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New York Life is a rock-solid company that’s great for someone seeking permanent life insurance, especially if they prefer to work with an agent rather than gathering information online. New York Life’s whole life policies have particular appeal because the company pays dividends to eligible policyholders—and has done so for the past 168 years. New York Life is also an excellent choice for seniors, with policies available to applicants up to age 90. But if you want a robust online experience or a term policy for longer than 20 years, you’ll need to look elsewhere.
Top Rated For
- Best Whole Life Insurance 12 Best Life Insurance Companies of 2023
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- Best Traditional Insurer 4 Best Life Insurance Companies for Seniors
- Best Overall 8 Best Whole Life Insurance Companies of June 2023
- Best for Seniors 7 Best Life Insurance Companies for People Over 50
- Pros & Cons
- Company Overview
Excellent financial stability
Policies are eligible for dividends
Broad selection of riders
Policies available for 90-year-old applicants
Very few complaints for its size
Term policy periods capped at 20 years
Difficult to find some information on the website
No online quotes for term life insurance
Does not have a mobile app
New York Life was founded in 1845 and is headquartered in New York City. It’s the second-largest life insurance provider in the country, with just under 7% of the total market share, as of 2021. Over the company’s 177 year history, New York Life has established itself as a reputable life insurance provider, with a top-notch financial stability rating from AM Best and solid indicators of customer satisfaction from other third-party sources.
In addition, New York Life is a mutual company, which means it’s wholly owned by its customers. Since 1854, the company has paid yearly dividends to policyholders, and in 2021, New York Life paid out $1.8 billion in dividends. The company is licensed to sell life insurance products in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.
- Year Founded 1845
- Kinds of Policies Term, whole life, universal life, variable universal life
- Payment Plan Options ACH transfer or check
- Customer Service Phone: 1-800-225-5695
- Official Website www.newyorklife.com
- Excellent financial stability: New York Life is the oldest insurance company we reviewed. It has an A++ (superior) rating from AM Best, which is the highest possible financial strength grade.
- Policies are eligible for dividends: Although not guaranteed, New York Life’s whole life policies are eligible for annual dividends. The company has paid dividends for 168 consecutive years, which is the second-longest of the 91 companies we reviewed. This is one reason it’s our choice for the best whole life insurance company.
- Broad selection of riders: New York Life offers a variety of riders for policy customization, including multiple living benefit riders that let you access part of the death benefit early. It’s also one of our only top life insurance companies that sells a disability income rider, which provides income replacement if you become disabled and are unable to work.
- Policies available for 90-year-old applicants: New York Life is one of only six of the 91 companies we reviewed that considers applicants over 85 (for some policies). That’s one reason we named it the best overall on our list of best life insurance companies for seniors.
- Very few complaints for its size: New York Life received fewer complaints than expected for a life insurance company of its size, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
- Difficult to find some information on the website: When reviewing New York Life, we found that its website contains limited details about its offerings. For example, you won’t find coverage amounts available for term life. When we tried calling customer service, they referred us to a local agent.
- Term policy periods capped at 20 years: If you are in the market for life insurance, know that New York Life caps term lengths at 20 years. For comparison, most of our top-rated term life insurance companies offer term lengths of up to 30 or 40 years.
- No online quotes for term life insurance: New York Life does not have an online quote generator for term life insurance. Many competitors, such as Nationwide and State Farm, offer online quotes.
- Does not have a mobile app: If you want the convenience of paying your premium and managing your policy on the go, New York Life may not be the best choice. It does not offer a mobile app, which competitors such as MassMutual have.
New York Life received far fewer complaints than expected compared to other insurance companies of the same size. In fact, it ranked among the top quarter of the 91 insurance companies we reviewed, with fewer complaints than some other popular providers, like Mutual of Omaha and Transamerica.
How do we know that? We looked at the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) Complaint Index, which measures an insurance company’s customer complaints relative to its size. An index of 1 indicates that an insurer received exactly how many complaints would be expected, given the amount of policies it underwrites. Companies with a complaint score above 1.0 have more complaints than expected, and companies with a complaint score under 1.0 have fewer complaints than expected.
