UPDATED: Nov 30, 2018
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Transamerica is represented by the pyramid, both as their logo and at their famed offices in San Francisco, where the building that the logo is based on stands. They are among the biggest life insurance companies in the nation and rank among the biggest in the world as part of Aegon.
Offering mainly life insurance and financial planning products and services through their group of companies, Transamerica has built a strong financial foundation as well as a reputation as a solid company. They’re also well known for PGA golf sponsorships and a wide variety of charitable contributions through the Aegon Transamerica Foundation.
Transamerica’s large selection of life insurance products in particular is aimed at a market that is just as varied, from those in search of a budget term life policy, to more complex life insurance and investment needs.
Transamerica is one of those companies that has had fingers in a lot of pies, although their life insurance business remains a foundation. They’re not the best-known life insurance company, although their logo is pretty recognizable.
Transamerica has something of a complex history going back to 1904, when Amadeo Giannini founded the Bank of Italy in San Francisco. In 1928, Giannini’s bank merged with the Bank of America. Transamerica itself was founded by Giannini as a holding company, which acquired Occidental Life Insurance in 1930. This launched Transamerica into the life insurance industry for which it would become better known than banking.
In 1956 the company split its banking and life insurance companies, and the insurance arm continued under the Transamerica name. Bank of America went on to success, and is probably the better-known company of the two.
The years that followed saw the Transamerica holding company diversify greatly, acquiring an owning interest in such varied companies as United Artists and Budget Rent-a-Car, taking them far beyond their beginnings in insurance and finance.
By the 1980s the company once again brought the focus around to insurance and investments, and in 1999 they were purchased by the Dutch conglomerate Aegon and became a part of their family of companies, launching onto the international stage. The multi-billion dollar deal made Transamerica part of a wide-ranging family of companies and products.
Transamerica offers its products through the following companies, among other subsidiaries:
- Transamerica Affinity Markets
- Transamerica Agency Network
- Transamerica Capitol
- Transamerica Employee Benefits
- Transamerica Financial Advisors
- Transamerica Insurance and Investment Group
- Transamerica Retirement Solutions
- World Financial Group
- Transamerica Life Insurance Company
Among their varied investments and sponsorships, Transamerica has invested in Broadway musicals, sponsored marathons, and is the sponsor of four PGA golfers, including Zach Johnson and Kyle Stanley.
The Transamerica pyramid was constructed in 1972 in San Francisco, and still stands as a notable presence on the skyline. The company has since moved its headquarters to Baltimore, Maryland, but maintains offices in the building, which also houses other companies.
Today, Transamerica’s products include a variety of life insurance offerings, mutual funds, retirement planning, and other options such as dental insurance and Medicare supplements. Products are sold through agents and financial professionals across the nation, with some products also available directly over the phone or online, mainly term life insurance.
Life insurance remains the product for which they are chiefly known.
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Transamerica offers both term and permanent life, as well as specific policies for accidental death and final expenses planning. Beyond life, they also write several supplemental health plans and offer a range of retirement planning and other financial services. Most of these can only be purchased through a Transamerica agent or financial planning representative, and only a few can be quoted online.
Term life is sold in values ranging from $25,000 up to $2,000,000. Transamerica offers a variety of term life options from 10 years up to 30 years, with 5-year increments in between.
Trendsetter Super is a traditional term life insurance policy designed to give policyholders the most for their dollar. These policies featured a level premium throughout the term length and a guaranteed death benefit. They also have a built-in Accelerated Death Benefit that pays out early after a qualifying diagnosis.
This policy can be converted to a permanent policy at the end of the term, and is available in all states except for AL, GA, MD, NY, OR, and WV. In some cases, depending on age and health, they may be issued without a medical exam.
Trendsetter LB is a term life insurance policy that also includes living benefits. It combines the features of a standard life insurance policy with the opportunity to receive supplemental income as needed for unexpected financial needs. These policies also offer the option for an Accelerated Death Benefit along with level premiums and a guaranteed death benefit.
Transamerica writes whole life policies offering basic permanent life insurance protection with the added benefit of a cash accumulation account. Their whole life products are available both for individuals and as group benefits.
Transamerica whole life policies for individuals are available with death benefits ranging from $2,000 to $50,000, and for group benefits up to $25,000. These low death benefit amounts make Transamerica’s whole life likely to be an affordable choice for those who need some coverage for final expenses such as funeral costs, but do not require a large amount of protection. For anyone seeking a higher death benefit amount, this might not be the right policy choice.
Whole life is only available through an agent.
Transamerica’s other permanent life insurance offering is universal life, which offers lifelong protection with a guaranteed death benefit. Universal life also offers cash accumulation with a variety of investment choices that help to grow the cash value of the policy. This cash value can be added to the death benefit upon payout or is available to borrow against or surrender as needed based on the terms of the policy.
Transamerica has several different options for universal life, but offers little detail in their descriptions. The options are:
- Index universal life insurance, which ties cash growth to an index account
- Variable universal life insurance, which provides multiple options for investment of cash accumulation
- Group universal life insurance that provides coverage for a group
Oddly, the Transamerica site doesn’t list any basic universal life insurance policies, which are often the most popular choice for those seeking lifelong coverage with higher death benefits.
A life insurance policy that pays out specifically in the case of accidental death, Transamerica offers two versions of this policy type
- Plan A offers $250,000 in accidental death coverage, with double the benefit for common carrier accidents
- Plan B offers $125,000 in accidental death coverage, with double the benefit for common carrier accidents
Final Expenses Life
This policy is a simple product designed mainly to pay for funeral expenses. Transamerica offers several payment options and the possibility of immediate issue with no medical exam. Premiums and death benefits remain level.
