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There are two questions you’ll hear over and over during the holiday season. The first one is, “Would you like to open a store credit card and save 15 percent right now?” To which your reply should be: “No, thanks.”

The second question you’ll often hear when you buy a fairly expensive item is, “Would you like to purchase an extended warranty?”

If you paid by check or debit card then the answer is…maybe. But if you used a credit card, the warranty question takes a little more thought. You might already have an extended warranty as one of your card’s benefits. If that’s the case, then buying the extended warranty is a waste of your hard-earned money.

How do you find out? Well, I hate to say this, but the answer lies within the itty bitty fine print. But as always, my goal in life is to make things easier for you. So here are the most important things you should know.

How long is the extended warranty?

The extended warranty that comes with a major credit card usually extends the manufacturer’s warranty for up to a year longer. But this can vary by card.

By the way, warranties are usually provided by the payment network (e.g., Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover) and not by the card issuer (the bank). Here are a few essential things to know:

  • You only get this protection if you used the card to purchase the merchandise.
  • American Express offers a one-year extension beyond the manufacturer’s warranty with all of its cards. And you get this extra year of warranty coverage for products that have manufacturer’s warranties of up to 5 years (many cards only cover manufacturer’s warranties of up to three years).
  • Discover doesn’t offer an extended warranty via its cards, but offers a service called SquareTrade for a fee.
  • Visa’s extended warranty benefits are better than MasterCard’s. MasterCard gives an extra year on the warranty only if the manufacturer doesn’t offer a one-year warranty on the product you’re buying.
  • Visa provides warranty protection for its “Visa Signature” cards. You get a one-year extension beyond the manufacturer’s warranty.

Let’s take a closer look at Visa’s benefits. To find out if you have a “Visa Signature” card, look on the front of your card for the words “Visa Signature.” Here’s a quick and dirty way to get the scoop on what you need to know if you have one of these cards:

  • Go to Visa’s Warranty Manager Service website to get the details about what’s covered and what’s not covered. You’ll find an easy Q&A format that addresses your main concerns.
  • Examples of what’s not covered: boats, autos, computer software, and used or pre-owned items.
  • Purchases made outside the U.S. might be covered if there’s a valid U.S. manufacturer’s warranty on the item of three years or less.
  • You must file a claim within 60 days after the product failure.

How to file a claim

To file a claim, you’ll need to call the benefits administrator for your credit card. Here’s a handy phone list to get you started:

American Express: 1-800-225-3750

Visa: 1-800-882-8057

MasterCard: 1-800-622-7747

When you make a purchase with your credit card, keep the receipt in case you need to file a claim. Also keep the manufacturer’s warranty, the serial number, and product description information on hand. You’ll need all of this information when you make the phone call to file your claim. Make it a habit to start a paper file whenever you spend big on something. That way, you’ll be ready in case you need to use this benefit.

What’s your experience with this?

I’ve heard stories about filing claims that run the gamut from “excellent experience” to “downright ugly.” I haven’t personally ever had to use this benefit. If you have—whether it’s a good or bad experience—please tell us about it in the comments section.

Image: Zurich, via Flickr.com

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  • Sundi

    Thank you for this information because I had no idea that CC companies offered this. However, readers of this- keep in mind that some items should include accidental coverage on the warranty which I’m sure would not be covered here. This is where squaretrade would be a better warranty choice for any electronic devices.
    There is also a company similar to Squaretrade called SafeWare. You will notice that their quotes are mich higher than Squaretrade but they cover theft, loss and fire. SafeWare only has the option to cover computers and phones (no cameras, etc)

  • Stamamoto

    I found this website because I was trying to get help with getting a replacement or refund from my Visa Signature Card. I called the credit card company and VISA to get help. I’m writing to warn people that the extended warranty isn’t always what they make it out to be. I purchased some computer hardware which failed after a few months. I went to the manufacturer to try and get help on a replacement or repair. After 4 months, I still didn’t have a working part. I called VISA to get help because of the extended protection. Their customer service said that because the part failed during the manufacturer’s warranty, which was still valid, they would not be able to help me because the VISA warranty only starts after the manufacturer’s warranty runs out. In addition, they only cover repairs for incidents that occur after the manufacturer’s warranty runs out. So, if the manufactur never helps me with my problem, VISA will not help me either.

    • Credit.com

      Stamamoto – thanks for sharing your story. It’s good to know. Most issuers, Visa especially, are very good with covering extended warranties. It’s one of the few benefits that you get for using a credit card over a paying cash or with a debit card (where you’d just be stuck with the defective product.) In VISA’s case, I believe the policy is more of a protection for VISA so that consumers don’t automatically bypass the manufacturer for damages or defective issues that are still covered under the manufacturer’s warranty. To play devil’s advocate here, if VISA covered all warranties for every manufacturer’s warranties — it could potentially cost them millions of dollars. Which would likely be passed on to the consumer in some form– in which case we’d all end up paying for manufacturer’s that didn’t stick to their warranty agreements. I don’t want to defend VISA but in this case, is it really fair that VISA pays for a manufacturer that didn’t stand by their warranty obligations? I’d probably push back on the manufacturer and demand they cover their warranty. If they refuse, and you have all the necessary documentation, it may even be worth it to file complaints with every local, federal and state agency you have available to you. And let the manufacturer know you’re planning to do so. It might just give them the push they need to address the issue and take care of the warranty like they should have to begin with.

  • Logic87

    i have used warranty extensions with my visa and once with my discover card. With visa it went very smooth no problem and i got reimbursed 400 bucks for my dead computer. Discover they initially rejected my claim and i had to prove to them that my claim is valid and that it should not be rejected. In the end i got that one approved as well

    • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

      Extended warranties can pay off, and if they’re automatically offered under your card’s benefits, it’s a win/win when they do. Your example is proof that even if an issuer initially rejects the claim — a little persistence can pay off.

  • Phoebiann

    I was looking into the Visa extended warranty for an upcoming purchase, and it looks like one has to register for the warranty protection at/from a site. This site asks for the person’s Visa card number. I’d like to know whether this is safe to do, giving one’s Visa card number to this third party.

    • http://blog.credit.com/ Kali Geldis

      Hi Pheobiann —

      First off, bravo to you for keeping an eye out for possible scams. It’s best to contact Visa directly regarding the extended warranty program, as you should never give your credit card number to a third party you don’t recognize. Calling Visa directly via their customer service line is your best bet.

  • BestGuest

    I got two free Palm Pilot keyboards (back in the day when those were in vogue) because they kept breaking between 1-2 years after I purchased it. Best thing was that I just had to go buy one, send them my receipt and copy of the manufacturer’s warranty, and they reimbursed me for the lesser of the original or replacement cost. If the item was under a certain amount (I think $100), it was automatic replacement. Otherwise, over the amount, you had to take it to a repair shop first to see if repairing would be cheaper.

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