Vitality review – is it the best health and life insurance?

43 min Read Published: 12 Nov 2020

Vitality review - life insurance and health insuranceIn this independent Vitality review, I review Vitality Life Insurance and Vitality Health insurance. I also reveal how to get £50 cashback for arranging your insurance and maximise the rewards and perks on offer, including the Apple Watch Series 6 for as little as £37.

As one of the most widely quoted financial experts in the national press, and having worked in the insurance industry, I walk you through this review of Vitality in stages. I suggest you read the entire review as it includes key observations and analysis of Vitality's proposition, particularly around how it compares to other insurance products, getting the most from the product and the best way to buy Vitality Health and Vitality Life insurance (and it's not from Vitality directly - which I learnt the hard way).

Vitality's marketing department has been in overdrive creating campaigns that include famous faces such as Jessica Ennis-Hill and Jonny Wilkinson as well as the sponsorship of large sporting events. They have also launched attractive offers such as regular free coffees and cinema tickets, free Amazon Prime and even a heavily discounted Apple Watch (including the new Series 6) for people who take out a policy. I personally took out a Vitality Life Insurance policy in June 2017, partly to test the product but also because I think it is a decent policy, especially if you heed the advice in this article. It is a product that offers a huge range of discounts and cash rewards if you exercise and live a more healthy lifestyle. The trouble is that if you blink you'll miss some valuable and sometimes free benefits that you have to opt into. So in this Vitality review, I'll show you how to maximise the benefits and perks. I even explain who should consider taking out a Vitality Life insurance policy and who shouldn't and the best way to get a Vitality quote and cashback.

In a nutshell, Vitality is a fantastic product but definitely suits some people more than others. You need to get the right advice from a specialist who knows the product as well as the alternative options in the marketplace.  I explain who I used in the section - The cheapest and best way to get Vitality health and life insurance including a £50 cashback offer.

If you want to jump to specific parts of this review then you can do so by clicking on the links below.

Who is Vitality?

Vitality is owned by a South African company called Discovery Holdings. While the name may not be immediately recognisable to UK consumers, Discovery Holdings is a huge global insurance company, boasting over 4 million customers. They pioneered the concept of rewarding customers for living a healthier lifestyle in South Africa. In 2007 they launched the concept in the UK with the help of Prudential by creating PruHealth and PruProtect. Following the success of these UK operations, Discovery Limited bought out Prudential's stake in the joint venture in 2014 and the brands became VitalityHealth and VitalityLife. VitalityHealth is now one of the top 5 providers of Private Medical Insurance (PMI) in the UK while VitalityLife provides their life insurance products including the innovative Serious Illness Cover. Currently, their adverts seem to be everywhere especially if you live in London. For the rest of this Vitality review, I will use the overarching brand name of Vitality to refer to both VitalityLife and VitalityHealth.

What products does Vitality offer?

Vitality offers both life and medical insurance but it's important to understand the difference between the two types of policy.

Private medical insurance (also known as PMI or just Health insurance) pays for medical care and treatment in a private hospital or as a private patient in an NHS hospital. Pre-existing medical conditions can be covered but often the level of cover is restricted. Normally patients are referred by their GP for immediate treatment, avoiding the lengthy NHS delays. Premiums are usually paid monthly.

Life insurance pays out in the event of the death of a person insured under the plan within a specified term. If the lives insured do not die within the agreed term the policy lapses without value. Alternatively, it is possible to take out a whole of life insurance policy which pays out when you die regardless of when that occurs. Premiums for both types of life insurance policy are usually paid monthly.

Vitality Health Insurance

(If you are considering taking out Vitality life insurance rather than health insurance jump to the next section)

The Vitality Health Insurance plan is a medical insurance policy (as described in the last section) but with some key differences. Vitality Health Insurance is a product that can be tailored to your needs. As you read through this review you will hopefully understand that the Vitality health plan is unique and you will get the most out of it if you have it tailored to you and your lifestyle (this is easier than it sounds and I'll explain how towards the end of this article). In addition, you will get the most out of the plan if you engage with the reward system. Having used the Vitality plan for over three years, I explain the easiest ways to do this in the section "How do Vitality's Rewards Work?" Vitality Health Insurance can be taken out on a fully underwritten basis, a moratorium basis or on a continued personal medical exclusions basis.

