How agents help
Insurance agents can help you compare plans, decide how much coverage to buy, understand what is and is not covered, fill out an insurance application, and file claims.
Finding an agent
- Licensing: Verify that the Division of Financial Regulation licensed the agent. You can find this information on this website or call an advocate at 888-877-4894 (toll-free). The advocates can also tell you about any disciplinary actions on an agent’s record.
- Recommendations: Ask co-workers, friends, and family for recommendations.
- Service: Ask the agent what kind of service you can expect. Will he or she regularly evaluate your insurance needs? Help you make a claim?
- Credentials: Some agents hold credentials that require rigorous coursework and continuing education. However, some salespeople give themselves titles with similar-sounding names to imply they have expertise. For example, Chartered Life Underwriters (CLU) is a legitimate designation. However, people selling life insurance and annuities to seniors – and who refer to themselves as “chartered” – may have no specialized training.
Types of agents
- Independent agents can help you compare different companies. They receive a commission from the company you select. On the other hand, if you already know what insurance company you want, the company can recommend an agent.
- Find an agent who specializes in the type of insurance you want to buy. For example, if you are looking for health insurance, find an agent who works regularly in that area.
Watch out for…
- An agent who seems too focused on one product or who pressuries you to buy.
- An insurance agent is often an independent business person rather than an employee of an insurance company. These agents typically receive a commission every time you pay for insurance. Thus, agents generally want to provide good service so you stay with them.
- Ask an agent how he or she is paid. Some companies pay higher commissions than others. Make sure the agent considers your interests and is not favoring a company that pays higher commissions.
- Since some commissions are based on premium, make sure you do not buy more insurance than you need or can afford.
- Some types of policies – whole life insurance versus term life insurance, for example – pay higher commission. Research key issues before you visit an agent.