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The Hartford offers Visa card for homeowners insurance claims

The Hartford is now issuing a Visa card to policyholders who file homeowners insurance claims to give them fast, easy access to cash.

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"Policyholders won't have to pay out-of-pocket or wait for a check to clear to receive their money."

The Hartford Insurance Claim Card can be used at retail stores, banks, ATMs, and over the Internet to pay for repairs to homes or additional living expenses when they file a homeowners insurance claim. The "stored value" card is programmed with a designated dollar amount. The Hartford can load additional funds onto the card if there is an additional payment due on the claim.

"When disaster strikes, homeowners need to have quick and easy access to funds, whether it's to pay for temporary housing, living expenses, or repairs," says Scott McAlindin, senior vice president of personal lines claims at The Hartford. "With [the claim card], policyholders won't have to pay out-of-pocket or wait for a check to clear to receive their money."

The Hartford is offering the claim card in 25 states and expects to make it available countrywide later this year. It is now offered in Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming. Currently, all cards have an expiration date of September 2001.

Marnie Goodman, a spokesperson for The Hartford, says that policyholders who file a claim will receive the card by mail once the claim has been settled. Policyholders can activate the card by calling a toll-free service number on the back of it. In the future, the company hopes to have adjusters distribute cards on the spot. The Hartford does not have access to records of the card's usage, and there are no preferred vendors where policyholders must spend the money.

Initially, the claim card is to be used for homeowners insurance claims only, but the insurer expects to expand the offering to auto insurance and other personal lines policyholders in the future.

Goodman says that while the new claims card was designed to provide policyholders with a fast, easy way to access money, it is also being viewed as a potential cost-savings tool for the insurer.

"We've developed this with an eye toward being as flexible as possible and providing as many options as we can for our customers," she says. "But at the same time, we're always looking to streamline processes and improve efficiency."

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