Over a three-year period, New York Life’s average NAIC Complaint Index was 0.183 for individual life insurance. That means it got well below the number of complaints expected for a company of its size.
New York Life also has the highest possible financial strength score (A++) from AM Best, the leading credit rating organization for life insurance companies. AM Best rates companies based on their balance sheet, debt, and operating performance. New York Life is one of nine companies out of the 91 carriers we reviewed that earned the highest letter grade from the rating agency.
In addition, New York Life is rated slightly above average for overall customer satisfaction in J.D. Power's 2021 Individual Life Insurance Study. It earned a score of 777 out of 1,000, which is one point higher than the industry average rating of 776 out of 1,000. New York Life ranked ninth on the list of 21 insurance companies.
Before choosing a life insurance company, it’s a good idea to compare several different carriers. In the table below, we compared New York Life to two other large insurance carriers, comparable in offerings and size (based on market share and annual premiums).
|New York Life||Northwestern Mutual||Prudential|
|Types of Coverage||Term, whole, universal, variable universal||Term, whole, universal, variable universal||Term, universal, variable universal, indexed universal|
|Dividends for 2022||$1.9 billion||$6.5 billion||Dividends not offered|
|AM Best Rating||A++||A++||A+|
|NAIC Complaint Index (averaged over 3 years)||0.183||0.063||0.511|
|J.D. Power Ranking||9||3||15|
Our ratings take into account NAIC complaint index scores and AM Best ratings. The NAIC complaint index indicates how many complaints a company receives relative to its size. AM Best assesses a company's ability to pay its claims on a graded scale, with A++ being the highest. All our best life insurance companies have at least an A rating.
New York Life sells a handful of life insurance products. Here are the types of life insurance available, and the specific policies you can purchase.
Term Life Insurance
Term life insurance provides coverage for a specific number of years. If you pass away during the policy period, your beneficiary receives a death benefit, which is tax-free money that can be used for any purpose.
Below are the term life policies that New York Life sells:
Level Premium Convertible Term 10-20
New York Life’s Level Premium Convertible Term 10-20 policy allows you to purchase term coverage for a 10- or 20-year period. Your premiums remain fixed for the duration of the term, but after the term ends, your premiums will increase on an annual basis if you choose to renew the coverage. With this policy, you have the option to convert your term coverage into a whole life policy during the first five years of policy ownership. Converting your term life insurance allows you to get permanent, lifetime protection without taking another medical exam in the future.
Yearly Convertible Term
With this policy, you have the option to convert to a permanent policy every year. This may be a good option for people who need immediate coverage and aren’t yet ready to commit to a permanent policy, but will be soon. Yearly Convertible Term policies have the lowest initial cost, but each year you renew the term coverage, your premium will go up.
Million Plus Level Term 10
This policy is designed for people who need at least $1 million in protection. It has level premiums over a 10-year period, and after that, your premium will increase on an annual basis if you renew coverage. During the first five years, you have the option to convert your term policy into permanent coverage.
Whole Life Insurance
Whole life insurance is a type of permanent coverage, which means it protects you for your lifetime. Whole life premiums remain consistent throughout the life of the policy, and provide a guaranteed death benefit to your beneficiary when you pass away. These policies build cash value, which can be withdrawn or borrowed.
When you purchase whole life insurance from New York Life, you’re also eligible to receive dividends based on the company’s financial performance, which can accelerate the growth of your cash value and death benefit. As noted above, the company has consistently paid dividends for the last 168 years. Here are the whole life policies available from New York Life:
Whole Life Insurance
New York Life’s basic whole life policy has level premiums, cash value, and the opportunity to receive annual dividends.
Custom Whole Life Insurance
The Custom Whole Life Insurance policy from New York Life allows you to pay your premium for a specific period of time (at least five years), after which the policy will be paid up. You’ll, of course, pay higher premiums during this time, but this kind of plan can help you avoid paying premiums after retirement. Choosing the Custom Whole Life Insurance policy can also help you maximize your cash value’s growth because you earn interest on a larger amount for a longer period of time.
