Its bright pink branding and innovative approach to insurance are certainly catching the attention of the public and the industry alike, but is Vitality life insurance really worth it?
It can be helpful to talk to an independent expert* who will explain the options, provide you with quotes and discuss alternatives before you make your decision. You'll receive up to £100 cashback when you buy your insurance even if it ends up not being with Vitality.
The big discounts and incentives (including up to 50% off gym membership and a free Apple watch) certainly sound appealing but in this article, I look beyond the benefits to take a closer look at the insurance products themselves to explain:
- What Vitality offers its customers
- How Vitality life insurance compares to other insurance solutions available in the market
- How Vitality ‘critical illness insurance’ differs from the rest of the market
- Who should consider Vitality life insurance and who shouldn't
After all, it’s the life insurance that will protect customers financially should they be faced with illness or death. While Vitality provides other insurance products this article focuses on the Vitality life insurance product and its critical illness policy.
For a full road test and review of Vitality, including showing how the discounts and rewards work and who should and shouldn’t consider Vitality life and Vitality health insurance read my full Vitality review.
What is covered by Vitality Life Insurance?
Looking at the life insurance products offered by Vitality, in the main they are similar to the products offered by other companies; namely life insurance, income protection insurance and whole of life insurance. Vitality's life insurance products include terminal illness benefit as standard which is in keeping with what you would expect from most good quality life insurance products so that an early death claim can be made if the policyholder is expected to live for less than 12 months. The one exception is Vitality’s version of critical illness insurance, which it calls Serious Illness Cover. Serious Illness Cover was Vitality’s flagship product when it entered the UK insurance market in 2007. I will look at the Serious Illness Cover in more detail in the next section.
Vitality's life insurance options
- Term life insurance - this type of policy pays out if any of the lives assured die within the policy term which is the period of time the life insurance will continue for. The amount of life insurance can remain level (known as level term assurance), decrease over time (known as decreasing life assurance) or remain level but paid out in instalments rather than a one-off lump sum in the event of death (known as family income benefit)
- Whole of life - this type of policy has no term, within which you have to die for it to pay out. It will pay out whenever you die and therefore tends to be more expensive.
- Income protection - this will pay out a regular income which equates to a percentage of your salary if you are unable to work due to an accident or ill-health.
Vitality's additional options
- Serious illness cover - severity-based illness insurance that pays a lump sum if you are diagnosed with a serious illness. The lump sum paid is between 5-100% of your chosen serious illness cover value. The percentage varies depending on the severity of the diagnosis and whether you choose the 1x, 2x or 3x versions.
- Dementia and frail care cover - only available with serious illness insurance and pays either half or all of the serious illness insurance amount. You'll be covered for half of your serious illness cover amount if you choose the free option and the full amount if you pay an extra £4 per month. Although it is added to the policy either at outset or during the term, it is properly priced once the serious illness policy ends to provide cover for later life insurance.
What is Vitality Serious Illness Insurance cover?
As mentioned above Serious Illness Cover is Vitality’s version of critical illness insurance. To understand how it differs from traditional critical illness insurance here is a quick reminder of how critical illness insurance works.
What is critical illness insurance?
The first-ever critical illness insurance product was launched in the 1980s and was referred to as dread disease insurance. It would pay out the value of the insurance if the customer was diagnosed with one of a handful of critical illnesses, such as cancer. The customer could then use that payout as they wished, perhaps to pay off the mortgage and their policy would come to an end.
Back in the 1980s, if you developed one of these illnesses, say cancer, you would sadly have had a greater chance of dying from the condition than you would do today. Cancers were detected at later stages because we didn’t have the advanced screening approaches that we have now and the treatment methods weren’t as effective, so survival rates were low.
It made sense for critical illness insurance to work in the way that it did, paying out the full value of the insurance on diagnosis of an advanced illness, or most likely death, and then terminating. The payout would be used to prevent financial hardship while the person recovered or helped put their financial affairs in order if the illness was terminal. Most modern critical illness policies still work in the same way although the conditions covered will be different. They are therefore expensive as a result.
How does Vitality Serious Illness cover differ?
Vitality’s approach to critical illness insurance differs from traditional critical illness insurance in two key ways:
- Vitality Serious Illness insurance pays out amounts that match the severity of an illness, rather than the full value of the insurance. Vitality pays out on the diagnosis of an illness based on a severity scale, for example, a Stage I cancer sufferer might receive 25% of the cover amount, and a Stage IV cancer sufferer might receive 100%. This is because Vitality takes into account the fact that the financial impact of illness today is less than it was historically due to improvements in treatment methods.
- Provides the ability to claim multiple times on the policy. Most critical illness policies pay out just once and then expire. Vitality believes that because we are living longer and surviving illnesses that were once life-threatening a policy should reflect this and be able to pay out more than once.
