Will my card reimburse me if something I bought is stolen?

Your new camera just got swiped during a night out. The good news: If you bought it with a credit card, you might be able to get reimbursed through your card’s purchase protection benefit (some cards call it “purchase security”). It’s the same benefit that covers damaged items.

However, this benefit involves a lot of fine print, and filing a claim can be paperwork-intensive. Before diving into the process, check out these 10 facts about credit card purchase protection (assembled from benefits guides for Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American express, a CreditCardForum advertising partner).

Note: Coverage varies by issuer and by card. So you’ll have to comb through your card’s terms and conditions to see if your situation is covered.

1. Coverage is provided by network, not issuer

In other words, it’s Discover, American Express, Visa and MasterCard that provide purchase protection. If you have a Bank of America or Chase card, you’ll be filing a claim through Visa or MasterCard (whichever logo is on your card). To start the claims process, call the number listed in your benefits packet (which is generally available via online banking).

2. The clock is ticking

Purchase protection generally covers items only 90 days to 120 from the date of purchase.

There are other time limits at play, too. For example, you’ve got only a certain number of days (30 to 90 days, according to the benefit guides we surveyed) to report the theft to your card network. Some networks also stipulate that the police report (which you may be required to submit with your claim) must be filed within a certain number of days after the theft.

3. There are dollar limits on coverage

The major card networks generally limit coverage to $500 per item, although some premium cards, such as the Platinum Card from American Express have higher per-incident limits.

Other caps include lifetime and per-year limits. These are often much higher (at least $50,000).

4. Some items are excluded

Vehicles, car parts and accessories, medical devices, tickets, antiques, previously owned items, perishables, permanent household features, purchases for re-sale and software are just some of the items this benefit does not cover. Some card networks stipulate that, if the stolen item was part of a pair or set, only the cost of the single stolen item will be covered.

5. Coverage is secondary

Purchase protection coverage kicks in only after other existing policies pay out. For example, say your stolen camera is covered under your home or renter’s insurance. If that insurance covers the entire cost of the item, you won’t get anything from your credit card. However, if your home or renter’s coverage has a high deductible or covers only part of the cost, that’s where your card steps in. Here’s the wording from MasterCard’s purchase security coverage:

WMC theft protection in excess

6. Paperwork is required

Don’t assume you can call your card network, say “My camera was stolen” and get an immediate statement credit. The information and documentation you’ll need to submit varies by network, but may include:

  • A claim form. You’ll receive this after you call your card network and report the theft.
  • A police report or, in some cases, a third-party report of the theft
  • The credit card receipt or card statement that includes the purchase
  • The itemized store receipt (which you hopefully kept)
  • Declarations page from your primary insurance (such as your home or renter’s insurance)
  • Paperwork from any other insurance claims you’ve filed to be reimbursed for the item

7. Only items purchased with your card are covered

If you paid cash for something and try to file a claim under your credit card’s protection, you’re out of luck. If you paid for only a portion of the purchase with the card, only that portion will be covered. If you cashed in rewards for the item, it may still be covered. Check your card’s terms. Discover, for example, covers items paid for with “rewards accumulated on the account.”

8. Theft from car break-ins is excluded

Left your new laptop in your car and return to find the windows smashed and the laptop gone? Based on the policies we looked at, it’s likely not covered.

9. “Mysterious” disappearances aren’t covered

You need documentation of wrong-doing for your loss to be counted as theft. That’s why you’re required to submit a police report with your claim. Realize one day that your new sunglasses are no longer where you thought you left them? You’re probably out of luck.

10. Unattended items not covered

When you’re traveling, items stolen from your suitcase while it’s not in your possession (or in the possession of a traveling companion you know) aren’t covered. Same goes for items pilfered from your suitcase while it’s in the custody of the airline, cruise ship or bus line. However, many travel rewards cards have baggage insurance for this situation.

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Thorough look at what credit card holders can expect after having things stolen. It can be a very confusing and stressful time if something important is lost. Great to see there’s a resource that quickly tells you what can be done. Thanks so much for sharing this!