Protect Your Smartphone With Your Credit Card

Before shelling out extra cash on insurance for your mobile device, check to see if your credit card's benefits include coverage.

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Do you worry about cell phone mishaps? Before you shell out for insurance, see whether your credit card comes with coverage as a free benefit. Last year, Mastercard began offering cell phone protection for holders of its World (opens in new tab) and World Elite (opens in new tab) credit cards. Consumer credit cards from Wells Fargo (opens in new tab) come with phone insurance, and so do the Chase Ink Business Preferred Visa (opens in new tab), Uber Visa (opens in new tab) and U.S. Bank Visa Platinum (opens in new tab) cards.

To get the insurance, you have to pay your monthly wireless bill with the credit card (check with the issuer to see whether all phones on a family plan are covered). The coverage limit per claim is often $600, although Mastercard World Elite cardholders get up to $800 a claim. Yearly coverage limits apply, too, typically ranging from about $1,000 to $1,800. And the number of claims may be capped at two or three annually. Deductibles run from about $25 to $100.

The insurance usually covers devices that are damaged or stolen (but not lost). The type of damage that qualifies varies. Mastercard’s pro­tection, for example, includes screen scratches that don’t affect your phone’s ability to make or take calls; some other plans exclude cosmetic damage. Other exclusions may include phones paired with a prepaid wireless plan, devices stolen from checked baggage during air travel and electronic problems not caused by physical damage, such as inability to charge the battery. If your phone is stolen, you may have to provide the benefit administrator a police report that was filed within 48 hours of the in­cident, and damage claims may require a repair estimate. And you’ll typically have to file your claim within a specified window after the damage or theft occurred—often 90 days.

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If you buy insurance through your phone carrier, you may enjoy higher coverage limits of about $2,000 per claim and inclusion of lost phones in the plan, says Tina Chang, of WhistleOut (opens in new tab), a phone-plan comparison site. But the cost may be about $10 to $20 per month in premiums.

Lisa Gerstner
Contributing Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

Lisa has spent 15 years with Kiplinger’s Personal Finance and heads up the magazine’s annual rankings of the best banks, best rewards credit cards, and financial-services firms with the best customer service. She reports on a variety of other topics, too, from retirement to health care to money concerns for millennials. She has shared her expertise as a guest on the Today Show, CNN, Fox, NPR, Cheddar and many other media outlets around the nation. Lisa graduated from Ball State University and received the school’s “Graduate of the Last Decade” award in 2014. A military spouse, she has moved around the U.S. and currently lives in the Philadelphia area with her husband and two sons.