What is the difference between income protection and PPI?

6 min Read Published: 16 Feb 2024

What is the difference between income protection and PPI?In this article, I explain income protection and payment protection insurance and the key differences that you should understand before you buy. You can jump ahead to a quick summary of the key differences that also include how to get help with choosing the right insurance policy for your needs. I'll also show you how to get expert guidance to choose the right type of insurance for your needs and get up to £100 cashback*.

What is the difference between income protection and PPI?

A number of our readers have asked me 'What is the difference between income protection and PPI?', so I have compared the two quite different policies to clarify the situation.

What is income protection insurance?

Income protection insurance is an insurance that is designed to replace a percentage of your income if you are unable to work because of illness or injury. The policy used to be referred to as Permanent health insurance and sometimes goes by the name sick pay insurance.

The policy will pay out a monthly amount that can be used for any purpose but typically is used to cover mortgage payments, credit card payments and other household bills until you are able to return to work. Income protection insurance can be either a short-term or long-term policy with premiums paid monthly. Short-term income protection policies are also referred to as budget income protection because they cost less and provide an income for limited periods of time.

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When does income protection insurance pay out?

An income protection insurance will pay out an income directly to you after you have been off work for the deferred period. The deferred period which is also referred to as the waiting period is the number of days or weeks you are prepared to wait, after your first day of incapacity to work to receive your income protection payment. You will decide the deferred period when you start your income protection policy and it can be between 1 to 52 weeks. You can get day 1 cover that starts paying you as soon as you are signed off work but it is less common. The shorter the deferred period the higher the premium you'll pay for this type of insurance.

The policy application involves full medical underwriting meaning you'll be asked about your health and lifestyle, the advantage is that there are rarely medical problems that aren't covered under this type of insurance policy. Once the insurer has assessed your application, they could exclude a pre-existing medical condition that they feel may increase the likelihood of you being unable to work due to illness in the future. Not all insurers assess your application using the same guidelines so you should always check if you can't get cover elsewhere without the exclusion before you buy your insurance. There is generally more peace of mind that if you were unable to work due to illness or an injury it would be covered with an income protection insurance policy.

What is income protection insurance used for?

Income protection insurance is designed to provide you with an income if your income stops because you cannot work due to an illness or injury. This income would typically be around 65% of gross income and the level of cover should be enough to cover mortgage payments, regular bills and living costs.

How does income protection insurance work?

If you have income protection insurance and you become unable to work because you are ill or injured you should start your claim process immediately. Your insurer will then have time to collect any medical evidence to support your claim so your income can start being paid as soon as your deferred period has elapsed.

The income benefit would continue to be paid from income protection insurance for as long as you were incapacitated and until you were able to return to work. If you have full income protection insurance then this income will only stop once you're able to return to work, reach your retirement age or die. The full income protection option is the most comprehensive level of cover.

Budget income protection options that are sometimes called short-term income protection can be set to pay you for up to 1, 2 or 5 years per claim and this option costs less than a full income protection insurance. For each claim that you make against a budget income protection insurance policy, your income benefit payments will be limited to budget period that is set at the outset. However, you can still make multiple claims and the budget period will usually refresh for each new claim.

Budget income protection insurance policies shouldn't directly be compared with payment protection insurance because payment protection insurance is a renewable insurance and does not provide the same security as budget income protection which is a permanent contract where the insurer couldn't suddenly decide not to renew your insurance because of your claims history.

What is Payment protection insurance (PPI)?

Payment protection insurance (PPI) will cover monthly payments on a loan or credit card if the policyholder is off work due to illness or accident or made involuntarily redundant and is typically taken out at the same time as a loan. This type of insurance may also be known as ASU (accident sickness and unemployment) or MPP (mortgage payment protection).

How does Payment protection insurance (PPI) work?

A PPI application process is far simpler than that for income protection insurance as you are rarely asked about your health history but the disadvantage of this is that there are usually standard exclusions within this type of policy - namely, those illnesses that have higher claims associated with them, such as back pain as well as other musculoskeletal conditions and mental health conditions.  There may be other standard exclusions within a PPI contract too and you should check terms and conditions for what is and isn't covered. For example, the policy may include an occupation definition that means it will only pay out if you can't do 'any occupation', 'a suited occupation' or 'basic daily tasks'. You can read more in our article, 'Sick pay insurance: Occupation incapacity definitions explained'

When does Payment protection insurance (PPI) pay out?

PPI will typically payout 30 days after the policyholder stops working and will only pay for up to 12 or 24 months. Any payments made under a PPI are made directly to the loan company not to the policyholder. It is an annually renewable contract so there is a concern that if you make a claim, the insurance may become more expensive or unavailable to you at renewal which isn't the case with income protection insurance which used to be called permanent health insurance for this reason.

What is Payment protection insurance (PPI) used for?

PPI is used to cover a loan or credit card payment and therefore it is possible for an individual to have more than one policy to cover different loans. Any payments made will be for a set period of time which is set at the outset of the policy.

Key differences between income protection insurance and payment protection insurance

Comparing insurance products that are similar can be difficult as usually the terminology that describes them is similar which is the case when you compare income protection insurance and payment protection insurance. Here are the key differences between income protection insurance and payment protection insurance to help you choose the right cover.

Income protection insurance vs Payment protection insurance (PPI)

Income Protection Insurance Payment Protection Insurance (PPI)
Income security
  • a permanent policy and not a renewable policy that you can cancel but the insurer cannot cancel so it provides long term peace of mind
  • a renewable insurance policy that you can cancel but also the insurer could choose not to renew your insurance at the annual renewal giving you less long-term protection
Period of cover
  • can be arranged so that you keep receiving an income until you are well enough to return to work or you retire
  • will usually only pay you for between 12 and 24 months then the payments will stop even if you are still unable to work
  • you will be medically assessed when you buy so if you are healthy you will be covered without any exclusions to reasons why you can claim
  • is not medically assessed and usually includes standard exclusions for conditions that have a high rate of claim such as back pain and mental health conditions

These are the main and key differences between income protection insurance and you should decide which type of insurance is best for you once you have checked the terms and conditions of a policy for these aspects of how they will cover you.

If you require additional help to choose the best cover, you can contact a specialist personal insurance broker* who can provide advice and guidance as to the best type of insurance for your needs. As a Money to the Masses reader, you can receive up to £100 cashback if you proceed with a qualifying insurance policy this way.

Further reading

A guide to income protection insurance

Can I get income protection insurance if I am self-employed?

Critical illness vs Income Protection - Which is best?


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