Posted by Chuck on August 26, 2014
Credit Card Review

Published on August 26th, 2014 | by Chuck


Credit Card Purchase Protection Explained

Suppopse you  just bought a new laptop and it gets stolen or damaged. Or suppose you bought a new tie, only to get nailed with chicken-grease on its first wear. Many credit cards offer an insurance called Purchase Protection. This insurance is automatically built-in and doesn’t need any special signup. The details of this Purchase Protection vary by the card issuer.

We’ve tried to cover the important details of this protection offered by Visa, Mastercard, Discover and Amex, but it’s possible there are variations between different cards, particularly with Visa and Mastercards which are issued by various banks.

What’s Covered?

AmexMastercard, and Discover cover most regular instances of theft or damage which happen within 90 days of purchase. Visa has a more limited protection; it does cover theft, but it only covers damage under certain limited circumstances, such as fire and weather-related accidents. They don’t seem to cover human-caused accidents. Even Visa Signature cards don’t fair any better in this regard. In practice, it appears from this post that Visa does cover human-caused accidents.

Most credit cards do not offer Loss Protection, so if you lose an item you’re not covered. Amex does offer Loss Protection for Platinum card members and Delta Reserve card members only.

An interesting scenario is raised if someone drops a camera into the ocean or river: would that be included as part of the “damage”-coverage? Or would that not be covered, like any other lost item which doesn’t have coverage (besides Platinum and Delta)? Amex indicates in this interview that it may not be covered.

…What’s not?

We couldn’t possibly list all of them, but here are some product exclusions:

  • animals and live plants
  • cash equivalents, rare coins or stamps
  • motor vehicles
  • medical equipment

Some other exclusions:

  • products purchased for resale
  • damage caused by war or natural disaster
  • items which weren’t reasonably safeguarded

We’d venture to guess  that on low-dollar claims they won’t bicker as much and try finding exclusions, but on high-dollar claims they’ll take to the fine-print with zeal.

How Much is Covered?

This varies by the card issuer. Amex limits the coverage for up to $1,000 per occurrence and up to $50,000 per cardholder per calendar year. Platinum and Delta Reserve Amex cards have a higher per-occurrence limit of $10,000. Mastercard has coverage limits of up to $1,000 per occurrence and up to $25,000 per year. World Mastercard cardholders have coverage of up to $3,000 per occurrence and up to $20,000 per year. Discover mentions a $500 limit per occurrence, but doesn’t mention a yearly limit. Visa has the lowest limits at $500 per occurrence and $1,000 per year. Visa Signature cards have the same $500 per-occurrence-limit, but a higher annual limit of $50,000.

 Partial Payment

Some credit cards (including Discover and Mastercard) only include Purchase Protection if the entire purchase was paid for with the credit card; so if you paid for part of the purchase with a gift card, for example, you wouldn’t be covered. Amex does cover even partial-purchases, but the coverage will only be for the amount which was charged to the Amex card. (Source: compare the wording Amex uses for Purchase Protection versus the wording they use for Return Protection.) If you do a split-tender transaction, and pay partially with one Amex card and partially with another Amex card, then you’d be totally covered with Purchase Protection, though you’d have to file two claims. This only holds true for regular Amex cards, not bank-branded Amex cards such as Fia or Well Fargo (source: the pamphlet that came with my FIA Amex).


Used items (such as a used laptop bought on eBay) are explicitly excluded in the Visa T&C. I believe I saw it explicitly excluded by Amex, too, but I can’t seem to find it right now. (My eyes are criss-crossing already from reading all the fine-print.)

Factory Refurbished items: I believe will be covered by Amex. I remember calling Amex about a year ago before buying a refurbished GPS and they told me I’d be covered; Purchase Protection would probably be the same. We still need to verify if  Visa, Mastercard and Discover would cover refurbs.

Some Other Points

  • Coverage is for theft or damage within 90 days of purchase.
  • Visa gives 60 days from the incident-date to file a claim. Amex and Mastercard give 30 days to file. Discover just says to file quickly; they don’t give a clear deadline.
  • Purchase Protection is secondary, not primary, so the claim needs to first be submitted to any other insurances.
  • Amex Serve does have Purchase Protection; Bluebird does not.
  • Shipping & handling costs are not reimbursed.
  • Amex does seem to reimburse for the sales tax.

purchase protect

From Amex website claims center

How to File a Claim

For Amex  you can file a claim by calling 1-800-322-1277 or online at

For Visa call the Benefit Administrator at 1-800-553-4820.

For Discover call 1-800-347-0213.

For Mastercard call the MasterCard Assistance Center at 1-800-307-7309.

My Experience with Amex

I purchased a tie for $25 around a month ago using my Amex Blue Cash. On its second wear it got  a nice chicken-grease stain which pretty much ruined the tie. My experiences with sending silk ties to the dry-cleaners have not been good. For a while I’ve been careful about purchasing clothing and electronics etc. on an Amex card, since they’re known to have better protections. Boy, am I glad I did. I don’t have any experience yet filing claims with Visa, Mastercard or Discover, but all I can say is that Amex was a breeze. In under 24 hours from when I filed the online-claim, I received a statement credit for the full cost of the tie ($25).

amex purchase protect2

My Amex statement

They didn’t ask me to fax in a receipt or to send in the item. Obviously, on higher-dollar claims the process may be more cumbersome. In any case, I was pleased with the results. Sometimes, it seems like the $25 claims aren’t worth the hassle, but this was literally a five minute process and well worth it.

See ViewFromTheWing for his experience with Purchase Protection on a Chase credit card.

Chime in with your own experiences with credit card protections in the comments.


Related: Discover’s “Return Guarantee” Explained


4 Responses to Credit Card Purchase Protection Explained

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  3. Brian says:

    I love purchase protection! Chase has helped me out by covering a MacBook Pro fix as well as a broken charger and AMEX covered me on a slightly expensive jacket I lost at the airport.

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