Photo Claims: Newest Tech from Esurance Makes Claims Easier

Car accidents, no matter how minor, can really put a ding in your day. And the only way to make it better is to get your claim settled, your car repaired, and your ride back on the road as soon as possible.

Of course, in the old days (say, circa 1990 … before the boom of the internet and the birth of mobile apps), getting your car back on the road meant filing a claim over the phone, scheduling an inspection, and waiting for your check in the mail.

But today, if you’re an Esurance policyholder, you can start a claim, snap a few pics with your smartphone, upload them for an appraisal using photo claims, and get your money fast.

Here’s how it works.

Photo claims on Esurance Mobile

If you get into a minor accident, you can file your claim online, over the phone, or through our mobile app. Then, just snap a few pics of the damage and upload them through photo claims. Within one business day, your claims representative will get in touch with an estimate for the repairs or to schedule an inspection (if needed).

That’s it. No waiting for an appraiser to come to you. Just a really fast and easy claims experience.

How to use photo claims

Once you’ve filed your claim, launch Esurance Mobile. Then:

  • Tap “accidents & claims”
  • Tap “see your claims info”
  • Tap “submit appraisal photos”
  • Take pics of the damage, the whole vehicle, and VIN
  • Tap “submit”

If you have Esurance Mobile, just make sure it’s up to date so you can take advantage of the photo claims feature. You can download the latest version for free.

More features on Esurance Mobile

Of course, submitting a photo claim for a fast appraisal isn’t the only thing you can do with our mobile app. This policy management powerhouse can also help you:

Though our app is packed with tons of features, we’re always looking to make your mobile experience better than ever. If you have a feature you’d like to see, let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook Wall.

How to Get Paid for Buying Gas

Summer often means higher gas prices coupled with an uptick in driving. And the result for most Americans is a much higher monthly gas bill.

One way to make going to the pump a little less painful is to use a credit card that offers cash back or rewards on gas purchases. While most consumers are aware that these reward credit cards exist, many feel overwhelmed by all the options on the market today. So, we did a little research and found the top 3 gas cards, along with some additional information about the rewards they offer. Let the savings begin!

Pentagon Federal Platinum Rewards Card

Offered by Pentagon Federal Credit Union, this card carries no annual fee, places no cap on rewards, and provides users with 5 PenFed Points for every $1 spent on gas (and 3 PenFed Points for every $1 spent on groceries if you’re an existing PenFed customer). These PenFed Points are their version of rewards points, which can be redeemed for gift cards and other items.

Good to know: Every PenFed point equals one cent, so you’re getting 5 cents back for each $1 spent at the pump, which is one of the best gas rewards programs out there.

One potential drawback is PenFed’s lending standards, which are unusually strict. If you don’t have truly excellent credit, you may not qualify for the card. Also, be aware that PenFed is a credit union, so you’ll have to join. And if you’re not a member of the military, you’ll need to give a onetime donation to a charity that benefits military families.

Chase Freedom

The rewards for this card aren’t as straightforward as PenFed’s, but could be more attractive in the end. This card carries no annual fee and provides an annual average of 3 percent cash back on gas, as well as rotating 5 percent bonus cash back offers. In 2013, for example, the rotating bonus from April through June was 5 percent back at restaurants and movie theaters. While you can’t choose any random store for your cash back offers, their selections do include broad (and frequently shopped) options, meaning these will be rewards you can actually earn.

Good to know: The card offers one percent back on all purchases and provides customers with a $100 cash back bonus if they make $500 in purchases during the first 3 months of ownership.

And, like the PenFed card, only those with very good credit will qualify.

American Express Blue Cash

This card’s rewards program is undeniably straightforward: customers earn an unlimited 2 percent cash back on gas and select department store purchases along with 3 percent cash back on groceries (up to $6,000 annually). There’s no annual fee, and rewards are paid out in the form of a statement credit.

Good to know: This card offers an introductory APR of zero percent for the first year and a $100 bonus reward if you charge $1,000 during the first 3 months of ownership.

Other options for reward credit cards

If none of the cards above strike your fancy, here are 4 more cards that offer more than one percent back on gas with no annual fee:

  • Discover More
  • American Express Hilton Honors Surpass
  • Chase Ink Cash and Classic
  • American Express Blue Cash Preferred

Today’s post comes from our friends at NerdWallet, who deliver financial tips and info to consumers in a clear, complete, and unbiased way.

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Do Graduated Drivers License Programs Really Make Teens Safer?

Statistically speaking, teens aren’t the best drivers. When you combine a lack of experience with a typical 16-year-old’s sense of invincibility, accidents are bound to happen. And teen drivers have the highest crash rate of any age group.

Graduated licenses — an intermediate step between the learners permit and a full, unrestricted license — have been an effective solution. Depending on how strong and comprehensive the laws are, graduated drivers licenses (GDLs) have been shown to reduce teen car accidents by 10 to 30 percent.