  • Full underwriting - Vitality will assess your personal health before they agree to cover you.
  • Moratorium basis - allows pre-existing medical conditions to eventually become covered under the Vitality health insurance plan as long as you don't make a claim for these conditions before an agreed period of time (i.e. two years from the policy start date).
  • Continued personal medical exclusions basis - for those who may have a current health insurance plan and wish to start the Vitality plan, carrying forward their existing exclusions.

Whichever type of underwriting you choose you can set the level of excess on the policy (the amount you have to pay in the event of a claim) between £0 and £1,000. Vitality Health insurance premiums are renewed each year using 'ABC' pricing, rather than a no claims discount (NCD) model operated by most other insurers. Vitality says that its 'ABC' pricing is fair, intuitive and transparent and you can find out more by checking out its 'ABC' pricing sheet.

Your Vitality Health Insurance policy starts with Core cover to which you can add additional benefits of your choice. The Core cover is unusual in that it includes Advanced Cancer Cover as standard. Cancer cover, covers inpatient and outpatient costs if you are diagnosed with cancer and Vitality go a step further by providing you with their Care element that gives you access to a Consultant to offer help and guidance during what's often a difficult journey for the person with the illness and their family. This is unusual for this type of policy.

As standard Vitality Health insurance also offers access to a GP by phone or video call within 48 hours.  Nursing at home costs and even parental accommodation are covered with certain caveats. You may also have seen Vitality's Full Cover Promise in their marketing campaign which basically means that there is no upper limit to how much they will pay out in consultancy fees in the event of a claim. In a nutshell, the Vitality Health Insurance policy is very comprehensive but also flexible enough to fit your budget or personal circumstances.

So far so good! However where the Vitality Health Insurance plan comes into its own is the ability to earn cashback, premium discounts and rewards (including spa breaks, cheap flights, cinema tickets, a discounted Apple watch or even free Caffè Nero coffees) by exercising. If you are only interested in Vitality Health insurance and are not planning on taking out a Vitality Life insurance policy, then you should check out our in-depth Vitality Health Insurance review, including the best way to buy the cover.

In the next section, I explain how you can earn discounts with a Vitality Life insurance plan before explaining how the benefits system works and how you can get the maximum out of the scheme with minimal effort.

Vitality Life Insurance

The Vitality Life Insurance product, in my view, is the product that most consumers will want and indeed is the product that I took out back in June 2017.

At its heart, Vitality Life Insurance is a life insurance plan much like any other life insurance policy in the market. It can be set up as either:

  • Level Term assurance - where the amount insured remains constant throughout the policy term and the policy only pays out if one of the lives assured dies during the policy term. This type of policy is often used to cover an interest-only mortgage or to provide a lump sum for your spouse in the event of your death (this is the type of policy I took out)
  • Decreasing Term assurance - this works in the same way as a level term assurance policy except the amount of life insurance decreases to mirror the reducing balance of a repayment mortgage over the term of the policy. This makes the monthly premium cheaper.
  • Family Income Benefit plan - works in the same way as a level term assurance plan except the benefit is paid out as smaller regular chunks (like an income) rather than as a single lump sum.
  • Whole of Life plan - where the policy is set up to pay out in the event of a life assured's death whenever that occurs. As you can imagine this is the most expensive option.

So far none of this is unique to Vitality, as I said at its core it works the same as other life insurance policies. You can choose to set up a Vitality life insurance policy on a single life basis, joint life first death (i.e pays out and ceases when the first person dies) or joint life second death (it only pays out when both lives assured are dead). Again, all very standard.

