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So you finally splurged for an Apple Watch and it broke less than 48 hours later. The warranty won’t cover the damage and you didn’t think you’d need Apple Care. You’re out of luck, right? Well, not if you used the right credit card to make the purchase.

Purchase protection can save you big if a recent purchase is damaged or stolen. Only some credit cards offer purchase protection, though, and the benefits tend to vary across cards, so in this guide I describe the basics of credit card purchase protection and which credit cards offer the best coverage.

What Is Purchase Protection?

The purchase protection benefit offered by select credit cards covers eligible purchases against accidental damage or theft — and for some cards, loss — in the first few months after the purchase.

How Purchase Protection Benefits Differ

Not all purchase protection benefits are created equal. Purchase protection benefits offered by credit cards often differ in three main aspects:

  • Amount of coverage: Usually ranges from $500 to $10,000 per item, often with a cap of $50,000 per year per account
  • Duration of coverage: Usually ranges from 90 to 120 days, although the exact date coverage begins varies across cards
  • Exclusions: Purchases can be excluded due to their type or method of loss/damage
    • Types of purchases often excluded: Motorized vehicles and their parts, animals, living plants, perishable or consumable items, tickets, gift cards, antiques, jewelry, medical equipment
    • Types of loss / damage often excluded: Natural disasters, riots, illegal behavior, failure to adequately secure the item, items stolen from personal vehicles

How to Utilize Purchase Protection

Before making a significant purchase, know the benefits offered by each of the cards you could use for the purchase. Although this guide focuses on purchase protection, you should also consider return protection, price protection and extended warranty benefits for large purchases.

Purchase protection doesn’t require any registration. So if a recently purchased item is damaged, stolen or lost your first step should be to determine whether the card used to purchase the item features purchase protection. Your next step should be to check the card’s benefits guide to determine if your item and its form of damage or loss is eligible. Call a representative if you have any questions regarding eligibility, the documentation needed or the process required to file a claim.

During the claim process you may need to submit a police report for stolen items and a repair estimate for damaged items. It’s a good idea to keep damaged items until the claim is complete. Claims also usually require original receipts and the credit card statement related to the purchase. Note that coverage is sometimes secondary to homeowners insurance and auto insurance, so you may need to prove that you’ve already submitted claims with other insurance providers.

If your claim is successful, the credit card company will choose to replace, repair or reimburse you for the lost or damaged item. For example, when TPG’s Emily McNutt filed the claim for her broken Apple Watch purchased with her Platinum Card® from American Express, she received a statement credit for the purchase price.

The Best Credit Cards for Purchase Protection

Card Coverage Amount Per Item Coverage Amount Per Year Coverage Duration (days) Earning Rate(s) Annual Fee
United MileagePlus Club Card $10,000 $50,000 120 2x directly purchased United tickets, 1.5x other $450
Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express $10,000 $50,000 90 3x directly booked airfare, 2x US gas/ US supermarkets/US restaurants, 1x other. Terms apply. $0 first year, then $195
Ink Business Cash Credit Card $10,000 $50,000 120 5% office supply stores/telecom, 2% gas stations/restaurants, 1% other $0
Citi Double Cash Card $1,000 $50,000 120 1% everything, another 1% after you pay $0
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express $1,000 $50,000 90 3% US supermarkets on the first $6,000; (then 1%), 2% US gas stations/US department stores, 1% other. Terms apply. $0
Chase Freedom $500 $50,000 120 5% bonus categories each quarter, 1% other $0

These cards, each of which was chosen with a particular type of consumer or purchase in mind, are discussed below. Note that coverage can vary based on your state of residence, and bonus categories sometimes have caps.

