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It’s happened to all of us. We’re walking innocently down the sidewalk and our cell phone suddenly slips out of our hand and drops on the pavement — smashed. Or falls out of our back pocket…into the toilet. Or it’s drafted into duty for a dreaded game of “catch the phone” that your kids decide to play when they’re bored one afternoon.
But cell phones aren’t cheap, and when an unfortunate incident happens that requires your phone to be repaired or even replaced, the out-of-pocket costs can be astronomical.
Fortunately, if you have a credit card that offers free cell phone protection and you use that card to pay your monthly cell phone bill, you can save yourself from the potentially huge cost of repairing or replacing it. So if a cell phone “oops” happens to you more times than you’d like to admit, you’ll want to make sure to have the right card to cover it.
The best credit cards with cell phone protection in 2021
Chase Freedom Flex: Best for earning flexible points
IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card: Best for earning hotel points
Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card: Best no-annual-fee card
Citi Prestige® Card: Best for travel benefits
U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card: Best introductory rate on purchases
Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students: Best for students
Ink Business Preferred Credit Card: Best for business owners
It’s important to remember that most cell phone insurance plans will reimburse the cost of replacing or repairing your phone in case of damage or theft. This means if your phone is lost, or has cosmetic damage and still works, you won’t be covered. You also need to pay your cell phone bill with the card each month in order to be protected if the worst happens.
The best credit cards with cell phone protection cover between $600 to $1,000 in costs per claim with a deductible between $25 and $100, and you can typically file two to three claims a year depending on the card. There are other exclusions that won’t pertain to the average person, but you’ll still want to check the terms of your particular credit card to see exactly what’s covered and not covered.
Here’s a comparison of the specific cell phone insurance benefits available on each of these credit cards:
Let’s dive into the details of each of these cards and see which one might be the best choice to cover you when an unfortunate cell phone disaster occurs.
Chase Freedom Flex: Best for earning flexible points
The relatively new Chase Freedom Flex is a game changer for those looking to earn cash back that can be converted into travel points with the right matching card. Between the Freedom Flex’s benefits and the rewards it earns, it’s no wonder this card has become a popular choice over the last year.
With the cell phone protection that comes on the Chase Freedom Flex, you’ll be covered for up to $800 per claim with a $50 deductible. That’s the highest per-claim maximum on any no-annual-fee credit card with cell phone protection. You’re also allowed to file up to two claims per 12-month period, with a maximum reimbursement amount of $1,000 during that time.
You’ll earn 5% cash back on a set of bonus categories that rotate each quarter on up to $1,500 in spending per quarter, plus 5% cash back on travel purchases made through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% cash back on dining (including takeout and delivery) and 3% cash back at drugstores.
And while the Chase Freedom Flex earns cash back, when you pair it with a premium Chase Ultimate Rewards credit card, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve, you can transfer the rewards you earn with your Chase Freedom Flex to the other card, giving you the flexibility to redeem them for travel at a higher value through Chase’s own travel booking site, or transferred to any of Chase’s 13 airline and hotel partners.
IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card: Best for earning hotel points
If you stay regularly at Holiday Inns or Kimpton Hotels, the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card is a card that should absolutely have a place in your wallet. Although the card doesn’t offer much in terms of rewards, it offers a slew of benefits, including cell phone protection.
The IHG Premier card will reimburse you if your cell phone is stolen or damaged for up to $800 per covered incident with a $50 deducible. The coverage is capped at two claims per 12-month period, with a maximum of $1,000 in coverage during that time.
The main disadvantage to using the IHG Premier card to pay your cell phone bill is that the points you’ll be earning aren’t worth much. Based on the point valuations of frequent flyer website The Points Guy, IHG points are worth around half a cent apiece. In comparison, the Chase Freedom Flex card has the exact same cell phone protection coverage, but your rewards are worth at least double that amount.
That said, the IHG Premier comes with many other perks, such as complimentary IHG Platinum elite status, a reward night certificate on every account anniversary, your fourth night free when redeeming points and Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee credit. These benefits make this a great card to have if you’re a fan of IHG hotels, and the card’s cell phone protection truly seals the deal.
Wells Fargo Propel American Express: Best no-annual-fee card
The Wells Fargo Propel American Express is a no-annual-fee card that can score you a lot of rewards. It earns 3 points for every dollar you spend in many common bonus categories, and it comes with cell phone protection as well.
The list of bonus categories that earn 3 points per dollar on the Wells Fargo Propel Amex is extensive, including dining (eating out and ordering in), gas stations, ride-share services, transit, flights, hotels, homestays, car rentals and popular streaming services. Points can be redeemed for a statement credit at a rate of 1 cent per point, so you’re effectively earning 3% cash back in the bonus categories.
Compared to the cell phone protection coverage on other credit cards, you’re capped at a slightly lower maximum per claim with the Wells Fargo Propel Amex — only $600, while some other cards offer $800 to $1,000 per covered event.
But as with every credit card’s cell phone protection plan, you’re on the hook to pay a deductible, which is taken out of the amount you’re reimbursed. The deductible on the Wells Fargo Propel Amex is only $25, whereas most other plans charge a deductible of $50 to $100 per claim. Plus, you can make up to two claims every 12 months with no annual dollar cap other than the $600 maximum per claim.
Citi Prestige Card: Best for travel benefits
If you’re in the market for a high-end credit card that offers a slew of travel benefits, the Citi Prestige has you covered. But with a $495 annual fee, you’ll want to make sure you’re using all of the card’s benefits to get your money’s worth — especially right now.