One key difference with the Vitality life insurance plan is the ability to add Serious Illness Cover. The terminology may be unfamiliar to most consumers but Vitality is trying to innovate the Critical Illness insurance market. Ordinary Critical Illness insurance (which is most often bolted onto a life insurance plan) pays out if you are diagnosed with one of a number of named critical illnesses, such as bowel cancer. Critical Illness is often expensive and some industry experts have levelled criticisms over the limited number of conditions these policies actually cover.

Vitality Life has introduced Serious Illness Cover which works in a similar way to Critical Illness cover but the level of payout is based upon the severity of the condition diagnosed. This means that the policy can cover a far wider range of 'critical illnesses'. For example, a typical Critical Illness policy will cover around 60 conditions whereas Vitality's Serious Illness Cover will cover up to 182 illnesses! If you opt to add Serious Illness cover to your policy (as I did) you can tailor the level it to suit your budget as it doesn't have to be at the same level as the life insurance cover on your policy. Some Serious Illness Cover is better than none. I personally think it is a nice innovation which again allows greater flexibility for customers.  I even extended this cover to protect my children on the policy because, unfortunately claims for children's critical illnesses have become a more common reason for a claim in recent years.

How do Vitality's Rewards Work?

On to the fun stuff - to me, the point when the policy becomes truly revolutionary and life-changing (a strange thing to say about a financial product but I explain why it was for me later) is the reward package. All policy holders will get access to Vitality Select rewards with the added gym discount for those spending £25 or more per month on their plan and a host of extra rewards and discounts for those spending upwards of £49.75. (Based on a single person policy)

From £8 per month* From £25 per month* From £49.75 per month*
75% off Champneys Spa 75% off Champneys Spa 75% off Champneys Spa
50% off Runnersneed 50% off Runnersneed 50% off Runnersneed
40% off Polar, Garmin & withings devices 40% off Polar, Garmin & withings devices 40% off Polar, Garmin & withings devices
10-20% off Expedia.co.uk 10-20% off Expedia.co.uk 10-20% off Expedia.co.uk
25% off food weekly at Caffe Nero 25% off food weekly at Caffe Nero 25% off food weekly at Caffe Nero
Free Caffe Nero online item and 50% on other items Free Caffe Nero online item and 50% on other items Free Caffe Nero online item and 50% on other items
40% off Gym Memberships at Virgin Active, Nuffield Health & David Lloyd 40% off Gym Memberships at Virgin Active, Nuffield Health & David Lloyd
Discounted Apple Watch (including Series 6)
Cashback with American Express Credit Card
Cashback at Waitrose
Disney Store discounts
Free Cinema Tickets
Rakuten TV downloads
Mr & Mrs Smith Hotels discounts

*based on the required minimum premium on a single life basis

Behind the flashy reward system is a pretty intelligent and generous engagement programme that cultivates and measures your health and wellbeing through allowing you to track and upload exercise, health checks and even mindfulness activities to build up a Vitality Status. The reward package links to your status and some benefits listed in the table above are tiered according to which level of status you achieve. Earning points moves members up the scale of Bronze, Silver, Gold progressing to the top status, Platinum which allows you to enjoy the top rate of discounts and rewards available.

Points can be earned and enjoyed by everyone named on a Vitality policy. The more points you earn (which is far easier than it sounds) the more perks you get, including cashback rewards, spa breaks and free Amazon Prime. I elaborate fully on how the reward system really works and how to get the best out of it in the next section. But perhaps the most important aspect is that by earning points you can also reduce your policy premiums by as much as 40%. However, even without a potential premium discount as a result of Vitality points, Vitality life insurance is still competitively priced against other life insurance products.

How does Vitality health and life insurance work - in particular Vitality points?

So how does the Vitality point scheme work? If you take out a Vitality Health and/or Life Insurance policy you automatically are enrolled in the Vitality reward scheme. If you take out Vitality Life insurance and your monthly premium is over £25 you'll gain access to Vitality's 40% off gym membership, and at a monthly premium of £49.75 or more you'll unlock all rewards including the free cinema tickets, discounted Apple Watch and free weekly Caffè Nero coffees.

