Close this search box.

Table of Contents

Unearned Premium


Unearned premium refers to the amount of an insurance policy’s premium that has been paid in advance but has not yet been earned by the insurance company. It covers the portion of the insurance policy that is still active or has not yet expired. Essentially, it is a liability for the insurer, as the company could potentially need to return it if the policy is cancelled before its expiration date.


The phonetic spelling for “Unearned Premium” is:ʌn-ɜ:rnd ˈpriːmiəm

Key Takeaways

Sure, here are three main points about unearned premium:

  1. Definition: Unearned premium refers to the amount of an insurance company’s premium associated with the time period remaining on an insurance policy.
  2. Function: These unearned premiums serve as a liability because they would be returned to policyholders if the policy is cancelled before its expiration date.
  3. Calculation: The amount of unearned premium is usually calculated on a pro-rata basis, which means, it is proportional to the amount of time remaining on an insurance policy.


Unearned premium is a crucial term in business and finance, specifically within the insurance industry. It represents the portion of an insurance premium paid by the policyholder that an insurer has yet to earn because the policy period has not yet expired. This concept is significant because it reflects potential liability for the insurer, since it represents the amount that the insurance company would need to return to the policyholder if the policy is cancelled. Additionally, unearned premium is considered a crucial indicator of the insurance company’s financial health and stability, as significant amounts of unearned premiums can reflect future obligations and hence, affect the company’s solvency.


The term “unearned premium” serves a significant role in the insurance industry. Essentially, it refers to the portion of an insurance premium which has been paid in advance but has not yet been earned by the insurance company because the policy period has not yet occurred. Insurance providers require upfront payments for their services, guaranteeing coverage for a specified period of time in the future. The part of the premium that is yet to ‘cover’ the future is considered unearned. Notably, until the insurance coverage period lapses, or when a policy is cancelled, the unearned premium remains a liability to the insurance company since it would be required to be returned to the policyholder.Unearned premiums are crucial for both the insurance company and the policyholder. They must be accurately calculated and managed by an insurance company for multiple purposes. For the company, it helps in maintaining the financial solvency by assuring they have adequate reserves to pay out any claims. For the policyholder, the unearned premium provides an assurance that they have prepaid coverage and are entitled to a refund if the service is not fully rendered or if they choose to terminate their insurance policy early. Overall, the unearned premium is a financial safeguard for both the insurer and the insured, ensuring a balance between the received premium payments and the coverage services provided in return.


1. Insurance Policies: One of the most common examples of unearned premium can be found in the insurance industry. When a customer purchases an insurance policy, for instance, a 12-month car insurance policy, and pays the whole premium upfront, the insurance company can’t recognize the entire amount as its revenue until the policy period is over. The portion of the premium for the months the policy has not covered is considered as unearned premium.2. Magazine Subscriptions: Another example of an unearned premium is a magazine subscription. Let’s say a customer pays for a yearly subscription of a magazine. The magazine company cannot recognize the entire subscription fee as its earnings until it has delivered all the copies for the year. The part of the subscription fee, which corresponds to the copies of the magazine yet to be delivered, is categorized as an unearned premium.3. Real Estate Leasing: A tenant who pays several months or a year’s worth of rent in advance provides the landlord with an unearned premium. The landlord can only recognize this as income incrementally, as each month or leasing period passes. The amount for the unused period remains as an ‘unearned premium’ on their books until the end of the leasing period.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is an unearned premium?

An unearned premium is money paid upfront by a policyholder to an insurance company, but for which the coverage is not yet provided. Essentially, it’s the amount of the premium for the remaining period of the policy.

Why is it called ‘Unearned’?

It’s termed ‘unearned’ because the insurance company is yet to provide services for this portion of the premium. Once the coverage period covered by the premium passes, then it becomes ‘earned’.

Where can the unearned premium be found on a company’s financial statement?

Unearned premiums are usually listed as a liability on the insurance company’s balance sheet because it’s something that the company owes (i.e., future coverage) to the policyholder.

What happens to the unearned premium if a policyholder cancels their policy early?

If the policyholder cancels the policy before the end of the coverage period, the insurance company usually refunds them a prorated portion of the unearned premium corresponding to the time of unused coverage.

How are unearned premiums important to the solvency of insurance companies?

Unearned premiums are considered as a potential source of cash for insurance companies. This money is generally available to the company for investment and to pay for operational expenses.

How does the unearned premium change over time?

Over time, as the insurance company provides coverage and meets its obligations, the amount of the unearned premium decreases. It is gradually recognized as revenue in the insurer’s financial statements over the term of the policy.

How are unearned premiums calculated?

The unearned premiums are calculated by taking the total premium paid for the policy and dividing it by the policy period (such as a year). That gives the daily premium rate. This rate is then multiplied by the number of days remaining in the policy period.

Can a policyholder use an unearned premium?

No, policyholders cannot use unearned premiums. This amount of money is held by the insurance company as a liability until it earns the premium by providing the contracted insurance coverage.

Related Finance Terms

  • Pro Rata Refund: This is a method of calculation used to determine the amount of unearned premium that a policyholder will be entitled to if they cancel their insurance policy early.
  • Insurance Premium: This is the amount a policyholder pays to an insurance company for coverage. Unearned premiums are part of these payments that cover a time period in the future.
  • Reserve: In insurance, a reserve is an amount of money an insurer sets aside to cover future claims that have not yet been settled. Unearned premium reserves are established for future periods covered by prepaid premiums.
  • Policy Period: This refers to the time frame during which an insurance policy is active. Unearned premiums pertain to the portion of the policy period which is yet to expire.
  • Short Rate Cancellation: This occurs when an insurance policy is canceled by the insured before it is due to end. The refund of the unearned premium may be less than the pro-rata share to cover administrative costs.

Sources for More Information

About Due

Due makes it easier to retire on your terms. We give you a realistic view on exactly where you’re at financially so when you retire you know how much money you’ll get each month. Get started today.

Due Fact-Checking Standards and Processes

To ensure we’re putting out the highest content standards, we sought out the help of certified financial experts and accredited individuals to verify our advice. We also rely on them for the most up to date information and data to make sure our in-depth research has the facts right, for today… Not yesterday. Our financial expert review board allows our readers to not only trust the information they are reading but to act on it as well. Most of our authors are CFP (Certified Financial Planners) or CRPC (Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor) certified and all have college degrees. Learn more about annuities, retirement advice and take the correct steps towards financial freedom and knowing exactly where you stand today. Learn everything about our top-notch financial expert reviews below… Learn More