Life insurance is one of the most intimidating types of insurance out there, and the fact that there are so many different types complicates things further.
To help confused consumers, the authorities released an insurance comparison platform called CompareFIRST in 2015. In brief, it allows you to compare different insurers’ policies without having to meet an agent at Starbucks.
Now, we here at MoneySmart are rather big on comparing products before you make a purchase decision, including life insurance, but CompareFIRST isn’t the only website out there that lets you compare insurers. So, 6 years after its birth, is it still useful?
What is CompareFIRST? And why use it?
CompareFIRST is a platform launched by the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE), the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), the Life Insurance Association (LIA) and the government agency website MoneySense.
With lots of big government names behind it, we’re pretty certain that CompareFIRST is legit — even if it’s not the most nicely-designed comparison site out there.
The CompareFIRST website lets you compare insurance policies from various insurers, with a focus on life insurance.
You can search for policies by inputting personal details like your date of birth, gender as well as the type of policy and premium type you’re looking for. Hit “search” and the website will list all available policies, which you can then compare and filter according to insurer.
Where should you start on CompareFIRST?
Before you browse insurance products, you should have a look at the different types of policies available on the site and decide which ones you are interested in:
- Direct Purchase Insurance – These are life insurance products that can be bought online. They are designed to be simple and straightforward
- Term life insurance – This is life insurance that covers you for a specific period.
- Whole life insurance – These policies are meant to protect you for the rest of your life or until a ripe old age like 99. They also help you accumulate cash value using your premiums.
- Endowment products – These are savings plans that help you accumulate and grow your money over a period of time while offering life insurance protection.
- Investment-linked plans – These plans help you invest your money while giving you some degree of life insurance protection. They usually let you manage your investments to a certain degree.
Don’t know what kind of life insurance you need? Take the “Not sure what to search for?” quiz, the link to which can be found right under the slide show on the main page.
How to use CompareFIRST to compare insurance
If you know what type of insurance you need, click on the type of insurance product you’re interested in, input details in the search bar and click “search”.
You’ll find a list of all the available insurance products that match your requirements. The platform will list various insurance policies together with premiums, and you can sort them by premium price.
Click “View Details” to find out more about each product.
You can drag and drop up to 4 policy snippets on the window on the right to compare them. See the column on the right…
Click “compare” and you’ll be taken to a page where you can compare them in closer detail, at a glance.
Pretty useful, eh? But not every insurance product benefits from apple-to-apple comparison. In particular, we think CompareFIRST is most useful for two types of insurance: direct purchase insurance (DPI), and term life insurance.
Comparing direct purchase insurance (DPI) on CompareFIRST
Direct Purchase Insurance (DPI) is special because you can buy it directly online without having to go through an agent.
DPI policies also differ from other types of life insurance in that they are a bit more basic and straightforward. The maximum sum assured amount you can get from a single insurer is capped at $400,000. That might not be enough for some, but for newbies who just want quick and easy life insurance coverage for now, DPI might be the answer.
On the bright side, as DPIs are bought without the help of agents, no agents’ commission is added to the price, making them cheaper than comparable life insurance products.
To browse DPI policies, click on the “Direct Purchase Insurance products” tab and fill in the search fields.
There are both term and whole life DPIs available, so you’ll have to select one or the other. (Click here if you’re not sure about the difference between the two.)
The list of DPIs will then appear, together with premiums.
When you find a DPI you want to buy, your first port of call should be to check out the insurer’s website. Google the policy name to find the page the insurer has set up for it. That’s where you’re likely to find info about how to buy it.
Fun fact: DPI isn’t the only kind of life insurance you can buy online, sans agent. There’s also digital insurer FWD’s Essential Life insurance policy, which is available for direct purchase on MoneySmart.
While DPI plans have a low sum assured limit of $400,000, this one lets you cover up to $750,000. So if you’re looking to buy insurance directly, do compare FWD Essential Life as well.
Comparing term insurance on CompareFIRST
CompareFIRST is also good for term insurance, which is similar to DPI, but not restricted to the $400,000 coverage limit and generally comes with more features, including optional riders.
