Civil Service Employees / CSE Insurance Review: Auto & Homeowners Complaints, AM Best, BBB, & JD Power Ratings

CSE (Civil Service Employees) Insurance Group has discounted rates for law enforcement, firefighters, and educators, selling auto, homeowners, condominium, renters (tenants), rental property (dwelling-fire), boat and liability umbrella insurance in the states of Arizona, California, Nevada, and Utah through independent insurance agents appointed to represent CSE in these states. How good is CSE auto & home insurance? I’ll review the AM Best financial strength ratings, JD Power customer satisfaction ratings, and Better Business Bureau ratings for the CSE insurance companies, such as CSE Safeguard Insurance Company and Civil Service Employees Insurance Company, including their auto & home insurance complaint records over the last three years. My review summary will give you my opinion if CSE Insurance is performing better than average, average, or worse than average, compared to its competitors, like State Farm, Allstate, Progressive, GEICO and others. Although CSE specializes in offering discounted insurance rates to civil service employees, many insurance companies (such as GEICO) have discounted rates for public sector employees. The wise insurance buyer shops for the best combination of coverage, price, and service, so be sure to use the ad below this paragraph (or the ad at the end of this review) to get price quotes from multiple insurance companies and find the best insurance company for you.


CSE Insurance Review

This CSE (Civil Service Employees) Insurance review is divided into five parts, consisting of: 1. A company overview including the CSE Insurance website, and the best way to get an insurance price quote, 2. The AM Best financial strength ratings for the CSE group of companies, 3. The JD Power customer satisfaction ratings and BBB rating for CSE Insurance, 4. the auto & homeowners insurance customer complaint records for the CSE group of companies over the last three years, 5. a review summary of CSE Insurance rating its complaint record as average, better than average, or below average, and comparing its rates and auto & homeowners insurance to competing insurance companies.

1. About CSE Insurance

Civil Services Employees Insurance Company, founded in 1949 in San Francisco, California, originally focused only on the insurance needs of government employees, like postal worker, police officers, firefighters, and others, but started offering insurance coverage to general public, too, in the 1980s. CSE Insurance Group consists of two subsidiary companies (CSE Safeguard Insurance Company and Civil Service Employees Insurance Company) providing insurance to the residents of Arizona, California, Nevada, & Utah. While CSE is also licensed in Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, Virginia, Washington, and Washington D.C., insurance coverage through CSE is currently not available in those states.

Corporate Headquarters:

CSE Insurance Group
2121 N. California Blvd., Ste. 555
Walnut Creek, CA 94596-3501

Toll Free Number: 800-282-6848

CSE offers a wide range of personal insurance products, including auto, homeowners, condominium, renters (tenants), rental property (dwelling-fire), boat and liability umbrella policies, as well as a commercial package policy for apartment buildings, condominium associations, townhouse associations, planned unit developments and small office buildings available in California & Nevada. CSE Insurance is sold through a network on independent insurance agencies authorized to represent CSE located in communities throughout Arizona, California, Nevada, and Utah. Most CSE customers are insurance policyholders in California.

CSE Insurance Discounts of Note:

CSE has many of the popular discounts offered by many major auto & home insurance companies, such as loyalty discounts and multiple policy discounts

In California, CSE has a Pay-As-You-Drive discount program for its auto insurance, called SAVE, which can refund you money if you put less mileage on your vehicles than expected.

For its homeowners insurance in some states (including California), CSE offers a Civil Service Discount of up to 10%.

Special discounts are available for educators, firefighters, law enforcement, military, and government employees, and you can see the requirements to qualify at this link to the CSE website discount qualifications. However, remember other companies, like USAA and Armed Forces Insurance Exchange specialize insuring the military, and many companies, like GEICO & Nationwide have discounts for educators and government / public employees, where allowed by law.

Earthquake Insurance

CSE now offers its customers residential earthquake coverage through its partnership with Palomar Specialty Insurance Company, as reported in this 2/2/2015 Insurance Journal article, Palomar Specialty, Civil Service Employees Insurance to Offer Earthquake Coverage. Palomar Specialty is a recently established catastrophe insurer that has initially focused on writing residential & commercial earthquake insurance.

CSE Insurance Website & Price Quotes

Existing CSE customers can manage their policies through the company website, including paying a bill, printing insurance documents like proof of insurance, filing a claim, or initiating a policy change, like customers can do with many major auto & home insurance companies these days. You can request an auto or homeowners insurance quote from the CSE Insurance website, but it’s best to use the site to find local independent insurance agencies representing CSE, among other insurance companies, and contact one or several of them for a quote, recommendations for proper coverage for your needs, and information about CSE.

