MetLife Life Insurance Review
Well-priced term group insurance with referrals to outside plans
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Metlife is a well-known name in insurance that used to sell individual life policies in the U.S. Since 2017, they separated their life and annuity business for individuals and no longer offer individual life. Life insurance is instead available through the new company Brighthouse Financial. Metlife offers limited life insurance options through employers with permanent life and term life policy options. We researched their life insurance policy options to see how they stacked up to 24 other top life insurance carriers based on price, coverage options, service, and more.
What We Like
“Mutual Perks” program
Guaranteed issue policy for employees
Group insurance, premiums may be partially covered by employer
Coverage for dependents
Supplemental amounts of insurance may be available
One-year term life insurance options
Discounts for insuring your home and car
What We Don't Like
New policies only available through the workplace (since 2017)
Very high level of complaints due to “delays”
Metlife individual life insurance now managed by Brighthouse
Must speak to your employee benefits advisor for detailed information
Coverage options managed by employer’s choices
The universal life plans do not have guarantees on cash values
The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, known as MetLife, was founded in 1868 and is headquartered in New York. It is the sixth-largest insurance company in the world. You may be familiar with MetLife’s long-standing relationship with Snoopy and the Peanuts characters who appeared in MetLife campaigns for over 30 years.
In 2016, Metlife stopped using Snoopy and the gang in their marketing as the decision was for MetLife to move away from individual life insurance sales, which involved rebranding and shifting their individual life business to a new company: Brighthouse Financial. MetLife has a Better Business Bureau Rating of A-; this rating would apply to all of their various insurance lines but does not reflect their life insurance division alone.
They offer life insurance as well as other insurance products such as home and auto insurance, long-term care, critical illness coverage, medicare plans, and some investment options. When you have MetLife life insurance you may be able to get discounts when you insure other products with them too.
Metlife does not sell life insurance to individuals, they offer a limited selection of life insurance options through employer group plans. Individual life insurance was shifted to Brighthouse Financial in 2017. MetLife is the number one insurer for group life insurance in the U.S.
Are MetLife and Brighthouse the Same Company?
Although Brighthouse Financial came from MetLife, they are no longer the same company and operate completely separately. Brighthouse Financial is an independent company that spun off from MetLife in August 2017. At that time the following MetLife entities became Brighthouse Financial:
- MetLife Insurance Company USA
- First MetLife Investors Insurance Company
- New England Life Insurance Company
- Brighthouse Life Insurance Company
- Brighthouse Life Insurance Company of NY
According to Brighthouse, “MetLife, Inc. divested its remaining ownership stake in Brighthouse Financial in June 2018 and has no other control.” As a result policyholders from MetLife individual life insurance policies that spun off to Brighthouse are directed to their financial services representative for any questions, or are directed to Brighthouse Financial for service from the MetLife “Contact Us” page.
MetLife’s plans are only offered through employer group benefit plans, they offer three types of term life insurance and two types of universal life insurance. They do not offer any traditional whole life insurance policies.
Met Life offers three different types of term life insurance through the workplace:
Basic term life: This covers you as an individual for a set term; the length of the term would have to be discussed with your group benefits advisor since each employer may have different agreements with MetLife.
Supplemental term life: Supplemental term life is life insurance that may be available as an add-on to your regular employee term life insurance plan if you would like to have more coverage. The purchase of the supplemental term life option may only be available during specific periods or “open enrollments” determined by your employer.
For example, one plan we researched offered an open enrollment period in which you could choose to add $10,000 increments up to $500,000. However benefits would then be reduced as follows: reduced to 65% at ages 70, 42% at ages 75, and 31.7% at age 79 and older.
Dependent term life: Dependent term life is term life insurance for your children, spouse, civil union or domestic partner.
For spouses already on a plan, they allowed $10,000 in increments up to $100,000 (or 50% of your optional life insurance coverage, whichever was less), with maximums of $20,000 if you did not have optional life. For spouses not already on a plan, a full application may be required. And for dependent children, coverage of $15,000 was available.
Term Life Through Brighthouse Financial
If you do not have MetLife insurance already and are looking to purchase coverage, then you could look into individual term life with Brighthouse financial. Brighthouse offers life insurance coverage for various term lengths, such as 10-, 20- or 30-year term on level term premiums for limited parts of the term, which then increase dramatically over time. Brighthouse Financial uses medical underwriting so they do not have any guaranteed issue insurance.