Universal Life Insurance
Universal life (UL) insurance is another type of permanent life insurance coverage. Like whole life, universal life builds cash value, but the premiums and coverage limits are adjustable. Universal life can be a good option if you want flexibility to skip a premium payment or pay more one month than the next. You may also be able to change your policy’s death benefit, depending on your financial needs and the policy’s performance.
The downside to flexible payments is that if you don’t make sufficient premium payments, or if interest rates aren’t what was expected when your policy was issued, you could have to pay more in premiums in later years.
Some insurance providers (including New York Life) offer universal life policies that can be structured like a term life policy.
New York Life sells three UL policies, including:
Basic Universal Life Insurance
New York Life’s Basic UL policy provides lifetime protection, with the ability to adjust your coverage limits, length of coverage, and premiums, based on your needs. Choosing this policy can help keep your costs manageable because you’re able to lower your coverage limits (and therefore, your premium) if you no longer need the amount of protection you initially purchased.
Custom Universal Life Guarantee
The Custom Universal Life Guarantee policy from New York Life has a guaranteed death benefit, but it does not accumulate cash value and is not intended to replace true lifetime coverage. With this policy, you pay a fixed premium to maintain your coverage, but only for as long as you need it. However, making any adjustments to the policy can cause the guarantee expiration date to change.
Protection Up to Age 90
One of New York Life’s unique policies is its universal life policy called Protection Up to Age 90. As the name suggests, it provides coverage over a specific period of time, similar to term coverage, until you turn 90 (coverage beyond 90 is not available). This policy is a good option for those who need a high level of protection, as the minimum death benefit is $1 million.
Variable Universal Life Insurance
Variable universal life (VUL) insurance provides permanent, lifetime protection, with a fixed death benefit and flexible premiums. With VUL, you invest the cash value in subaccounts, which are like mutual funds, that gain and lose value based on the fund’s performance. Variable universal life policies can be risky because your cash value is subject to gains and losses based on market conditions. Additionally, variable life policies often come with fees and tax implications that can make them more expensive to maintain relative to other types of life insurance.
Variable universal life insurance cash value grows on a tax-deferred basis. However, as with other types of universal life insurance, you’ll be subject to ordinary federal income tax rates if you withdraw more than the amount you paid in premiums.
There is one variable universal life policy you can purchase from New York Life:
Variable Universal Life Accumulator II
New York Life’s only variable universal life policy is called Variable Universal Life Accumulator II. Depending on your risk tolerance and confidence with investing, you can either choose your own investment options or you can use a model-portfolio approach and choose fund combinations that have been selected by financial advisors.
One of the biggest benefits of New York Life is that the company offers a wide variety of riders. Life insurance riders are endorsements that can be added to your policy. Some riders are free, while others are available for a fee. Riders change the terms of your basic policy, and typically provide additional benefits that would otherwise not be covered.
Here are the riders that New York Life offers:
Some New York Life riders are only available in select states or with particular policies, and the terms of each rider can vary depending on location.
Guaranteed Insurability Rider
New York Life offers a guaranteed insurability rider, which allows you to purchase additional coverage without taking another medical exam.
A child rider will provide a death benefit if one of your children passes away.
Disability Waiver of Premium Rider
A waiver of premium rider will waive your life insurance premiums if you become totally disabled. New York Life offers this rider for an added fee on its term and whole life insurance policies.
Disability Income Rider
A disability income life insurance rider will provide income replacement if you become disabled and are temporarily unable to work.
Accidental Death Benefit Rider
New York Life sells an accidental death benefit rider for a monthly fee if you have a whole life policy. This rider pays out an additional death benefit if your death is caused by an accident. The rider is only available for policyholders up to age 70.
Terminal Illness Accelerated Death Benefit Rider
New York Life’s term life insurance and whole life insurance policies include a terminal illness accelerated death benefit rider at no additional cost. This rider allows you to use a portion of your death benefit to pay for your medical care if you get diagnosed with a terminal illness. Although this rider is included for free, there is a charge if you use it.
