What Is an Insurance Premium?

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The insurance industry earns more than $1 trillion every year, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Those premiums are collected by nearly 6,000 insurance companies across the United States. So, what exactly is an insurance premium? 

In short, the premium you pay is what buys you an insurance policy — and it’s how insurance companies earn the money they need to cover repairs, replacements, and the other expenses that come with losses and claims filed by policyholders.

Premium costs will depend on a variety of factors, including the insurance company, the specific policy, and the policyholder. When consumers compare the potential costs of their premiums from policy to policy, it’s important to measure other costs, such as deductibles. It’s also essential to shop around and compare. After all, a lower premium might sound good on paper, but it could mean less coverage or a higher deductible. That’s a lot to consider — so here’s everything you need to know. 

How Do Insurance Premiums Work?

Whether you’re buying car insurance, homeowners insurance, renters insurance, health insurance, or any insurance product that will protect you from higher costs in the long term, you’ll be charged a premium when you purchase the policy. This premium is typically paid annually, quarterly, or monthly to cover the cost of said policy, which means you’ll have to pay this to keep the policy active — even if you’ve never made a claim.

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Many insurance companies provide discounts if you pay annually instead of monthly. Typically, they’ll offer several payment options. You can often pay before the due date or have the amount withdrawn automatically from your bank account or a credit card. On-time insurance premium payments are necessary to keep your policy active and protect you against any losses that could occur.

Types of Insurance Premiums

There are about as many types of insurance premiums as there are types of insurance policies. You’ll find that some types of insurance premiums increase as the policy ages and others decrease. Some premiums are billed annually, and others are billed monthly. You may encounter fixed insurance premiums that stay the same until the policy renews and the costs are re-negotiated and flexible insurance premiums, in which coverage and fees can be changed even while the policy is in force.

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Some of the most common insurance premium types include the following:

Annual Premiums

Annual insurance premiums are charged once a year, usually when the insurance policy is initially purchased or renewed. It requires you to pay in full all at one time, which is a potential shock to your bank account. The benefit is simple: annual payments are almost always less expensive for you in the long term than monthly payments or even semi-annual payments. 

Insurers want to collect as much money from you upfront because it reduces their own risk. They’re willing to drop the price of your policy when you’re eager to put down a large payment at the start of the policy period. Semi-annual payment plans are also available, but you won’t get the same deep discount that’s available to policyholders willing to pay in full upfront.

Quarterly Premiums

A quarterly premium is paid four times a year on predetermined dates. You will likely pay a fourth of the total payment when the coverage begins, and then the remaining three payments will be evenly divided over the next year. These aren’t as cost-effective as an annual payment but still more affordable than monthly payments.

Monthly Premiums

Monthly insurance premiums are often the most popular way for consumers to pay because it requires a smaller amount of money to be paid during each billing cycle. You’ll pay once a month, so the cost of the entire annual premium will be divided by 12. While it’s likely more convenient for your ongoing financial planning, you’ll end up paying more over the year.

What Factors Determine an Insurance Premium?

The way your premium is structured and charged depends on what type of policy you’re buying. A health insurance premium, for example, may take different things into account than an automobile insurance policy.

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According to the Insurance Information Institute, several factors will be used to determine how much your premium will cost. These include:

  • Your financial history
  • Your record of claims and policy usage
  • Your location
  • Personal details, such as your age

Your insurance premium is ultimately determined by the amount of risk you create for the insurance company.

How Much Is an Insurance Premium?

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Insurance companies will use various mathematical models, statistics, and calculations to determine how much of an insurance premium you’ll have to pay. The specific amount will depend on the type of insurance you’re buying and the risk you present to the company.

Why Do Insurance Premiums Change?

Insurance premiums can increase or decrease depending on many things, including market costs, location changes, and the policyholder’s behavior or claims history. 

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Automobile premiums are likely to rise after an accident, for example. Some insurance policies, such as a term life insurance policy, are fixed at a specific premium for a scheduled number of years.

How to Get the Best Insurance Premium

When you’re looking for an insurance premium that’s affordable but still attached to a policy that provides the coverage you need, you’ll have to spend some time researching different policies so you can compare prices and coverage. However, there are also some surefire ways to keep your premiums lower.

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A few examples include the following:

  • Keep your credit score as high as possible. Many insurance companies will check credit before deciding what to charge you.
  • Consider increasing deductibles. This means you’ll have to pay more out-of-pocket if you file a claim, but you’ll keep monthly and annual costs lower.
  • Maintain a safe driving record when you’re looking for automobile insurance.
  • Focus on good preventative health when you’re shopping for health insurance. People who smoke can often pay up to 50% more than nonsmokers, for example.
  • Pay your insurance premium annually instead of monthly to maximize savings.
  • Bundle your insurance whenever you can. For example, if you buy a renters insurance policy and a car insurance policy together with the same company, you’ll often be entitled to a discount.