If you intend to purchase a term life policy to cover you for a brief time, and then plan to convert to a long-term whole life policy afterward, be sure to inquire about a term life plan with conversion options. The conversion option may help you prevent undergoing full underwriting with medical exams at the time you do decide to switch to a whole life policy. Having a conversion option allows you to lock in your current state of health. Brighthouse offers convertible term life insurance, but only if the option is selected at the time of the policy purchase.
Universal Life Insurance
MetLife offers two universal life insurance policies: Group Variable Universal Life (GVUL) and Group Universal Life (GUL). Due to the investment aspects in some universal life policies (namely variable universal life), a universal life insurance policy may be riskier than a whole life plan.
Group Variable Universal Life (GVUL)
The Group Variable Universal Life plan by Metlife provides life insurance coverage (death benefits) plus the opportunity to build tax-deferred cash values. When you pay into the plan, you will pay the premium for the life insurance portion and pay another part of your payment into an account to invest or build cash values. You may pay premiums into the cash value portion in regular payments or lump sum amounts; you can change this at any time.
The amount that goes into building cash values goes into:
- An interest-bearing account that will provide you with a guaranteed minimum interest rate. MetLife specifies that the guaranteed interest rate is dependent on MetLife’s company performance, so the conditions of that guarantee could change.
- Investment options drawn from the selection of the various funds that MetLife offers, the selection may be based on your employer’s plan selections so you should check with your employer for the most up to date list and plan options.
- The performance and values in these accounts are not guaranteed.
It will take some time for the values to build in your MetLife account before you can access the values through a withdrawal or loan. In the first 15 years, you may only have access to “premiums paid”. Although you may access these values without any penalty or surrender charges, MetLife specifies there may be an administration fee of 2% of the amount of withdrawal or $25 (whichever is less). You should also be aware that in addition to withdrawals or loans impacting the value of the death benefit portion of your life insurance, it may also be subject to taxes depending on how long you had the account, your age or other tax-related criteria.
Group Universal Life (GUL)
The Group Universal Life plan by Metlife offers all the same features of the Variable Universal life plan except the amount you pay into the cash values does not go into investments. Instead, the payments go into a tax-deferred cash value accumulation section (an interest-bearing account with a guaranteed minimum interest rate). Again, in the small print, it is specified that the guaranteed minimum interest rate is subject to company performance and that there is no guarantee that the money that goes into that account will be more and maybe less than the amount when cashed out.
MetLife offers online self-serve options on their website that allow you to download forms to make changes to your policy, including making a claim, changing beneficiary information, or requesting policy surrender by accessing their online forms. Forms need to be sent into MetLife for processing.
Service might be confusing for people who bought policies with MetLife prior to the shift over to Brighthouse. MetLife does include some information to help these policyholders in the FAQ section of their website:
- MetLife policies issued through an employer are serviced through the employee benefits advisor of the employer.
- Brighthouse products can only be purchased through a financial advisor.
Those with policies inherited by Brighthouse may want to take note of the claims process and add instructions to any policies they have for their beneficiaries to easily navigate filing the claim.
Complaints Trend: Climbing Complaints
We researched Metropolitan Life Insurance Company’s complaint history with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ (NAIC) National Complaint Index report and their results were alarming. They have very high complaints (more than seven times higher than the expected norm for an insurance company of their size). Their complaint trend for 2019 was 7.24 with 288 complaints for individual life insurance.
Prior to 2019, they had only averaged about 50 complaints a year with state regulators, which would have been considered at or below expected levels. Since 2019, there has been a sudden increase in complaints that have made it to the state regulators. When we checked the reasons for the complaints to gain a better understanding of what we were seeing, we found that 253 of the complaints were for claim handling delays.
If you are a policyholder or a beneficiary of a former MetLife managed policy that is now managed by Brighthouse, you can still contact the agent who you originally dealt with to obtain help if you are making a claim. This may be an easier path than contacting the company directly and will give you the advantage of having your insurance representative help guide you and work on your behalf. You can also try and access your policy online. If you are not sure if a policy was issued through MetLife and are looking for a policy they offer a policy finder page here.
