Certificate of Insurance (COI)

Written by True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

Reviewed by Subject Matter Experts

Updated on July 12, 2023

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What Is a Certificate of Insurance (COI)?

A Certificate of Insurance is a document issued by an insurance company or broker that verifies the existence of an active insurance policy for a policyholder.

It summarizes the insurance coverage, outlining essential details such as coverage limits, policy type, and effective dates.

The primary purpose of a COI is to provide proof of insurance to third parties, such as clients, vendors, or landlords. These parties often require proof of insurance to ensure that they are not exposed to unnecessary financial risk in the event of a claim.

A COI also helps to build trust between parties, demonstrating that the insured party has taken the necessary steps to protect their business and the interests of others.

Three primary parties are involved in a COI: the policyholder, the insurer, and the certificate holder.

The policyholder is the insured party, while the insurer is the insurance company providing the coverage. The certificate holder is the third party requesting proof of insurance from the policyholder.

Key Components of a Certificate of Insurance

Policyholder's Information

The policyholder's information section of a COI includes the insured party's name, address, and contact information. This information is essential for identifying the party responsible for the insurance coverage.

Insurer's Information

The insurer's information section lists the insurance company providing the coverage and their contact information. This section helps the certificate holder identify and verify the insurance provider.

Policy Number and Type

The policy number is a unique identifier assigned to the insurance policy. The policy type refers to the specific coverage provided, such as general liability or professional liability.

These details help certificate holders understand the scope of the policy and assist in verifying its authenticity.

Policy Effective and Expiration Dates

The policy is effective, and expiration dates indicate when the insurance coverage is active. Certificate holders use these dates to ensure that the policy is current and valid.

Coverage Limits and Deductibles

Coverage limits represent the maximum amount that the insurance company will pay for a covered claim.

Deductibles are the amounts that the policyholder must pay out of pocket before the insurance company covers the remaining costs. These details give the certificate holder an understanding of the policy's financial parameters and potential exposures.

Additional Insured Parties

An additional insured is a person or organization that is covered under the policyholder's insurance policy. This section lists any additional insured parties, providing certificate holders with information about who else may be protected by the policy.

Endorsements and Special Conditions

Endorsements are amendments or additions to the insurance policy that modify the coverage somehow.

Special conditions refer to any unique requirements or provisions that apply to the policy. This section outlines any endorsements or special conditions that affect the policy's coverage.

Certificate Holder's Information

The certificate holder's information section includes the name, address, and contact information of the party requesting the COI.

This information helps the insurer and policyholder identify the recipient of the certificate and any associated requirements or obligations.

Key Components of a Certificate of Insurance (COI)

Obtaining a Certificate of Insurance

Requesting a COI From Provider or Broker

The policyholder must contact their insurance provider or broker to obtain a COI and request the document.

The insurer will typically require the policyholder to provide specific details about the certificate holder, such as their name, address, and any additional insured or endorsement requirements. Once the insurer has this information, they will generate and issue the COI.

Timeline for Receiving a COI

The timeline for receiving a COI varies depending on the insurer and the complexity of the policy. In most cases, policyholders can expect to receive their COI within a few business days.

However, it's essential to plan ahead and request the document well before it's needed to avoid delays.

Cost Considerations

Typically, there is no direct cost associated with obtaining a COI, as it is a standard service provided by insurance companies.

However, if the policyholder requires additional insured endorsements or other policy modifications, there may be fees associated with these changes.

Distribution to Relevant Parties

Once the policyholder receives the COI, they should provide a copy to the certificate holder, either electronically or in hard copy. In some cases, the insurer may send the COI directly to the certificate holder on behalf of the policyholder.

Verifying a Certificate of Insurance

Review the COI Details

You need to ensure that the COI details are consistent with what you require. If there's a minimum coverage limit that you need, check to see if it's met by the policy. Moreover, ensure that the policy is current and will be active for the duration you need coverage.

Different types of insurance may also be relevant, such as general liability, workers' compensation, and auto insurance. Make sure the COI carries the correct type for the intended purpose.

Research the Insurance Company

The insurer's details are generally specified on the COI. Research the insurer online to see if they're licensed and recognized by visiting the official website of your state's insurance commissioner or department.

This step is important because even if a COI looks genuine, it could potentially be fraudulent or the insurance company could be unlicensed or insolvent.

Contact the Insurance Company or Broker Directly

Be proactive and ask them to confirm the details of the policy, such as who the insured is, the type of coverage they have, their coverage limits, and the policy's effective dates.

