The "Secret" Credit Card Perk That Saved Me $300

By Elizabeth Lang. Last updated 9 July 2014. 7 comments

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What’s a homeowner’s nightmare? You take nine months to redo your kitchen, spend an enormous amount of money, read all sorts reviews to ensure that you’re buying the best appliances, spend a full day installing a monstrosity of an over-the-range microwave (55 pounds!), and two years later that microwave breaks, nearly a year beyond the manufacturer’s warranty.

What’s a homeowner’s lucky break? Using the right credit card to make the purchase in the first place. (See also: The Best Credit Card Perks Beyond Points and Miles)

Some Background on Credit Card Perks

Ever since gaining a fairly comprehensive understanding of my credit cards’ perks (that is, the benefits my cards offer that are not rewards, such as car rental insurance) I have been trying to use an American Express card for all purchases of tangible, long-lasting things. Items like clothes, electronics, jewelry, or toys are some of the types of items that come to mind. (“Tangible, long-lasting things” stands in contrast to other things I might pay for like utility bills, services, or groceries.)

I use my American Express cards (I have a Zync and a Starwood Rewards) for these types of purchases because of the long list of protections they offer. Here are a few key ones:

  • Price protection refunds you if the price on an item you buy drops.
     
  • Purchase protection protects you if an item gets stolen or broken within 30-90 days of purchase.
     
  • Extended warranty protection, which is what this article is all about.

About That Microwave We Purchased

The microwave we purchased for our kitchen was a Samsung that was top rated by Consumer Reports the year we got it. We were extremely happy with it until one day, while sitting at breakfast, the microwave turned on without anyone touching it. I went over and looked at it; it was cooking on the “baked potato” setting. I hit “end,” and the microwave started beeping at me and then flashed an “SE” error code. The digital touch panel froze and wouldn’t allow me to press any buttons. After trying a number of different “fixes” (unplugging it, leaving it alone for a few days, etc.) we gave up.

So, I googled the issue and what turns up? Hundreds (and I’m not exaggerating) of people with the exact same problem! An SE error code prevents their microwaves from working after just one or two years of ownership. I trusted the experience of these others who all indicated that it would cost more to fix than the microwave was worth. (One person did actually take the machine apart, do some technical stuff, put it back together, and it worked. But I’m an attorney, not an engineer, so that wasn’t a route for me.) So we concluded that our microwave was officially busted. The warranty was for just one year and our busted Samsung was approaching its second year in our home.

Now what?

What type of credit card are you interested in?
How much do you spend per month?
Do you carry a balance?

The Eureka Moment

After spending several days furious at Samsung and Consumer Reports — and growing tired of having to heat everything up on the stove or the oven for our one-year-old — I remembered that American Express offers “extended warranties.” First, I prayed that I had remembered to buy the microwave on my Amex. Thankfully, it was an online purchase, and it was simple to search through my email and find the exact date and amount of purchase, and which card I put it on. The result? I had charged it to my Zync card from American Express.

Next I visited the page on their website that covers extended warranties:

Embedded Protection — Charge your eligible purchases that have a valid U.S. manufacturer's warranty of 5 years or less to the Card.

Extend Your Warranty — Extended Warranty can extend the terms of the original U.S. manufacturer's warranty for up to one additional year on eligible purchases with warranties of 5 years or less, when the eligible purchase is charged to the Card.

So, with the Extended Warranty program my microwave’s warranty was officially valid for two years. I double-checked the date of the purchase on the receipt email. We were less than a week shy of the two-year expiration. A lucky break.

Waiting for the Catch

So, I filled out the form on the American Express website. It took less than 10 minutes to complete and only required a few details about the microwave, the Samsung warranty, and the purchase. Someone would be in touch within 30-45 days or contact me if they needed further information.

Honestly, the process seemed too easy. I was waiting for them to make me do something ridiculous, like prove the microwave was broken by uninstalling it and shipping it to some far away repair facility. Or that they would credit me $10 for the depreciated value of my busted microwave.

Instead, less than a week later, I got an email saying that they credited the full purchase price of the microwave — nearly $300 — back to my card. The claim was resolved, just like that. After being incredibly glad our credit card offered this perk, we started shopping for a new microwave. You can probably guess which credit card I charged my new microwave to.

Read the Fine Print

So what’s the takeaway from this? Spend 15 minutes looking at your credit card fine print and learn about their perks. If something breaks, use the warranty protection. Based on my experience, American Express’ warranty protection is an incredibly simple process that will leave you extremely glad you charge things to your credit card.

Note that warranty protection services may vary by card and most have limits of three to five claims totaling no more than $1,000 per year. Also, remember that it’s a crime to submit false claims to insurance companies, so don’t even think about trying to “hack” this reward as you’ll wind up guilty of insurance fraud.

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

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Guest

I have a similar experience with my laptop, the fan stopped working. When Office depot would honor my extended warranty, I had misplaced the receipt, and used a fake phone number. I hate it when they call me. I contacted American Express and within a week received a full refund for my laptop. No questions asked!

Guest's picture
Guest

This is good to know. We just bought four major appliances with our credit card, which we immediately paid off. Looks like that might have been a good move. I'm off to check Visa's policy. Thanks!

Guest's picture

This is great info. We just purchased four major appliances with our credit card, which we immediately paid off. Looks like that might have been a smart way to pay. I'm off to check out Visa's policy. Thanks!

Guest's picture

Wow, that's a great benefit of a credit card. There are a few travel cards that cover travel insurance and things like that. I've always considered getting a credit card that has a lot of perks but then, there is always really high annual fees with the good ones.

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Mark D.

Excellent job on actively researching and finding a solution! I never use cash anymore these days, having an extended warranty on big ticket items is one reason among many other benefits to using a credit card with reward points.

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Bob the builder

I made the mistake of washing my new IPOD in the pocket of my pants. Amex replaced the accidental destruction as well. Amex customer for life.

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Oscar C

I bought a lighter for my brother and it broke two weeks after he received it. After contacting AMEX, I received my refund without me noticing. It was just that simple.