As many Americans struggle through tough economic times, the need to replace appliances and other large ticket items is more than an inconvenience – it’s a financial hardship. For most of us, keeping up with the Jones’ is no longer the objective and buying the latest and greatest new products is not an option. Making it even harder is the fact that most of the merchandise available today is generally lower quality – as they say, “they don’t make it like they used to!” Luckily, for those that make purchases with plastic – there are some extra protections in place.
With less durable, lower quality materials being used to make products these days, consumers are stuck in an endless cycle of buying new whenever something is damaged or broken. At a time when so many products are of questionable quality and reliability, manufacturers’ make matters even worse by reducing the length of their product warranties and filling-in the fine print of their guarantees with so many exclusions that they’re almost worthless. But there’s a simple way to be protected against defective merchandise and poor warranty protection – make your purchases with a credit card.
Protection Plans Vary by Network
Purchase protection and extended warranty coverage is offered by all four major payment networks - American Express, Discover, MasterCard and Visa. Offered as a complimentary feature for buying on credit, the programs reimburse you for faulty, damaged, or lost goods and even protect you if you’ve changed your mind about a purchase. The protections provided by each network vary, which is why it’s important to fully understand the details of the services provided by your credit card issuer.
- American Express – Eligible purchases include those with a warranty of 5 years or less, extending it for an additional year. There is an annual limit of $1,000 with a $300 limit reimbursement per eligible item. Protection against theft and accidental damage are included for up to 90 days from the date of purchase. American Express also provides a return warranty of a full 90 days, if you change your mind on an eligible purchase. Coverage includes purchases made worldwide and gifts purchased for others.
- Discover Card – Doubles the coverage, up to an additional year, on card purchases that carry a warranty of up to 36 months and on purchased warranties. You will be automatically eligible to return, for a refund up to $500, a qualifying item purchased within 90 days when the original store will not accept a return. Discover also includes a price guarantee; if you find a lower price on a recently purchased item at any store within 90 days, you’re eligible for a reimbursement of the price difference of up to $500. Damaged or stolen purchased items are eligible for up to a $500 reimbursement within 90 days of the purchase.
- Mastercard & Visa – MasterCard and Visa warranties differ from those offered by American Express and Discover in that the terms are defined by the issuer. So for example, Capital One may have a slightly different policy than Chase. There are, however, general rules that apply to the majority of eligible purchases. These include doubling the original manufacturer’s or store brand warranty for up to one year; price guarantees for up to 60 days from the date of purchase; 90 days of coverage for damaged or stolen items and 60 days to return products you’re not satisfied with for a refund of up to $250, if the store refuses to accept a return.
How to Make a Claim
An extended credit card warranty only covers damage protected by the original warranty and does not cover normal wear and tear, power surges and catastrophes like floods. Purchases need to be filed with the card company’s warranty processing center and original paperwork maintained, including the receipt, relevant credit card statement and a copy of the manufacturer’s warranty.
To file a claim, contact the company within the allotted time. Be prepared to submit any requested documentation and comply with other instructions that may require the damaged item be mailed to the company. Your credit card company will make the decision on whether to reimburse, repair or replace the item. Possible exclusions may include secondhand or refurbished items, software, automobiles and products that will be hard-wired into your home, such as ceiling fixtures and doorbells.
Take Full Advantage!
With only subtle differences in the extended warranty plans provided most credit card issuers, in most cases, choosing one credit card over the other won’t make a huge difference. The key is to use a plastic (from any major credit card network) when purchasing big ticket items that may need extended warranty coverage. Major appliances, computers, cameras and other technology typically include a one-year warranty, and an additional 12-months can make the difference between getting an item replaced – or purchasing a new one. Don’t forget, you’ll pay interest on your purchase as long as you carry a balance, so that extended warranty coverage isn’t free unless you pay if off completely.