You can do a lot on your smartphone today. You can buy a new pair of pants, order dinner, and watch a movie. You can also keep track of your calendar, monitor your bank account, and even check your credit score. And if you get into a car accident or your home is looted, now you can file a claim with your insurance company.
Insurance companies have increasingly been jumping into the mobile app world, focusing primarily on iPhones, Android phones, and tablets. If you’re bored in a doctor’s office or airport and you’re in need of some new insurance, you can use your smartphone to scroll around for information. Many apps from insurance companies also offer you the ability to manage your existing account and pay bills just like a mobile banking app would. Plus, each insurance industry has specific apps to help its customers along the way.
Auto insurance apps
Auto insurers seemed to jump on the mobile bandwagon earliest and although the connection may seem curious—after all, driving and cell phones don’t mix—there are plenty of useful apps for drivers.
For example, several insurance companies offer a roadside assistance app. AllState’s app allows anyone—even people who do not have insurance with AllState—to call for the company’s 24/7 emergency roadside assistance team. Describe your problem and the company can send someone to help. The app is free, but the help may not be, depending on your policy.
Another new feature of the AllState app available in auto insurance apps is the ability to show police officers your proof of insurance if you get pulled over. While this feature is available in any state, for now officers won’t take this as an acceptable form of proof unless you live in Idaho or Arizona.
And if you get in an accident out on the road, you can whip out your phone and begin documenting. Many auto insurance companies offer this feature, but typically only for minor fender benders. With State Farm’s app, you can file a claim using its accident checklist, take damage photos, and even draw the scene and circumstances on your phone. Many of these services utilize a GPS function to help a towing service find you.
Homeowners and renters insurance apps
Homeowners insurance apps largely focus on the tedious task of inventorying your possessions in case anything is stolen or damaged. The apps aim to reduce the amount of time, effort, and confusion in documenting your belongings.
For example, with American Family Insurance’s app DreamVault, you can use a speech-to-text function to catalog your possessions without the pain of typing using those tiny little keypads. Similarly, Liberty Mutual’s Gallery app allows you to take photos, categorize your possessions, note purchase dates and prices, and include receipt information.
Health insurance apps
Health insurance companies are just starting to establish a mobile presence. Some now offer apps that allow customers to find medical services and to access their medical records.
Aetna has had an app for about two years that lets customers search for a doctor, dentist, hospital, or pharmacy where the provider is accepted. The app also has an Urgent Care Finder that can find urgent care centers and walk-in clinics. Aetna’s secure site allows people to see their claims, coverage and benefits, health record, and ID card information, and to check drug prices.
This year, Kaiser Permanente released a mobile app that allows patients to access their medical records from anywhere. Some patients can also find providers, make appointments, check lab tests, order medicines, and e-mail their doctors.
Life insurance apps
Life insurance companies are also making headway in the mobile world, though their options are more limited. AXA Equitable has several mobile apps that help with retirement and financial planning, and New York Life Insurance has a mobile web service that allows customers to easily access their financial profile. But life insurance companies really lag in the mobile sphere compared to their insurance brethren.
Ilyce R. Glink is the author of several books, including 100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask and Buy, Close, Move In!. She blogs about money and real estate at ThinkGlink.com and at the Home Equity blog for CBS MoneyWatch.
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