Great American Life Insurance Review

Alternative life insurance options through annuity plans

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Great American Insurance Group

Great American Insurance Group

Our Take

Great American Life Insurance Company Company no longer offers life insurance coverage, but instead offers several annuity options including indexed, fee-based, registered index-linked, and fixed and immediate annuities. Great American Life Insurance Company is a great choice if you want to choose from different investment options designed to give you guaranteed streams of income for your retirement.

  • Pros and Cons
  • Key Takeaways
  • Specifications
Pros and Cons
Pros
  • Offers 5 different types of indexed annuities

  • Offers riders on your coverage including one that has a death benefit

  • Fee-based annuities can help you get greater returns

  • Annuities provide a way to invest with protection from market loss

Cons
  • Many plans have penalties on withdrawals

  • No guaranteed death benefit without a rider

  • Potentially better returns investing in the stock market

  • Complicated annuity policies are difficult to understand

  • Must use a broker or agent

Key Takeaways
  • Great American Life Insurance Company provides five different types of annuities with multiple policy options, giving you plenty of choice over which annuities to purchase.
  • You have to work with brokers or financial professionals to get coverage, which will help you understand their complicated policies. However, you will need to learn about annuities and choose which are right for you. 
  • Since Great American Life Insurance Company Company only offers annuities, you will have to get your life, disability, other supplemental coverages, and property and casualty insurance from other insurance providers. 
Specifications
  • Year Founded 1872
  • Kinds of Plans Indexed, fee-based, registered index-linked, and fixed and immediate annuities
  • Number of Plans 19
  • Payment Options Mail, online, phone, automated payment, credit card
  • Official Website https://www.gaconnect.com/Products

Introduction

Great American Life Insurance Company is an annuities company that focuses on providing highly specialized and tailored annuities designed for retirement income planning. Its annuities are tailored to help clients create a retirement income stream that is safe from market downturns and that will protect them throughout their retirement by providing a steady income. 

We reviewed Great American Life Insurance Company’s policy offerings, riders, pricing, customer service, industry ratings, and more to help you decide if its policies are right for you.  

Company Overview

Great American Life Insurance Company was started as a life insurance company in 1872 but stopped offering insurance to focus on specialized commercial insurance products for businesses and personal insurance for individuals. It started offering annuities in 2006. 

In May 2021, Great American Life Insurance Company sold off its annuities business to MassMutual, although the annuities products are still marketed and sold by MassMutual under the name Great American Life Insurance. The rebranded company, Great American Insurance Group, sells a variety of niche insurance products for businesses and industries including equine, nonprofit, and construction. 

Great American Life Insurance Company is licensed for business in 49 states and the District of Columbia, although it is unclear in which state the company is not licensed. 

Available Plans 

Although it no longer offers life insurance policies, Great American Life Insurance Company offers six different kinds of annuities: indexed, fee-based, registered index-linked, and fixed and immediate annuities. Each category of annuities offers several options to choose from.  

Great American Life Insurance Company links many of its annuities to popular indexes, like the S&P 500, allowing you to create strategies in your account that will pay you based on the performance of that fund. You can also select different indexing crediting strategies within the same index fund.

With an annuity, your money isn’t usually invested directly into the market so there is usually no downside risk. You can often choose to allocate portions of your account to specific indexes.

Indexed Annuities

Indexed annuities, often called fixed-index annuities, are annuities that let you set your payouts to a popular index like the S&P 500 or to multiple indexes to diversify your investments. They also have a guaranteed minimum surrender value of 87.5% to 100%, depending on the policy. 

Many of Great American Life Insurance Company’s indexed annuities give you payout options where your money is paid out over a fixed period, for life, or for life and that of your surviving spouse. An extended care rider and a terminal illness rider are included with these annuities. 

American Landmark 3

This annuity requires a $50,000 minimum investment and can be issued up to a maximum of $1 million up to age 85. It includes an extended care waiver and a terminal illness waiver.

