 0.15% to .75% — most often 0.55%.

For a $300,000 mortgage balance, that’s upfront MIP of $5,250 and monthly MIP of $137.50 at the 0.55% rate.

That reality can be painful, but MIP becomes less expensive each year as the loan balance is paid off.

There’s no getting around mortgage insurance with an FHA home loan, no matter the down payment. And it’s usually only shed by refinancing to a conventional loan or selling the house.

FHA Loan Limits

In 2023, FHA loan limits in most of the country are as follows:

•   Single unit: $472,030

•   Duplex: $604,400

•   Three-unit property: $730,525

•   Four-unit property: $$907,900

The range in high-cost areas is $1,089,300 (for single unit) to $2,095,200 (four-unit property); for Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the range is $1,633,950 (for single unit) to $3,142,800 (for four-unit property).

FHA Interest Rates

FHA loans usually have lower rates than comparable conventional loans.

The annual percentage rate (APR) — the annual cost of a loan to a borrower, including fees — may look higher on paper than the APR for a conventional loan because FHA rate estimates include MIP, whereas conventional rate estimates assume 20% down and no private mortgage insurance.

The APR will be similar, though, for an FHA loan with 3.5% down and a 3% down conventional loan.

First-time homebuyers can
prequalify for a SoFi mortgage loan,
with as little as 3% down.

FHA Income Requirements

There are none. High and low earners may apply for an FHA loan, but they must have at least two established credit accounts.

Recommended: How to Afford a Down Payment on Your First Home

Types of FHA Home Loans


That’s the kind of loan that has been described.

FHA Simple Refinance

By refinancing, FHA loan borrowers can get out of an adjustable-rate mortgage or lower their interest rate.

They must qualify by credit score and income, and have an appraisal of the property. Closing costs and prepaids can usually be rolled into the new loan.

FHA Streamline Refinance

Homeowners who have an FHA loan also may lower their interest rate or opt for a fixed-rate FHA loan with an FHA Streamline Refinance. Living up to the name, this program does not require a home appraisal or verification of income or credit.

The new loan may carry an MIP discount, but you’ll pay the upfront MIP in addition to monthly premiums. An exception: The upfront MIP fee of 1.75% is refundable if you refinance into an FHA Streamline Refinance or FHA Cash-out Refinance within three years of closing on your FHA home loan.

Closing costs are involved with almost any refinance, and the FHA doesn’t allow lenders to roll them into a Streamline Refinance loan. If you see a no closing cost refinance for an FHA loan, that means that instead of closing costs, a lender will charge a higher interest rate on the new loan.

You’ll continue to pay MIP after refinancing unless you convert your FHA loan to a conventional mortgage.

FHA Cash-Out Refinance

You don’t need to have an FHA loan to apply for an FHA Cash-Out Refinance. Whatever kind of loan the current mortgage is, if the eligible borrower has 20% equity in the home, the refinanced loan, with cash back, becomes an FHA loan.

The good news: Homeowners with lower credit scores may be approved. The not-great news: They will have to pay mortgage insurance for 11 years.

Any cash-out refi can trigger mortgage insurance until a borrower is back below the 80% equity threshold.

FHA 203(k) Loan

In addition to its straightforward home loan program, the FHA offers FHA 203(k) loans, which help buyers of older residences finance both the home purchase and repairs with one mortgage.

An FHA 203(k) loan can be a 15- or 30-year fixed-rate or adjustable-rate mortgage.

Some homeowners take out an additional home improvement loan when the need arises.

FHA vs Conventional Loans

Is an FHA loan right for you? If your credit score is between 500 and 620, an FHA home loan could be your only option. But if your credit score is 620 or above, you might look into a conventional loan with a low down payment.

You can also buy more house with a conventional conforming loan than with an FHA loan. Conforming loan limits in 2023 are $726,200 for a one-unit property and $1,089,300 in high-cost areas.

Borrowers who put less than 20% down on a conventional loan may have to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI) until they reach 20% loan-to-value. But borrowers with at least very good credit scores may be able to avoid PMI by using a piggyback mortgage; others, by opting for lender-paid mortgage insurance.