Long-Term Care Accelerated Death Benefit Rider
A long-term care accelerated death benefit rider enables you to use money from your death benefit while you’re still living to pay for long-term care expenses, such as a home health aide or nursing home care. The benefits you receive from a long-term care rider are usually capped. For example, you may be eligible to receive up to 2% of the policy’s face value for nursing home care and 1% for home health care on a monthly basis. So they tend to be lower than what you would receive from a full long-term care policy.
Chronic Illness Accelerated Death Benefit Rider
With New York Life’s chronic illness accelerated death benefit rider, you can receive your death benefit early (and tax-free) if you get diagnosed with a chronic illness. Usually, a doctor must certify that you cannot complete a certain number of Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) before you can trigger this rider. The rider is available on most of New York Life’s whole life policies, but it costs extra and must be added when the policy is first issued.
Critical Illness Accelerated Death Benefit Rider
A critical illness accelerated death benefit rider will typically pay out a lump sum of money, which can be used to pay for medical treatment if you get diagnosed with a critical illness. In order to use this rider, you must have one of the insurance company’s qualifying critical illnesses. Covered illnesses often include cancer, stroke, heart attack, and major organ transplant, but every company has its own qualifying conditions.
Paid-Up Additions Rider
New York Life offers a paid-up additions rider on its whole life insurance policies. This rider allows you to contribute more money to your policy when you want to, which can increase your death benefit and help you build cash value faster. This rider may require an expense fee every time you make a payment.
Money Back Option Rider
New York Life’s money back option rider is available on universal life insurance policies. It gives you the option to recoup a portion of the money paid into your policy if you no longer need the protection. This rider is included for free on most Custom Universal Life Guarantee policies, but it has a minimum premium requirement.
New York Life has fairly basic customer service. To get in touch with the company, you can call 1-800-225-5695 during business hours, which are Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Eastern Time. You can also contact your agent directly (if you have one). Most agents have a phone number, email address, and physical address provided when you search New York Life’s agent finder database.
Life insurance premiums are personalized to each individual based on factors like age, health, the type of policy you purchase, and gender. Before you purchase a life insurance policy, it’s a good idea to get quotes from several different companies, so you can see which carrier can offer you the best rate. Unfortunately, New York Life does not offer online quotes, so you’ll need to contact a local agent to get a price estimate.
If you identify as transgender or non-binary, it will not impact on your ability to qualify for life insurance. However, there is no industry standard for pricing policies for transgender and non-binary individuals. If you apply for coverage through New York Life, you may have to select “male” or “female” on the application, due to the company’s underwriting process.
Is New York Life Insurance Right for Me?
New York Life is a great life insurance company overall, but it’s ideal for people who are shopping for universal or whole life insurance. Customers are eligible for yearly dividends on their whole life policies and there are lots of riders for customization for whole and other permanent insurance types. Because New York Life only offers term lengths of up to 20 years, it may not be the best option for individuals who are looking for a longer term life policy. It’s also not best for folks who prefer to research policies on their own or apply for life insurance without picking up the phone to talk to an agent, as digital options are limited.
How We Review Life Insurance Carriers
We designed a comprehensive ranking methodology based on consumer priorities and life insurance company fundamentals to rank more than 90 insurers across five general categories: financial stability, customer satisfaction, product and feature variety, the overall buying experience, and cost.
In order to do this, we collected over 5,000 data points and scored each company based on 55 metrics. We grouped metrics by category to see how insurers performed in each; we then weighted category scores to determine how companies performed overall.
To learn more, read our full Life Insurance Methodology.
National Association of Insurance Commissioners. "New York Life Ins Co National Complaint Index Report."
AM Best. “A.M. Best Frequently Asked Questions About the Rating Process.”
J.D. Power. “Pandemic and Tax Code Change Spur Interest in Life Insurance, J.D. Power Finds.”
LongTermCare.gov. “Using Life Insurance to Pay for Long-term Care.”