Serious illness cover & Serious illness cover Plus
Vitality offers three tiers of serious illness cover - Serious illness cover 1x, Serious illness cover 2x and Serious illness cover 3x
- Serious illness cover 1x is the standard product, covering 114 conditions on a severity-basis. It can pay out multiple times until all the cover amount is used.
- Serious illness cover 2x covers an additional 29 conditions, totalling 143 and pays out in full for 74 conditions. It can pay out up to two times the level of cover chosen over the length of the plan.
- Serious illness cover 3x this is Vitality’s premier product. It contains all the benefits of 2x, plus it covers an additional 31 lower-severity conditions, making a total of 174 conditions. It pays out up to three times the level of cover chosen over the length of the plan.
Vitality prides itself on offering the most extensive critical illness protection with its plus product covering 174 conditions on its 3x serious illness cover. This compares to around 75 for a typical critical illness policy. Vitality strongly believes the product delivers more value and peace of mind to customers as it is up to 3 times more likely to provide a payout than traditional products, simply because of the sheer number of conditions covered.
When a customer takes out Serious Illness Cover with Vitality they will receive the Vitality life insurance terms and conditions which will list all the conditions covered and at what severity level they will be paid. As someone who has taken out a Vitality life insurance policy with Serious Illness Cover I can confirm that this is quite a lengthy document!
What is not typically covered by Vitality Life Insurance & Serious Illness Cover?
I like what Vitality is trying to achieve with its life insurance and serious illness cover policies by designing a product that differs from the more traditional products available. However, it’s worth being aware of a few shortfalls of the product which could possibly make other life insurance or critical illness insurance products more suitable for you.
Vitality’s severity-based payments for the serious illness policy mean that there could be cases where you receive a smaller payout from the policy than you would have done with a different critical illness insurance product. For example, you might receive a 50% payout from Vitality for a heart attack, whereas you would receive 100% from another insurance company. But, remember that once the 100% is paid out on the latter policy it would cease. With Vitality, in this scenario, you’d still have 50% of your cover amount remaining if you needed to claim again.
Back in 2007 Vitality’s Serious Illness Cover was miles ahead of the other critical illness products in terms of the number of conditions covered and the early-stage payouts, however over the last few years many of the other insurance companies have improved their critical illness products significantly, closing the gap on Vitality’s product and offering great alternatives which cover a large number of conditions, while also paying out 100% of the cover amount for most illnesses. Vitality's answer to this is the Serious illness cover booster which I describe below.
There are many options and extras to choose from with Vitality and it can prove difficult to understand. For this reason, I would suggest that you speak to an independent insurance expert* to ensure you've selected the right options and compare these with what the rest of the insurance market has to offer.
Serious illness cover booster
Vitality introduced the ability to select a serious illness cover booster to compete with full payout traditional critical illness insurance.
The serious illness cover booster is an option that you can select when you buy your insurance at an extra cost. The booster enhances the payout for certain illnesses to pay 100% of the cover amount matching an equivalent critical illness policy. It even provides up to 200% of the cover amount for very serious health impacts such as blindness, loss of speech or total and permanent disability depending on your age.
Customers who are concerned that they may end up with less money if they claimed for certain illnesses through Vitality compared with a different insurer can then rest assured that they have enhanced the cover amount for the higher severity of illnesses albeit at an extra cost.
Vitality protected life and serious illness cover
Another option available at an extra cost is Protected cover - this option boosts your cover amount back up to its original amount after a claim. So, for example, if you had £50,000 of cover and claimed for an illness that pays 50% of the cover amount, you'd receive £25,000 and the cover would be protected at £50,000 so that you could claim again. It's a unique option and one that could be very valuable.
Why choose serious illness cover?
It all comes down to why you’re buying the life insurance and/or serious illness cover, if the sole purpose is to pay off your mortgage in full if you die or are diagnosed with a critical illness then perhaps the more traditional products would be more suited to your needs because they are more likely to pay out the full value of the insurance. Vitality has a good track record for claims having paid out over 99% of life insurance claims in 2021 as well as in previous years.
If you plan to just take out a Vitality life insurance policy without the Serious Illness Cover then the policy works in the same way as other life insurance policies out there (i.e in terms of what is and isn't covered). However, you can benefit from a range of rewards if you take out a Vitality life insurance product as described below.
What Vitality Life insurance benefits and rewards do you receive?
Customers paying more than £25 per month qualify for discounts and rewards under Vitality Select and at £45 plus an optimising fee of £4.75 you can access the full suite of discounts and rewards using Vitality Plus. I access the full discounts and rewards using Vitality Plus.
The optimising fee also provides customers with an upfront discount and the ability to control their future premiums by earning Vitality points and building a Vitality status (bronze, silver, gold, platinum) through living a healthy lifestyle. Their status determines how their premiums change over time, so the higher their status, the lower their premiums will be. Vitality makes it easier for customers to live healthier by offering discounts on wearable fitness devices like Apple Watch and Fitbit, and incentivise healthy living by awarding weekly cinema tickets and Caffe Nero coffees. You can also get 20% off up to 4 Expedia hotel bookings each year, 75% off Champneys Spa days and breaks as well as discounted gym memberships (as I have).