When you take out a plan you are given a Vitality status. The more effort you make to be healthy the more Vitality points you earn and you can increase your status from Bronze to Silver, Gold or even Platinum. The higher your Vitality status the better and greater the rewards you receive. Every member has a login area called the Vitality member zone. The screenshot below (click to enlarge) shows my member area.

vitality health member zone

You can see that I currently have the top Vitality status of platinum. That means I enjoy up to 40% off my annual premiums, I can also get:

  • 2% cashback with the new Vitality American Express credit card
  • Free Amazon Prime
  • 75% off a Champney spa break
  • Up to 40% discount on Waitrose & Partners Good Health products
  • Up to 25% discount on Mr & Mrs Smith hotels
  • Up to 40% off a monthly Gym membership (a benefit which I also use)
  • Cashback paid every 3 months (Up to £400)
  • Up to 50% off running shoes from Runners Need

If you collect enough Vitality points over a two week period you receive free cinema tickets (which can be used at Cineworld and Vue cinemas). Not only that, so long as you hit your reward goals, you can also earn a regular-sized Caffè Nero coffee each week. Now if you have a joint policy, as I do with my wife, the points you both earn individually are combined when determining your overall Vitality status. The level of points for each status level (i.e. silver or gold is higher but not double that of a policy taken out by one person). For the weekly perks like the Caffè Nero coffee, you achieve these on your own. So my wife earns weekly points for her own coffees, as do I.

However, if you take out a life insurance policy I suggest you add your children to the policy. Adding a small amount of Serious Illness Cover to your policy for your children only costs a few pounds each month. However, whenever my wife and I each earn 12 Vitality points a week we both get a free Caffè Nero Coffee and so long as we do this two weeks in a row, the whole family gets a free cinema ticket too (including the children, up to a maximum of 36 tickets per year). To earn 12 points you just have to carry on your normal daily life while wearing a compatible fitness tracker such as an Apple watch or Fitbit so that it counts the number of steps you make. It's that easy. If you don't have either of those devices you can just use your iPhone's inbuilt 'activities app' which tracks your steps anyway.

Now I don't collect my free coffee every week or even go to the cinema with the family very often despite the free tickets. However, the statement below shows I have saved a total of £1,454.50 through the Vitality rewards scheme from June 2018 to May 2019 and my total savings from when I started my plan in June 2017 up until December 2019 were £3,612.94. This doesn't take into account the fact that my wife and I also received £125 each in cashback (so a total of £250!) at our policy anniversary or the Champney Spa break and discounted Eurostar tickets we've booked. In February 2019 Vitality made a change to their cashback terms and no longer offer an annual cashback payment. They now pay up to £400 per policy, paid every 3 years.

Damien's Vitality Reward Statement

 

The important thing to understand is that so long as you live a moderately active life (by that I mean that you do leave the house from time to time) you can achieve plenty of Vitality points to enjoy all of the benefits described so far.

The Vitality reward system is fantastic and this is coming from a guy who hadn't been to a gym for a decade. I didn't do any exercise at all. However, you'd be surprised how many steps you do in a day. If you are able to do 12,500 steps (which is easy if you are chasing around after a toddler or commuting on public transport into London) you will get the maximum number of activity points you can for that day. However, if you visit the gym you get 5 points for going and even more for the steps and activity you undertake. You can see how it's pretty easy to hit the 40 point max level (per person) each week. If you answer a few online questionnaires or have a quick health check you can get over 1,000 Vitality points straight away which means that you will leap to Silver status almost immediately.

The Vitality product is built upon clever psychology which has been shown that if you incentivise (i.e give rewards and cashback) and penalise (i.e premiums go up if you don't exercise) in tandem you are more likely to change human behaviour. This is the reason why I now go to the gym at least twice a week (a guy who never went) and enjoy it. I will walk to the shops occasionally rather than drive and am a bit more health conscious. I am 42 and never felt so good. Truly life-changing. As an aside Vitality are looking to extend this carrot and stick approach with other financial products and have just introduced pension and investment discounts to the Vitality scheme but that's not relevant here. By making me more healthy I'm less likely to make a claim on the policy which is why Vitality rewards me.

