Most insurers let you add critical illness cover to a life insurance policy. This would pay out if you die or get diagnosed with a serious condition during the policy's term.

Why get it?

It could give you a lump sum of money to help you pay the bills or support loved ones should you face a serious illness, injury or disability.

Here are the main pros and cons of critical illness cover:

  • Lump sum when you need it

  • Available later in life

  • Claim on a range of conditions

  • High monthly premiums

  • Age restrictions apply

  • Conditions covered can vary

Most insurer's specify how serious your condition must be before they will pay your claim. For example, a spinal stroke that resulted in permanent symptoms.

Choosing the right policy

Each policy covers up to a set number of conditions, and this will vary depending on your insurer.

Here are some examples taken from a critical illness cover policy provided by Legal & General:

  • Cancer, excluding less advanced cases

  • Alzheimer's disease, resulting in permanent symptoms

  • Liver failure, of advanced stage

  • Paralysis of a limb, total and irreversible

  • Third degree burns, covering 20% of your body's surface area or 20% of your face or head

Check the policy document before you apply to understand the level of cover you are taking out.

How much cover to get

To choose the right amount of cover, write a budget to see how much you spend on outgoings each month.

If you are unable to work due to a serious medical condition you will need to have enough to cover you for month or years.

  • Choose your cover amount: Most insurers let you choose an amount, up to their upper cover limit, e.g. 3 million. You cannot change your cover amount after the policy has started.

  • Choose how long the policy will last: Insurers usually set a maximum age or policy term, like an upper age of 74 or a maximum term of 50 years, whichever is soonest. You cannot change the policy term after you apply.

The amount of cover and term you choose will affect how much you pay each month.

How to apply

You need to get quotes from insurers to find out how much the cover you want will cost.

Be honest and disclose all information about any pre-existing medical conditions you have, otherwise your policy will be invalid and you will not be able to claim.

Depending on the policy you choose, you could apply:

  1. 1.

    Online, by completing a quote on an insurer's website

  2. 2.

    Over the phone, by speaking to an insurer's financial adviser

  3. 3.

    In person, by visiting an insurer and speaking to their financial adviser

Which is best?

Buying online gives you freedom to choose the exact cover you want, including the lump sum pay out and how long the policy will last. Use our comparison to find a critical illness policy.

If you get a quote over the phone or in person, an adviser will give you guidance on the right policy for your personal circumstances. However, you may need to pay a fee for this service.

If you want advice, here are some tips on how to find an adviser you can trust.

Alternatively, you could use a broker who will aim to find you the best critical illness policy for the cheapest price.