Remember — unless you have decided to insure with a particular insurance company an independent insurance agency represents, one of the main advantages of using independent insurance agencies to get price quotes is they represent several companies, and have knowledge of your local auto & home insurance market. Never depend on only one agent to shop your insurance for you, and be sure to check the rates of companies selling direct (like Amica or GEICO or Progressive), through their own agents (like State Farm, Allstate, American Family), and independent insurance agents, to find the best auto or home insurance company for you.

Source: CSE Insurance website

2. CSE Insurance AM Best Financial Strength Ratings

The CSE Insurance Group companies (CSE Safeguard Insurance Company and Civil Service Employees Insurance Company) had their “A-” (Excellent) AM Best Financial Strength Rating with a stable outlook (no possible ratings upgrade or downgrade is expected in the near future) reaffirmed on 03/20/2015. The AM Best rating of “A-“ is the fourth highest rating for AM Best. AM Best upgraded its Financial Strength Rating for CSE to “A-” in 2008, as reported here, based on CSE’s improved risk-adjusted capitalization, favorable operating performance and market niche as a writer of personal lines products for civil service employees & affinity groups, in spite of its concentration of risk in California.

AM Best financial strength ratings are not a measure of customer service or the quality of the claims adjusting for the CSE Group companies, but an opinion about their ability to pay claims, remain financially solvent, and stay in business. I recommend avoiding, if possible or practical, any auto or homeowners insurance company with lower than an “A-” rating for financial strength from AM Best. Some major auto & home insurance companies have higher financial strength ratings than the CSE Insurance Group companies, but the difference in financial strength among A++, A+, A, & A- rated companies is not significant to me unless higher rated companies are the same or better in terms of price, coverage, claims handling, and customer service.

Source: AM Best Rating for Civil Service Employees Insurance Company

3. CSE Insurance JD Power Ratings & BBB Rating

JD Power Customer Satisfaction Ratings

CSE Insurance, like many other smaller regional insurance companies, does not have enough auto or homeowners insurance customers at this time in any one state, region, or nationally to be included in any of the recent annual JD Power insurance customer satisfaction studies, which evaluate the largest national and regional auto or homeowners insurance companies in the USA. Not being included in a JD Power insurance study does not make CSE Insurance better or worse than large or JD Power rated companies, but it does make it harder to evaluate the quality of customer service provided by a company not rated by JD Power, like the CSE Insurance Group companies.

Better Business Bureau (BBB) Rating

Although customer complaints are best directed toward a customer’s state department of insurance, the Better Business Bureau is a well-known and popular choice for consumers filing complaints against companies. If many customers are having difficulty resolving an issue with their insurance company and take the time to contact the Better Business Bureau about it, it’s a pretty good sign customers in general may be unhappy with the service provided by their insurance company. If a lot of complaints are made to the BBB about a company, in greater numbers than similar-sized insurance companies, it’s reflected in the BBB rating, and is one indicator the company may have more dissatisfied customers than some of its competitors.

As of 2/9/2015, the original publish date of this review, CSE Insurance Group was rated “A+” by the Better Business Bureau, which is the highest rating from the BBB, and CSE has been BBB accredited since 2/1/1986. CSE Insurance Group had only 1 BBB complaint in the last three years, and none occurring in the last 12 months. The one complaint was in the category of Advertising/Sales. The complaint has been closed and resolved according to the BBB.

Please be advised CSE insurance is sold through independent insurance agencies, which are separate businesses in themselves, so wise consumers should check with their state’s department of insurance to make sure their agent and agency are properly licensed, have no department actions against them, and check the agency’s BBB rating. CSE may be a good insurance company, but if the agency selling you the CSE policy provides terrible service, it doesn’t matter how good CSE may be.

I don’t consider an A+ BBB rating to be a reliable indication of a good insurance company, but a lower than “A” rating should be considered as a sign of below average customer service. To date, the BBB rating & complaint record For CSE Insurance Group should not be a concern for its customers or prospective customers.

Source: BBB ratings for Civil Service Employees Insurance

4. CSE Insurance Auto & Homeowners Insurance Complaints

The auto & home insurance (homeowners, condominium-owners, and renters) complaint statistics for the CSE insurance companies listed below were calculated by the NAIC, and display the ratio of the company’s U.S. Market Share of closed complaints compared to its U.S. Market Share of premiums for a specific policy type. Complaint ratios lower than “1” have less complaints than average, and complaint ratios over “1” have more complaints than average. The lower the complaint ratio, the less complaints against the company. Ideally, you want to choose an insurance company with complaint ratios much less than 1.00 each year, over the last three years.

So you don’t have to worry about comparing complaint ratio numbers, I devised a rating system to help you identify if the CSE companies have a good or poor complaint record.

Here’s how I establish my auto & homeowners insurance complaint ratings:

B = Better than average. Insurance companies with complaint ratios less than 75% of the average insurance company.

