Extended Warranties for Less

Choosing whether or not to buy an extended warranty on your new appliance or electronic device can sometimes be a tough choice. It is nice to have the safety blanket that an extended warranty seems to offer, but the cost is often a deterrent. But what if you could get an extended warranty without paying for it? If you like the words “free” and “cheap” as much as I do, then keep reading.

Credit Cards Provide Free Extended Warranties

If you are like 72% of Americans, chances are you have a credit card. Is your card a Visa, MasterCard, Discover, or American Express? If so, you’re in luck! All four of these credit card companies offer free extended warranty coverage in some form or another for a variety of consumer goods purchased with their card. After you’re done doing your happy dance or fist pump, don’t go running off just yet, there are some things you need to know about how this process works.

First, make sure your card actually does provide an extended warranty. All American Express, Discover, and MasterCard cardholders have extended warranty benefits. However, only Visa Signature cardholders get the Visa extended warranty perks. Additionally, World Card MasterCard holders have better benefits than holders of Standard, Gold, and Platinum Cards. Before calling your credit card company, make sure you can show with a statement or some document that you actually purchased the product with their card. For example, if you have a Discover and a Visa and you bought your computer with the Visa, you won’t be able to get Discover to extend the warranty of the computer if it breaks.

Second, don’t putz around. All four companies require you to contact them by phone within a certain period of time in order to file a claim. MasterCard and American Express both require you to contact them within 30 days of the defect arising. Discover and Visa allow 45 and 60 days, respectively, for you to contact them.

Third, save your receipts and the original manufacturer’s warranty. To make a claim with your credit card company you will be required to provide both of these documents. You will probably also need to have an estimate from the manufacturer on how much the repair will cost. In most situations this will require contacting the manufacturer, not the store you bought it from.

Fourth, recognize that not all cards offer the same benefits. CardHub.com has rated the four cards on each of their policies and benefits related to extended warranties as follows from best to worst: American Express, Discover, MasterCard, and Visa. CreditCards.com also has a good chart that compares all the exclusions and other terms by card.

Finally, don’t go rouge—follow the process your card company gives you. Credit card companies aren’t going to just toss out cash willy-nilly. Be sure to submit all the documents they require within the time requirements. But if you do follow the process and qualify for coverage, you’ll either get a check or a credit to your account to cover repair costs. Alternatively you might be required to front the cost of the repair, and then your credit card company should reimburse you. Also, depending on the product, you might be asked to mail it in to your credit card company and have to go without it for a few weeks while it is repaired, a slight inconvenience for getting a free repair.

Contact the Store and Manufacturer

Even if you didn’t buy an extended warranty, it never hurts to ask customer service what they can do for you. I’ve heard plenty of stories about Costco taking back broken TVs and computers after the warranty expired and giving the customer a new one. I once took my old mouse into the Apple store asking if they had a way to clean the scroll ball because it wasn’t working, and they just gave me the newer mouse model for free. This doesn’t always work, but I say it’s always worth asking because both stores and manufacturers want to keep their customers happy. You might just catch a break.

Add a Rider to Your Homeowners Insurance

Many homeowner insurance policies allow you to add a rider to cover certain items like a computer, camera, or other equipment. A typical rider of this sort might add about $10 to your policy and cover an item up to $1,000. Just like any extended warranty, some insurance policies are going to be more generous than others. So, be sure to check the fine print for what your policy specifically covers. For example, some policies only cover a computer while others cover a computer and its peripherals such as an attached printer, speakers, and even things like the data or software on your computer.

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