The Ultimate Guide to Credit Cards
Tuesday, July 23, 2024

What is Credit Card Purchase Protection? Covered Items & Strategic Ways to Use the Benefit

What Is Credit Card Purchase Protection
Eric Bank

Written by: Eric Bank

Eric Bank
Eric Bank

Eric Bank is an M.B.A. who has covered financial and business topics since 1985, appearing regularly on Credible, eHow, WiseBread, The Nest, Zacks, Chron, BadCredit.org and dozens of other outlets. Eric specializes in taking complex subject matters and explaining them in simple terms for consumer audiences, particularly in the world of personal finance. Eric holds a Master's in Business Administration from New York University and a Master's in Finance from DePaul University.

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Edited by: Jon McDonald

Jon McDonald
Jon McDonald

Jon leverages 15-plus years of journalism expertise to inform financial consumers about emerging trends and companies making an impact in the industry. He is most knowledgeable in the areas of budgeting, credit card rewards, and responsible credit use. Jon has a passion for writing and editing, and his articles have appeared in publications produced by The New York Times.

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Reviewed by: Ashley Fricker

Ashley Fricker
Ashley Fricker

Ashley Fricker has more than a decade of experience as a finance contributor and editor, and has specialized in the credit card industry since 2015. Her credit card commentary is featured on national media outlets that include CNBC, MarketWatch, Investopedia, and Reader's Digest, among many others. She has worked closely with the world’s largest banks and financial institutions, up-and-coming fintech companies, and press and news outlets to curate comprehensive content and media. Ashley holds a bachelor's degree in multimedia journalism from Florida Atlantic University.

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Opinions expressed here are ours alone, and are not provided, endorsed, or approved by any issuer. Our articles follow strict editorial guidelines and are updated regularly.

Credit card purchase protection safeguards you if a product you buy with your credit card gets stolen or damaged soon after you purchase it. If something bad happens to your purchase, the credit card company can help you get your money back or replace the item.

This protection usually lasts for a specified period after you buy the item, sometimes as long as 180 days. It typically extends the manufacturer’s warranty, and your credit card issuer can pay for a repair or replacement of the product.

You can learn more by reading this informative guide about the world of credit card purchase protection.

The Basics of Purchase Protection

Each credit card company chooses whether to offer this benefit and how much protection it will provide. Purchase protection will fix, replace, or pay you back for your item if you buy something with your card and it gets damaged or stolen within a certain period after you buy it. You must report the problem and provide the required paperwork within a set time.

Commonly Covered Items

Purchase protection covers most of the things you buy, but it excludes many items. For example, here is the list of items that American Express doesn’t cover, which includes many items commonly not covered across issuers:

  • Animals and living plants
  • Antiques and collectible items
  • Any motorized vehicles and their motors, equipment, or accessories
  • Broken items, unless damage is the result of a covered occurrence
  • Computer software
  • Baggage, unless hand-carried and under your personal supervision or the supervision of a traveling companion whom you know
  • Items damaged as a result of weather other than lightning, wind, hail, rain, sleet, or snow
  • Items purchased for resale, professional, or commercial use
  • Items stolen from automobiles and other vehicles or common carriers
  • Items that are lost or that mysteriously disappear
  • Items under the care and control of a common carrier
  • Medical equipment
  • Perishables, consumables, and limited-life items
  • Product defects
  • Real estate and related items
  • Rented or leased items
  • Theft or damage resulting from abuse, fraud, or hostilities of any kind
  • Theft or damage resulting from misdelivery or voluntarily parting with the property
  • Traveler’s checks, cash, tickets, credit or debit cards, and any other negotiable instruments
  • Used or pre-owned items

The exclusion list varies by issuer, so read the fine print in the credit card agreement and/or speak to a customer rep to see whether the card covers you for a specific loss.

Coverage Limits

The protection only covers up to the amount you paid for the item, and there are limits on how much your credit card will cover per incident, per year, and over the lifetime of your account. Often, the limit for each product is $500, but some credit cards may allow up to $10,000.

Usually, the total amount you can claim over the life of the account can be at most $50,000. This means that if you keep making claims, the card will only pay up to this total amount.

Purchase Protection Policies Across Major Card Brands

Of the four major U.S. credit card networks, three provide optional purchase protection on participating cards. Only Discover cards lack this benefit. You should read the issuer’s card agreement to see whether it offers purchase protection and, if so, how it compares to the payment processor’s generic benefits.

Visa

Visa logo

Visa does not issue credit cards, but it does offer some extra benefits for cards that brandish the Visa logo. Each card has the final say on what, if any, purchase protection it provides. However, if it adopts the Visa Purchase Security, it will cover new retail purchases made with an eligible Visa account or rewards program for damage or theft within the first 90 days.

It does not cover certain items such as animals, plants, motor vehicles, items intended for resale, perishable items, and other items mentioned on the American Express list. It will deny coverage for losses due to normal wear and tear or disasters such as floods. The maximum coverage is $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per cardholder.

To file a claim, you must contact the Benefit Administrator by calling 1-888-221-3289 within 60 days of the incident. You will need to submit a claim form along with documentation such as a police report for theft, repair estimates, or proof of purchase. You must fully document and submit claims within 90 days of the incident.

