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Stolen Gift? Your Credit Card Might Have Your Back

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This is the time of year when people enjoy buying and giving gifts. Unfortunately, this is also the time of year when thefts increase. Gifts could be stolen from your home or even from your car. During the holidays, shoppers get tired and tend to drop bags off at their cars so they don’t have to carry everything around all day. Smart thieves who lurk around parking lots know this.

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But even if something unfortunate happens, you might be able to get reimbursed if you used a credit card. Purchase protection plans replace merchandise that’s been stolen, but the coverage also protects you if your item is accidentally damaged, such as by fire or vandalism.

Last week, I wrote about extended warranties that come with some credit cards and how this benefit is usually provided by the payment networks (i.e., Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover). As with extended warranties, purchase protection benefits are provided by the payment processing networks, but they can also vary by credit card. Be sure to read the fine print so you know if specific items are excluded from coverage. If you’re unsure if something is covered, don’t hesitate to call and find out.

[Related Article: How Extended Warranties Work on Credit Cards]

Here’s an easy-to-use guide just in case something you bought gets stolen or damaged:

  • If your item is stolen, contact the police immediately to report the theft.
  • If you have a World MasterCard, coverage is limited to a maximum of $1,000 per claim, but you get up to $25,000 per year. This covers most items you purchase with your credit card if the item is damaged or stolen within 90 days of the date of purchase.
  • MasterCard is a little vague about purchase protection coverage for credit cards that don’t carry the World MasterCard designation. To find out if your regular MasterCard credit card offers coverage, call 1-800-622-7747.
  • With Visa Signature cards, you get purchase protection against damage or loss within the first 90 days after purchase, with a maximum of $500 per claim and up to $50,000 per year.
  • American Express has the most generous plan and offers purchase protection against damage or loss within the first 90 days after purchase. You’re covered up to $1,000 per claim and up to $50,000 per year. To file a claim, call 1-800-322-1277.

And before you make the call, have your receipts—the store receipt and your credit card receipt—as well as the police report in hand. Hopefully, you won’t need to use this benefit. But it’s good to know it’s there, just in case.

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Image: Mrs Suzie Cue, via Flickr.com

This article was updated Dec. 13, 2011.

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  • http://www.cardpaymentoptions.com Eric Stauffer

    I can tell you first hand that these programs work. I had bought a brand new laptop with my American Express and spilt liquid on it six days after I bought it. I had no idea they had a 90-day purchase protection plan until I was researching online for “spilt liquid on laptop” and someone mentioned it in a forum.

    The entire process from claim being filed until the money was refunded onto my card was about 2 weeks, and they were extremely helpful the entire time. My total refund was $1000 (the maximum) and I never felt like they were trying to get out of it.

    I have never personally used it for stolen goods, but they assured me that it works the exact same, except I believe you would need a police report instead of a repair work order for submission. Now I only carry cards that have this protection.

    • Beverly Blair Harzog

      Eric–Thanks for sharing that! It’s nice to know that AmEx was so easy to work with in this situation. Your comment also made me realize I didn’t mention the police report so thanks for that, too. Next week, I’m writing about price protection. With so many sales approaching, it seems like a good time to tell consumers about this feature!

      • http://www.cardpaymentoptions.com Eric Stauffer

        You bet. Also, with a police report for a stolen item they just issue the refund. Since my laptop could not be repaired and had to be replaced, I had to send them the broken one. No double dipping!

        • Beverly Blair Harzog

          Yes, I can imagine there are a few folks who might try to double dip, LOL! Thanks again for sharing your experiences.

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