Vitality American Express credit card

In November 2019, Vitality introduced the Vitality American Express credit card, a fee-free credit card that offers boosted cashback, exclusive to Vitality members. You can apply for a card if you have a qualifying Vitality Health or Vitality Life insurance plan and you can earn up to 2% cashback on purchases, depending on your activity level and membership status. Check out our Vitality American Express credit card review for more information.

Vitality Apple Watch review

One of the big marketing draws for potential Vitality customers is the ability to get a heavily discounted Apple Watch and with the new Apple Watch Series 6 now available, it is getting a lot of attention. You can qualify for the Apple Watch as long as your monthly cost is £49.75 or more on the Vitality Life contract or if you have a Health contract or both. The Apple Watch sits nicely alongside the incentives as it makes it much easier to track your activity and linking it to the Vitality app can make uploading your efforts simple and effortless. You can choose between the different series of watch released by Apple and customise it too.

How does the Vitality Apple Watch deal work?

Vitality currently has the Apple Watch, Series 6 and SE available in various colours and sizes. You'll qualify for the Apple Watch discount if you have a Vitality Life Plan costing at least £49.75 per month or if you have a Vitality Health Plan - there's no minimum payment required on the health plan to qualify. You'll also need to pay an initial amount starting at £17, depending on the model and options you choose. Once you have made the initial payment, you will be entered into a payment plan over the next 36 months where you will pay between £0.00 and £9.50 each month, depending on how many Vitality points you earn. Earn less than 40 points in a month and you will need to pay £9.50, earn over 160 and you will not pay anything in that month. The image below shows how many points you need to earn each month to reduce the amount you pay for the Apple Watch Series 6 & SE.

Here is how your vitality points offset the cost for the Series 6:
Vitality Apple Watch Series 6 Cost

Given that 40 points is the maximum number you can earn for activities in a given week, unless you were fully engaged with maximising the number of points you earn every day you will end up paying something for the watch each month. I personally had an Apple watch before I even took out the plan so the offer didn't matter to me. The Apple offer is pretty good but only the most dedicated will get it for free.

Waitrose & Partners Good Health food discount

Eligible Vitality Health and Vitality Life policyholders can earn up to 40% cashback on healthy food at Waitrose & Partners (up to £100 of food for a single plan or £200 on a family plan). Earn cashback on every Waitrose & Partners product that carries the 'Good Health' label; the more Vitality points you earn, the better the cashback rate. You can see a breakdown of how this works below.

Monthly Activity Points Cashback rate for ONE eligible plan Cashback rate for TWO eligible plans
0-39 0% 0%
40-79 10% 15%
80-119 15% 20%
120-159 20% 30%
160+ 25% 40%

Who should consider Vitality cover?

Vitality life insurance and health insurance are great for those people who are already considering taking out such products but who also lead busy lives. So if you commute and walk to the office or to the station you will accumulate points quickly. If you have a young family you will not only earn points just rushing around after them but you can all enjoy the rewards which amplify the savings. If you live in London in particular, all of the rewards are easily accessible. There are thousands of Caffè Nero stores and you are never too far away from an eligible gym, cinema or spa. If you do like running or going to the gym you will ratchet up the Vitality points even quicker ensuring that you receive the maximum cashback award of £400 per policy, every 3 years. For me, as my wife was already going to the gym, by taking out the life insurance policy we both got 40% off gym membership (she was previously paying full price). The policy pays for itself via the discounts and rewards, and as you can see from my reward statement above I'm actually better off having taken the policy out, plus I now have sufficient life insurance to look after my family.

What are Vitality Insurance Payout Rates?

If you go online and read forum posts or customer comments about Vitality the few negative comments seem to be disgruntled comments about Vitality not paying out on claims. Yet this is completely inconsistent with the independently audited industry statistics which show that Vitality Life paid out on 99% of claims in 2018, 2017, 2016 and 2015, which is above any other leading life insurance company in the UK. So the reality is that if you are going to pick an insurance company based on their claims rate then you'd choose Vitality, clearly. However, in the section titled 'The best way to get Vitality Life Insurance' I explain how you can reduce the chances of you being in the 1% even further if you do need to make a claim.

