What Is an Insurance Binder?

Definition & Examples of Insurance Binders

Female small business owner reading insurance documents while sitting in a restaurant.
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An insurance binder is a temporary insurance policy that's in force until your full policy is issued. It allows you to provide evidence of coverage.

Learn more about binders and when you might need one.

What Is an Insurance Binder?

An insurance binder is a temporary insurance policy. It's usually replaced by a policy within 30 to 90 days and dissolves once the policy has been issued. A typical binder consists of just a page or two of information, but it's a valid insurance contract. It incorporates all the terms and limitations in the policy, including the conditions, exclusions, and endorsements.

How an Insurance Binder Works

A binder is issued when a policyholder wants or needs evidence of insurance coverage. For example, say the owner of a landscaping business recently acquired a truck and has insured the vehicle under a new business auto policy. The policy hasn't been issued yet, so the owner needs a binder to register the truck with the state's motor vehicle department. The binder serves as evidence that the truck is insured for commercial auto liability.

Binders are also used as evidence of property insurance. Many businesses purchase commercial buildings by obtaining financing from a lender and using the building as collateral for the loan. The lender usually requires the buyer to insure the building for physical damage by purchasing commercial property insurance.

Typically, the lender won't close the loan unless the buyer produces evidence of insurance coverage. If the policy hasn't been issued yet, the buyer can present the lender with a binder. Many states require lenders to accept binders as evidence of insurance coverage when the policy is not yet available.

A binder is not the same thing as a certificate of insurance. A certificate is usually produced after the policy has been issued. While it's used to provide evidence of insurance, it's not an insurance policy and doesn't (by itself) provide any coverage. It's simply a summary of the coverages and limits included in the policy.

A binder may be issued by an insurance company or an insurance agent on the insurer's behalf. Agents can issue binders only if the insurer has afforded them binding authority (authority to initiate insurance coverage). Insurance brokers have no binding authority because they don't serve as representatives of insurers. An insurance broker may issue a binder, but the document won't be valid until it's signed by an underwriter or other authorized representative of the insurer.

If you purchase insurance coverage through a surplus lines broker or Lloyd's of London, you may receive a cover note rather than a binder. "Cover note" is simply another term for "binder."

What Does an Insurance Binder Cover?

Many insurers issue binders on a standard form published by ACORD, a non-profit organization owned by insurers. Some insurers have developed their own binder forms. Regardless of the form used, a binder usually contains the following information:

General Information

A binder provides general information about your company, your insurer, and your agent. This includes:

  • Your agent's name, address, and contact information
  • Your company's name and address
  • Name of your insurer
  • Binder number
  • Binder effective dates
  • Policy number
  • Description of the insured operations, vehicles, or property

The binder number is a series of numbers (often combined with letters) that are used for identification purposes. It's not the same as your policy number. Your binder will list a policy number only if the binder has been issued to extend the term of a policy that has expired.

For example, suppose that you purchased workers compensation insurance. Sixty days before your policy expires, you receive a letter from your insurer stating it will cease writing workers compensation policies in your state in six months. You need more than 60 days to find another insurance carrier so your insurer issues a binder extending your policy for an additional 60 days. You now have 120 days to obtain coverage from another insurer.

Coverage Information

A binder is typically divided into sections, each applicable to a specific type of coverage. For each coverage you have purchased, the binder should list the limits provided, the coverage forms that will be included, and key endorsements that will be attached to your policy. If your policy covers a building or vehicle that is secured by a loan, your lender's name should appear on the binder.

Cancellation

Generally, an insurer may cancel your binder if it determines your business doesn't meet its underwriting standards. If an insurer cancels your binder, it must provide adequate notice. Because binders are substitutes for policies, they are subject to the same notification requirements that apply to policy cancellations. The requirements vary from state to state. Fortunately, few binders are canceled as most are replaced by insurance policies.

Key Takeaways

  • An insurance binder is a temporary insurance policy. 
  • It’s typically replaced within 30 to 90 days. 
  • An insurance binder is issued when a policyholder needs evidence of coverage. 
  • It includes general information about your business and your policy, including policy limits and other coverage information.