You can index your interest with the S&P 500, iShares U.S. Real Estate, or iShares MSCI EAFE. 

American Landmark 5

You can invest in this annuity with just a $10,000 minimum investment but it can be issued up to $1 million up to age 85 and up to $500,000 over age 85. This policy offers five indexing strategies: S&P 500 with a one-year cap; S&P 500 with a five-year cap; S&P Risk Control one-year rate; the iShares U.S. Real Estate; or a declared rate.

American Legend III

With the American Legend III, you need a minimum $10,000 investment, but you can invest in this annuity up to a maximum of $1 million up to age 85. 

With this policy, you can create strategies that link your annuities to the S&P 500 and the option to index your annuity to the SPDR Gold Shares, S&P U.S. Retiree Spending, or the Shares U.S. Real Estate indexes. 

American Legend 7

This policy requires that you invest a minimum of $10,000 up to a maximum of $1 million for those above age 85. This policy also allows you to index your account to four S&P 500 options and SPDR Gold Shares, S&P U.S. Retiree Spending, and the Shares U.S. Real Estate indexes.

Premier Income Bonus

The minimum investment for this policy is $10,000 and the maximum is up to $1 million if you are under 85. The policy offers two S&P 500 indexing options as well as the ability to set your policy to the S&P U.S. Retiree Spending or the iShares U.S. Real Estate.  It includes a built-in income rider for an annual charge of 1.15% each year of your account value. 

The rider provides you with bonus income payouts of up to 6% during a 10-year income rollup period where your interest amount gradually increases. However, if you no longer want this rider, you can cancel it at any time.

Safe Return

The Safe Return policy has a minimum investment amount of $25,000 and a maximum investment amount of either $500,000, $750,000, or $1 million, depending on your age. It provides you with a return of income guarantee and an end to early withdrawal charges after the first 10 years of the policy. 

It also offers a bailout cap on your indexing strategies so if the income generated by your annuity is lower than a pre-agreed amount, you can withdraw your money without a withdrawal charge. This policy is designed for long-term income but allows clients to access their funds if an unexpected event occurs. 

The policy also features the company’s IncomeSecure rider that gives you a 6% roll-up interest rate, and payments that can start right after issuance if you are over 55. It also includes an Inheritance Enhancer rider, which allows you to roll up your payments up to 9% per year if you are issued the policy between 50 and 75, and up to 6% it’s issued between 76 and 85.  

Fee-Based Annuities

Fee-based annuities are annuities from registered investment advisors who manage your annuity for a flat fee on an annual basis. This fee is based on a portion of your assets that they manage. These are great options for people who want to shield their investments in an annuity but get the benefit of an active advisor working to help them earn higher returns. 

Many of these policies come with built-in extended care and terminal illness waivers. They also offer a death benefit equal to the account value or the guaranteed minimum surrender value, which is usually between 87.5% and 100% of your cash value, depending on your policy. 

Index Protector 4

The Index Protector annuity lists a minimum of $50,000 and a maximum of up to a $2 million investment, depending on your age. You have several different indexing strategies to choose from with this policy including two S&P 500 options, and the ability to set your annuity to the S&P U.S. Retiree Spending, iShares MSCI EAFE, and the Shares U.S. Real Estate indexes.

Index Protector 5 MVA

With the Index Protector 5 MVA, you’re able to invest a minimum of $50,000 up to a maximum of $2 million, depending on your age. You are then able to index your account to two S&P 500 options, the S&P U.S. Retiree Spending, iShares MSCI EAFE, and the Shares U.S. Real Estate indexes. This plan also has a market value adjustment for the first five years of your policy.

Index Protector 7

The Index Protector 7 offers customers an annuity with an investment minimum of $50,000 up to an investment maximum of $2 million. You have a lot of choice in terms of what you index your return to. You can choose between three S&P 500 options, the S&P U.S. Retiree Spending, iShares MSCI EAFE, and the Shares U.S. Real Estate indexes. 

This plan also offers customers a return of premium guarantee, a market value adjustment that lasts seven years, and a waiver of early withdrawal fees after seven years.

