This top market leader excels at low-cost protection — even if you’ve had medical issues.
As Benjamin Franklin famously opined, nothing’s certain in life except death and taxes. Which is one reason for buying life insurance: to provide some comfort for your family and your creditors when the inevitable occurs.
But which life insurance is best and how much do you need — and for how long?
A term life policy might get the job done at the lowest cost, but you expose yourself to policy lapse at the end of the term.
To help solve that problem, Banner Life Insurance Company offers a conversion feature that lets you switch a term policy to universal life coverage, which provides the permanency of whole life while also building up a cash value.
|Name||Banner Life Insurance|
|Parent company||Legal & General, London|
|Products||Term and universal (permanent) life insurance|
|Ratings||A+ from A.M. Best; A+ from the Better Business Bureau|
|Policyholders||1.2 million US customers with $678 billion of coverage in force at the end of 2016|
|Assets||Nearly $4 billion at the end of 2016|
What is Banner Life?
A unit of London-based Legal & General, Banner, with its William Penn subsidiary in New York, operates as part of Legal & General America and offers coverage throughout the US.
It provides the stability of a history that stretches back over 180 years and the market strength of commanding over $1.1 trillion in assets under management and some 10 million customers worldwide. A.M. Best ranks it the world’s seventh-largest insurer.
What is Banner Life known for?
Banner has a reputation for being among the most aggressive term life providers, meaning it will take on risks by covering people other insurers might turn away. And it is known to be among the most competitive on pricing, particularly for high-risk applicants such as those with diabetes.
Pros and cons
- Accepts most applicants. Competitive underwriting includes those with diabetes, a history of smoking and other health risks.
- Flexible payment options. Adjust your payments to better fit your household budget.
- Many years in the business. Offers superior financial strength and a history of stability.
- Fast-track claims.Priority payment for benefits of up to $10,000.
- Medical exam required. Most policies require a full health work-up.
- Strict eligibility for preferred rates. The best rates go to those with nearly perfect health and habits.
- Annual fee. You’ll pay a $60 policy fee each year as part of your premium.
What life insurance coverage does Banner Life offer?
Banner offers term life and universal life insurance under the brand names OPTerm and Step Up.
Nonsmokers in good health can choose from terms of 10 to 30 years in five-year increments. Applicants older than 75 can’t buy Banner policies with terms above 15 years. That cutoff falls as terms lengthen, with 30-year policies available to applicants ages 20 to 51 only.
The company’s Life Step universal policy also lets an insured choose a level premium option that guarantees lifetime coverage regardless of future economic conditions. And a Life Step policyholder can elect to prepay premiums to provide lifetime coverage with no further payments.
OPTerm term life coverage
Banner Life advertises that a 20-year-old woman in good health can obtain a 10-year OPTerm policy with a benefit value of $100,000 for as little as $7 a month. OPTerm coverage can range to as high as $1 million or more.
Term life policies from the company can be renewed up to age 95 at a higher rate, but the insured’s underwriting classification won’t change — even if you experience a significant change in your health during the policy period. For many term life carriers, renewal options can phase out as early as age 65.
- Policies of 10, 15, 20, 25 and 30 years
- Rates as low as $7 a month for $100,000 in benefits
- Renewable up to age 95
- Receptive to higher-risk applicants, such as those with diabetes
Step Up universal life
Banner offers to convert term policies to universal life coverage, which builds up a cash value as long as you pay your premiums. You can draw on the cash-value balance to pay premiums.
You can also borrow amounts up to the cash value from Banner at a 7.4% interest rate. But annual interest must be prepaid at the start of each year the loan is outstanding.
- Convertible from term life policies up to age 70
- Prepay to eliminate future payments while retaining coverage
- Permanent coverage with flexible terms and payment options
- Builds cash value that you can use to pay premiums
What’s not covered in my policy?
In general, standard life insurance policies won’t cover the contingencies of life, like life-altering disabilities or children who need a bit more time moving out on their own.
To supplement your policy’s coverage, Banner Life offers a variety of riders that include:
- Disability premium waiver. Policies with this benefit remain in force without payment if you’re fully disabled for at least six months.
- Conversion to permanent. Convert your term policy to universal insurance that covers your entire life.
- Flexible payment schedule. Pay your premiums monthly, quarterly, twice yearly or annually. Or pay lifetime universal coverage over a set period to, for instance, satisfy all premiums necessary before retiring.
- Accelerated benefit rider. Collect the lower of $500,000 or 75% of your policy’s value in benefits if you’re diagnosed with a terminal illness.
- Term laddering rider. Purchase additional coverage for specified needs that arise within the underlying policy period, such as a mortgage or college tuition.
- Children’s rider. Until you’re 65, use your policy to cover children under 25 years old.
The company also charges an annual $60 policy fee as part of its premium.
How can I get the best rate?
While there are many term life carriers that will provide coverage without requiring a medical exam, Banner may require a full health evaluation when underwriting your policy.
And like other providers, Banner Life rewards excellent health and habits with lower rates using tiered categories it calls “standard plus,” “preferred” and “preferred plus.”
To get the best rates, you’ll need to meet specific guidelines around your:
- History of tobacco use. Better rates go to applicants who haven’t smoked in the past three years, two years and 12 months, depending on the tier.
- Alcohol and substance use. The best rates go to those with no history of abuse, with more lenient years-based requirements for standard plus and preferred tiers.
- Residency. You must be a U.S. resident or permanent citizen for the past two to three years, depending on the tier.
- Personal health. Your personal history should be free of specified diseases and impairments.
- Family health. Requires no cardiovascular disease or cancer in parents or siblings before age 60.
- Driving record. Your history should be free of DWIs, DUIs, suspensions and other convictions in the past five years with no more than two moving violations in the past three years.
- Blood pressure. Requirements range from numbers that are no higher than 152/92 to 136/86 in the past two years, depending on the tier.
- Occupation or hobbies. Pilots and high-risk careers may require an exclusion rider.
If you pay your policy up front annually, you may qualify for an additional 5% off your premiums.
What do customers say about Banner Life?
Banner earns a superior A+ rating for financial strength from A.M. Best and an A+ from the Better Business Bureau.
Customer reviews on BBB are generally negative, citing problems with service and claims. But a good sign is that nearly all reviews are directly addressed by a Banner Life representative, indicating care with support.
How do I file a life insurance claim with Banner Life?
For benefits of $10,000 or less, Banner applies a fast-track process that can accelerate payments. Call Banner’s claims department to start the process.
For all other claims, you can start the process online through Banner Life’s parent site, Legal & General America.
Complete the type of claim, your personal information and details on the insured or decedent. Indicate where Banner should send your claims package, and submit your claim.
After your claim is received, Banner reviews its records to verify that your policy is in force. Your indicated recipient will receive all forms necessary to complete the claim.
What information will I need to submit a claim?
In most cases, you’ll need to provide:
- Proof of Death claimant’s statement
- A certified copy of the policyholder’s death certificate
Additional requirements apply to claims made by beneficiaries who are minors, for estates or trusts and in situations where the primary beneficiary died outside the US or Canada.
Like many life insurers, Banner’s policies include a two-year contestability phase at the outset of a term policy under which it can conduct a deeper investigation into a claim presented during this period.
When you’re deciding on term, whole and universal life insurance, the financially sound Banner Life is a strong contender for competitive rates, comprehensive plans and more lenient eligibility than you might find elsewhere.