One perk of an FHA loan is that it’s an assumable mortgage. That can be a draw to a buyer in a market with rising rates.

The Takeaway

An FHA home loan can secure housing when it otherwise could be out of reach, and FHA loans are available for refinancing and special purposes. But mortgage insurance often endures for the life of an FHA loan. The Biden-Harris Administration recently reduced monthly MIP for new homebuyers to help offset higher interest rates.

Some mortgage hunters might be surprised to learn that they qualify for a conventional purchase loan with finite mortgage insurance instead. And some FHA loan holders who have gained equity may want to convert to a conventional loan through mortgage refinancing.

SoFi offers conventional fixed-rate mortgages with competitive interest rates and cancellable PMI, as well as refinancing. Check out SoFi’s low rate home mortgages.

Qualifying first-time homebuyers can put as little as 3% down, and others, 5%.

View your rate today.

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SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see Equal Housing Lender.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

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Auto Insurance Terms, Explained

Auto Insurance Terms, Explained

Shopping for auto insurance or dealing with an insurance claim? It’s common to hit a few potholes on the way to understanding car insurance.

Auto insurance terminology can be difficult to navigate, so this glossary may help you find your way.

Car Insurance Terminology

Here are basic auto insurance terms explained:

Accident Forgiveness

Accident forgiveness is a benefit that can be added to a car insurance policy to prevent a driver’s premium from increasing after their first at-fault accident.

Each insurer’s definition of accident forgiveness may vary, and it isn’t available in every state. Some insurers include it at no charge, or it may be an add-on, which means it could be earned or purchased.

Actual Cash Value

Actual cash value is the term used to describe what a vehicle was worth before it was damaged or stolen, taking depreciation into consideration. The amount is calculated by the insurer.


An adjuster is an employee who evaluates claims for an insurance company. The adjuster investigates the claim and is expected to make a fair and informed decision regarding how much the insurance company should pay.

Agent or Broker

Both agents and brokers help consumers obtain auto insurance, but there are differences in their roles. An agent represents an insurance company (or companies) and sells insurance to and performs services for policyholders.

A broker represents the consumer and may evaluate several companies to find a policy that best suits that individual, family, or organization’s needs.

Both agents and brokers are licensed and regulated by state laws, and both may be paid commissions from insurance companies.

At Fault

Drivers are considered “at fault” in an accident when it’s determined something they did or didn’t do caused the collision to occur. A driver may still be considered at fault even if no ticket was issued or if the insurance company divides the blame between the parties involved in the accident.

In some states, drivers can’t receive an insurance payout if they are found to be more than 50% at fault.

Casualty Insurance

Casualty insurance protects a driver who is legally responsible for another person’s injuries or property damage in a car accident.


When an insured person asks their insurance company to cover a loss, it’s called a claim.


A person who submits an insurance claim.

Collision Coverage

Collision coverage helps pay for damage to an insured driver’s car if the driver causes a crash with another car, hits an object (a mailbox or fence, for example), or causes a rollover.

It also may help if another driver is responsible for the accident but doesn’t have any insurance or enough insurance to cover the costs.

Collision coverage is usually required with an auto loan. Learn more about smarter ways to get a car loan.

Comprehensive Coverage

Comprehensive coverage pays for damage that’s caused by hitting an animal on the road, as well as specified noncollision events, such as car theft, a fire, or a falling object. It is usually required with an auto loan.

Recommended: How Much Auto Insurance Do I Really Need?

Damage Appraisal

When a car is in an accident, an insurance company’s claims adjuster may appraise the damage, and/or the car owner may get repair estimates from one or two body shops that can do the repairs.

Policyholders can appeal an appraisal if it seems low and they have some backup to prove it.

Declarations Page

This page in an insurance policy includes its most significant details, including who is insured, information about the vehicle that’s covered, types of coverage, and coverage limits.


This is the predetermined amount the policyholder will pay for repairs before insurance coverage kicks in. Generally, the higher the deductible, the lower the monthly premium.


