Editorial Policy

9 things purchase protection won't cover

Allie Johnson

August 21, 2013

Something happened to your new pet, your prized antique or an expensive bottle of wine you bought, and you're expecting the purchase protection perk on your credit card to cover your loss?

You might be out of luck.

Purchase protection is a type of insurance offered on some cards, usually through the payment networks (American Express, MasterCard and Visa) rather than the issuing banks. If you buy an item with a card that has the benefit, purchase protection typically will refund your money or replace or repair an item that is lost, stolen or damaged within a certain time frame — usually 60 or 90 days of purchase.

But purchase protection also comes with a list of exclusions.

“There are things purchase protection doesn't cover, and that's in the fine print,” says Linda Sherry, director of national priorities for the consumer advocacy group Consumer Action. “The devil is in the details.”

You'll need to check the description of benefits and the terms and conditions on your card to find out if you have this perk and, if so, what is and isn't covered. In general, though, these nine losses would be excluded under most purchase protection programs:

1. Your new poodle gets sick. If you buy a pet, some fish for your pond or even a house plant and your new addition gets sick, dies or wilts, you probably can' t turn to purchase protection. Live animals and plants almost always are excluded from coverage — and that' s likely because they are so fragile, says Jim Erlick, a former vice president for American Express who helped launch AmEx's purchase protection program in the late 1980s and early 1990s. For example, an animal could get sick, get bitten by another animal or break its leg.

“There are so many things that could go wrong,” Erlick says.

2. A pair of Kid Rock tickets disappears from your purse. If you lose your tickets to any event — from a summer concert, the Kentucky Derby or,   a Broadway show — they might be gone for good. There likely are several reasons most purchase protection programs exclude tickets, including the fact that there' s a robust resale market for event tickets, Erlick says. Also, tickets are tied to a specific time and place.

“If you have tickets for 'The Book of Mormon' for tomorrow night, they' re probably not going to be able to replace them in time,” Erlick says.

3. A stack of gift cards gets stolen from your car. If you buy gift cards that get lost or stolen, purchase protection probably won't help you. Most programs exclude prepaid credit cards and gift cards (and some programs specifically exclude purchases stolen from a motor vehicle). But, if you have the receipt, you might be able to get the cards replaced by the merchant and still surprise your recipient with that Old Navy shopping spree or Outback Steakhouse dinner.

4. You buy an antique dresser that breaks. You got a great deal on a Chippendale chest of drawers from the 1700s, but you drop and break the piece as you' re carrying it into your house. Unfortunately for you, antiques and pre-owned items usually aren't covered by purchase protection. That's probably because it's difficult to put an accurate value on old and secondhand items, or to determine their legitimacy.

“There are so many knockoffs,” Erlick says.

5. Your new Harley Davidson gets stolen. Did your new motorcycle, boat or even your airplane get stolen or damaged right after you bought it? You probably won't be able to turn to purchase protection, which typically doesn't cover these types of vehicles. Several networks have language in their contracts excluding motorized vehicles, watercraft, aircraft. Even if you'd never put this type of purchase on your credit card, keep in mind that purchase protection agreements often exclude parts and accessories — so if you buy a replacement part for your motorcycle or a trailer to hitch onto your truck, those would be excluded, too. However, these are items that should be covered under home or other insurance, Erlick says.

6. The fine bottle of Bordeaux you bought for your anniversary is corked. If you buy a bottle of wine, a cheese sampler or just about any other consumable that could go bad, purchase protection probably won' t cover the item. For example, American Express's purchase protection excludes “perishable items with limited lifespans,” including perfume, light bulbs and batteries.

7. Your dogs shred your new living room carpet. Any time you charge a household fixture that gets installed — from a light fixture to carpet to kitchen cabinets — it likely will be excluded under purchase protection. However, Erlick says, these are items that should be covered by home insurance.

8. You drop and break a new printer you bought for your office. Any appliances or fixtures you buy for your business, rather than for your household, typically will be excluded from coverage by purchase protection. For example, Visa, which calls its benefit “purchase security,” excludes “items purchased for resale, professional or commercial use.”

9. You score a vintage coin collection on eBay and your kid loses it. Collections made up of items such as rare coins or stamps typically aren't covered under purchase protection.

“These are things that would be very difficult to replace,” Sherry says, noting they also might be attractive to thieves hoping to pawn or resell them.

In addition to not covering certain types of items under purchase protection, most card companies that offer this benefit also exclude some types of losses. Your purchase might not be covered if it's lost, damaged or stolen because:

  • You're engaged in war or any kind of military service.
  • You're participating in a protest, riot or insurrection.
  • A tornado, flood, earthquake or other natural disaster occurs.
  • The item disappears from your checked luggage while traveling.
  • There's normal wear and tear or a manufacturer defect.
  • The item is confiscated by any authority, from a school principal to a customs official.
  • You attempt a DIY project that goes wrong — altering the item in some way, such as cutting it.

But Sherry says she looks at purchase protection as value added to a card. It's a plus if it does cover a lost, stolen or damaged item, but not surprising if it doesn't.

“I wouldn't necessarily expect it to cover every single thing in world,” she says.