The Citi Prestige comes with some solid travel perks, including your fourth night free when you book a hotel room through the Citi ThankYou website (up to two bookings per year), an annual $250 travel credit which can also be used for supermarket and restaurant purchases in 2021, and a Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership. The card also earns 5 points per dollar on airfare and dining, 3 points per dollar for hotels and cruises and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.
On the cell phone protection front, you’ll be covered for up to $1,000 per claim with a $50 deductible, which is the highest reimbursement amount of any card on our list. So if you have an expensive cell phone that gets damaged beyond repair, you’ll have $1,000 to help offset the cost of replacing it versus $600 to $800 with other cards. Coverage is capped at $1,500 over a 12-month period, which is also higher than the other cards on our list.
If you’re looking at this card solely for cell phone protection, there are other options with significantly lower annual fees that provide enough insurance to cover most phones. But if you’ll fully utilize the benefits and rewards of the Citi Prestige, then it’s a high-end card worth considering.
U.S. Bank Visa Platinum Card: Best introductory rate on purchases
Although the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum Card doesn’t offer a sign-up bonus or earn rewards, it’s by far the best card when it comes to offering an extended introductory rate on both purchases and balance transfers — all while also providing cell phone protection.
Under the card’s cell phone insurance plan, you can be reimbursed for up to $600 per covered incident with a $25 deductible. The coverage is capped at up to $1,200 and two claims per 12-month period.
Although these limits are on the lower side when compared to some of the other cards on our list, the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum Card also comes with an introductory 0% APR for 20 billing cycles on both purchases and balance transfers. The rate then rises to a variable 13.99% to 23.99% once the intro offer expires.
That’s an extremely generous amount of time if you need several extra months to pay down your existing debt, or if you’re looking to make a large purchase. But truthfully, this is probably only a card to get if you’re in need of the introductory offer. If not, then the other cards on our list offer better rewards and overall benefits.
Deserve EDU Mastercard for Students: Best for students
Most student-catered credit cards offer minimal benefits — if any at all. But not the Deserve EDU Mastercard for Students. For starters, you don’t need a Social Security number to apply for the card — which is extremely helpful to international students and also makes getting approved easier.
You’ll also have cell phone protection coverage for your entire time as a student, as long as you use this card to pay for your cell phone bill. You can be reimbursed for up to $600 per covered incident, with a $50 deductible and a maximum of $1,000 each 12 months. And unlike most of the other cards on our list, there’s no cap on the number of times you can file a claim.
Other benefits of the Deserve EDU Mastercard for Students include 1% cash back on all purchases, car rental insurance, no foreign transaction fees and one year of Amazon Prime Student after you spend $500 on the card within the first three billing cycles of being a new card holder.
Unexpected out-of-pocket expenses can be very tough on college students, so being able to get approved for a credit card as a student with less hassle, and then also being protected by it against a cell phone mishap, are some great reasons to have this card in your wallet.
Ink Business Preferred: Best for business owners
The Chase Ink Business Preferred was one of the first credit cards to offer cell phone protection, and to this day it’s still one of the best — especially for people with a small business.
The cell phone coverage on this card is better for some but worse for others, depending on your needs. You’ll only be reimbursed for up to $600 per covered claim, and there’s a relatively large $100 deductible, which is at least double than every other card on our list. That could make filing a claim potentially not even worth it if you have an inexpensive phone.
However, the Ink Business Preferred is the only card that has no dollar cap on the amount you can be reimbursed within a year, and it also allows you to file up to three claims per rolling 12 months. So if you’re particularly accident-prone with your phone, you can theoretically be reimbursed a total of $1,800 each year depending on your claim amounts — up to $600 per incident with three claims allowed.
Additionally, the Ink Business Preferred earns 3 points for every dollar you spend on travel, shipping purchases, internet, cable, phone services and advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines (up to $150,000 in combined purchases across all those categories each year, then 1x). This means you’ll earn triple points on your cell phone bill, which is an excellent return.
How to make sure your cell phone is covered
As mentioned earlier, having a credit card with cell phone protection doesn’t necessarily mean you’re automatically covered as soon as you get the card. You’ll need to use that specific credit card each month to pay your entire cell phone bill for the coverage to apply, and most plans don’t kick in until the first day of the month after your first bill payment.
Then, if your cell phone is damaged or stolen, there are several steps you’ll need to follow to get reimbursed. Most credit cards have a set number of days by which you must inform the issuer of an incident and submit the required information. To make sure you don’t have a problem, your best bet is to fill out all the forms as soon as the incident occurs so you don’t accidentally let the deadline pass.
There’s also a lot of information you have to send in, and you’ll want to make sure you follow the requirements to a T. While your credit card’s benefits administrator can help if you’re confused about which credit card statement or phone bill needs to be submitted, we suggest sending in a few months’ worth just to ensure you cover your bases.
Make sure to also get a repair estimate if the phone can be fixed, or proof of purchase of a new phone if it can’t. And if your phone was stolen, you’ll need a copy of the police report, which often must be filed within 48 hours of when the incident occurred.
While the process might sound cumbersome, knowing what to expect ahead of time will prepare you if you ever find yourself in a moment of dread with a damaged or stolen phone. That way, you’ll feel a little better knowing you’re protected with a credit card that’s ready to take a huge burden off your shoulders.
Check out CNN Underscored’s list of the best credit cards of 2021.