Automatic Premium Loan

What Is an Automatic Premium Loan?

An automatic premium loan (APL) is an insurance policy provision that allows the insurer to deduct the amount of an outstanding premium from the value of the policy when the premium is due.

Automatic premium loan provisions are most commonly associated with cash value life insurance policies, such as whole life, and allow a policy to continue to be in force rather than lapsing due to nonpayment of the premium.

Key Takeaways

  • Automatic premium loans allow for the cash value of a permanent life insurance policy to be applied to overdue premium payments.
  • As the name implies, this would be done automatically once premium payments are a certain amount of time overdue.
  • The purpose is to avoid having a policy lapse, which would terminate coverage.
  • The payment is structured as a policy loan, and so will also require interest payments.
  • Automatic premium loans are only viable if the policy's cash value is equal to or greater than the overdue premium amount.

Understanding Automatic Premium Loans

In order to take an automatic premium loan, you have to have a cash-value life insurance policy, in which every premium you pay adds to the cash value of the policy. Depending on the policy language, life insurance policyholders may be able to take out a loan against the cash value of their policy. This accrued cash value is a value over and above the face value of the policy and can be borrowed against by the policyholder at their discretion.

An automatic premium loan is essentially a loan taken out against the policy and does carry an interest rate. If the policyholder continues to use this method of paying the premium, it is possible that the cash value of the insurance policy will reach zero.

At this point, the policy will lapse because there is nothing left against which to take out a loan. If the policy is canceled with an outstanding loan, the amount of the loan plus any interest is deducted from the cash value of the policy before it is closed.

Note that the policy contract’s language may indicate that no loans may be taken out unless the premium has been paid in full.

Special Considerations

Since the accrued value is technically the property of the policyholder, borrowing against the cash value does not require a credit application, loan collateral, or other good faith requirements typically found in loans. The loan is taken out against the cash value of the policy, and the loan balance is deducted from the policy’s cash value if not repaid. The policyholder will owe interest on the loan, just as with a standard loan.

Automatic premium loan provisions help both the insurer and the policyholder: The insurer can continue to automatically collect periodic premiums rather than sending reminders to the policyholder, and the policyholder is able to maintain coverage even when they forget or are unable to send in a check to cover the policy premium.

The policyholder may still choose to pay the premium by the regularly scheduled due date, but if the premium is not paid within a certain number of days after the grace period, such as 60 days, the outstanding premium amount is deducted from the policy's cash value. This prevents the policy from lapsing. If the automatic premium loan provision is used, the insurer will inform the policyholder of the transaction.

An automatic premium loan taken out against an insurance policy is still a loan and, as such, does carry an interest rate.

What Kinds of Life Insurance Policies Are Eligible to Include an Automatic Premium Loan Provision?

Automatic premium loans can only be made from permanent policies that have a cash-value component. These include whole life policies and some universal life (UL) policies. Because universal life policies deduct expenses from the cash value, they do not always allow ALP.

What Is the Automatic Premium Loan Provision Designed to Do?

Automatic premium loans are designed to keep life insurance coverage in-force even after the policy owner has not paid the required premiums on time. Perhaps the policy owner is unable to pay due to financial or other difficulties, or simply forgot. Either way, the APL provision allows the death benefit to remain even in such circumstances.

Does an Automatic Premium Loan Decrease the Death Benefit of a Policy?

Potentially. Any outstanding loans along with interest due will be deducted from the death benefit amount if the insured passes away before these are paid back.