By doing this, you are ensuring that the information on the COI matches what the insurance company has on file. This also provides an opportunity to ask any questions you may have about the coverage.

Check for Policy Cancellation

Insurance coverage can be cancelled or lapse without the certificate holder's knowledge, leaving them unaware that they are no longer covered.

It is a good practice to confirm with the insurance company that the policy is active and will remain so for the duration you need coverage.

Ask for Additional Insured or Loss Payee Status

For businesses seeking an additional layer of protection, you can request to be added to the policy as an "additional insured" or "loss payee". This means you have a certain level of rights under the policy.

For example, as an additional insured, you may be covered for claims arising out of the named insured's activities. As a loss payee, you have the right to receive policy benefits directly from the insurer in the event of a loss.

How to Verify a Certificate of Insurance (COI)

Managing Certificates of Insurance

Establishing a COI Tracking System

Implementing an efficient COI tracking system is essential for managing multiple certificates and ensuring compliance with contractual and regulatory requirements.

A tracking system can be as simple as a spreadsheet or as advanced as specialized software designed for COI management. Key features of a COI tracking system include:

  • Centralized storage for all COI documents

  • Easy access for authorized personnel

  • Alerts and notifications for upcoming expiration dates or policy changes

  • Customizable reporting capabilities

Monitoring Expiration Dates and Renewals

Regularly monitoring expiration dates is crucial for maintaining continuous insurance coverage and avoiding potential gaps in protection. Policyholders and certificate holders should establish a process for reviewing COIs and requesting updates or renewals as needed.

Updating Coverage Limits and Endorsements

As business needs and risks evolve, updating coverage limits or endorsements on an insurance policy may be necessary. Policyholders should review their policies periodically to ensure they provide adequate protection and make any necessary changes.

Similarly, certificate holders should monitor COI updates and verify that any changes meet their requirements.

Communicating With Insurance Providers and Certificate Holders

Maintaining open communication with insurance providers and certificate holders is essential for effective COI management.

Policyholders should promptly notify their insurer of any changes in their business or risk profile, while certificate holders should clearly communicate their insurance requirements and expectations.

How to Manage Certificates of Insurance (COI)

Common Pitfalls and Misconceptions About COI

COI as Proof of Coverage

While a COI provides evidence of an active insurance policy, it is not legally binding. It does not guarantee that the policy will remain in effect for the duration of the project or contract. Certificate holders should always verify the policy's validity and details with the insurer.

Misunderstanding Coverage Limits and Exclusions

Certificate holders must carefully review the policy's details and consult with the insurer or an insurance expert to ensure they understand the coverage.

Verify COIs to avoid exposing certificate holders to significant financial and legal risks. It is essential to thoroughly review and confirm the authenticity and accuracy of each COI to protect against potential losses and liabilities.

Neglecting to Manage and Update COIs

Management of COIs can result in gaps in coverage, compliance with contractual or regulatory requirements, and increased risk exposure.

Policyholders and certificate holders must implement efficient tracking systems and processes to ensure their COIs are current, accurate, and meet their needs.

Common Pitfalls and Misconceptions About Certificate of Insurance (COI)


A Certificate of Insurance serves as proof of an active insurance policy and plays a vital role in establishing trust and mitigating financial risks for all parties involved.

It verifies the existence of insurance coverage and provides essential details such as policyholder and insurer information, policy specifics, coverage limits, and additional insured parties.

Obtaining a COI requires contacting the insurance provider or broker, allowing sufficient time for processing, and ensuring the accuracy of the document.

To ensure the authenticity and reliability of a COI, verification is crucial. This involves carefully reviewing the COI details, conducting research on the insurance company's credibility, and directly contacting the insurer to confirm policy information.

It is essential to be aware of common pitfalls and misconceptions surrounding COIs, such as understanding that a COI is not legally binding and the importance of reviewing coverage limits and exclusions.

Effective management of COIs involves establishing a tracking system, monitoring expiration dates and renewals, updating coverage limits and endorsements, and maintaining open communication with insurance providers and certificate holders.

Certificate of Insurance (COI) FAQs

About the Author

True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

True Tamplin is a published author, public speaker, CEO of UpDigital, and founder of Finance Strategists.

True is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®), author of The Handy Financial Ratios Guide, a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, contributes to his financial education site, Finance Strategists, and has spoken to various financial communities such as the CFA Institute, as well as university students like his Alma mater, Biola University, where he received a bachelor of science in business and data analytics.

To learn more about True, visit his personal website or view his author profiles on Amazon, Nasdaq and Forbes.

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