Vitality Customer Reviews

Here is a sample of some of the Vitality life insurance and Vitality personal health insurance customer reviews you can find online. You will notice in particular the last two comments focus on the frustrations of dealing with Vitality directly, especially when setting up the policy. When I originally tried to take out the policy I contacted Vitality directly but grew so infuriated with their staff that I almost gave up. Fortunately, I found another way that made it so slick and easy that taking out the policy was straightforward, and I'm glad I did. I explain how you should and can do the same in the section 'The best way to get Vitality health and life insurance?'.

  • "Do it. An enjoyable experience."
  • "Excellent benefits, Sadly the range of Gyms does not cover my area"
  • "The best insurance policy!!"
  • "Waited 30 mins before hanging up! Impossible to get to customer services, rewards are easy to obtain but if anything goes wrong on your insurance don’t expect it to be solved instantly as they must be sitting in their office having a party or something?"
  • "It's a nightmare trying to get them to get back to you on anything."

How much does Vitality health and life insurance cover cost?

The cost of a Vitality Health Insurance plan or a Vitality Life insurance plan depends on the level and type of cover you want as well as your medical history. If you have pre-existing medical conditions then this will increase the monthly premiums, just as it would with any insurance provider. Premiums remain competitive even without the discounts available through earning Vitality points, but the potential 40% premium discount is attractive. You can receive a no claims discount of 65% which you can get from the off, which can gradually increase up to 85%. But whatever you do, do not obtain a quote directly from Vitality and the reasons for me saying this I elaborate on below

Summary & the cheapest/best way to get Vitality health and life insurance - £50 cashback offer

Vitality life insurance, in particular, is a fantastic product which is incredibly cost-effective and can even save you more than it costs (as it does me) if you are moderately active. However, Vitality's biggest hurdle is helping consumers to fully understand the product. Vitality acquires a lot of its customers via tie-ups with employers or sports clubs whereby those who are covered on the company plan are already engaged in healthy activities.

However, trying to explain the product to consumers directly in a succinct and easily understandable way requires a level of knowledge and expertise. Unfortunately, their own advisers, who you speak to if you call them directly, can make what should be a seamless journey harder than it should be. By way of example when I first looked to take out a Vitality insurance product I called them directly, only to become frustrated by their adviser's inability to give me what I needed. I simply wanted the minimum amount of life insurance to ensure that I could benefit from the Vitality reward scheme (with discounted gym memberships etc). As I said earlier, I worked in the industry and know how underwriting works. My frustrations led me to complain.

However, via an industry contact, I was put in touch with an independent life insurance specialist, who is also an expert in Vitality Life insurance products. Not only were they able to quickly tailor the product to what I needed but also get the maximum level of cover for my budget, due to the preferential rates the firm enjoys, plus give me £50 cashback. But more importantly, if you contact Vitality directly they will only sell and advise on their own products. That means that if there are more suitable products in the market (that are not Vitality) then they won't advise you on them (plus you won't get cashback). However, LifeSearch, the insurance specialist who I used (who can be contacted via this form*) will tell you whether Vitality will work for you without any form of pressure selling. They can also offer advice on the whole insurance market if Vitality doesn’t suit your circumstances and you will still get £50 cashback. I am a cynic and so wouldn't recommend using them unless the service had been exemplary. Just put your contact details in the form and chose the time of day to have a quick chat.

A good independent insurance broker should not only advise you, but explain how the scheme works, how you personally could get the most out of it and ultimately process your application. Any life insurance application can take time so you have to be patient but the hassle is taken out of it.

Ultimately I like the Vitality product and have recommended it to family and friends but only when using an independent specialist broker (such as LifeSearch in my case*). It is a product that should be revolutionising the industry and changing lives. It's not managed to go mass market yet but Vitality seems committed to ensuring it does. I for one hope they succeed.

 

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