New York Life Insurance Review: Great Variety of Whole and Universal Life Insurance Policies

Wide range of permanent life insurance policies to fit most budgets, risk profiles and financial goals.

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New York Life

Editor's Rating

New York Life, a mutual life insurance company, offers a wide range of whole and universal life insurance policies, with options to fit many different financial objectives and price ranges. New York Life also offers term insurance policies, mostly similar to those of competitors, with periods up to 20 years.

If you're interested in permanent life insurance, New York Life has great options, but we recommend carefully reviewing their agents before working with one, as customers have a range of experiences depending on the representative.

Good for
  • A wide variety of permanent life insurance policies to fit different risk profiles and financial objectives
  • Large selection of survivorship policies for parents
Bad for
  • No-exam life insurance policies, particularly if you want one with a higher face value
  • Consistent customer support, as experience varies by agent

New York Life term insurance

New York Life offers four different term life insurance policies, each with somewhat different requirements, restrictions and cost structures. They offer the option of a term conversion, meaning you can convert your coverage to a permanent life insurance policy.

One-Year Nonrenewable Term
Yearly Convertible Term
Level Convertible Term
Family Protection Term
Age Availability18–9015–7515–75 for a five-year policy; 15–65 otherwise18–50 for adults; 0–17 for children
Minimum Face Value$100,000$250,000$100,000$100,000 per adult; $10,000 per child
Premiums and Term LengthSingle premium; coverage extends one year.Premiums increase annually; policy can be renewed until age 90.Premiums level for five, 10 or 20 years; can renew policy until age 90, but rates increase annually.Premiums level for 10 years; can renew policy until age 90, but rates increase annually.

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New York Life has two separate annual policies: a yearly convertible term policy (that can be renewed) and a one-year nonrenewable term policy. If you need one year of coverage and both policies meet your needs, we recommend getting quotes for both, as they're fairly similar.

If you're looking for two to four years of coverage, we recommend comparing rates for the yearly convertible term against those of a level convertible term policy. While the minimum term length for the level convertible term policy is five years, the total cost of the annually renewable policy may be greater over multiple years.

The level convertible term policy from New York Life is its most "standard" term life insurance policy, similar to coverage offered by competitors. Coverage is for a set number of years, during which premiums stay the same. The policy can be converted to permanent life insurance during the first 10 years of coverage without undergoing a new medical exam. Alternatively, the policy can be annually renewed until you turn 90 after the initial term length has passed.

New York Life's family protection term life insurance policy offers coverage for an entire family, including both parents and children. Children under the age of 18 are restricted to just $10,000 of coverage each, which is a standard amount as it's approximately the cost of a child's funeral and burial expenses. Adults can choose coverage between $100,000 and $1 million each.

New York Life term insurance riders

New York Life offers several riders for its term life insurance policies, although the selection varies depending on your location and policy.

  • Accidental death benefit: Additional coverage if you die in an accident.
  • Children's insurance: Parents can purchase coverage on their children.
  • Disability waiver of premium: Premiums are waived if you receive a qualifying disability.
  • Extension of conversion period option: A longer time during which you can choose to convert your coverage to permanent life insurance.
  • Level premium convertible term 5 rider: Additional term insurance coverage with level premiums for a five-year period, after which rates increase annually.
  • Living benefits rider: A terminal illness rider that lets you receive a portion of the death benefit while still alive if you're diagnosed with a terminal illness (less than 12 months to live).
  • Policy purchase option: Ability to purchase additional coverage at certain times without additional underwriting.
  • Spouse's paid-up insurance purchase option: If you die during the policy term, your beneficiary can buy a new paid-up policy without demonstrating insurability.
  • Upromise
  • Yearly convertible term rider: Additional term insurance coverage with level premiums for a one-year period, after which rates increase annually.

New York Life whole life insurance

New York Life offers three different whole life insurance policies: standard, custom and value. Each of these policies offers protection for your lifetime, builds cash value at a guaranteed rate, qualifies you to receive dividends and has level premiums. The primary differences between these policies have to do with their payment schedules and the rate at which your cash value accumulates.

A custom whole life policy allows you to adjust the period of time over which you pay premiums, so it may be the better choice if you want to pay higher rates for several years to lock in lifetime coverage. The value whole life policy offers a lower guaranteed rate of return for your cash value in exchange for lower premiums, which may be preferred by seniors or those who want discounted permanent life insurance.

Standard whole life insurance

New York Life's standard whole life insurance policy is available from birth to age 90, but the minimum policy death benefit varies.

  • $50,000 if you're under 18
  • $25,000 if you're over 18
  • $100,000 if you're over 18 and in a Preferred risk class

With a standard whole life policy, premiums are level and paid until you reach age 100, at which time you no longer have to pay premiums, but coverage remains in force. The policy's cash value increases over time as a portion of your premiums go into it, and it grows at a guaranteed interest rate. The interest rate on guaranteed cash value is 4%. You can borrow against the policy's cash value by taking out a policy loan, which is charged interest at a rate NYL determines quarterly.

