Your phone is a target for thieves, easily misplaced, even more easily dropped and cost several hundred dollars. So getting some kind of insurance protection for it might make sense.
If you don’t want to pay extra for AppleCare+ or similar, some credit cards provide limited cellphone protection as a benefit.
Credit cards that provide cellphone protection
As we found in a recent survey, cellphone protection is an exceedingly rare credit card benefit. These cards currently offer cellphone protection for no additional cost:
- The Chase Ink Business Preferred ($95 annual fee) – This is the newest card to enter the market with this benefit.
- Various Wells Fargo cards (various annual fees): Wells Fargo is the only major issuer that consistently offers cellphone protection)
- NFCU Visa cards
- U.S. Bank Visa Platinum card
What credit card cellphone protection plans offer
Is it worth getting a card offering cellphone protection just to have that benefit? Or are paid protection plans from manufacturers and carriers more robust? Use the chart below to compare coverage options.
Compare cellphone protection options
|Chase Ink Business Preferred||Wells Fargo credit cards||AppleCare+||Phone insurance offered by carriers|
|Cost||No additional cost beyond card’s annual fee||$129||Varies. $5 to $11 a month, added to your phone bill.|
|Coverage maximums||Up to $600 per claim, up to 3 claims/yr||Up to $600 per claim, up to 2 claims/yr||Up to 2 claims for accidental damage; no dollar maximum -- will replace entire phone if necessary||Varies, generally up to $1,500. May be limit on number of claims you can file.|
|Deductible||$100 per claim||$25 per claim||$29 for screen damage; $99 for other damage||Varies: $99-$200|
|Additional requirements||Must pay phone bill with your card||Must be purchased when you buy your phone, or within 60 days||May require you to purchase coverage within certain number of days after buying phone|
|What’s covered||Theft (police report required); damage||Defects; certain damages||Varies. May include loss, theft, accidental damage.|
|What’s not covered||Loss not due to theft; accessories other than battery and antenna provided by manufacturer; phones stolen from checked baggage; losses due to war and rebellion; damages that don’t affect functionality; and more; phones not bought from authorized cellphone retailer; and more||Losses not due to theft, software failure; accessories other than standard battery and antenna provided by manufacturer; phones stolen from construction site; phones in checked baggage; cosmetic damage; damage resulting from war/rebellion; phones not bought from authorized cellphone retailer; and more||Damage due to abuse, misuse, fire, earthquake; products with missing serial number; loss; theft||Varies, check plan. Generally, these plans exclude cosmetic damages and failures caused by fire, war, terrorism.|
|Length of coverage||Indefinite, as long as you keep paying phone bill with your card.||2 yrs||Varies, check plan|
The chart above shows that no plan will cover you for everything you manage to do to your phone. Accidental loss (if you leave the phone on the bus, for example) is the most notable coverage gap. If your phone has been cosmetically damaged but still works, the damage may not be covered. Apple’s plan excludes theft – however it has the advantage of replacing your broken phone when warranted; the card-based plans both have dollar maximums of $600, which may be less than the cost of replacing a late-model smartphone.
Should you get a card just for the cellphone coverage?
Alone, cellphone coverage probably isn’t robust enough to justify getting an annual-fee card. But it’s a nice perk to have if you’d use the card’s other perks and rewards. Note that Wells Fargo has some no-annual-fee products that carry cellphone protection, so you could technically carry one for essentially free cellphone protection (you would have to charge your phone bill to the card).
Another question is whether having cellphone coverage via your card would negate the need to purchase a paid plan, such as your carrier’s protection or AppleCare+. We think the answer to that question is yes. True, AppleCare may replace your phone completely under some circumstances. But card-based plans cover theft and offer $600 in coverage per claim. We think that justifies saving yourself $129 (or a monthly charge on your phone plan).