Registered Index-Linked Annuities

Registered index-linked annuities allow more opportunities for growth than a fixed index annuity. Many of the registered indexed-linked annuities offered by Great American Life Insurance company come with extended care waivers and terminal illness waivers free of charge. These policies offer a death benefit that is equal to the account value or the guaranteed minimum surrender value, which is between 87.5% and 100% of the cash value of the annuity, depending on the policy.

Index Frontier 5

The Index Frontier 5 is a policy with a $25,000 minimum investment and a maximum of up to $1 million if you are below 80 years of age. It features 10 options including three S&P 500 credit options, two SPDR Gold Shares indexing options, two iShares MSCI EAFE options, and two iShares U.S. Real Estate credit options. 

This plan also gives you the option of a five-year declining early withdrawal charge that starts at 8% of your account’s value. 

Index Frontier 6

This annuity allows you to make a $25,000 minimum investment up to a maximum of $1 million in your annuity. The Index Frontier 6 provides customers with 10 indexing crediting options that include three S&P 500 options, two SPDR Gold Shares options, two iShares MSCI EAFE options, and two iShares U.S. Real Estate options. 

The Index Frontier 6 also provides customers with a five-year declining early withdrawal charge starting at 8% of your account value. 

Index Frontier 7 

With the Index Frontier 7, you can invest a minimum of $25,000 up to a maximum of $1 million up to age 80. This annuity provides you with 10 index options including three S&P 500 options, two SPDR Gold Shares crediting options, two iShares MSCI EAFE options, and two iShares U.S. Real Estate options. 

With this plan, you get seven years of declining early withdrawal charges that start at 8% and decrease to 0% of your account’s value. 

Index Summit 6 

To get this policy, you have to invest between $25,000 and $1 million. The plan features the ability to choose between nine different indexing crediting options including four S&P 500 options, two iShares MSCI EAFE options, and two iShares U.S. Real Estate options. 

One benefit of this plan is that it offers early withdrawal charges that start at 8% of your account value and decline over six years.

Index Frontier 5 Pro

The Index Frontier 5 Pro requires a $25,000 minimum investment and you can invest up to a maximum of $1 million in it up to age 80. This annuity provides customers with seven indexing options to choose from including three S&P 500 crediting options, two iShares MSCI EAFE options, and two iShares U.S. Real Estate options. 

This plan’s early withdrawal charges start at 8% of your account value and decline over five years. It also offers penalty-free withdrawals of 10% of your purchase payment or 10% of the account value at your most recent contract anniversary. 

Index Summit 6

This policy is only available with a $25,000 minimum investment, but you can invest up to a maximum of $1 million in it with no maximum age. It offers policy purchasers nine different choices that include four S&P 500 crediting options, two iShares MSCI EAFE options, and two iShares U.S. Real Estate crediting options. 

With this plan, you get the bonus of early withdrawal charges that decline over six years and begin at 8% of your account’s value. 

Index Frontier 7 Pro

For the Index Frontier 7 Pro, you need a $25,000 minimum investment but can purchase an annuity up to a maximum of $1 million if you are under 80 years of age. This versatile annuity features seven indexing options including three S&P 500 credit options, two iShares MSCI EAFE options, and two iShares U.S. Real Estate crediting options. 

With this annuity, you also have the option of a seven-year declining early withdrawal charges that start at 9% of your account’s value and you can make penalty-free withdrawals of up to 10% of your purchase payment or 10% of the value of the account at your contract anniversary. 

Index Summit 6 Pro

The Index Summit 6 Pro is an annuity policy that has a $25,000 minimum investment but allows you to invest up to a maximum of $1 million with no maximum age. With this policy, there are nine different indexing crediting options including four S&P 500 crediting options, two iShares MSCI EAFE options, and two iShares U.S. Real Estate crediting options. 

This annuity includes the benefit of a six-year declining early withdrawal charges that start at 8% of your account’s value and the ability to withdraw penalty-free up to 10% of your purchase payment or 10% of the account value.