Whole life insurance policies qualify for dividends from New York Life, although they aren't guaranteed. You can receive these dividends in several ways:

  • Receive as a check.
  • Use to pay a portion or all of your premiums.
  • Leave on deposit with New York Life to earn interest.
  • Use to purchase paid-up additions from New York Life. Paid-up additions allow you to increase the size of your policy's death benefit without increasing your premiums by essentially paying for the additional coverage all at once.

New York Life also gives you the option to purchase a survivorship whole life insurance policy with your spouse. This is similar to an individual policy, but it only pays the death benefit after both parties have died. Premiums are typically lower than buying two policies, since the company expects to collect payments over a longer period of time. Survivorship policies can be efficient if you're purchasing coverage to leave money to your children or heirs, since they're the ones who receive a tax-free death benefit directly.

Whole life insurance policies come with a variety of riders, which are essentially add-ons to your coverage that offer additional benefits.

Additional Cost?
Accidental death benefitYesAdditional death benefit of up to $300,000 that is only paid if you die in an accident before age 70.
Children's insuranceYesLevel term life insurance for your children, which can be converted to a permanent life insurance policy.
Child's protection benefitYesIf you've purchased a whole life insurance policy on your child and die or you become disabled, the policy's premiums will be waived until the child turns 25.
Chronic careYesYou can receive a portion of your policy's face value while still alive if you become chronically ill. This rider can only be added when you buy the policy, and it's available if you're between the ages of 18 and 70.
Disability waiver of premiumYesPremiums are waived if you become totally disabled.
Dividend option termYesIf you want to increase your total coverage in an affordable way, this rider provides additional term coverage on top of your whole life policy. When you use paid-up additions to buy additional permanent coverage, your term coverage is reduced by the corresponding amount, so total coverage remains the same while you pay less in premiums. And you can later choose to convert to permanent coverage.
Insurance exchangeMaybeYou can transfer your policy to another person, making them the insured. There may be a cost depending on their health evaluation.
Level premium convertible termYesAdds a five-year level term life insurance policy on top of your whole life policy. After five years, premiums can increase annually.
Living benefitsJust to exercise riderYou can receive a portion of your policy's face value while still alive if you become terminally ill.
Option to purchase paid-up additionsYesIn addition to having the option to use dividends to buy paid-up additions, this rider lets you do so when you choose.
Payer protection benefitYesPremiums are waived if a separate person pays them and that individual becomes totally disabled.
Policy purchase optionYesThe option to purchase additional coverage at certain points in time, such as when you turn a particular age, without additional underwriting. Essentially, your original health evaluation is used to determine premiums, so you'll get better rates on the additional coverage.
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Custom whole life insurance

New York Life's custom whole life insurance is similar to a standard policy, with the difference that you can choose the length of time over which to pay premiums. Instead of level premiums until age 100 or your death, you can choose the number of years you pay. The minimum is five years, and you cannot pay after age 75. So if you're 40, you could choose to pay for custom whole life insurance for a period between five and 35 years. Premiums are the same amount each year, and coverage is permanent once the policy is paid.

You might choose custom whole life insurance if you're currently making a comfortable income and want to lock in permanent coverage that you won't have to pay for in retirement. It also allows you to fund the policy's cash value faster, meaning it grows more quickly as interest is applied to a larger sum over time.

Custom whole life insurance is available from NYL up to age 70, and policies have a minimum face value of $50,000. They come with a premium deposit account option, in which you can deposit up to nine premiums' worth of money into an account. The insurer pays interest on the money, and it's used to pay your premiums over time, essentially earning you a discount. The premium deposit account option is available in all states, but you'll need to add it as a rider if you live in:

  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Pennsylvania
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Washington

Value whole life insurance

New York Life's value whole life insurance is essentially its standard whole life policy, but your cash value grows at a lower guaranteed rate. Value whole life policies are available if you're younger than 90. While policies don't have a minimum face value, there is a minimum annual premium of $20,000.

Value whole life insurance is a product that carries the features of whole life insurance, by building cash value at a guaranteed rate. But it also has much lower premiums for permanent coverage, particularly for those over age 50. In this sense, it's similar to guaranteed universal life insurance, except those policies build little to no cash value. So, if you want permanent coverage and a cash value policy but cheaper rates, value whole life insurance offers components of both policies.

NYL custom universal life guarantee

If you'd like permanent life insurance but aren't interested in a cash value policy, New York Life offers a guaranteed universal life insurance policy called custom universal life guarantee. These policies are ideal if you want to ensure a death benefit is paid but don't want to pay higher premiums for an investment component that you don't intend to use.

