What Is a Waiver of Premium Rider?

A Waiver of Premium Rider Explained

Senior couple at home reviewing insurance paperwork
•••


kali9 / Getty Images

A waiver of premium rider is an optional insurance policy add-on where the insurer agrees to waive your premium after an initial waiting period if you experience a total disability before a certain age, such as 60 or 65.

While no one expects to experience a disability, especially if they’re currently in good health, statistics show it happens too often to ignore the possibility. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals that 26% of adults—61 million people—in the United States live with a disability. Below, we’ll explore the ins and outs of a waiver of premium rider to help you decide whether it’s something you’d like to add to your next insurance policy. 

Definition of a Waiver of Premium Rider

A waiver of premium rider is an endorsement you can choose to add to your insurance policy. With this waiver in place, you don’t have to pay your insurance premium when you’re totally disabled, as long as you’ve filed a claim, your waiting period has passed, and the incident occurred before your rider’s maximum age threshold (typically 60 or 65). The rider keeps your policy in full force even when you’re not making payments. It’s an inexpensive way to ensure your policy’s benefits (death, cash value, dividends, etc.) stay intact. 

Riders will specify what qualifies as a total disability. It could be a permanent disability, such as losing your eyesight, or a temporary one, such as a curable disease that prevents you from working at your regular job or another occupation for a year. 

A waiver of premium rider is most commonly discussed in the context of life insurance, where it’s available on both term and permanent policies. But you may also see these waivers offered with different types of disability insurance, such as short-term disability or disability income. 

A waiver of premium rider is usually available only when you first purchase a policy; it can’t be added later. 

How a Waiver of Premium Rider Works

The specifics of how a waiver of premium rider works varies by policy, but typically there’s a six-month waiting period (or elimination period) where you must be continuously disabled before your rider kicks in and starts covering your premiums. Once you’ve completed the waiting period, the insurer may reimburse you for the payments you made during that time. You also won’t have to pay any additional fees to start using this benefit or while it’s in effect.

If your policy has a cash value, it will continue to grow while the insurer is waiving your premiums. Dividends are also still payable. In other words, your policy continues as if you never missed a payment. 

You can file more than one claim if you experience another disability at a later point, but you’re still subject to your waiver’s waiting period. If you’re filing another claim on a recurring disability, the insurer may waive the waiting period requirement.

In cases of long-term disability, some insurers only waive your premium payments up to a certain age. Others waive premiums for the entire length of your disability or life if your disability continues past a certain age. 

Activating Your Waiver of Premium Rider

Here’s what using your waiver of premium rider may look like. Say you slip on some ice and badly injure your back while shoveling snow on a cold January morning. You’re unable to continue working, and you file a claim with your life insurance company because you have a waiver of premium rider. A trip to the doctor reveals you need surgery, and the anticipated recovery time is long. 

Your rider’s waiting period is six months, so you continue paying your premiums from January to June. You document and show proof of your continuous disability to the insurance company. In July, the insurer waives your life insurance premium and reimburses the premiums you’ve paid since the accident. It continues waiving your premiums until the doctor finally clears you to return to work in September. At that point, you become responsible for paying your premiums again.

When you can activate your waiver varies by insurer. Some waivers go into effect if you can’t do your regular job. Others require your disability to completely prevent you from doing any type of job for a certain length of time. Others may have a combination of requirements where total disability means you can’t do your normal job for an initial period, such as two years, and then any type of job you’re qualified for after that period.

Requirements for a Waiver of Premium Rider

If your insurer offers a waiver of premium rider, you typically need to be younger than 60 or 65 and have no pre-existing disability to be eligible. Approvals may also depend on factors like your overall health, occupation, and hobbies.

When it comes to filing a claim, your waiver of premium rider lists acceptable documentation. You might need statements from both your doctor and the Social Security Administration verifying you’re unable to work. You’ll submit your documents and any other required paperwork together with your claim application.

How Much Does a Waiver of Premium Rider Cost?

The cost of a waiver of premium rider depends on factors like your insurer, location, age, health, and policy type. For example, Progressive suggests that the cost ranges from 10% to 25% of your life insurance premium.

Waiver of Premium Rider vs. Disability Insurance

Waiver of Premium Rider Disability Insurance
Waives your life insurance payments Pays a percentage of your income
A waiting period of six months or more Waiting periods vary, but short-term disability may be as little as 14 days while long-term disability may require 90 or 180 days
Cost is added to your premium May be free if eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance

A waiver of premium rider and disability insurance are similar in that both provide financial help while you’re disabled. You can also purchase either option yourself or have them offered by your employer as part of your benefits package. 

But a waiver of premium rider and disability insurance serve different purposes. The waiver simply lets you off the hook for your life insurance payment, while disability insurance pays you a percentage of your lost income. For example, Aflac offers a short-term disability policy that pays $500 to $5,000, depending on your income. The same Aflac policy would begin paying you in as little as 14 days after you become disabled, whereas long-term disability may take three or six months and waiver of premium riders usually require a waiting period of six or more months.

And while waiver of premium riders typically aren’t very expensive, your disability insurance may be free if you have enough work credits and pay Social Security taxes on your income. You may also receive free or low-cost disability insurance through your employer. If not, an independently purchased policy may be significantly more expensive than a waiver of premium rider, typically clocking in at 1% to 4% of your annual income. That’s about $42 to $167 per month for someone who earns $50,000 per year.

Key Takeaways

  • A waiver of premium rider waives your insurance payments when a non-preexisting injury or sickness prevents you from working. 
  • It’s most commonly an option for life insurance policies, and you can only add it to your policy when you first sign up. To qualify, you’ll typically need to be less than 65 years of age and not have any preexisting conditions. 
  • These riders typically start waiving your premium after six months of disability, at which point insurers also usually reimburse premiums you paid during that waiting period.