United MileagePlus Club Card

  • Maximum coverage per item: $10,000
  • Maximum coverage per account per year: $50,000
  • Coverage duration: 120 days
  • Annual fee: $450
  • Earning rates: 2 miles per dollar spent on tickets purchased from United; 1.5 miles per dollar spent on all other purchases
  • Other shopping benefits: Price protection (within 90 days, up to $500 per item and $2,500 per year), return protection (within 90 days, up to $500 per item and $1,000 per year), extended warranty protection (by an additional year on eligible warranties of three years or less)
  • Travel benefits: United Club membership, first and second checked bag free on United when the ticket is purchased with this card, no close-in award booking fees on United tickets, World of Hyatt Discoverist Status, Hertz Gold Plus Rewards President’s Circle Elite Status, no foreign transaction fees, trip cancellation / trip interruption insurance, baggage delay insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, trip delay reimbursement, primary auto rental collision damage waiver

Analysis: This card earns 1.5 miles per dollar spent on non-United purchases and offers $10,000 per item in purchase protection coverage. Although it has a $450 annual fee, it features other great shopping benefits that’ll help protect costly items. Plus, the travel benefits and protections are solid, especially for consumers who fly on United and value United Club membership.

Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express

  • Maximum coverage per item: $10,000
  • Maximum coverage per account per year: $50,000
  • Coverage duration: 90 days
  • Annual fee: $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $195
  • Earning rates: 3 points per dollar spent on flights booked directly with airlines; 2 points per dollar spent at US restaurants, US gas stations and US supermarkets; 1 point per dollar spent on other purchases
  • Other shopping benefits: Return protection (within 90 days, up to $300 per item and $1,000 per calendar year), extended warranty (matches original US manufacturer’s warranty of five years or less for up to an additional year), access to Amex Offers
  • Travel benefits: $100 airline fee credit per calendar year, baggage insurance plan, car rental loss and damage insurance, no foreign transaction fees

Analysis: This card has the lowest annual fee of American Express cards that offer $10,000 purchase protection coverage per item. This is important because many cardholders believe American Express has the least painful claim process. Unlike several other purchase protection benefits offered by credit cards, this card’s benefit explicitly includes lost items. However, this card might not be the right fit if price protection and earning more than 1 point per dollar spent on most purchases eligible for purchase protection is important.

Ink Business Cash Credit Card

  • Maximum coverage per item: $10,000
  • Maximum coverage per account: $50,000
  • Coverage duration: 120 days
  • Annual fee: None
  • Earning rates: 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services each account anniversary year; 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year; 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Other shopping benefits: Extended warranty protection (by an additional year on eligible warranties of three years or less)
  • Travel benefits: Primary auto rental collision damage waiver when renting for business purposes

Analysis: This card offers $10,000 per item purchase protection with no annual fee. If you buy high-value items that are eligible for purchase protection at office supply stores — where you’ll earn 5% cash back until you hit your annual limit — this card is an obvious choice. Beware that the card doesn’t offer price protection or return protection, though.

Citi Double Cash Card

  • Maximum coverage per item: $1,000
  • Maximum coverage per account per year: $50,000
  • Coverage duration: 120 days (90 days for New York residents)
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Earning rates: Effectively 2% cash back (1% cash back on purchases, plus an additional 1% when you pay for these purchases)
  • Other shopping benefits: Citi Price Rewind (within 60 days, up to $500 per item and $2,500 per year per account), extended warranty (extends the manufacturer’s warranty by 24 months, but the total coverage period won’t exceed 84 months), return protection (within 90 days, up to $300 per item and $1,000 per year)
  • Travel benefits: Worldwide car rental insurance, trip cancellation and interruption protection, worldwide travel accident insurance

Analysis: Earning a total of 2% cash back on a card with no annual fee is solid — but it’s especially impressive when you consider the shopping protection benefits provided by the card. As long as your purchases aren’t more than $1,000, this is likely the best card.

Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express

  • Maximum coverage per item: $1,000
  • Maximum coverage per account per year: $50,000
  • Coverage duration: 90 days
  • Annual fee: None
  • Earning rates: 3% cash back at US supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases; then 1%); 2% cash back at US gas stations and select US department stores; 1% cash back on other purchases. Terms apply.
  • Other shopping benefits: Return protection (within 90 days, up to $300 per item and $1,000 per calendar year), extended warranty (matches original US manufacturer’s warranty of five years or less for up to an additional year)
  • Travel benefits: Secondary car rental and damage insurance, travel accident insurance

Analysis: This card can be good for shopping benefits if you’re able to buy most items at select US department stores and don’t need price protection — but its biggest strength is the ease at which most American Express shopping protection claims can be filed. This card is good for earning 3% cash back at supermarkets, but shopping protection benefits aren’t particularly helpful on most supermarket purchases.

