Business Unusual: Car Insurance Innovations for Consumers

Auto Insurance, Insurance
Car Insurance Innovations for Consumers

From a distance, it might seem like the closest thing to a shake-up in auto insurance recently is that funny new TV commercial. But take a closer look and you’ll find that the car insurance world is steadily becoming smarter and more consumer-friendly. Here are some of the latest developments.

QuickCard Pay real-time claim payments from Allstate

What’s cool about it: Claim check? What claim check? Allstate, in a partnership with MasterCard, can now send customers’ claim settlements directly to their debit card accounts.

How it works: As long as you have an email address and a qualifying debit card, you can use QuickCard Pay. After your claim is settled, Allstate will deposit the money into the debit card account you have on file. This is a speedier and more secure alternative to sending checks.

Launched: Rolled out nationwide December 2016.

Good to know: QuickCard Pay is compatible with MasterCard and Visa debit cards, but not American Express and Discover, according to an Allstate spokesperson.

Insurance advice through Amazon Echo

What’s cool about it: Amazon Echo’s cloud-based Alexa Voice Service isn’t exactly a robo insurance agent, but it’s not far off. Liberty Mutual and its affiliate Safeco Insurance are the first insurers to let customers use it to get actionable — albeit mostly basic — insurance advice.

How it works: If you own an Echo, download the Alexa app. Then enable Alexa’s insurance skill, and you’ll be ready to chat up your new insurance expert through your Echo speaker (or Tap or Dot).

Safeco has prepped Alexa to drop knowledge on nearly 100 insurance FAQs and industry terms so far, plus handle such tasks as locating nearby agents. Alexa can also tap into Liberty Mutual’s MasterThis online knowledge base, an insurance tutorial hub.

Launched: September 2016 for Safeco; December 2016 for Liberty Mutual.

Good to know: Users can also get car insurance rates for a Liberty Mutual policy from Alexa.

Insurance scores via Say Insurance

What’s cool about it: In most states, auto insurers use a credit-based insurance score to help calculate the price of driver policies. However, they don’t typically share the score with the drivers themselves. Startup Say Insurance is giving shoppers more transparency around their insurance scores.

How it works: Say Insurance receives your insurance score from LexisNexis, an analytics company, and provides it to you for free when you request a quote for one of their car insurance policies. To help reduce your rates, Say also adds points to your score every time you renew your policy — 50 points after the first renewal, 100 after the second, 150 after the third, and so on. Note that your score goes up only with Say Insurance; your LexisNexis insurance score won’t look different to any other insurers.

Launched: October 2016.

Good to know: Say Insurance is currently available to Illinois residents, with expansion planned throughout 2017, beginning with Colorado, Missouri and Tennessee, according to Marc Deiter, the company’s director.

Car insurance lessons for high schoolers

What’s cool about it: The average teen knows zilch about car insurance, but that might change soon. High school students in Pennsylvania recently became the first to have an interactive “Insurance 101” course as part of their curriculum. The course module is now available to teachers nationwide.

How it works: The course was designed by the Pennsylvania Insurance Department along with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. It shows students how driving decisions and other choices can cost or save them money on insurance.

For example, students learn that by hitting the books instead of, say, playing video games with friends, they could boost their grades and qualify for a good student discount on insurance.

Launched: October 2016.

Good to know: The “Insurance 101” course module is publicly available for download here.

Smartphone-driven car insurance from Root

What’s cool about it: Startup Root offers a smartphone app that tracks your driving habits and offers you a policy whose price is based on how safe you are behind the wheel.

How it works: After downloading the Root app and filling out a few details, such as your age and gender, go on driving as normal. Your phone will track your driving behavior, such as how hard you brake and how fast you take turns.

After a few weeks, you’ll receive a quote and coverage recommendations based in part on your habits.

Launched: October 2016.

Good to know: Root is currently available in Ohio only, with planned expansion into Illinois and other states in early 2017.

» COMPARE: Car insurance quotes

The FICO Safe Driving Score

What’s cool about it: You’ll no longer need to guess how good a driver you are. FICO — best known for doling out credit scores — is partnering with driver-education company eDriving to calculate Safe Driving Scores. Finally, objective proof that you really are the best driver in the family.

How it works: Drivers need to enable eDriving’s Mentor telematic program on their smartphones to begin tracking driving behaviors. Your FICO Safe Driving Score is based on your performance behind the wheel, including factors such as texting while driving, accelerating, braking and cornering.

The Mentor app also coaches drivers. Auto insurers might eventually use Safe Driving Scores to predict how accident-prone policyholders will be.

Launched: FICO Safe Driving Scores are currently available to certain business car fleets, with a widespread rollout planned for early 2017, according to an eDriving spokesperson.

Good to know: After fleet drivers, teen and novice motorists will be the first to have access to Safe Driving Scores.

Alex Glenn is a staff writer for NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: aglenn@nerdwallet.com.