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In finance, a “lapse” refers to the termination or discontinuation of a financial contract, policy, or entitlement due to nonpayment of premiums or other required obligations. Typically associated with insurance policies, a lapse occurs when a policyholder fails to pay the required premium within a specified grace period. This cessation of coverage leaves the policyholder without any benefits or protection provided by the lapsed financial instrument.


The phonetic spelling of the keyword “Lapse” is ˈlæps (using IPA, the International Phonetic Alphabet). In phonetic terms, it can be broken down as:- /l/ for the initial “l” sound- /æ/ for the short “a” sound- /p/ for the “p” sound- /s/ for the final “s” sound

Key Takeaways

  1. Lapse is a term used to describe a temporary or brief moment of forgetting something, often due to a lack of focus or attention.
  2. It can also refer to an interruption or discontinuation in a process or activity, such as a lapse in judgment or a lapse in one’s workout routine.
  3. In various contexts like insurance, membership, or subscriptions, a lapse occurs when someone fails to renew or maintain their contract, resulting in coverage loss or suspension of benefits.


The term “lapse” holds significant importance in the business and finance realm, as it pertains to the discontinuation or the expiration of an insurance policy or financial contract due to non-payment of premiums, non-fulfillment of obligations, or the passage of a specified time period. In this context, a lapse can have financial consequences for the policy or contract holder, such as losing coverage or benefits, facing penalties, or incurring additional costs to reinstate the policy. It is crucial that individuals and businesses remain aware of potential lapses and act proactively to avoid them, ensuring that they maintain their financial solidity, mitigate risks, and fulfill their responsibilities in a timely manner to prevent the inadvertent nullification of crucial agreements.


A lapse occurs in the realm of finance and business when an organization opts not to renew a contract, generally concerning insurance policies or options and subscriptions. In the context of insurance, a policy may lapse when the policyholder fails to make the necessary premium payments to maintain coverage. In such cases, insurance providers might offer a grace period during which the policyholder can make up the missed payments before coverage is nullified. On the other hand, in the options market, the term “lapse” signifies the expiration of a contract without renewal or the decision to let an option or right expire unused. The purpose of a lapse is to enable the parties involved to reassess their interests and financial capabilities and to determine whether the continuation of such contracts or policies is beneficial or necessary. Lapses play essential roles in the smooth functioning of a business; they assist in realigning the financial priorities and assessing the value of ongoing contracts, be it insurance policies or financial instruments like options. For insurance providers, lapses allow for keeping a check on the customers who are genuinely interested and capable of maintaining their policies by consistently paying their premiums, ensuring a mutually beneficial relationship. In the context of options, lapse enables traders to make informed decisions on whether to exercise or let the contracts expire based on their evaluation of the underlying asset’s value and market conditions. This approach helps in minimizing the risk of losses for the option holder and supports the efficient functioning of the financial markets. Overall, whether we discuss insurance or finance, lapses work as a mechanism that integrates financial discipline, risk assessment, and an opportunity for businesses to reallocate their resources in pursuit of sustainable growth.


1. Insurance Policy Lapse: A common occurrence in the insurance industry is when a policyholder fails to make their required premium payments, causing their policy to lapse. After the specified grace period is over and the payment has not been made, the insurer is no longer obligated to provide coverage. The policyholder will need to apply for a new policy with potentially higher premiums due to age, health status, or other factors. 2. Lapse in Employment Contract: If an employee’s contract expires, and it is not renewed by the employer, this can be considered a lapse in the contract. If the employee continues to work without a formal contract renewal, they may be exposed to a lack of job security, reduced benefits, or wage-related issues. This situation can be damaging to both the employee and employer as it could hurt their relationship or result in legal issues. 3. Subscription Lapse in a Digital Service: On a digital platform, such as a video or music streaming service, when a customer’s subscription period ends and they fail to renew it, a lapse occurs. This results in the customer losing access to the platform’s content or premium features. To regain access, they must renew their subscription, often at the regular price instead of any promotional offers they might have availed previously.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What does the term “Lapse” mean in finance and business?
In finance and business, “lapse” refers to the termination or discontinuation of a contract, policy, or agreement due to non-payment of premiums, non-fulfillment of required conditions, or expiration of the validity period.
How does a lapse occur in an insurance policy?
A lapse in an insurance policy occurs when the policyholder fails to pay the premiums within the grace period. As a result, the coverage is terminated, and the policyholder loses the benefits associated with the policy.
Can a lapsed policy be reinstated?
Yes, in many cases, a lapsed policy can be reinstated. The policyholder would have to pay the overdue premiums, along with any interest and penalties, and may need to provide proof of insurability. However, reinstatement is typically subject to the insurer’s discretion and may not be permitted in all cases.
What happens to the money paid into a policy that has lapsed?
In the case of a lapsed policy without a cash value component, the premiums paid by the policyholder are generally forfeited, and no benefits are paid out. For policies with a cash value component, such as whole life or universal life insurance, the cash value may be paid out to the policyholder upon lapse, or it may be used to provide reduced paid-up insurance or extended term insurance.
How can one prevent a policy from lapsing?
To prevent a policy from lapsing, the policyholder should ensure that premiums are paid on time and in full. Automatic premium payment set-ups, where premiums are directly debited from a bank account or charged to a credit card, can help maintain regular and timely payments.
What is the impact of a lapse on a policyholder’s credit score?
When an insurance policy lapses, it generally doesn’t have a direct impact on the policyholder’s credit score. However, lapses in insurance coverage can lead to higher insurance rates in the future and may indicate financial instability to potential lenders.
What are the consequences of a lapse in business contracts or agreements?
In the context of business contracts or agreements, a lapse can lead to termination of the contract and potential legal disputes. Both parties to the agreement may face financial penalties for non-fulfillment of contractual obligations, loss of credibility, and potential damage to their business reputation.

Related Finance Terms

  • Policy Expiration
  • Grace Period
  • Non-Payment of Premium
  • Policy Reinstatement
  • Forfeiture of Benefits

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