While Vitality’s Serious Illness Cover isn’t cheap, a product that is up to three times more likely to pay out than its peers is naturally going to be at the more expensive end of the market. Vitality's most recent claims report stated that, "1 in 8 Serious Illness Cover claims wouldn't have been paid by a typical critical illness provider".
But this is where Vitality has been clever by offering a way for customers to buy their Serious Illness Cover at a more affordable price by bringing in the idea of healthy living, as described above.
Of course, if you don’t start earning points, your Serious Illness Cover and/or life insurance premiums could go up by as much as 4% each year with the Vitality optimiser. So although your premiums may appear cheaper at outset you could find that over the course of a few years your Vitality policy becomes more expensive than other critical illness or life insurance products available in the market.
How much does Vitality Life insurance cost?
Vitality life insurance does sit at the more expensive end of the market, particularly if you’re considering their Serious Illness Cover. However, it is possible to buy Serious Illness Cover for as little as £8 a month with Vitality.
Monthly cost of Vitality life insurance
|Age||Monthly premium*||Amount of level life insurance over 20 years|
*premiums based on a non-smoker with no adverse medical conditions or lifestyle
Monthly cost of Vitality serious illness insurance
|Age||Monthly premium*||Amount of level serious illness insurance over 20 years (includes life insurance)|
*premiums based on a non-smoker with no adverse medical conditions or lifestyle
You can qualify for all of Vitality's member benefits if you have a health insurance (private medical insurance) plan costing at least £38 per month with them but as we're looking at life insurance, I'll explain how the rewards scheme works for life products such as life insurance, serious illness insurance, income protection and whole of life cover.
Two tiers of membership - Vitality Plus and Vitality Select
Depending on how much you pay each month, you'll qualify for either a Vitality Plus or Vitality Select membership. The tiers provide access to different member rewards and benefits. Bear in mind that most rewards are unlocked when you achieve a certain level of activity and wellness points so you do have to earn them.
Vitality plus membership is achieved if your monthly premium is greater than £45 per month for a single-person plan or £60 for a joint-person plan. You pay a fee of £4.75 per adult and £2.00 per child in addition to your monthly premium for the insurance. So, the minimum you'd have to pay each month to qualify for Vitality Plus membership for a single-person plan is £49.75 and £69.50 for the joint-person plan.
Of course, you don’t have to take out Serious Illness Cover, you can just take out Vitality life insurance and still benefit from the Vitality rewards programme. To fully understand how this works read my full Vitality review. However, in short, your monthly premium Vitality life insurance premium needs to be over £25.
This is certainly more costly than other insurance products for the same level of cover. However, if you factor in the savings you can make through the Vitality discounts and rewards it’s very easy to see how the Vitality product can pay for itself.
Summary - Is Vitality Life Insurance worth it?
I like the Vitality product, I have my own life insurance and serious illness cover with them and benefit from the various discounts and rewards I get with my policy, having saved over £1,000 in the first year of my policy.
Having said that, I can see that the product isn’t for everyone. Being quite young and fairly fit, I find it easy to engage with my Vitality policy, earn my fitness points and gain rewards using my Vitality app without changing my daily routine that much. I’m therefore able to save a significant amount of money with my policy and control my annual premiums.
I imagine if you’re older, perhaps less able to exercise, less tech-savvy, the value of the Vitality policy becomes less obvious. And what if you live in the Scottish Highlands or a similarly isolated region? Whilst that won’t stop you from exercising it may restrict your access to some of the discounts and rewards, like the cinema tickets or gym discounts, simply because of the travel time involved.
Add to this a desire to have a simple life insurance policy in place to pay off a mortgage should the worst happen, other more straightforward products available elsewhere could offer a better solution, and in fact be more cost-effective for some customers.
To work out whether Vitality is the right solution for you speak to an independent life and illness insurance expert*. They will provide you with unbiased advice and guidance and show you cost comparisons to help you choose the best solution for you and your family. As a Money to the Masses reader you'll receive up to £100 cashback regardless of which insurance company's policy you end up buying through the adviser.
Vitality is transforming an arguably stagnant market as innovators with a vision that extends far beyond the realms of insurance, trying to drive the health and wellbeing of the nation. But the big question is, does Vitality offer the best life insurance? For the right kind of customer, it definitely can do.
If you’d like to find out more about Vitality please read my full Vitality Review
If a link has an * beside it this means that it is an affiliated link. If you go via the link, Money to the Masses may receive a small fee which helps keep Money to the Masses free to use. The following link can be used if you do not wish to help Money to the Masses and do not wish to qualify for the cashback referred to in the article - LifeSearch