Mastercard

Mastercard logo

As with Visa, Mastercard does not issue credit cards but does provide added benefits to select cards. Mastercard Purchase Assurance covers damaged or stolen items you bought with your card for 90 days following purchase.

The coverage includes the usual exclusions, including antiques, motor vehicles, plants, perishables, items left unattended, and losses from wear and tear. Mastercard limits the benefit to $1,000 per loss, with a total limit of $25,000 per cardholder per year.

To file a claim, call 1-800-MasterCard within 60 days of the incident. You must submit a completed claim form, repair estimates, purchase receipts, police reports for stolen items, and other required documents within 180 days of reporting the claim.

American Express

American Express logo

American Express offers dozens of credit cards, and the details of its purchase protection plans may vary.

American Express Purchase Protection covers new purchases made with an eligible card that is damaged or stolen within 90 days of purchase. I’ve already listed the excluded items above.

The coverage is up to $10,000 per claim, with a yearly limit of $50,000 per card. There is also a special limit of $500 for events related to natural disasters.

To file a claim, visit americanexpress.com/onlineclaim or call 1-800-228-6855. For international claims, call collect at 1-303-273-6497. You must submit a claim form, purchase receipts, and other required documents as specified in the claims process. Report claims within 30 days of the event and proof of loss within 60 days.

Discover

Discover logo

Discover offers some fine credit cards, but alas, it doesn’t offer purchase protection. It is the only major U.S. payment processor that doesn’t provide this benefit.

How to Maximize Purchase Protection Benefits

Purchase protection benefits can provide peace of mind and cover a wide range of common products and scenarios. But you should still do your homework to maximize those benefits. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Understanding Your Credit Card’s Policies

Always read your credit card’s benefit guide carefully. The guide explains the rules, limits, and process for making claims.

For example, the Mastercard guide contains the terms under which Mastercard offers protection for purchases made with a covered card. It details what items are covered, the process for filing a claim, and the limitations and exclusions of the coverage.

The document serves as a comprehensive guide to help cardholders understand how they can benefit from purchase assurance when their items are stolen or damaged within 90 days of purchase.

Use the Card for Strategic Purchases

Use your credit card wisely when buying big-ticket items, including electronics and furniture, as they are more expensive to repair or replace. When traveling, using your card for purchases such as cameras and laptops can also be smart because travel increases the risk of theft or accidental damage.

Here are some more strategies to ensure your card’s purchase protection works for you:

  • Document Your Purchases: Keep all receipts and records of what you buy with your card — this can be fairly easy if you receive electronic statements.
  • Understand Exclusions: Know what the purchase protection does not cover, such as perishable items and cars.
  • Immediate Reporting: Quickly report any theft or damage to your card issuer to start the claim process.
  • Use All Available Features: Take advantage of extra benefits such as extended warranties that your card offers.

Knowing these details helps you use your card effectively and stay protected against unexpected problems.

How to Choose the Right Card with Purchase Protection

If you consider purchase protection a decisive benefit that you must have, take the time to choose a card that lives up to your expectations. Here are some tips for choosing the right card.

Assess Your Purchasing Habits and Needs

When choosing a credit card with purchase protection, think about what you buy and how often you buy it. This helps you figure out how much coverage you need.

If you buy expensive things like electronics or jewelry often, choose a card with high coverage limits to ensure they’re protected if stolen or damaged. If you use your card for many different purchases, choose one with an easy and flexible claim process. This makes it less of a hassle to repair or recover your items.

Compare Benefit Guides and Claims Processes

Carefully read and compare the benefit guides from different cards. Look closely at what’s covered, the limits of the coverage, and any exceptions.

Pay attention to how long the coverage lasts after a purchase and if any specific types of purchases or categories are not covered. Also, check the claim process, including how to file claims, what documents you need, and how long it usually takes to settle a claim.

The best card should have a user-friendly process and comprehensive coverage.

Balance Other Card Features

When selecting a credit card, think about other benefits besides purchase protection. Look for cards that offer rewards like cash back, points, or miles that fit your spending patterns. Also, some cards have promotional 0% interest rates, which can help finance big purchases without extra costs during the promo period.

You will also want to evaluate a card’s other consumer protections, including price protection and extended warranties. Here is a summary of the most popular benefits of consumer protection:

BenefitExplanation
Purchase ProtectionCovers new purchases against damage or theft for a short period after purchase, typically 90 days.
Extended WarrantyExtends the manufacturer’s warranty on purchases, usually by up to one additional year.
Fraud ProtectionOffers $0 liability against unauthorized transactions and fraudulent charges.
Price ProtectionRefunds the difference between your purchase price and a cheaper one within a certain timeframe
Promotional Interest RatesOffers lower or 0% interest rates on purchases for an introductory period, often ranging from 6 to 18 months.
Cellphone InsuranceProvides coverage for the repair or replacement of your cellphone in case of theft or damage under specific conditions.

If you frequently travel, you may want a credit card that offers features such as travel insurance, rental car insurance, free baggage check, luggage insurance, and various travel-related credits. These travel cards usually have annual fees in the hundreds of dollars, but some have benefits that more than justify the cost.

Credit Card Purchase Protection Provides Peace of Mind

Credit card purchase protection gives you extra security when you buy things. It helps cover costs if your items are stolen, lost, or damaged soon after buying them.

This makes using your credit card a safer option for buying expensive or important items. It should give you more confidence and less worry about unexpected problems.