Fixed and Immediate Annuities

Fixed and immediate annuities allow you to get a fixed return that begins almost immediately. Many of Great American Life Company’s fixed and immediate annuities policies include built-in extended care and terminal illness waivers. The policies also offer a death benefit that’s equivalent to the account value or the guaranteed minimum surrender value. This is usually between 87.5% and 100% of your cash value.

SecureGain 3 

The SecureGain 3 policy offers clients an annuity with a $10,000 minimum investment and a $1 million maximum if they are under 85. This is a fixed annuity that allows you to purchase two three-year terms with the option to surrender it without penalty after the initial three-year term.  It also features a fixed rate of return guaranteed over the two three-year terms.

SecureGain 5

The Secure Gain 5 policy allows you to purchase an annuity with a $10,000 minimum investment and a maximum investment of $1 million. This fixed annuity comes with a five-year declining early withdrawal charge that starts at 9% and a 0.25% bonus interest rate for the first contract year. It also allows you to withdraw up to 10% of the purchase payment or account balance without a penalty at any time. 

SecureGain 7

The benefit of the SecureGain 7 annuity is that you can get an annuity with a low $10,000 minimum investment, but you can also invest up to a maximum of $1 million if you are under 85 in the policy. While this is a fixed annuity, it has a seven-year declining early withdrawal charge that begins at 9% of your account’s value and a 1% bonus interest rate in the first contract year. You can also withdraw without a penalty up to 10% of the purchase payment or account balance.

SPIA 

With the SPIA, you get a policy that requires just a $10,000 minimum investment but which you can invest up to $1 million in. This policy has a payout period of five years to life and allows you a fixed period of payouts. You can also have a joint policy if your spouse is no more than 10 years younger than you. 

Great American Life Insurance Company offers annuities that allow you to withdraw all or part of your money. The flexibility that these offer can be a key part of your retirement strategy, allowing you to get the benefits of an annuity without the risk that you’ll tie up your funds. 

Available Riders

A policy rider is supplemental coverage you can add to an insurance policy, often at an extra cost. Great American Life Insurance Company includes some riders with some annuities, while others are available for purchase. 

The riders offered through Great American Life Insurance Company include: 

  • IncomeDefender rider: If you have a fee-based annuity, you get income payments that start immediately after issue (if you’re over 55), an income percentage that increases every year, and a refund of the rider at death if income payments haven’t started. 
  • IncomeSecure rider: With this rider on a fixed-indexed annuity, you can get income payments that start immediately after issue, income percentages that increase every year, and a refund of the rider if your payments have not started when you die. 
  • InheritanceEnhancer rider: This rider allows you to create a death benefit and increase its value in your account to pass on to your heirs when you die. You can either select a lump sum death benefit amount or an annuitized death benefit for your beneficiaries. 
  • Terminal illness rider: If you have been diagnosed with a terminal illness, you can withdraw up to 100% of the value of your account without early withdrawal charges. 
  • Extended care waiver rider: If you are confined to a nursing home or long-term care facility, you can withdraw all or part of your policy. Some Great American annuities offer this option free of charge. 

The cost for the riders is not available online, and you’ll need to contact the company for those details. 

Customer Service: Good Phone, Email, Fax, Mail, and Online Options

Great American Life Insurance Company has a customer service hotline (1-800-854-3649) that you can call for support from Monday to Thursday 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. ET and Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. ET. They also have a number for life insurance and death claims (1-888-863-5891) from their former policies. 

You can also contact the company via email, by fax at 1-800-482-8126, by mail, or through live chat.

Customer Satisfaction: Fewer Complaints Than Average 

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) rates insurance companies based on the number of customer complaints they field. A company receiving an average number of complaints would be given a rating of 1. A company receiving more complaints than average would be given a rating of above 1. A company receiving fewer complaints than average would be given a rating below 1.  