Chase Freedom

  • Maximum coverage per item: $500
  • Maximum coverage per account per year: $50,000
  • Coverage duration: 120 days
  • Annual fee: None
  • Earning rates: 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter; 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Other shopping benefits: Extended warranty (extends original US manufacturer’s warranty of three years or less by one year)
  • Travel benefits: Auto rental collision damage waiver (primary abroad, secondary in US), trip cancellation/interruption insurance (only on Visa Signature cards), lost luggage reimbursement (only on Visa Signature cards), travel accident insurance (only on Visa Signature cards)

Analysis: Generally, the Citi Double Cash Card will be better since it always offers 2% cash back, more extensive shopping benefits and has a higher purchase protection coverage limit. However, the rotating bonus categories offered by this card can make it a better choice for under-$500 purchases that fit into the current quarterly bonus categories.

Other Cards Offering Excellent Purchase Protection

Although they didn’t make the top six, the following cards offer purchase protection with a $10,000 per item limit and $50,000 per year per account limit. They didn’t make the top six list because at least one card discussed above featured similar or better purchase protection with either a lower annual fee or better earning rate.

Card Coverage Duration (days) Earning Rate(s) Annual Fee
The Platinum Card from American Express 90 5x directly booked airfare, 5x airfare/hotels with Amex Travel, 1x other. Terms apply. $550
Ink Business Preferred Card 120 3x travel/shipping/telecom/advertising, 1x other $95
United MileagePlus Explorer Card 120 2x directly booked United flights, 1x other $0 first year, then $95
Citi Prestige 120 3x flights/hotels, 2x dining/entertainment, 1x other $450
Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard 120 2x restaurants/gas/American Airlines purchases, 1x other $0 first year, then $99
Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express 90 14x Hilton purchases, 7x directly booked car rentals and flights/flights booked with Amex Travel/US restaurants, 3x other. Terms apply. $450
Chase Sapphire Reserve 120 3x travel/dining, 1x other $450
The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card 120 5x Ritz-Carlton/SPG, 2x directly booked airfare and car rentals/restaurants, 1x other $450

Bottom Line

Purchase protection is easy to overlook until you need it. However, most credit card purchase protection benefits only cover eligible items that are damaged or stolen. If you’re forgetful, you might want to consider one of American Express’ premium cards that includes lost items under the purchase protection benefit.

Purchase protection and extended warranty are key when buying electronics. After reviewing the terms on all of these cards, I’ll use the Ink Business Cash Credit Card for expensive items that I can purchase at office supply stores. Doing so will earn me 5 points per dollar (since I also have an Ultimate Rewards-earning card and can redeem cash back as points) and provide purchase protection up to $10,000 for 120 days and extended warranty protection of an extra year on warranties of three years or less. Plus, the Ink Business Cash Credit Card provides outsized value for its $0 annual fee.

For purchases of $1,000 or less that can’t be bought at an office supply store, I’ll be using my Citi Double Cash Card. Doing so will earn me 2% cash back (1% for my purchase and 1% after I pay it off) and provide purchase protection, Citi Price Rewind protection, return protection and extended warranty protection.

Feature image by Nick Jio via Unsplash.

Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card

Increased Offer - $500 Cash Back Bonus! Earn 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services, plus 2% back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each calendar year. Plus, you’ll earn an uncapped 1% cash back on everything else.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn $500 bonus cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
  • Named "Best Rewards Card for Small Business Owners" by Kiplinger's Personal Finance, July 2017
  • Earn 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services each account anniversary year
  • Earn 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year
  • Earn 1% cash back on all other card purchases with no limit to the amount you can earn
  • 0% introductory APR for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers
  • Employee cards at no additional cost
  • No Annual Fee
Intro APR on Purchases
0% Intro APR on Purchases for 12 months
Regular APR
14.74% - 20.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$0
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent Credit

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.