Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Benjamin Carr was a licensed insurance agent in Georgia and has two years' experience in life, health, property and casualty coverage. He has worked with State Farm and other risk management firms. He is also a strategic writer and editor with a background in branding, marketing, and quality assurance. He has been in military newsrooms — literally on the frontline of journalism.

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Reviewed by Benji Carr
Former Licensed Life Insurance Agent Benji Carr

UPDATED: Apr 9, 2022

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The Facts of Life

  • A life insurance rider is a specific policy feature that can expand your coverage needs at an added cost
  • Life insurance riders can increase your coverage, provide early access to death benefits, or even offer premium refunds
  • You’ll want to compare quotes from different life insurance companies since pricing can be unpredictable when adding life insurance riders

Shopping for life insurance can be a challenging process if you’re unfamiliar with your policy options. Most people don’t realize you can customize your life insurance with riders. Even worse, many don’t know what life insurance riders are.

Life insurance riders could help you in a handful of unique situations. In some cases, they could save you a ton of money. This article will highlight what a life insurance rider is, common life insurance riders, and more.

What is a rider in insurance? Keep reading to find out or take advantage of our free quote tool to get instant rates from the top life insurance companies in your area.

What is a rider in insurance?

A life insurance rider is an additional feature that you can add to the traditional life insurance policy you choose. Most companies offer riders, whether you choose term, whole, or universal life insurance. Not all companies offer the same life insurance riders, however.

In any case, life insurance riders can usually be added to a policy for an added cost in exchange for a specific benefit or feature. Many life insurance riders offer flexibility if you experience major hardships and need help, although some are less lenient.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) also notes that riders might be referred to as endorsements. Otherwise, they still serve the purpose of increasing coverage, excluding claims, or expanding your coverage.

Depending on the rider you get, you could be refunded some of your premiums, access your death benefit before you die, or simply increase your coverage for yourself or a loved one. Each of these situations could help save you in a pinch.

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What are the most common life insurance riders?

There are a handful of common life insurance riders that could be worth including on your life insurance policy. It’s not necessary to include every rider, but there are some situations in which they are more necessary than others.

Common Life Insurance Riders
RiderDescription
Accidental Death BenefitIncreases the death benefit if the insured dies as a result of a qualifying accident
Terminal IllnessGives early access to a percentage of the death benefit if diagnosed with a terminal illness
ChildPays a death benefit to the insured parent if their child dies
SpousePays a death benefit to the insured person if their spouse dies
Waiver of PremiumWaives the policy premiums if the insured becomes completely disabled
Disability IncomePays a monthly income of 1 – 2% of the face value if the insured becomes disabled
Guaranteed InsurabilityGuarantees you the right to buy additional insurance, without proof of good health, at specified dates in the future
Return of PremiumThe insurer will return all or some of your premiums if you outlive the policy
ConversionAllows you to convert term life insurance into whole life insurance with no medical exam
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Above, you can get a feel for how diverse life insurance riders can be. If you aren’t married and don’t have children, you wouldn’t need to worry about another insured rider, like the spouse or children’s rider. There’s a good chance you’ll be able to add those riders at a later date if your marital or dependent situation were to change.

If you have a dangerous job, you could choose from a trio of riders, considering you may be at an increased risk of being seriously injured or, with some occupations, killed. If you have a dangerous job, such as an underwater welder, you could consider adding an accidental death benefit, waiver of premium, or disability income rider.

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Each of these could help protect you or your loved ones if things go awry on the job. Young adults could also benefit from some life insurance riders. If you believe you might outlive your policy, a return of premium life insurance rider might be worth looking into. Imagine being refunded 30 years of life insurance payments.

How can I get a life insurance rider?

To add a life insurance rider to your policy, you may have to ask an insurance agent about the riders they offer and how much that rider will increase your rates. Some life insurance companies are more clear about which riders they offer than others.

For example, State Farm offers a specific Return of Premium Term Life Insurance policy, so you don’t need to worry about adding a separate rider. They don’t specify where their rates start for a $100,000 policy, but the monthly costs for a $250,000 policy start at $49.59 with this policy type, per the company website.

Some of the best life insurance companies that offer a return of premium rider include:

  • AIG
  • Allstate
  • MassMutual
  • John Hancock
  • Progressive
  • Nationwide

This list is not exhaustive, but it does show that many companies do offer these types of features, despite some people considering this rider disadvantageous to the life insurance company. After all, it’s almost like they haven’t been paid if they return your premiums.

At the end of the day, it’s hard to guarantee which companies will offer one specific type of life insurance rider because insurers are consistently updating policy options and features. The smartest idea is to decide which rider you might want to add and then get quotes from different companies with and without that rider.

Life insurance rates are already unpredictable enough when you consider all the pricing variables. Life insurance riders can make pricing even more unpredictable.

Life Insurance Riders: The Bottom Line

Insurance riders are add-ons, which means additional benefits that an insured person can choose while purchasing the policy. These add-ons extend the scope of the insurance cover by including various other events which may negatively affect the policyholder’s life, such as an accident or being critically sick due to some severe disease, including cancer or heart attack As getting an insurance policy broadens the scope of coverage, so does its benefits.

Talk to a life insurance agent about your policy rider options to find the life insurance product that makes the most sense for your lifestyle, your family, and your financial obligations.

By now, you should have a better understanding of what a rider is in insurance. Before you go, enter your ZIP code below to get free quotes from the leading life insurance companies in your area.