What is rebating in insurance?

Rebating is the practice of providing cash rebates or expensive gifts to potential insurance clients in order to induce them to purchase an insurance policy. This practice is illegal as it creates unfair competition.

Free Insurance Comparison

secured lock Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

Chris Tepedino is a feature writer that has written extensively about home, life, and car insurance for numerous websites. He has a college degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and has experience reporting, researching investigative pieces, and crafting detailed, data-driven features. His works have been featured on CB Blog Nation, Flow Words, Healing Law, WIBW Kansas, and C...

Full Bio →

Written by

Laura Walker graduated college with a BS in Criminal Justice with a minor in Political Science. She married her husband and began working in the family insurance business in 2005. She became a licensed agent and wrote P&C business focusing on personal lines insurance for 10 years. Laura serviced existing business and wrote new business. She now uses her insurance background to help educate...

Full Bio →

Reviewed by Laura Walker
Former Licensed Agent Laura Walker

UPDATED: Mar 31, 2022

Advertiser Disclosure

It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right coverage choices.

Advertiser Disclosure: We strive to help you make confident insurance decisions. Comparison shopping should be easy. We are not affiliated with any one insurance company and cannot guarantee quotes from any single insurance company.

Our insurance industry partnerships don’t influence our content. Our opinions are our own. To compare quotes from many different insurance companies please enter your ZIP code above to use the free quote tool. The more quotes you compare, the more chances to save.

Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by insurance experts.

The Rundown

  • Insurance rebates occur when a company or agent offers a cash rebate or gift in exchange for an insurance sale
  • Rebating is illegal in the insurance industry, and customers who knowingly participate in the practice may face fines as a result
  • State laws may vary in their definition of what constitutes rebating and may make certain exceptions to the rule

Insurance can be a tricky subject. While it’s designed to protect you when things go wrong, sometimes companies use so much jargon, twists, and turns that it’s hard even to tell whether you’re getting proper coverage.

But don’t worry, we’re here to help. 

This article will provide a helpful primer on one of the biggest question marks in insurance: rebating. Considering how frequently we hear this, it’s important that you know how it works. Read on to learn what is rebating in insurance, if it’s legal, how it affects you, and a few commonly asked questions.

What is rebating in insurance?

Companies often offer discounts on their products or services to incentivize a purchase. This is called rebating. It’s a common marketing technique that makes a product or service seem more appealing by cutting the costs customers have to bear.

In insurance, the same concept applies, albeit slightly modified. Insurance companies or agents use rebates to encourage potential customers to buy a policy.

For example, you might see a “rebate” taking place when commissions that are meant for the agent are given as additional compensation to the customer in exchange for a policy purchase. 

The agent or company might also promise gifts in exchange for a purchase — a practice referred to as “inducement” (still a form of rebating). For example, the agent might promise a free vacation or trip in exchange for you buying the policy.

Compare The Best Insurance Quotes In The Country

Compare quotes from the top insurance companies and save!

secured lock Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

Is rebating in insurance legal?

Despite the prevalence of rebates in other industries, it is very much illegal in the insurance industry.

Rebating is strictly prohibited by both the Federal Crop Insurance Act and the Standard Reinsurance Agreement. The Risk Management Agency takes the prohibition of rebating seriously and enforces it as strictly as possible.

These laws prohibit insurance companies and agents from offering rebates to sell their policies. Those who engage in rebating with clients may face serious consequences, including fines and license revocation.

The Issue With Rebating

While legislation governing rebating varies by state, the overall objective is to prevent insurance providers from unfairly marketing products to consumers. This practice is not regarded favorably by insurance regulators because it leads to unfair competition and might harm consumers in the long run.

Here are some ways that rebating can cause problems:

  • Large companies with lots of liquid capital can use rebating to monopolize the market and inch out smaller players in the process. In the long term, this results in higher prices and lower benefits for consumers.
  • There is a severe lack of transparency in the rebating process, which may lead to unfair price disparities between different-sized insurers and intermediaries.
  • Rebating can lead consumers to make inappropriate insurance purchases that do not suit their needs.
  • Companies that engage in excessive rebating may end up not having enough cash on hand to pay out claims to policyholders.

Ultimately, there is no true win-win outcome. Rebates have to come from somewhere.

Presently, insurance rates are set up in such a way that agent commissions have been factored into the total cost. As a result, when potential buyers receive rebates from agents, naturally, it raises the question of where these rebates are coming from. State regulators are concerned that consumers will end up having to foot the bill for these incentives.

Examples of Rebating in Insurance

It’s easy to get confused about what counts as rebating and what doesn’t. There’s a lot of ambiguity. Allow us to illustrate.

Imagine you’re having brunch with a prospective client. It’s good food, and you’re both having a good time. The check arrives, and you joke, “I’ll cover the bill if you take out a policy!” 

In this context, it’s obviously a playful joke. You are not coercing someone into buying insurance. But the question remains: Where do you draw the line?

The following are some common examples of rebating in insurance. These scenarios will hopefully help you determine when a rebate is being implied in an insurance purchase so that you can avoid it. 

  • The agent is offering a direct cash rebate (usually from their commissions) in exchange for the purchase of a policy
  • The agent is offering gifts in exchange for a policy purchase (for example, tickets to events, expensive dinners, etc.)

Compare The Best Insurance Quotes In The Country

Compare quotes from the top insurance companies and save!

secured lock Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

Rebating Laws by State

In the United States, 48 of 50 states do not allow insurance companies to rebate to consumers, with limited exceptions. Florida and California are the only two states where rebating is permitted, though insurers still need to follow strict guidelines.

Each state also has its own definition of what exactly constitutes rebating. In most states, a cash return of the agent’s commission is considered rebating. Some states also recognize gifts or services in exchange for purchasing an insurance policy as a form of rebating, while others do not. 

If discovered, some jurisdictions will handle the situation differently. Almost always, the company or agent will be held liable for violations. Other times, the customer is considered an offender if they knowingly participate in the practice.

The most important thing you can do as a customer is to ensure that you’re in compliance and not at risk of incurring fines. To find out what constitutes insurance rebating in your area, you will need to speak with your state’s regulators.

Exceptions to Insurance Rebating

There are some limited exceptions to rebating regulation. General exceptions include:

  • Promotional items with a value of $100 or less. Any promotional item with a value less than $100 is not considered a gift and is therefore not a rebate. Things bearing a company’s logo, such as office supplies, stationery, bags, or other office merchandise, usually fall under this category.
  • Raffles or contests. Insurers and insurance producers are allowed to organize raffles, contests, or promotional programs with prizes valued at $100 or less. Entry must be made available to all policyholders and prospective customers without a purchase requirement.
  • Referral fees. Under some state laws, it is legal for a licensed agent to pay a referral fee to another party. This comes with the caveat that the customer and potential customer will not discuss specific insurance policy terms or conditions. In addition, the fee must not be contingent on the purchase of insurance. In general, consumers won’t benefit from this exception. Instead, this system allows licensed agents to pay for leads provided by other professionals such as real estate agents, car dealers, etc.

You can find more information on state exceptions by contacting your state’s insurance regulator or visiting their website. 

Free Insurance Comparison

Compare quotes from the top insurance companies and save!

secured lock Secured with SHA-256 Encryption