How much of the life insurance application process can I do online?

Colin Lalley 1600


Colin Lalley

Colin Lalley

Insurance Expert

Colin Lalley is the Associate Director of SEO Content at Policygenius in New York City. His writing on insurance and personal finance has appeared on Betterment, Inc, Credit Sesame, and the Council for Disability Awareness.

Published March 15, 2017|7 min read

Policygenius content follows strict guidelines for editorial accuracy and integrity. Learn about our

editorial standards

and how we make money.

Policygenius Image

The internet has undoubtedly made our lives easier. We can run our whole lives online. The rise of smartphones has made the internet even more transformative, allowing us to order food with a few taps or manage our investments from the toilet anywhere.

It’s only reasonable that you can apply for life insurance online.But, even in 2017, can you complete the entire application process online?The answer is not quite yet. But there are still plenty of steps you can take to apply for your life insurance online.

Steps of the life insurance application you can do online

You’re itching to start the life insurance application process. Good for you! You can get started right away by taking care of a lot of things from the comfort of your laptop.

Calculate your life insurance need

Before you take any steps toward getting a life insurance policy, you need to figure out how much coverage – amount and term length – you need.

How do you do that? You could just grab a spreadsheet or calculator and do some basic math. Figure out how much you already have in savings and assets, what debts you’d be leaving to your loved ones in the event that you die, and the expenses they’d need to cover, like day-to-day costs and savings for college.

Or, you could do it online. The PolicyGenius coverage calculator will ask the above information in a step-by-step questionnaire, crunch the numbers, and figure out the policy benefit and term that’s right for you. Then all you have to do is compare similar policies from the nation’s top-rated life insurers.And conveniently, the next thing you can do online just happens to be...

Get and compare quotes

Finding out how much life insurance coverage you need is great. But not every carrier will charge the same amount for similar policies, and carriers have different features, strengths, and weaknesses.

You could call up each carrier individually, get a quote, write them down, compare them, hope you wrote down the right prices, hope you can decipher your own terrible handwriting, try to remember which companies offered an accelerated death benefit rider, call them all up again to double check get the point. It can be a hassle, to say the least.The easier way is to just do this all online. Get side-by-side quotes so you can compare them at a glance. Read through some carrier reviews to find out which companies are easiest to work with and have the highest financial ratings. Chat with experts to get instant answers to questions.

Submit your application

Here it is. The moment you’ve all been waiting for. The application.After you choose a policy, you’ll need to fill out a little more information than you initially did, like some more in-depth health and financial details and your Social Security and driver's license numbers.

Once you do that, you click a button and submit your application, and...well, that’s kinda it. You’ll have to do a phone interview and maybe take a medical exam (which we’ll get to in a bit) but once you apply, that’s all there is to it for the moment.

Anticlimactic? Maybe a little. But you’re well on your way to protecting your whole family for years to come, so feel free to throw yourself a party. You deserve it.

The medical exam, maybe

Skipping the medical exam is great. It’s not a difficult test – it’s a basic physical, and a technician will come to you – but it’s still time you have to take out of your day, and there will probably be a needle or two involved.But you’re probably wondering how exactly you take the medical exam online. Does this involve telemedicine, or some weird VR thing? Not quite. It relies on records rather than an in-person exam. Even better, it’s not something you need to do at all.

Accelerated underwriting is a process that does just that – accelerates the underwriting if a life insurance policy – primarily by taking out the medical exam and request for an Attending Physician Statement, or APS. Rather make you take these two steps, the insurer will use a variety of third-party data sources, like a prescription drug test, a pull of your motor vehicle report, and a check with the Medical Information Bureau, to put together a picture of how risky you are to insure and, in the end, how much you’ll pay for your policy.

By relying on these records rather than the actual exam, the insurer can shave weeks off of the underwriting process. Keep in mind that there are policy and health restrictions that can disqualify you from accelerated underwriting, but with more and more insurers offering it as an option to applicants, it’s worth looking into.

Steps of the life insurance application you can’t do online

Even though the online life insurance application process has come a long way in the past few years, there are still a few things you need to do over the phone, in person, or via mail.

The phone interview

"Ugh, you mean I have to use my phone as an actual phone? What is this, 2007?"

I know, I get you. But sometimes it can be best to talk to an actual person – and, in this case, it’s mandated by the insurer.

During this short call, you’ll answer some basic health and history questions, like an oddly specific version of speed dating. The underwriter wants a better idea of what your health looks like. If you think this is similar to the questions you answered while you were getting a quote, you’re right. That’s how we’re able to give quotes that are so close to what a final policy will cost you: we ask a lot of the same questions the insurer will.

Even though you answered these earlier, you’ll need to "officially" answer them for the insurer, too. It’s an important step, though, because it’ll help you nail down your final life insurance policy premium rate, so be honest in your answers!

The medical exam, maybe

In the event that accelerated underwriting isn’t available, or if you don’t qualify for whatever reason (for example, there was a red flag during a document check that warrants a further look), then you’ll have to schedule a medical exam.

It might be an inconvenience, but don’t drop out of the application process just because you need to take the exam. It shouldn’t be the thing that makes you throw in the towel. The insurer is going taking this step because they want to make sure you’re paying the right price for the right policy. Would you rather they make assumptions about your health that requires you paying more for a policy, or take a quick blood test so you pay the correct amount?Plus, the medical exam is really only two steps:

  1. Schedule the exam for your home or office

  2. Be at your home or office at the time of the exam

It shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes, and you’re getting a free physical out of it. It could be worse.

Sign your policy

One day soon you’ll probably be able to approve your policy with a quick retina scan or a "Siri, approve my life insurance policy." For now, though, you’ll need to sign and return the paperwork that’s delivered either by mail or courier.

If it makes more exciting for you, you can imagine the paperwork is being returned to the carrier in an exciting way, like that Joseph Gordon Levitt bike messenger movie Rush, but otherwise it’s sadly pretty boring.Depending on the life insurance carrier, there are other things you may be able to do online. For example, some carriers let you make policy changes — like updating your personal information or beneficiaries — online, while some make you submit form changes via snail mail. We know that some people want the convenience of online service while others have read about the dozen or so Yahoo data breaches and are more comfortable sending in hard copies of forms. That’s why, in our life insurance carrier reviews, we note which companies let you do which tasks online, so you can find the company that’s right for you.

And, of course, if you have any questions, you can contact a licensed PolicyGenius expert either online or by phone – your choice.

Insurance Expert

Colin Lalley

Insurance Expert

Colin Lalley is the Associate Director of SEO Content at Policygenius in New York City. His writing on insurance and personal finance has appeared on Betterment, Inc, Credit Sesame, and the Council for Disability Awareness.