Depreciation is the value lost from a vehicle’s original price due to age, mileage, overall condition, and other factors. Depreciation is used to determine the actual cash value of a car when the insurer decides it’s a total loss.

Effective Date

This is the exact date that an auto insurance policy starts to cover a vehicle.


An endorsement, or rider, is a written agreement that adds or modifies the coverage provided by an insurance policy.


Exclusions are things that aren’t covered by an auto insurance policy. (Some common exclusions are wear and tear, mechanical breakdowns, and having an accident while racing.)

Full Coverage

Full coverage usually refers to a car insurance policy that includes liability, collision, and comprehensive coverage.

GAP Coverage

Guaranteed asset protection insurance is optional coverage that helps pay off an auto loan if a car is destroyed or stolen and the insured person owes more than the car’s depreciated value. It covers the difference, or gap, between what is owed and what the insurance company would pay on the claim.


Indemnity is the insurance company’s promise to help return policyholders to the position they were in before a covered incident caused a loss. The insurer “indemnifies” the policyholder from losses by taking on some of the financial responsibility.

Liability Insurance

If you’re at fault in an accident, your liability coverage pays for the other driver’s (or drivers’) car repairs and medical bills.

Coverage limits are often expressed in three numbers. For example, if a policy is written as 25/50/15, it means coverage of up to $25,000 for each person injured in an accident and $50,000 for the entire accident and $15,000 worth of property damage.

The cost of liability-only car insurance varies by state, as does the required minimum level of liability insurance.

Recommended: What Does Liability Auto Insurance Typically Cover?


This is the maximum amount a car insurance policy will pay for a particular incident. Coverage limits can vary greatly from one policy to the next.

Medical Payments Coverage

Medical payments coverage (or medical expense coverage, or MedPay) is optional coverage that can help pay medical expenses related to a vehicle accident.

It covers the insured driver, their passengers, and any pedestrians who are injured when there’s an accident, regardless of who caused it.

It also may cover the policyholder when that person is a passenger in another vehicle or is injured by a vehicle when walking, riding a bike, or riding public transportation. This coverage is not available in all states.

No-Fault Insurance

Several states have no-fault laws, which generally means that when there’s a car accident, everyone involved files a claim with their own insurance company, regardless of fault.

Also known as personal injury protection, no-fault insurance covers medical expenses regardless of who’s at fault. It doesn’t mean, however, that fault won’t be determined. No-fault insurance refers to injuries and medical bills. If a person’s car is damaged in an accident and they were not at fault, the at-fault driver’s insurance company will be responsible for the repairs.

Optional Coverage

Optional coverage refers to any car insurance coverage that is not required by law.

Personal Injury Protection

Several states require personal injury protection (PIP) coverage to help pay for medical expenses that an insured driver and any passengers suffer in an accident, regardless of who’s at fault.

PIP also may cover loss of income, funeral expenses, and other costs. PIP is the basic coverage required by no-fault insurance states.

Primary (and Secondary) Driver

The person who drives an insured car the most often is considered its primary driver. Typically, the primary driver is the person who owns or leases the vehicle. If spouses share an insurance policy, they may both be listed as primary drivers on a car or cars.

A car may have multiple secondary, or occasional, drivers. These are generally licensed drivers who live in the same household (children, grandparents, roommates, nannies, etc.) and may use the insured car occasionally but are not the car’s primary driver.

Recommended: Cost of Car Insurance for Young Drivers

Primary Use

This term refers to how a vehicle will most often be used — for commuting to work, for business, for farming, or for pleasure.


A premium is the amount a person pays for auto insurance. Premiums may be paid monthly, quarterly, twice a year, or annually, depending on personal choice and what the provider allows.

Replacement Cost

Some insurance companies offer replacement cost coverage for newer vehicles. This means that if a car is damaged or stolen, the insurer will pay to replace it with the same vehicle.

Coverage varies by company, and not every insurance company offers replacement coverage.

State-Required Minimum

Every state has different legal minimum requirements for the types and amounts of insurance coverage drivers must have. The limits are usually low. Lenders may require more coverage for those who are buying or leasing a car.