C = Average. Insurance companies with complaint ratios from 75% to 125% of the average insurance company. I use a minus sign (-) to indicate auto insurance complaint ratios slightly worse than average (1.05 to 1.25) and a plus sign (+) for auto insurance complaint ratios slightly better than average (.95 to .75).

W = Worse than average. Insurance companies with complaint ratios more than 125% of the average insurance company.

I prefer companies with the longest recent history of “B” ratings each year (or at least in the most recent three years). Companies with “B” or “C+” ratings are okay, too, particularly if they have less market share, with less than $100,000,000 in premiums for that line of insurance (auto or home) each year. I prefer to avoid companies with a consistently higher than average number of complaints, or with inconsistent complaint records, unless there are mitigating factors, such as small market share.

CSE Insurance Group consists of two subsidiary companies, CSE Safeguard Insurance Company and Civil Service Employees Insurance Company

CSE Insurance Group Auto Insurance Customer Complaints

CSE Safeguard Insurance Company Auto Insurance Complaint Statistics & Ratings

B = Better than Average C = Average W = Worse than Average

2014 Auto Insurance Complaint Ratio = W (2.94)

2014 US auto insurance premium = $26,408,413

2013 Auto Insurance Complaint Ratio = B (.40)

2013 US auto insurance premium = $27,106,859

2012 Auto Insurance Complaint Ratio = B (.35)

2012 US auto insurance premium = $25,741,679

2011 Auto Insurance Complaint Ratio = W (1.34)

2011 US auto insurance premium = $25,530,582

Civil Service Employees Insurance Company Auto Insurance Complaint Statistics & Ratings

B = Better than Average C = Average W = Worse than Average

2014 Auto Insurance Complaint Ratio = W (2.78)

2014 US auto insurance premium = $22,755,683

2013 Auto Insurance Complaint Ratio = B (.68)

2013 US auto insurance premium = $15,859,040

2012 Auto Insurance Complaint Ratio = B (.57)

2012 US auto insurance premium = $15,858,514

2011 Auto Insurance Complaint Ratio = C- (1.07)

2011 US auto insurance premium = $16,043,348

The two CSE subsidiaries had a worse than average number of auto insurance complaints in 2014, which is a concern. When subsidiaries, like Civil Service Employees Insurance Company and CSE Safeguard Insurance Company, have less than $50,000,000 in written premiums for an individual line of insurance, like auto insurance, it’s harder to maintain low complaint ratios, because one or two extra complaints in a year can make the complaint ratio worse than average. It’s okay to have the occasional year with a worse than average complaint ratio if it was because or only one, two, or three extra complaints that year. However, this was not the case in 2014, where there were more than just a few complaints. I’d want to see either no worse than average complaint ratios in the most recent three years, or a longer complaint history (five years or more) to confirm there is only the occasional off-year, to say a company has a reliable history of better than average annual number of auto insurance complaints.

Homeowners (including Homeowners, Condo, Renters) CSE Insurance Group Customer Complaints

CSE Safeguard Insurance Company Homeowners Insurance Complaint Statistics & Ratings

B = Better than Average C = Average W = Worse than Average

2014 Home Insurance Complaint Ratio = W (1.66)

2014 US home insurance premium = $34,226,512

2013 Home Insurance Complaint Ratio = B (.64)

2013 US home insurance premium = $34,553,869

2012 Home Insurance Complaint Ratio = C (1.00)

2012 US home insurance premium = $32,441,575

2011 Home Insurance Complaint Ratio = C- (1.10)

2011 US home insurance premium = $29,306,632

Civil Service Employees Insurance Company Homeowners Insurance Complaint Statistics & Ratings

B = Better than Average C = Average W = Worse than Average

2014 Home Insurance Complaint Ratio = W (2.50)

2014 US home insurance premium = $22,755,683

2013 Home Insurance Complaint Ratio = B (.55)

2013 US home insurance premium = $21,386,189

2012 Home Insurance Complaint Ratio = W (1.46)

2012 US home insurance premium = $22,149,675

2011 Home Insurance Complaint Ratio = B (.36)

2011 US home insurance premium = $22,368,045

The two CSE subsidiaries had a worse than average number of home insurance complaints in 2014, which is a concern. When subsidiaries, like Civil Service Employees Insurance Company and CSE Safeguard Insurance Company, have less than $50,000,000 in written premiums for an individual line of insurance, like home insurance, it’s harder to maintain low complaint ratios, because one or two extra complaints in a year can make the complaint ratio worse than average. It’s okay to have the occasional year with a worse than average complaint ratio if it was because or only one, two, or three extra complaints that year. However, this was not the case in 2014, where there were more than just a few home insurance complaints. I like to see either no worse than average complaint ratios in the most recent three years, or a longer complaint history (five years or more) to confirm there is only the occasional off-year, to say a company has a reliable history of better than average annual number of auto insurance complaints.

