For any business owner, there is nothing worse than when you sell a product to your customer and then they don't pay you for it. Unfortunately, this is something that happens to everyone, even if you perform your due diligence prior to offering net payment terms to your customer. The solution to this problem is of course to acquire credit insurance, so that you are covered in these situations. However, just like health, home, and auto insurance, credit insurance also has premiums, deductibles, minimums, maximums, and other rules that you need to abide by. This article will examine many of these different aspects and help you understand if credit insurance is really worth it for your business, or if there may be a better option.
It goes without saying that you are going to have to pay a premium to get credit insurance. How much that premium is depends on your coverage, diversification, and quality of your customers. One thing to keep in mind is that as your coverage increases so does your premiums, although not at the same rate. Basically, as your coverage increases, your premium increases with it, but the premium as a percent of total coverage decreases. Like anything else, you get a better deal when you buy in bulk.
However, while premiums might appear to be your main expense, they certainly aren't your only expense, and may not even be your largest expense. Most likely your credit insurance company will charge you a fee for each account you want them to cover and set a credit limit for. As a result, if you sell to lots of different accounts, while your premium may be lowered because you are highly diversified, paying $50 to get each account approved could potentially cost you even more than your premiums do each and every year.
Another cost to consider is your deductible. While you aren't going to pay your deductible, if you have a $10,000 deductible, then you need to sustain the first $10,000 in losses each year. So if your losses are $0 for a the year, then of course it doesn't matter what your deductible is, but at the same time you paid a bunch of money for insurance you didn't need. However, if you do sustain losses, you are then responsible for the first $10,000 of them, and this is an additional expense.
After that, you have to look at co-insurance. Oftentimes co-insurance is 10%, meaning that the insurance company will only fund you 90% of the claim amount. So assuming you have met you deductible and you now have a claim for $50,000, your insurance company will only fund you $45,000, you are responsible for 10% or $5000, which is just one more expense you need to factor into the overall cost.
Finally, while it may not be a cost, there is also the time that it takes to get paid on a claim by the credit insurance company. First, you need to follow all of their rules, failure to do so will result in forfeiture of your coverage. However, assuming you can follow the rules, most likely you will not be able to file a claim until an invoice becomes 120 days past due. Then once you file, your credit insurance may not fund you for 90 days as they try to collect. If successful in collecting, then they will penalize you and maybe only give you 50% of what they collect, so you better be pretty confident that they will not be able to collect. However, if they can't collect, when you add up the terms of the invoice, waiting until the invoice is past due, and then waiting to get paid on the claim, it can take you 8 months or more to actually receive your money. If it is a large claim, waiting 8 months to get paid can severely strain your cash flow and require you to borrow funds temporarily, adding further expense.
When you purchase credit insurance, you are purchasing a particular amount of coverage which should be equal to your annual sales volume of insurable accounts. Because you don't know how much your volume will be in the coming year, you have to do your best to guess. If you underestimate your coverage, you will have to buy additional coverage later and won't receive the benefit of a lower premium rate for purchasing a larger coverage amount. However, if you overestimate, you will wind up paying for coverage that you don't need.
Of course, just because you pay for a certain amount of coverage, doesn't necessarily mean that all of your accounts will be covered. Each account you want covered has to be approved and assigned a credit limit. If you have borderline accounts, they may not be given a high enough credit limit, or even worse, not approved at all. In this situation, if you still choose to sell to them, you are responsible for any amount above the credit limit, or for the entire amount in the case that they don't get approved at all.
Aside from coverage limits and deductibles, which are applied across multiple accounts, minimums affect each individual account. Most likely your insurance company has a minimum claim amount. If this minimum is $5000, and you have a customer who didn't pay you $4000, then you can not claim it and it doesn't even count towards your deductible. In other words, this means that credit insurance does not cover your smaller accounts so you will want to eliminate these accounts from your coverage. Of course, with any insurance company, you can lower or even eliminate these minimums, but that of course is going to result in much higher premiums.