Total Loss or ‘Totaled’

If a car is severely damaged, the insurer may determine that it is a total loss. That usually means the car is so badly damaged that it either can’t be safely repaired or its market value is less than the price of putting it back together.

If a state has a total-loss threshold, an insurer considers the car a total loss when the cost of the damage exceeds the limit set by the state.


The underwriting process involves evaluating the risks (and determining appropriate rates) in insuring a particular driver.

Insurance underwriting these days is often done with a computer program. But if a case is unusual, a professional may step in to further assess the situation.

Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage

Uninsured motorist and underinsured motorist coverage protects drivers and their passengers who are involved in an accident with a motorist who has little or no insurance. Some states require this coverage, but the limits vary.

Some states require this coverage, but the limits vary.

Uninsured/underinsured motorist bodily injury insurance covers medical costs. Uninsured/underinsured motorist property damage pays to repair a vehicle.

The Takeaway

Understanding car insurance basics is important for drivers. Knowing auto insurance terms, coverage your state or lender may require, and what other types of coverage could further safeguard your finances can make you a more informed consumer.

When you’re ready to shop for auto insurance, SoFi can help. Our online auto insurance comparison tool lets you see quotes from a network of top insurance providers within minutes, saving you time and hassle.

Compare quotes from top car insurance carriers.

Insurance not available in all states.
Gabi is a registered service mark of Gabi Personal Insurance Agency, Inc.
SoFi is compensated by Gabi for each customer who completes an application through the SoFi-Gabi partnership.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.


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Common Health Insurance Terms & Definitions

Common Health Insurance Terms & Definitions

When shopping for a new health insurance policy — or when your employer introduces a new health plan — you might wonder what certain health insurance terms mean.

In this guide, you’ll discover health insurance terminology for beginners and anyone who’s ever been confused about a policy, so you can make informed decisions.

Top Health Insurance Terms to Know

Discover the health insurance definitions that can help you better utilize health insurance for you and your family.

Accident-Only Policies

These policies pay only in cases that were due to an accident or injury.


These are the health care services covered by the insurance plan for an individual. Your health benefits might also be called a “benefits package.”


An itemized bill that shows all of the services and procedures that were provided to the member.


This refers to the percentage of the medical charge you must pay out of your own pocket after meeting your deductible. The rest will be paid by your health insurance company. If you have a 15% coinsurance plan, you would pay 15% of each medical bill (after paying the full deductible), and the insurer would cover the rest.


In most cases, this means the insurance policy, which is a contract between the insurance company and the policyholder.


The amount you pay out of pocket when you receive medical care or a prescription drug. A copayment is typically paid in person at the doctor’s office.


This refers to the amount you must pay out of pocket before your insurance starts paying some of your health care expenses. The deductible resets at the beginning of the year or when you enroll in a new health insurance plan.

If your deductible is $2,000, your health insurance plan won’t cover any services until you have paid $2,000 out of pocket for the year. Someone with a high deductible and lots of medical costs could consider getting help in the form of medical loans, which are personal loans for medical and dental procedures.

Disability Benefits

If you are unable to work because of an illness or injury, the insurance company pays for lost wages. You’ll receive a portion of your income until you are able to return to work. Each policy defines what constitutes a “disability,” so you’ll need to meet those requirements and submit medical paperwork before receiving payment.

Health Insurance

Health insurance terminology 101: This is a contract that requires your health insurer to pay some or all of your health care costs in exchange for a premium.

Health Maintenance Organization (HMO)

An HMO is a health plan that provides health care services to members through a network of doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers.

HMOs are popular alternatives to traditional health care plans because they usually have lower-cost premiums while still offering a variety of services.

Health Savings Account (HSA)

This is pretax money you set aside to pay for qualified medical expenses. You and your employer may contribute.

HSA funds roll over if you don’t spend them by the end of the year.

Indemnity Plan

Sometimes referred to as a fee-for-service plan, an indemnity plan allows you to go to any physician or provider you want, but requires that you pay for the services yourself and file claims in order to get reimbursed.