Great American Life Insurance Company has a 0.07 rating as does its new parent company, MassMutual. This means it fields fewer complaints than the average insurance company. MassMutual receives 0.07% of the national complaint market share. Many of the complaints received were for customer service issues and billing errors. 

Financial Strength: A++ (Superior)

AM Best is an industry rating organization that helps the public better understand a company’s financial situation and therefore its future ability to meet its financial obligations. It rates companies on financial strength by looking at things like a company’s balance sheet, prospects, assets, and performance. 

MassMutual, the company that currently owns Great American Life Insurance Company Life, has an A++ (Superior) rating from AM Best. 

Cancellation Policy: Some Withdrawal Fees

Great American Life Insurance Company does not list the details of its free-look period, which is the time a customer can cancel their annuity without any penalties for a full refund. The minimum free-look period is 10 days, although it can go up to 30 days depending on the state and the insurance company. You will need to contact an agent or broker to find out more information about Great American Life Insurance’s free look period. 

Great American Life Insurance Company’s normal cancellation policies depend on the annuity that you purchase. Some annuities have withdrawal fees that decrease over a pre-set period of years. Some allow you to withdraw 10% of your account without fees. Others will have what’s known as a surrender amount of 87.5% to 100% of the value of your account. 

Before you purchase your annuity policy, be sure to understand your policy’s surrender value. 

Price Of Great American Life Insurance Company: Pay Upfront

Annuities work differently than life insurance because you deposit a lump sum amount into the policy. Some policies also feature either commissions or a fee-based structure that vary depending on your policy. 

There are then several other fees that you will be charged to maintain your policy or to withdraw your funds, depending on the policy you choose. As the fee structure of annuities is complicated and varies so much from policy to policy, be sure to read the fine print before taking out a policy from Great American Life Insurance Company and ask any questions you have.

How Great American Life Insurance Company Compares to Other Annuities

Great American Life Insurance Company offers a wide selection of annuities and riders that can be used as retirement income and provide your family with a death benefit, something that traditional life insurance companies don’t offer. However, if you are considering annuities as an alternative to life insurance, Jackson National might be a better choice. 

Great American Life Insurance Company vs. Jackson National Life Insurance

Great American Life Insurance Company and Jackson National Life Insurance are both former life insurance companies that are now focused on annuities. They each offer many different types of annuities and opportunities to customize your coverage with riders. Both companies are highly rated by AM Best and have a relatively small number of customer complaints compared to their competitors.

These are some key differences between Jackson National and Great American Life Insurance Company:  

  • Jackson National offers variable annuities, which provide a greater opportunity for growth than other forms of annuities. 
  • Jackson National offers a return of premium death benefit and a living benefit rider but doesn’t offer riders guaranteeing your annuity income like Great American Life Insurance Company does. 
  • Great American Life Insurance Company offers very high maximum annuity amounts, with the option for offering higher maximums with head office approval. 
  • Jackson National is the largest seller of annuities in the U.S., giving it a bigger market share than Great American Life Insurance Company.

Read our full Jackson National Life Insurance review.

  Great American Life Insurance Company Jackson National
Types of Plans Annuities Annuities
Customer Service  Phone, fax, online, email  Phone, email, in-person
NAIC Complaint Index  0.07  0.16 
Optional Riders Available  Yes  Yes 
AM Best Rating  A++ 
Final Verdict

Although Great American Life Insurance Company no longer sells life insurance, its annuities policies offer death benefits that return a significant portion of your annuity investment to you with riders that can increase your death benefit. With 19 annuity options to choose from and six different types of annuities, you will be able to find a policy that gives you the risk profile and flexibility you need for your retirement. 

Great American Life Insurance Company is a great choice for people who want an alternative to life insurance that fits into their retirement income planning.

Methodology 

All of our reviews of life insurance companies are based on extensive research and analysis of each company’s offerings, customer service, financial stability, cost, and more. For each company, we compared the life insurance products offered, as well as available features, and reported customer experiences. Visit our life insurance review methodology for the full breakdown of what we evaluated for over two dozen companies.