The process for comparing term insurance is similar to that for DPI. Click on the “term insurance” tab, fill in the search fields and click “search” to see the list of available policies.
The first thing to select is “DPI” or “Non DPI”. If you’ve read the previous section, you’ll know what a DPI is. Given the differences between DPI in terms of features and coverage, it might be a better idea to compare DPIs separately, and to leave your term life insurance search to “Non DPI”.
One important parameter for term life insurance is coverage term — that is, the amount of time you wish to receive the protection. For instance, if you are the parent of a newborn and only want life insurance coverage until your child grows up and gets a job, you would select a term of about 25 years.
You should select “Annual” for premium type, otherwise the search results will show only mortgage insurance (unless that’s what you’re looking for).
Drag up to 4 policies which interest you to the window on the right and click “compare” to light up the features of the plans side by side.
Not sure how to narrow down the options? On MoneySmart, you can get quotes for the most popular and affordable term insurance policies, such as these:
What about whole life, endowment & investment-linked plans?
Whole life insurance, endowment plans and ILPs are similar in that they are hybrid insurance policies that help you accumulate or grow cash on the one hand, and offer life insurance on the other. However, in practice they work quite differently.
These plans are are much more complex than DPI and term life insurance plans. They are also harder to compare side by side as there are more variables — for instance, in the case of ILPs, you want to look at factors like the choice of funds to invest in and premium holiday terms.
For these reasons, they cannot be purchased without the help of an agent. If you’re serious about buying one of these plans, by all means find out more about what’s available on CompareFIRST, and then get in touch with an insurer/agent to understand the plan’s features in greater detail.
Whole life insurance
Whole life insurance offers lifelong (or almost lifelong) life insurance protection. They also help you accumulate cash value, which you can receive if and when you decide to surrender the plan. Here’s an example of a whole life insurance plan:
There are actually DPI plans available for whole life insurance, but we’d recommend that only if you really know your stuff. Otherwise, select “Non DPI” under “Whole Life products”.
One thing to look out for is premium term. The premium payment term is the period of time over which you will pay premiums. If you wish to just pay a single lump sum premium, select “Single” under Premium Type.
Endowment plans are savings plans that come with insurance protection. They are usually used to help policyholders achieve a financial goal, such as saving up for the downpayment on a home or paying for their kids’ university education.
When searching for an endowment plan, you can choose between single or annual premium, depending on whether you just want to pay in a single lump sum or are going to pay in a portion of your income on a regular basis.
The coverage term and premium amount must be selected with care. The former determines how long your money will stay locked up and should correspond with your timeframe for the financial goal you’re trying to achieve. The premium amount will be the amount of money you wish to set aside.
ILPs cannot be searched and listed in the same way as all the other products on this list. Clicking on “Investment-linked products” leads you to a search field that prompts you to search for ILPs using keywords such as product name.
If you don’t have a particular policy in mind, you can search using insurers’ names to find out what they offer.
When the list of policies appears, click on “Download product summary” or “Download product brochure” to find out more about each product.
Then, when you’ve found an ILP you wish to sign up for, contact the insurer directly so that you can be assigned to an agent who’ll handle the necessary paperwork.
So, is CompareFIRST any good?
Let’s be real: If you need lots of hand-holding, CompareFIRST isn’t going to be an exact substitute for a (good) financial advisor.
But it’s definitely a good starting point to see what’s on the market and gauge premium prices, and is very useful if you’re looking to buy a DPI without an agent.
Where CompareFIRST falls short is with the more complex types of insurance like whole life insurance, endowment plans and ILPs. The platform can’t really capture the complexity of the plan’s features. So it’s best that you speak with an agent to understand the ins-and-outs of these types of plans before signing up for one.
Where else can you find free information on insurance and compare plans? Why, right here on MoneySmart, of course. Check out our wizards for various types of insurance to find plans that best suit your needs.
We should also mention that CompareFIRST doesn’t include health insurance policies, which are arguably more important than life insurance. So make sure you have your health insurance sorted out as well.
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