Mandated Benefits

This refers to the health care benefits that state or federal law say must be included in health care plans. Mandated health insurance benefit laws may require plans to cover substance abuse treatment or maternity services; cover treatment by providers like chiropractors, acupuncturists, and midwives; or include dependents and domestic partners.

Out-of-Pocket Maximum

This is the most you’ll pay for expenses covered by the plan in a calendar year. If you reach your deductible, insurance will begin paying some expenses covered by the plan. If you hit your out-of-pocket maximum, insurance will pay all expenses covered by the plan. (Monthly premiums don’t count toward your out-of-pocket maximum or deductible.)

Out-of-Network Services

This is when you seek out services from providers who aren’t in your HMO’s or PPO’s network. Usually, HMOs will only pay for care received within its network. If you’re in a PPO plan, you will have to pay more to receive services outside the PPO’s network.

Preexisting Condition

This health insurance term refers to a medical problem or illness you had before applying for health care coverage. If you have a preexisting condition, it’s a good idea to shop around and educate yourself when choosing an individual health plan.

Preferred Provider

This refers to a provider who has a contract with your health plan to provide services to you at a discount. If you have a favorite doctor, you might want to see if they are a preferred provider or “in network” for any new insurance plan.

When you’re looking to find a new physician, choosing a “preferred provider” found via the plan’s website will help keep medical costs down.

Your health insurance or plan may have preferred providers who are also “participating” providers. Participating providers can also have a contract in place with your health insurer, but you may have to pay more.

Preferred Provider Organization (PPO)

PPO plans provide more flexibility than HMOs when choosing a doctor or hospital. They also feature a provider network, but have fewer restrictions on seeing out-of-network providers.

PPO insurance will pay if you see a provider out of the network, though it may be at a lower rate.

PPO plans usually cost more than HMO plans.


This is the amount paid to the insurance company to obtain or maintain an insurance policy. Usually it’s a monthly fee.

Provider Network

This is a list of all the doctors, specialists, hospitals, and other providers who agree to provide medical care to the members of an HMO or PPO.

Waiting Period

This is the time an employer may make employees wait before they are eligible for coverage under the company’s insurance plan.

The Takeaway

Do you know your HMO from your PPO and HSA? Have you looked closely at copays, deductibles, and out-of-pocket maximums? Knowing health insurance terms can help you make an informed decision when looking at health insurance policies.

Speaking of insurance, check out a variety of insurance offerings at SoFi Protect, bringing you fast, easy, and reliable insurance.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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Life Insurance Definitions & Terminology, Explained

Glossary of Life Insurance Terms

Life insurance terms can be confusing when you first come across them, so learning the language of life insurance can help when you’re thinking about or shopping for a policy.

You may know that for many people, life insurance is important to have, and perhaps you’ve started some initial research into life insurance policies.

Learning common life insurance definitions can help you make an informed decision when looking into coverage options.

Life Insurance Terms

Discover life insurance definitions, simplified.

Accidental Death Benefit

If a life insurance policy includes an accidental death benefit, the cause of death will be examined to determine whether the insured’s death meets the policy’s definition of accidental. This is often a rider, or additional benefit for an additional fee, attached to the policy. An example of an accidental death could be one caused by a car crash, slip, or machinery.


This is a contract in which the buyer deposits money with a life insurance company for investment on a tax-deferred basis. Annuities are designed to help protect the contract holder from the risk of outliving their income.

An annuity may include a death benefit that will pay the beneficiary a specified minimum amount.


This is the person or entity designated to receive the death benefit from a life insurance policy or annuity contract.

Contestable Period

For up to two years, a life insurance company may deny payment of a claim to beneficiaries because of suicide or misrepresentation on an application — for example, if the insured was listed as a nonsmoker but smoked often and died of complications related to that.

Death Benefit

The amount that will be paid to the beneficiary upon the death of the insured. The phrase “death benefit” is common life insurance terminology you’ll see in a life insurance policy.