MetLife AdvantagesSM Value Added Program
Metlife offers a value-added perks program, known as “AdvantagesSM” to policyholders. This is a nice feature of the MetLife life employer-based plans. AdvantagesSM availability may be based on the employer’s plan options, but overall this program’s support services help with a variety of situations such as:
- Funeral planning services
- Guidance counseling services
- Grief counseling
- Will preparation
Metlife ranks 15th out of 25 companies for customer satisfaction in the 2019 J.D. Power Life Insurance Study. The study ranks life insurance companies based on customer experiences and overall satisfaction across several categories. Here are MetLife’s ratings by category, we have also included Brighthouse Financial’s ratings (who scored 23rd out of 25) since the management of many previous individually sold MetLife policies are now in their care:
Financial Strength: A+ (Superior)
MetLife, Inc. has a financial strength rating of A+ (Superior). They were in the top 10 writers of individual life insurance in 2017 and 2018 when they shifted their business focus. They were also the number one issuer of group life insurance and maintain that rank as of the latest updates from the Insurance Information Institute.
MetLife Cancellation Policy
Since MetLife life insurance is offered through employers, their cancellation procedures and terms may vary by employer. The best thing to do is to communicate with your group benefits advisor at work to find out how this would work, especially in cases where you are considering surrendering your life insurance policy. For the policies that were sold through MetLife, but then transferred to Brighthouse Financial in 2017, it would be best to find out the terms and conditions by contacting Brighthouse Financial directly.
Price of MetLife Life Insurance: Low (or No-Cost) Through an Employer
The price of MetLife policies is not available to the public since pricing is negotiated by employers for their employees based on group size and demographic. Often a group insurance plan will have better rates than standard individual life insurance, and sometimes the employer may contribute to your premiums. According to MetLife, they offer their term life insurance through employers “at low or sometimes no cost to you.”
MetLife offers a limited number of life insurance products and only sells through employers. This limited availability of the product may not make them the best choice as your primary life insurance provider due to the fact coverage is dependent on your employer and may be limited to accident-only coverage.
A work-based life insurance policy is always a good option to take advantage of due to lower costs, but we recommend you look into other life insurance companies to supplement your group life insurance.
Compared to other life insurance companies we reviewed, MetLife's complaints trend with the NAIC is higher than most and offers very limited coverage options.
MetLife vs. Mutual of Omaha
Although MetLife offers universal life insurance through an employer, you may still want to compare this with other products out there that have safer investment options. For example, Mutual of Omaha offers a universal life policy that has a “bottom” on the investment portion of the plan meaning you will not lose money even when the market drops.
Mutual of Omaha offers a more secure universal life policy, they are top-rated for customer service ratings, and they have a very low complaint trend. Mutual of Omaha also offers perks and policy riders that provide a lot of advantages in the long term. When comparing MetLife to Mutual of Omaha as options for your life insurance, our research shows that Mutual of Omaha is a better choice.
MetLife vs. Northwestern Mutual
Metlife offers a variable universal life policy and a standard universal life policy, but aside from these two options, they do not offer other whole life insurance plans. If you are looking at a whole life policy, Northwestern Mutual will be able to provide you with additional advantages such as dividend eligible insurance plans, and many more plan options to consider for whole or universal life.
Northwestern Mutual is an award-winning customer satisfaction life insurer who will provide service to you through a personal financial advisor, instead of the benefits manager at your workplace. Northwestern Mutual offers a variable universal life policy, just as MetLife does, but they also offer one with less risk that has a minimum interest crediting rate.
When shopping for life insurance, Northwestern Mutual provides more options, and the ability to give you a wider range of advice than MetLife. In addition, a Northwestern Mutual life insurance policy will be tied to you and not your employment status, so you will not need to worry if you change employers. Based on our research and numerous rankings and reviews, Northwestern Mutual is a clear winner when comparing these two companies for all the reasons mentioned here and more.
If you are shopping around for life insurance options your MetLife employer-based group insurance is a good base to take advantage of. The MetLife group insurance may be available at low (or sometimes no cost), and you may be able to cover your dependents under a similar plan.
Although MetLife is a strong insurance company, the fact that they have very limited policy options puts you at a disadvantage compared to many of the other life insurance companies we reviewed. When looking at anything more than term life, you should check other companies to make sure you are getting the best advice, options, and coverage for your needs.
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