But GDLs only work if drivers and parents comply. A recent New Zealand study found that 1 in 4 teen drivers on restricted licenses were involved in crashes, and 80 percent violated at least one restriction. In the majority of cases, the parents didn’t fully understand the conditions of the license and/or did little to monitor their child’s driving habits.

How do graduated drivers license programs work?

Graduated licenses are designed to let teens get the driving experience they need while avoiding circumstances that raise the risk of accidents. All 50 states and DC now require an intermediate period where teens can drive unsupervised under certain conditions. Though GDL provisions vary from state to state, the 5 main components are permit age, supervised practice hours, night driving, passenger restrictions, and the age at which a full license is issued.

Permit and licensing ages

Across the states, the minimum age for issuing permits and licenses ranges widely (from 14 to 16 years for supervised driving, and from 14 years, 3 months to 17 years for unrestricted licenses). The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) recommends age minimums of 16 for learners permits and 17 for intermediate licenses.

Supervised practice hours

How many of you remember your mom, dad, or adult sibling showing you where your blind spot was or how to parallel park? For most young drivers, this kind of instruction is crucial, if sometimes stressful, and most states require a minimum number of supervised hours before drivers can move on to their intermediate licenses. State to state, the minimum ranges between 0 and 70 hours (the IIHS recommends at least 65 hours).

Night driving restrictions

Since 40 percent of teen traffic fatalities occur between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., preventing teens from driving at night is one of the most important parts of the GDL law. Across the country, “night driving” restrictions can start anywhere from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. Studies comparing the effects of no restrictions versus an 8 p.m. restriction show a 20 percent accident reduction with the 8 p.m. start time.

Teen passenger restrictions

Another key component of GDLs is passenger limit (since the distraction of driving with other teens vastly increases the risk of a crash). Teenage passengers are a factor in 50 percent of traffic deaths involving 16-year-old drivers, and the more teens in the car, the greater the danger. Banning teen passengers could reduce the fatality rate by 21 percent.

Does older mean better?

If the immaturity of 15- to 17-year-old drivers is such a big safety concern, wouldn’t it be better to put off driving altogether until they’re older? Not necessarily. A 2011 study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association found that, while fatal crashes among 16-year-olds dropped since the first GDL programs were implemented, crashes among 18-year-olds actually increased. The study’s lead author suspects that the older drivers simply waited until they were old enough to get an unrestricted license, rather than going through the GDL process. It’s also possible that those drivers didn’t get enough controlled practice on their own before getting fully licensed.

It seems a few extra years of maturity can’t make up for a lack of driving experience.

The bottom line

GDLs do make a difference, but only when young drivers get real-world practice both on their own and with adult supervision. Though teens may feel unfairly singled out and parents may feel inconvenienced by the laws, the research shows that 3-tiered systems save lives.

Did you or your teen driver go through a GDL program? Do you think it helped or was it just a hassle? Share your thoughts below.

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Getting ready to add a teen driver to your policy? Get answers to your questions about teen drivers and car insurance.

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5 Epic Summer-Ending Family Road Trips

Being a kid at the tail end of summer vacation can be grim. Your lemonade stand’s gone belly-up, your sunburn is starting to peel, and (groan) school is just around the corner.

With the final bits of freedom slipping through their fingers, why not make those end-of-summer days count by giving your kids one last family getaway?

Check out these kid-friendly road trips and send them back to school with some amazing summer memories.

East

Summer road trip destination: Loon Mountain

Location: Lincoln, NH

What is it? The place that reverses the last 3 months of your kids’ couch potato-dom. At this mountain resort, you can get breathtaking views from gondola skyrides, hit the trails on a Segway tour, or enter the Logjam Maze in Paul Bunyan’s Backyard Fun Park. Of course, the biggest draw might well be zip-lining, especially since Mt. Loon has the lowest weight requirement (50 lb.) in the region.

Why your kids will love it: Zip-line calluses win show-and-tell. They just do.

Why you’ll love it: Trapped inside a giant maze, your kids are sure to stay active. (I mean … they have to!)

Cool roads to take on the way: Acadia National Park Loop Road, ME; Cape Cod Scenic Drive, MA; Cape May County Ocean Drive, NJ

Midwest

Summer road trip destination: Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead   

Location: Overland Park, KS

What is it? A zoo/park/museum that shows kids what it was like in a turn-of-the-century farmstead.You can see nearly 200 animals on the grounds (and even hand-feed some cows and miniature horses), go fishing with an old-fashioned cane pole, take a pony ride, or just run around the prairie playground.

Why your kids will love it: Angry birds are more impressive in 3-D.

Why you’ll love it: Any road trips for the kids that actually teach them the value of money — while making it seem like fun — are a dream for most parents.

