Did you know that you may automatically have cell phone protection from your credit card?
In an effort to lure customers to their cards, many of the top credit card issuers are offering to replace stolen or damaged cell phones if you use their card to pay your monthly cell phone bill.
It may sound too good to be true, but money expert Clark Howard says it is a legitimate practice. And he considers it a better method of protection than buying an expensive insurance plan from your cell phone provider.
“Credit card companies are offering a variety of unusual benefits to stand out from one another, including protection for electronics like your cell phone, Clark says.
“They want you to pay your cell phone bill with their card. And if you do so, the cell phone may be covered if you break it or it breaks on you.”
In this article, we’ll explore the credit cards that offer this coverage, dive into what the coverage means to you and how you can know if your phone is covered.
Credit Cards That Will Pay to Replace Your Cell Phone
If you are paying your cell phone bill with one of the following credit cards, you may find that you have replacement coverage if your phone is stolen or damaged.
It is important to note that many of these cards will limit how many times you can take advantage of the cell phone replacement perk. For example, both U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo limit replacements to twice per year with a total reimbursement of $1,200.
If you don’t have one of the cards on this list, check with your current credit card provider to see if it offers this benefit. But note that Clark does not advise applying for a new credit card for the sole purpose of gaining this coverage.
If you have one of the cards listed above, it’s prudent to check the fine print on your card agreement. That’s to ensure that you’re taking the necessary steps to be eligible for the coverage in the unfortunate event that you need it.
How Does the Credit Card-Provided Cell Phone Coverage Work?
In most cases, you’re going to need to use the credit card in question to pay for your cell phone bill each month to receive the advertised protection.
To avoid a lapse in this coverage, consider setting up an automatic payment schedule for your cell bill with the credit card offering the perk. That way you know the right card pays that bill each month.
But paying the bill with the right credit card is just the first step to qualify for reimbursement. Here are some more things you need to know:
Your Coverage Likely Is Supplemental Insurance
In most cases, credit card cell phone protection is supplemental to other types of insurance — like home and automobile — so read the fine print carefully to understand what is and what isn’t covered.
This also means if you pay for cell phone insurance through your phone manufacturer or your wireless service provider, you may have to use that insurance first before you’re eligible for this benefit.
For example, here’s a look at how this process is explained for U.S. Bank’s credit card protection program:
“This benefit is supplemental coverage, which means that it will reimburse you for theft of, damage to or involuntary and accidental parting of your cell phone not otherwise covered by another insurance policy (for example; cell phone insurance programs, or your homeowner’s, renter’s, automobile, or employer’s insurance policies).
“If you do have personal insurance that covers theft, damage or involuntary and accidental parting for your cell phone, this benefit reimburses you for the deductible portion of your cell phone insurance.
“If you do not have personal insurance, the benefit reimburses you for the covered theft, damage, or involuntary and accidental parting for your cell phone.”
You Likely Can’t Make a Claim if You Lose Your Phone
The verbiage on these cell phone protection plans typically specifies “stolen” or “damaged” cell phones as eligible for a claim.
You likely noticed that leaves out one of the most common ways a cell phone could require replacement: simply losing the phone.
For example, the fine print for the Navy Federal Mastercard coverage specifically excludes coverage for “Cellular Wireless Telephones that are lost or Mysteriously Disappear.” It also rules out several legitimate ways a phone could be stolen, such as theft that takes place at an airport,
Again, we recommend that you read your coverage documents closely.
Your Accessories Probably Aren’t Covered, But Multiple Phones May Be
Did you buy a high-end battery or the most expensive protective phone case on the market? You’re probably out of luck, even if you have cell phone protection through your credit card.
When you dig into the fine print, you’ll likely find that these items are explicitly excluded from any sort of coverage. Most plans are only going to cover the phone components you received in the box when you bought it.
However, it’s not all bad news. Many of these protection plans will allow for more than one phone to be covered, provided that the cardholder is the primary payer for the wireless account.
This Won’t Impact Your Credit Score or Line of Credit
Filing a claim on your stolen or damaged cell phone should not have any impact on your credit score. Nor will it impact the existing credit line you have with the credit card issuer.
Often, your card issuer does not get involved in these claims at all. Many of them farm out the administrative duties for processing to Visa or Mastercard.
Is This an Alternative to Buying Cell Phone Insurance?
Some cell phone providers or third-party businesses will sell you an insurance policy on your cell phone for an added monthly fee. Clark says don’t buy it!
“You should only buy insurance on what you can’t afford to replace,” Clark says. “That’s why you have it on a house, on a car or on your life. Those are things you can’t easily replace.
“Don’t buy insurance on things. If you can’t afford to replace a television or a cell phone, then you likely can’t afford to buy it in the first place.”
Instead of an add-on insurance policy, Clark believes this free supplemental coverage is an adequate way to try to recoup some of your losses should your cell phone meet its demise sooner than you anticipated.
While money expert Clark Howard endorses taking this freebie from your credit card company, he also would caution against placing too much value on it as a credit card decision-maker.
If you already have a credit card on the list above, you should probably take advantage of the free cell phone protection.
If you’re shopping for a new credit card, it is just one small thing to consider alongside more important terms like APR, annual fees and rewards programs.