What Is an Insurance Carrier?

Insurance Carriers Explained

Insurance agent going over paperwork with a couple
Definition

An insurance carrier is the company that provides your insurance coverage. It also employs your insurance agent, who handles all of your claims and may help set up your payments on behalf of your carrier.

Definitions and Examples of Insurance Carrier

  • "Insurance carrier" is just another term for an insurance company. Although you most often speak with your agent, it's your carrier that underwrites your policy and issues payments for your claims.
  • Alternate names: Insurance company or insurance provider

While you may have a great rapport with your insurance agent, what if you need to file a claim? In that case, your carrier's customer service and financial resources will matter most. Your agent can help you through the details, but it's ultimately the carrier that decides the amount of coverage you will receive.

Important

If your carrier goes under, your policy is worth nothing. Be sure you choose a company with a strong history and reputation.

How an Insurance Carrier Works

While an agent or broker will sell you an insurance policy, an insurance carrier may have one or more central offices for handling claims. Agents will often work in smaller offices in places where the carrier offers coverage to you and other customers.

After you choose your coverage options with your agent, they will send your policy to your carrier for underwriting. Then, they will help set up your premium payments. When the time comes to file a claim, in most cases, you'll contact your agent, but in many cases you may also contact your carrier. Your agent will submit your claim to the carrier if you don't do so directly. The carrier will coordinate any follow-up that you need to make with claims adjusters, who work for the carrier. When you receive a payout for your loss, it will come from your insurance carrier.

Insurance Carrier vs. Provider

You may also hear the term "insurance provider" used. "Insurance carrier" and "insurance provider" are interchangeable. There is no difference between a carrier and a provider. Both terms describe the company that's behind your policy.

How to Learn About Your Carrier

If you bought your policy through a large national company, you might know the name of the company from catchy jingles and TV commercials. But even if you bought a policy from a smaller company, it’s vital to know the name of your carrier.

For instance, suppose you set up insurance through an independent agent, and you don’t have their direct contact information handy. You can speed up a claim if you know your carrier's name off the top of your head. It is also helpful when you need to contact your carrier’s customer service center.

You can find your carrier's info in a few places:

  • Declaration page: The papers you receive from the company that give all the details of your coverage, limits, and everything else about your policy.
  • Proof of insurance: The cards your carrier mails to you that you show to confirm that you're covered.
  • Call your agent: Your agent will, of course, be able to provide any information you need about your carrier.

You should know the name of the company you bought an insurance policy from, but you should also know more about it than just its name. Do your research about its reputation. Look into its financial backing as well.

Read through both the good and bad reviews. What sorts of comments occur the most? Recurring issues are more noteworthy than random rants from a single user.

Tip

Each insurance carrier should issue annual reports that provide detailed information about its financial situation. Look up these reports to make sure the company is financially healthy and able to handle claims.

Financial backing may not be top of mind for you, but it is very important. A poor rating might mean that your claim doesn't get paid. That's clearly not a good situation with an insurance policy.

There are five independent rating agencies; each has its own rating system:

1. AM Best
2. Fitch
3. Kroll Bond Rating Agency (KBRA)
4. Moody's
5. Standard & Poor's

Compare the ratings from multiple agencies in order to get a good idea of a carrier's financial status. Check your carrier's rating to ensure that you are properly protected.

Key Takeaways

  • An insurance carrier is the company that provides your insurance coverage.
  • You can file an insurance claim with your agent or directly with your carrier in most cases.
  • You can find your insurance carrier's information on your declarations page or insurance cards, or by calling your agent.
  • You should research a carrier's reputation and financial health before you sign up for a policy.
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Sources
The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Nonprofits Insurance Alliance. "Nonprofit Insurance Explained: The Difference Between an Insurance Carrier and an Insurance Broker." Accessed Nov. 19, 2020.

  2. Insurance Information Institute. "How to Assess the Financial Strength of an Insurance Company." Accessed Nov. 18, 2021.

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