Then you have an overall policy maximum for the year. If the maximum for the year is $100,000, then if you even if you sustain losses of $150,000 and all the accounts are within their credit limits, your still will only receive $100,000. Plus any other losses you have for the rest of the policy year also won't be covered.
By working with an insurance company, you may be able to reduce some of your expenses in performing due diligence on your customers since your insurance company is doing this for you. If the insurance company is providing one of your customers with a credit limit of $10,000, then there is no need for you to pull credit reports on that customer, so long as their orders don't exceed $10,000. Of course, if you have a minimum of $2500, and a customer places an order for $2000, you are still going to need to pull a credit report on that customer since the insurance company won't cover them. So while you will still need to subscribe to a credit reporting agency, you won't be pulling as many reports which should reduce the amount of your subscription. Of course, it is important to keep in mind that you will be paying the insurance company a fee to provide a credit limit, and that fee is most likely a lot more than what a credit rating agency charges you for pulling a report.
Like any other type of insurance, the insurance company is not in the business of losing money. So in a good year, you won't sustain any losses, or those losses won't meet your deductible, and you wind up paying for something that you didn't need. In a normal year, you may sustain losses that are more than your deductible, but they won't be more than the premiums that paid that year. It is only in a really bad year, one in which you have several major losses, that it pays off to have credit insurance. Of course, having credit insurance in years like that might make the difference between staying in business and going out of business. It is also important to figure out how much you will save by pulling fewer credit reports as that will help offset the price of insurance.
It is also important to consider if credit insurance is right for your business. For a very small business, it is probably counterproductive. The premiums, cost of assigning credit limits, and deductibles might add up to 20-30% of your annual volume, and certainly if this is the case then it does not make sense to get credit insurance. Credit insurance is most beneficial to very large corporations as their premiums are at a lower percentage of their annual volume, and they have more negotiating power when it comes to credit limit fees, deductibles, and minimums. Credit insurance could also be valuable to companies whose customer base is located primarily overseas. But regardless of your company's size and where their customers are located, a credit insurance company is not in the business of losing money. While in a particularly bad year you might come out ahead of the game if you have credit insurance, over the course of a decade there is very little doubt that you will have spent more on credit insurance than you would have lost without it. The real benefit of credit insurance is that it allows you to spread out the cost of a major loss over a longer period of time, making budgeting easier.
There is an alternative to credit insurance, and that is non-recourse factoring. With non-recourse factoring you are selling your receivables to a factoring company so it is their responsibility to collect from your customers, and they are on the hook if a customer does not pay. If you choose the right factoring company to work with, you won't have to worry about premiums, deductibles, co-insurance, credit limit fees, minimums, or maximums. With non-recourse factoring your receivables are fully insured.
With non-recourse factoring you also don't have to worry about rules established by credit insurance companies. Credit insurance companies require that you contact them at certain points throughout the collection process to make them aware of what is going on. Should you fail to do this, then your receivables are no longer covered by the insurance company. They also require you to file within a certain period of time, usually within 120 days of an invoice becoming due. Once this time period has passed, you are no longer covered.
Non-recourse factoring also carries additional benefits. Because there are no minimums, there is no need for you to subscribe to a credit rating agency, your factoring company will perform all the credit checking for you. Your factoring company will also handle of your collections for you, meaning that you won't need to spend time valuable time on collections efforts. Finally, the main benefit is improved cash flow, your factoring company will fund you the same day you ship and invoice your customers. So forget about having to wait 8 months to get paid by an insurance company, your factoring company is funding you 30 days early on all of your receivables.
As for the cost of factoring, for a larger company whose annual volume is well into the millions, factoring will probably cost more than credit insurance, although the additional benefits of factoring could easily offset any additional costs. For smaller businesses, factoring is often times much cheaper than credit insurance, plus it offers them all of the additional benefits that you don't get with credit insurance alone. Whatever the size of your business, the benefit of improved cash flow is oftentimes much more important than the benefit of credit insurance.
At DSA Factors we are proud to offer our clients non-recourse factoring. Whether you are looking to insure your receivables, need improved cash flow, or simply want to outsource your accounts receivable, give us a call at 773-248-9000 and learn how factoring can help your business grow.
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