5. CSE Insurance Review Summary

Here’s my summary to give you the bottom line on the customer service & rates for CSE Insurance Group, to see if it performs better than average, average, or worse than average.

CSE Insurance auto insurance customer & claims service as measured by its complaint record:

Worse than Average

CSE Insurance Homeowners insurance customer & claims service as measured by its complaint record:

Worse than Average

What can make CSE a much better or worse insurance company for you is the quality of service provided by the independent insurance agency from which you choose to buy it. Does your insurance agency return calls promptly (at least within two business days)? Did your agency explain your coverage and all your coverage options? Did your agent ask you enough questions to determine your insurance needs? For example: Do you have a home business? Are you self-employed? Do you belong to a homeowners association? How is your car customized? Is the loan on your car close to or more than the value of the car? Who might drive your cars other than you and your resident family members? Does your agent review your coverage with you each year? If you have a problem, does your agent answer all your questions, follow-up, and tell you what to expect? Does your agent help you when you have a claim, or does the agency just tell you to call the company? I wrote a series of blog posts on how to tell a good insurance agent from a bad or mediocre insurance agent, which you can check out here. A good insurance agent can make insuring with an average insurance company a great experience.

How does CSE Insurance compare to other major auto & home insurance companies, like State Farm, Allstate, Nationwide, GEICO, & Progressive? Compare CSE Insurance with over forty other companies at my home page: smartshopyourcarinsurance.com.

CSE Insurance Rates

For pricing, the most reliable way to know if your insurance company charges too much is to conduct your own pricing survey, by obtaining price quotes from all the leading insurance companies in your state, to find the best company for you. However, a recent rapid increase or decrease in market share may indicate whether a company has higher or lower insurance rates for at least some people.

If you look at the annual auto insurance premiums for the two CSE Insurance Group companies in section #4 of this review, the auto insurance market share for CSE Safeguard Insurance Company increased slightly from 2012 to 2013, while the auto insurance market share (as measured by annual premium) for Civil Service Employees Insurance Company stayed about the same from 2012 to 2013.

If you look at the annual home insurance premiums for the two CSE Insurance Group companies in section #4 of this review, the home insurance market share for CSE Safeguard Insurance Company increased slightly from 2012 to 2013, while the home insurance market share (as measured by annual premium) for Civil Service Employees Insurance Company decreased slightly from 2012 to 2013.

The slight change in overall auto & homeowners market share is not a strong signal CSE Insurance has either low or high auto & homeowner insurance rates compared to its competitors. However, slow growth for insurance companies, particularly ones sold by independent agents the companies rely upon to market for them, may have more to do with a lack of consumer awareness than not having low insurance rates.

When I say auto insurance, even if you are a public employee in California, you are likely to think about companies like GEICO, Progressive, Allstate, State Farm, and other companies advertising frequently in the media, but you may not be aware of Civil Service Employees Insurance Company at all. Don’t choose an insurance company based on its frequent advertising messages.

For example, Nationwide Insurance has been running frequent TV ads about a feature on its property insurance offered by almost all insurance companies, where in the event of a covered loss, the “Brand New Belongings” coverage reimburses members for the full cost to repair or replace the covered personal property with new or similar articles to those stolen or destroyed. I’m not aware of any major insurance company not offering “replacement cost on contents,” to standard or preferred risk customers. Nationwide Insurance might be the best choice for you, but it won’t be because it offers the same “Brand New Belongings” coverage as almost all other companies. It would be like choosing to buy a new Ford truck over other brands because it’s equipped with air conditioning.

Don’t make the mistake of ruling out smaller insurance companies that may be unknown to you. A while ago, I stumbled upon an insurance company with great coverage, claims service and the best auto insurance rates for me, through a mailer from an independent insurance agency associated with one of my credit cards. Even I had never heard of the company before, and I was sure most other independent insurance agencies didn’t represent it. Unfortunately, the company eventually ceased offering auto insurance, or I might still be insured with it. When you shop for auto and/or home insurance, be sure to contact an independent insurance agency representing CSE or other companies only available from independent insurance agents, to make sure you are not missing out on a company having the best auto and home insurance coverage and rates for you.

It pays to shop. Many people pay too much for their insurance because they never shop for better rates, or if they do shop, they don’t check the rates of enough companies. No single company has low rates for everyone. You have to shop with all the leading companies, to find the company with the best coverage and best price for you. The ad below will take you to links to get online quotes from leading Home, Auto, Health, & Life insurance companies in your area. Choose the type of insurance, put in your zip, and start shopping now!

Did this CSE Insurance review explain what you need to know about Civil Service Employees auto & home insurance? Tell me about it. Please leave a comment on my facebook page. Follow me on Twitter for important insurance consumer news and new blog entries at CarInsWatch.