Evidence of Insurability

In order for you to qualify for a particular policy at a particular price, companies have the right to ask for information about your health and lifestyle. An insurance company will use this information when deciding on approval and rate. If you are overweight, a smoker, or have a history of health problems, your policy will likely cost more than someone without those issues.

Free Examination Period

Also known as the “free look period,” this is a 10- to 30-day window during which you can cancel your new policy without penalty and get a refund of premiums.

Group Life Insurance

This provides coverage to a group of people under one contract. Group contracts are often sold to businesses that want to provide life insurance for their employees. Group Life Insurance can also be sold to associations to cover their members.


This is the person whose life is insured by the policy. The insured may also be the policyholder.

Permanent Life Insurance

These kinds of policies can provide lifelong coverage and the opportunity to build cash value, which accumulates tax-deferred. Whole life and universal life insurance policies fall under this umbrella term. Permanent life insurance is more expensive and complicated than term life insurance.


This is the official, legal document that includes the terms of the policy owner’s insurance. The policy will name the insured, the policy owner, the death benefit, and the beneficiary.


The person who owns the life insurance policy. It can be the person who is insured by the policy.


The payment the customer makes to the insurance company to pay for the policy. It may be paid annually, semiannually, quarterly, or monthly.

Term Life Insurance

This type of life insurance offers coverage for a set number of years, or “term,” of the insured’s life, commonly 20 or 30 years. If the insured individual dies during the years of coverage, a death benefit will be paid to the beneficiaries. Term life insurance costs less than permanent life insurance.

Recommended: 8 Popular Types of Life Insurance for Any Age


Often viewed as a mysterious process, underwriting is simply when factors are evaluated relating to the applicant’s current health, medical history, lifestyle habits, hobbies, occupation, and financial profile to determine eligibility for coverage as well as what the appropriate premiums should be.

Universal Life Insurance

With this kind of permanent life insurance, policyholders may be able to adjust their premium payments and death benefits. The cash value gains vary depending on the type of universal life insurance policy purchased.

Variable Life Insurance

With variable life, another type of permanent life insurance, the death benefit and the cash value fluctuate according to the investment performance of a separate account fund.

Earnings accumulate tax-deferred. Fees and expenses can reduce the portion of premiums that go toward the cash value.

Whole Life Insurance

Whole life is another type of permanent cash value insurance. The premiums, rate of return on cash value, and death benefit are fixed and guaranteed. The cash value component grows tax-deferred. Whole life tends to be more expensive than other types of permanent insurance.

Recommended: Term vs. Whole Life Insurance

The Takeaway

Life insurance can be an important way to protect your loved ones’ financial future in the event of your death. While its terms can be a mouthful, they don’t have to be confusing. Understanding the definitions of life insurance can help you put a plan in place to protect your family.

If you’re shopping for life insurance, SoFi has partnered with Ladder to offer competitive term life insurance policies that are quick to set up and easy to understand. You can apply in just minutes and get an instant decision. As your circumstances change, you can easily change or cancel your policy with no fees and no hassles.

Complete an application and get your quote in just minutes.

Photo credit: iStock/mapodile

Coverage and pricing is subject to eligibility and underwriting criteria.
Ladder Insurance Services, LLC (CA license # OK22568; AR license # 3000140372) distributes term life insurance products issued by multiple insurers- for further details see All insurance products are governed by the terms set forth in the applicable insurance policy. Each insurer has financial responsibility for its own products.
Ladder, SoFi and SoFi Agency are separate, independent entities and are not responsible for the financial condition, business, or legal obligations of the other, Social Finance. Inc. (SoFi) and Social Finance Life Insurance Agency, LLC (SoFi Agency) do not issue, underwrite insurance or pay claims under Ladder Life™ policies. SoFi is compensated by Ladder for each issued term life policy.
SoFi Agency and its affiliates do not guarantee the services of any insurance company.
All services from Ladder Insurance Services, LLC are their own. Once you reach Ladder, SoFi is not involved and has no control over the products or services involved. The Ladder service is limited to documents and does not provide legal advice. Individual circumstances are unique and using documents provided is not a substitute for obtaining legal advice.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.


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