Other Insurance Products
Transamerica offers a few other insurance products aimed at protection against health costs, both from the unexpected and for routine needs. Some of these are available as group plans as well as individual.
Long Term Care – Transamerica writes long term care insurance products to pay for costs not otherwise covered by health insurance. This can include coverage for in-home care ranging from skilled nursing to assistance with everyday activities.
Long-term care varies from state to state, so it’s best to check the product offerings in your state to see what’s available to you.
Medicare Supplement Plans – A few different options are available to provide for health costs that aren’t covered by Medicare.
Medicare Supplement insurance can help pay for co-pays, deductibles, and other costs. These plans vary from state to state, much like long-term care.
Prices and Premiums
Transamerica offers a $1,000,000 life insurance policy for a 20-year term for $39.56, based on our sample insured, a 30-year-old male from California with a clean bill of health. That brings their rate quote in well under the average rate by about 20%, making them a really good value in term life insurance.
A basic $100,000 10-year term policy can be had for $8.00/ month according to their online quoting system which is even less than the $15.00 a month the website promises as the low end of their costs. That’s an incredibly low number, and is again based on the same sample insured.
This makes Transamerica one of the more affordable places to get a basic, traditional term life insurance policy.
Transamerica does not offer any online quoting for either whole or universal life insurance products. Interestingly, they list quotes available for a couple of term policy options that don’t appear elsewhere in the product description, including a Simple Term plan, which is generally a guaranteed issue term life insurance product.
Under the “Contact Us” page on their website, there is a phone number for new customers to get an insurance quote – 1-855-288-4181.
Of course, price is only half the picture – you want a reputable company as well, and we’ll take a look at that later in the review.
Transamerica’s site doesn’t appear to offer any information in terms of how a claim can be filed. After much digging through the site, the best that we were able to find is a life insurance customer service line.
The site lists one general customer service line at 1-800-Pyramid (797-2643) which can probably get customers connected to the right place, Monday – Friday from 9am – 6pm Easter Time.
The Contact Us page also provides an email inquiry form that customers can use with questions about how to file a claim.
There is no indication of an online claims form. Although this isn’t entirely unusual for a life insurance company, but it is growing in popularity and many major life insurers do provide this option.
We also were unable to locate any information on how claims are handled or what the policyholder can expect from the process. Life insurance claims are a sensitive matter by their nature, but we do expect to see some basics offered on the website regarding how the company handles them. It’s possible this information is available through the customer portal, however that does not help a beneficiary who may not know the login information.
Overall, the lack of claims information is quite inconvenient, but not entirely out of line for a company that focuses on life insurance. This is one area, however, where Transamerica could definitely improve their website – the last thing anyone needs when dealing with a death claim is any sort of hassle finding the right contact information.
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Consumer Feedback and Ratings
Transamerica Life Insurance is not accredited on the BBB, and has a C rating from the Better Business Bureau. This is quite a poor rating as most insurance companies have an A+ rating. The site states the reasoning for the poor rating is due to the Transamerica’s failure to respond to four complaints and three unresolved complaints. While there are many different profiles on BBB for the company, the company’s headquarters is in Cedar Rapids so we have used that location.
The BBB records a total of 392 complaints, with 124 of those closed in the past 12 months. This is higher than what we have seen for other life insurance companies. 232 of the complaints centered on products and services, but there are few actual reviews on the site. 392 is not high in general for a very large company, but we tend to see lower complaint volume for life insurance companies overall. For comparison purposes, Northwestern Mutual, which is of a similar size, has only 32 complaints in the same time period.
J.D. Power’s 2016 Life Insurance Satisfaction Household Survey gave Transamerica a low rating of only 2 out of 5 overall. That’s the lowest rating J.D. Power gives on its survey. The company was given a 2 out of 5 star rating across the board of categories that include price, policy offerings, and interaction.
Again, to compare the company to Northwestern Mutual, that company ranked a full 4 out of 5 on the survey.
Looking around at common complaint sites for insurance companies, there isn’t really a lot to report.
ConsumerAffairs.com has 67 total reviews of the company. Of these, 50 are rated as one star. The reviews center on claims problems as well as some billing and other issues. There’s nothing that really stands out as unusual or of very serious concern in any of the reviews.
Some of this can be explained by the fact that those who responded to the J.D. Power survey were approached and asked for their opinion, and may not have thought to go out and write a review on their own. This is not an unusual occurrence with life insurance companies, which in general don’t see as may reviews as do auto and home insurance companies.
Overall, the J.D. Power ranking and the somewhat high number of complaints with the BBB definitely raise some concerns, however without a clear picture of what is causing the complaints due to a lack of detailed reviews, it’s difficult to tell where Transamerica is failing to keep customers satisfied.
Transamerica is a large company with a long history, and they have a pretty strong product lineup, especially when it comes to life insurance. They are definitely pricing their term policies below average, which will appeal to those who are seeking budget coverage from a very solid company.
That said, there are a few concerns to address. First, a company owned by an international conglomerate may not appeal as much to those who prefer to business with local organizations – but that’s not an issue for everyone. Second, what is more of a concern is the poor ranking in customer satisfaction from a very well respected service, and a complaint volume with the BBB that is a little high for our liking.
For a list of companies that we recommend, visit our Best Insurance Companies page.