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Choosing a life insurance company

Life insurance ratings and classifications for policyholders

This article discusses the various industry wide ratings and classifications life insurance companies use to determine your risk class and premium.

If you've been shopping for life insurance, you're probably already aware of a few life insurance risk classifications such as preferred and standard. While life insurers may refer to these life insurance rate classifications differently, there are some basic tiers that are generally used industry wide.

Preferred select (or preferred plus, super select, super preferred, super elite, select preferred)

Depending on the insurer, this classification can have a variety of different names. Regardless of what it's called, this classification is associated with individuals who fit the insurer's criteria for excellent health. Depending on the insurer, it may be applicable if you have a normal weight and height profile, don't smoke, don't engage in risky sports or hobbies, you don't have a DWI or moving violations, you don't work in a high-risk occupation, or have a negative family health history (such as an immediate family member dying of cancer or heart disease prior to age 60). Premiums are generally the lowest for this classification.


Also associated with excellent health, this life insurance rate classification is just a notch below the preferred select rating. It generally means there might be a few minor health issues that kept you out of the preferred select rating (such as a slight difference in your height to weight ratio or moderately elevated cholesterol level). You'll likely still pay a relatively good rate in this classification.


This classification is for individuals with average health as well as a normal life expectancy. So while you may have only minor health issues, there may be other factors that when combined, place you in the standard classification. Note: Some life insurance companies may have a classification before standard such as preferred standard - meaning that you fall somewhere between preferred and standard.

Preferred Smoker

This category is for someone who would otherwise fall into preferred rates, but is an occasional nicotine product user or occasionally uses other forms of tobacco. However, some life insurers don'ta light nicotine product user, and may simply place you in the classification of nicotine product user if you occasionally use any form of tobacco. The cost of life insurance for nicotine product users will be significantly higher than that of a person who is not a nicotine product user.

Standard Smoker

A nicotine product user who is in otherwise average health may be placed into this classification. Someone in this category will pay a higher premium rate than a preferred nicotine product user for the same type of policy.

If you apply for insurance and don't fall into any of these categories, you may still qualify for coverage. Depending upon your health status, many carriers offer policies that are priced to cover many medical and non-medical risk factors.

For more information on finding affordable life insurance or how to prepare for a life insurance medical exam, visit Protective's Learning Center.



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All Learning Center articles are general summaries that can be used when considering your financial future at various life stages. The information presented is for educational purposes and is meant to supplement other information specific to your situation. It is not intended as investment advice and does not necessarily represent the opinion of Protective or its subsidiaries.

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