Custom universal life guarantee is similar to NY Life's value whole life policy in that cash value is accumulated at a lower rate than a standard whole life policy, with just a 2.5% guaranteed interest crediting rate. Coverage extends until you reach a specified age, as high as 121, and rates are significantly lower than for a whole life policy.

Custom universal life guarantee policies are available between the ages of 18 and 90, and the minimum face value is $100,000. The period over which you pay premiums is flexible, similar to the custom whole life policy, and premiums are level over the life of the policy. These are available for an individual, or you can purchase a survivorship policy with your spouse.

New York Life universal life insurance

New York Life offers universal life insurance policies, which offer permanent coverage with the ability to accumulate cash value at a faster rate. In addition, universal life insurance policies allow you to use your cash value to pay premiums, meaning you can pay less to maintain coverage over time.

Universal life insurance is available from NYL if you're between the ages of 0 and 90, and policies have a minimum $25,000 face value. Survivorship policies are also available, but the minimum face value is $250,000.

When you purchase a universal life policy, there are three death benefit payout options you can choose from:

  • Your beneficiary receives a payout equal to your policy's face value.
  • Your beneficiary receives the policy's face value plus its cash value.
  • Your beneficiary receives the policy's face value plus the sum of premiums paid (but minus any partial surrenders).

The payout structure you choose will impact the policy's cost, so you may want to compare rates for the different payout options before choosing.

The rate at which a universal policy's cash value grows is dependent on New York Life's base declared crediting rate, which can increase and decrease based on the company's performance. It also depends on the face value of your policy, as larger policies are given a higher crediting rate so long as the policy has been held more than 10 years. However, there is a guaranteed minimum interest crediting rate of 2.5%.

You can also accelerate your cash value's accumulation and give it longer to grow interest by choosing to make additional payments into the policy.

While universal life insurance policies offer greater flexibility and higher potential returns, they also come with greater risk. If your cash value becomes too depleted and cannot cover the policy's monthly charges, either due to premium payments or withdrawals, your policy can lapse.

To help ensure you don't lose your coverage unexpectedly, New York Life includes a no-lapse guarantee rider with each policy for free. This rider essentially gives you the ability to make a premium payment large enough to cover the full amount needed, instead of allowing your policy to lapse.

Instant legacy single premium universal life

New York Life's instant legacy policy is a lower risk alternative to a standard universal life insurance policy. Instant legacy is a single premium policy, meaning you only make one lump sum payment, and coverage remains in place essentially for your lifetime. The policy matures at age 100.

There's a 4 percent guaranteed interest crediting rate, and if you decide to surrender your policy at any point, you'll receive at least the entire amount you paid in premiums, if not more. In addition, the death benefit is guaranteed to be at least as large as the policy's original face value.

Instant legacy universal life policies are available if you're between the ages of 21 and 85, and the policy comes with an accelerated death benefit option if you develop a terminal illness. The minimum premium is $10,000 and the maximum premium depends on your age:

  • $60,000 if you're between 21 and 49
  • $100,000 if you're between 50 and 69
  • $125,000 if you're between 70 and 85

Another benefit to instant legacy is that it's one of the few New York Life products with simplified underwriting. There's no medical exam to purchase coverage; you'll simply need to answer some questions about your health and lifestyle.

Variable universal life insurance accumulator

New York Life also offers a variable universal life insurance policy, which is similar to a standard universal life policy, except you're allowed to choose how your cash value is invested from a set of alternatives.

If the investments you choose perform well, your cash value can potentially grow at a faster rate, but there's the added risk that the investments will perform poorly. In addition, NYL's variable universal life policy only comes with a five-year no-lapse guarantee. And you would need to add a guaranteed minimum death benefit rider in order to ensure your beneficiaries receive a guaranteed payout.

Variable universal life insurance policies are available if you're under the age of 80 and have a $50,000 minimum face value ($100,000 if you purchase a survivorship policy).

New York Life reviews and ratings

New York Life tends to receive positive reviews from its customers, with users citing prompt service and professional staff as key benefits. It receives about one-quarter of the complaints from its customers as a typical life insurance company, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. This suggests its customers tend to be happy with their service.

Among complaints the company did receive, common issues include difficulty canceling a policy, alongside claim delays and denials.

The New York Life Insurance Company was founded in 1845 and has a long history as a financially stable insurer. In fact, A.M. Best has consistently given New York Life a financial strength rating of Superior (A++), which is the best life insurance rating available.

The company has its own customer service team, but New York Life primarily sells policies and handles customer interactions through its agents. While the company receives average reviews overall for customer satisfaction — it ranked 10th out of 22 in J.D. Power's 2022 life insurance satisfaction survey — individual policyholders have a range of experiences.

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author's opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.