With an American Express card, you get a ton of great benefits. One of the most useful – and not to mention free – benefits is the American Express Purchase Protection.
Disclaimer: Check and confirm all rules, exclusions, and limitations with American Express directly before making your purchases. This overview is a summary only, written in Jan. 2011, and I do NOT guarantee it to be accurate or up-to-date. It is your own responsibility to check with American Express directly for all coverage information.
How do you participate?
It’s simple. Just use any participating American Express card for your eligible purchases and you will be automatically covered for up to 90 days from date of purchases against both accidental damage as well as theft, subject to the program rules.
Which items are there exclusions for?
Not surprisingly, American Express imposes some Purchase Protection exclusions. In my opinion they are pretty fair and reasonable exclusions:
- medical equipment – such as hospital and dental equipment
- limited lifespan & perishable items – because you forgot to eat your pineapple before it went rotten, don’t try and make a Purchase Protection claim with AmEx! The “limited lifespan” items consist of things like light bulbs, batteries, and perfume.
- motor vehicles – That means you can’t buy your Porsche with an Amex Platinum, total it a week later, and expect Amex to pay. This also applies to planes, helicopters, boats, motorcycles, etc. Individual motors, parts, and accessories aren’t covered either.
- living things – Sorry but American Express won’t pay for that houseplant you forgot to water. Same applies to that pet goldfish.
- permanent household/business fixtures - that means things like faucets, carpeting, toilets, etc.
- antiques and used items - Or in other words, Purchase Protection applies only to new items
- gift cards/certificates/tickets - This includes travel checks, store gift cards, and anything equivalent to cash. This exclusion is a no-brainer, since obviously it would be a big fraud risk to allow it.
- rare stamps and coins – Amex doesn’t list more details about this exclusion. The coins would fall under the previous category anyway, but as far as stamps, I’m assuming neither “regular” stamps nor “rare” stamps would be covered since they are probably considered tickets/certificates.
- pairs/sets - If you make an eligible purchase that comes in a set or a pair, the coverage will apply only to the the part or parts affected (i.e. if only one item in a pair is broken, coverage won’t apply to both items)
- commercial/professional/resale purchases – the Purchase Protection plan paperwork doesn’t go into detail, but to be safe, I would just go ahead and assume all business specific purchases are not covered, unless an AmEx CSR tells you otherwise.
What circumstances are there exclusions for?
As a general rule of thumb, coverage applies to accidental damage and theft. However, there are some circumstances where even those won’t be covered:
exclusions you would expect: claims resulting from act of war, military service, confiscation by government, damage through alteration (i.e. hemming your pants incorrectly), normal wear and tear, leaving property at unattended construction site, or while you are breaking the law.
exclusions you might not expect: claims resulting from protest/riot/civil disturbance, natural disasters, baggage theft if not carried by hand or under supervision of traveling companion (however some American Express credit cards have separate baggage insurance coverage), lost or misplaced items
How much can you claim?
First of all it’s important to remember that American Express Purchase Protection coverage is in excess of any other sources of coverage you may have. For example, if an item stolen out of your car is eligible to be covered by your car insurance, you can’t make a Purchase Protection claim with AmEx for it, too.
Typically coverage is up to $1,000 per eligible claim, subject to yearly maximums. Now if you’re a high roller and have the Platinum charge card, coverage is up to $10,000 per incident (10x higher!).
How to make a claim?
From my experience, it has always been easy. For example, I bought one of those bullet blenders and it broke a month later… called up Amex and did the claim over the phone in 5 minutes. They ended up just crediting my account for the purchase price. For more expensive items or those that can be repaired, the process may be different, but regardless it should be an easy and straightforward process.
I have also heard a number of successful AmEx Purchase Protection iPhone claims. However as a word of caution, I could see this possibly causing a problem since the iPhone technically isn’t paid for in full if you bought it with an American Express (because the normal price is around $600 but AT&T rebates it and sells it for $200 with a 2 year contract).
So if you have a Purchase Protection iPhone claim, keep this in mind as I could anticipate this possibly causing a problem. If your claim is successful, the claims reported are for the amount they charged to their American Express card and no more than that (so you won’t get $600 if you paid $200).
Which AmEx cards come with the Purchase Protection plan?
All U.S. cards issued by American Express come with this benefit. Here are several reviews and signup offers for their most popular cards.
Blue Cash – no annual fee
Delta SkyMiles – 3 different tiers with various annual fee. A great choice because you might be able to get a flight and your annual fee waived the first year!
Premier Rewards Gold – $175 annual fee, but waived for first year and you get a generous signup bonus
Platinum Card – $450 annual fee, but great signup bonus
Disclaimer: This American Express Purchase Protection review was written Jan. 2011. Please note benefit changes may have occurred that have not yet been updated here. Consult American Express for full details and to verify coverage before making purchases.