Cool roads to take on the way: Route 66, OK/MO; Great River Road, MO

South

Summer road trip destination: New Orleans

Location: New Orleans, LA (duh)

What is it? A city as fun for kids as adults (seriously). Think about Mardi Gras itself: without the bead-begging debauchery, what you have are lively colors, parades, floats, and extravagant costumes — in other words, 98 percent of what’s on your child’s mind at any given moment. At Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World, you can get kid-friendly enjoyment of this celebration any time of the year. New Orleans also has attractions like steamboat rides, bayou animals, and the famous Audubon Insectarium.

Why your kids will love it: Didn’t you hear me?! An insectarium!!!

Why you’ll love it: Po’boys, lobster, gumbo, crawfish … if you’re on a family road trip, you might as well spend it stuffed.

Cool roads to take on the way: State Road 30A, FL; Natchez Trace Parkway, TN/MS

West

Summer road trip destination: Circus Circus

Location: Las Vegas, NV

What is it? Perhaps the world’s largest carnival. The 70 acres of land are jammed-packed with live performances, over 200 arcade and festival games, and an indoor theme park.

Why your kids will love it: The chance to indulge every fun impulse in history before, you know, homework makes its ugly return.

Why you’ll love it: Vegas, baby!

Cool roads to take on the way: Cottonwood Pass, CO; Bicentennial Scenic Byway, UT

Northwest

Summer road trip destination: Out‘n’About Treesort

Location: Takilma, OR

What is it? Unlike anything you’ve ever seen. This resort is comprised of luxury tree houses high in the Oregon forest. (You mean, like the Lost Boys’ home? Well, not to get you too excited … but yes! OH YES!!!) After climbing to your room, you can enjoy other activities like building a tree house, rafting, tackling ropes courses, and more.

Why your kids will love it: Nothing beats climbing a tree.

Why you’ll love it: … Nothing beats climbing a tree (admit it!).

Cool roads to take on the way: Pacific Coast Highway, CA; Hwy 101, British Columbia

So what are you waiting for? Pack up the car and get moving! And if you have any family-friendly destinations to recommend, share them in the comments below.

Other ideas for family road trips

Pass the time on your trip with these proven car games.

As you head to your final destination, treat your family to some of these 8 unusual roadside attractions along the way.

The Nitty-Gritty of No-Fault Insurance

There’s a good chance that you — like many drivers, rocket scientists, and Jeopardy! champions — have trouble fully understanding no-fault insurance.

Don’t worry, it’s not your fault.

This happens to be one of the more mysterious coverages around, one that only applies in a few states. Basically, no-fault insurance (unlike liability coverage) provides medical protection to drivers after an accident, regardless of who caused it. In other words, instead of each driver going through the at-fault driver’s insurance company, each one uses his or her own insurer.

But why do we deviate from the liability system at all? And why do only some states use no-fault? Does this system even work?

Let’s explore no-fault coverage a bit more to find some answers.

How no-fault insurance started

No-fault insurance was first proposed in the early 1930s, primarily because, from the 1900s to the 1930s, the number of cars in the U.S. had jumped from 8,000 to 23 million! That newfound traffic, increased accident risk, and overall driving chaos needed to be addressed.

Originally, the model for no-fault coverage was based on the workers’ comp system. And the main goal was to eliminate legal red tape by having insurance companies dole out compensation instead of forcing drivers to battle for it in court. However, the concept didn’t really catch on for about 20 years.

Why no-fault insurance gained popularity over liability coverage

In the 1950s and ‘60s, a rising number of car-accident lawsuits, increased medical costs, and hiked-up liability insurance rates led to a public outcry for a no-fault system. In 1971, Massachusetts became the first official no-fault state for car insurance. And, at no-fault’s peak, 24 states had chosen it over the liability system.

No-fault coverage cost less than liability policies. Plus, it was faster and more convenient. By 1992, 55 percent of no-fault claims were settled within 3 months, while only 25 percent of liability claims were resolved in this time frame.

Why many states have stopped using no-fault insurance

There hasn’t been a new no-fault state since 1976. In fact, over the last couple of decades, many states have switched back to the liability system. This is mostly because no-fault stopped saving people as much money.

One big problem was that healthcare providers began billing people’s no-fault car insurance before going through their actual medical insurance. Of course, this increased how much no-fault insurers had to spend on medical costs, which then drove up the rates they charged.

By 1993, no-fault policies were costing an average of $150 more than liability policies. And by 2004, no-fault drivers were paying 50 percent more than their liability counterparts.

Does it still make sense?

Today, there are only 12 no-fault states. But not everyone thinks this trend should be going down Dodo bird-style.

While opponents think it’s a waste of money, supporters of no-fault car insurance still believe it helps you avoid the legal system and get money for medical care faster than liability insurance.

Clearly, no-fault insurance has had its pros and cons. But what do you think? Voice your opinion in the comments below.

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Check out more advantages and disadvantages of no-fault insurance as it stands today