iStock
CNN —  

CNN Underscored reviews financial products such as credit cards and bank accounts based on their overall value. We may receive a commission through the LendingTree affiliate network if you apply and are approved for a card, but our reporting is always independent and objective. Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.

We’ve all been there. You purchase a brand new camera for an upcoming trip and within just a few days, it falls to the ground and breaks. A travesty, yes, but fortunately if you used the right credit card, your purchase may be protected.

This little-known benefit of many credit cards can cover you in the event an item that you buy — whether you made the purchase for yourself or someone else — has a little misadventure soon after you purchase it. But how does it work?

What is purchase protection?

Credit card purchase protection will reimburse you if an item you buy with your card is stolen or accidentally damaged shortly after purchase by either repairing or replacing the item. The coverage varies drastically between credit cards and not every card has it, so it’s important to understand the exact terms of your card prior to making an expensive purchase.

You’ll find that most protection plans cover you for up to either 90 or 120 days from the date of purchase, and between $500 to $10,000 per item. Some items are excluded from the coverage, such as pre-owned items, antiques, boats and a few others.

Purchase protection can be found on more than a few credit cards, so here’s our list of the best choices currently available, and which one might be right for you.

The best credit cards for purchase protection

Chase Sapphire Reserve: Best overall for purchase protection
American Express® Gold Card: Best for expensive items
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express: Best no-annual-fee card
Chase Freedom Flex: Best for buying cell phones
Chase Freedom Unlimited: Best introductory offer on purchases

Why did we choose these credit cards as the best ones for purchase protection? Let’s dive into the details of each card’s purchase protection coverage to see how each one can cover your purchase.

Chase Sapphire Reserve: Best overall for price protection

Hands down, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is one of the best when it comes to protecting your next big item. The card comes with purchase protection for 120 days from the date of purchase, up to $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per year. It’s one of the longest timeframes you’ll see on a credit card, along with some of the highest caps.

On the shopping front, this card also has you covered with return protection. If you want to return an eligible item that you bought with your Chase Sapphire Reserve within 90 days from the date of purchase, and the merchant won’t take it back, you can be refunded for the full purchase price, excluding shipping and handling. Claims are capped at $500 per item and a maximum of $1,000 per card per year.

Related: Is the Chase Sapphire Reserve worth the annual fee?

If you're shopping for yourself or someone else, make sure you're covered with credit card purchase protection.
iStock
If you're shopping for yourself or someone else, make sure you're covered with credit card purchase protection.

You’ll also get an extended warranty with this card, which means if an item you purchased using the card comes with an eligible U.S. manufacturer’s warranty of three years or less, that warranty will be extended by an additional year.

To find a card that has this trio of benefits is proving to be harder to come by these days, which is why we named the Chase Sapphire Reserve one of our favorite credit cards to use when you’re shopping.

Related: Read CNN Underscored’s review of the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Of course, the Chase Sapphire Reserve also offers a slew of other non-shopping related benefits, such as 3 points for every dollar you spend on both travel and dining purchases. Or if you buy through Ultimate Rewards, you’ll earn 5 total points on air travel, and 10 total points on dining, hotels and car rentals.

The card also comes with a $300 annual travel credit, a Priority Pass Select membership that gives you access to over 1,200 airport lounges around the world, a credit of up to $100 when you apply for either the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck expedited security programs, up to $120 in statement credits on Peloton monthly memberships (through December 31, 2021) and up to $60 in statement credits on DoorDash purchases (through December 31, 2021).

Learn more and apply now for the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

American Express Gold: Best for expensive items

Are you in the market for an expensive television or high-end camera? You’ll want to use a credit card that can cover those potentially once-in-a-lifetime purchases. That’s where the American Express Gold card comes in handy. With purchase protection coverage of up to $10,000 per item, it’s a safe bet that 99.9% of your purchases will fall below that threshold.

Yes, the aforementioned Chase Sapphire Reserve will also cover this expensive purchase, and American Express cards now only protect you for 90 days from the date of purchase instead of the 120 days you’ll get with the Sapphire Reserve. But there are a few extra benefits of using an American Express card like the American Express Gold for your shopping purchases.

First and foremost, American Express is known for its top-notch customer service. The issuer will help you through the entire process of filing out a claim, making it nearly seamless — extremely useful when you’re in a panic about an expensive gift that’s gone missing from your front porch.

Related: This is how the American Express Gold Card can practically pay for itself.

American Express cards can also save you money — or earn extra rewards — with Amex Offers, which provide targeted discounts or bonus points at dozens of merchants. With more than 100 offers available, there’s a good chance one of them will come in handy during your next shopping trip.

And last but not least, the extended warranty benefit on the American Express Gold applies to manufacturer warranties of up to five years, whereas many Chase cards only offer coverage on warranties of three years or less. That means you’ll get extra protection on more of your long-term purchases.

Learn more about the American Express Gold Card.

Blue Cash Everyday from American Express: Best no-annual-fee card

If you’re looking for a no-annual fee card (see rates and fees) that will have your back if something happens to your an item you buy, then look no further than the Blue Cash Everyday.

With this card, you’ll be covered if your item is damaged or stolen, up to $1,000 per item. Compare that to many other no-annual-fee cards that only cover up to $500 per item. The one downside is that American Express cards will only protect you for 90 days from the date of purchase, which can be a full month less than some other cards.

The Blue Cash Everyday also doesn’t feature some other popular shopping benefits, such as extended warranty or return protection, though you can get those perks with the Everyday’s sister card, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express. The Blue Cash Preferred has a $95 annual fee, but it currently comes with a $0 introductory fee for the first year (see rates and fees).

Related: Amex Blue Cash Preferred vs. Blue Cash Everyday: Which is best for you?

You’ll also earn 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets with the Blue Cash Everyday on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1% thereafter), plus 2% cash back at U.S. department stores and 2% at U.S. gas stations. And since it’s an American Express card, you’ll have access to the Amex Offers program, where many offers can pop up to save you money, all while being protected at the same time.

Learn more about the Blue Cash Everyday card.

Chase Freedom Flex: Best for buying cell phones

The no-annual fee Chase Freedom Flex is one of the best when it comes to earning cash back and ensuring your purchases are protected. You’ll earn 5% cash back, up to $1,500 spent per quarter, on a set of bonus categories that rotate each quarter. Although there’s no way of knowing the categories for the entire year ahead of time, previous quarters have included Walmart, Target, wholesale clubs and even Best Buy -— all popular places where you’ll want to make sure your purchase is protected.

Using the Chase Freedom Flex ensures that your purchases are covered for up to $500 per item and for 120 days from the date of purchase. However, keep in mind that items must be purchased directly with the Chase Freedom Flex (and any credit card) to be covered by purchase protection. So if you purchase a gift card (for example, at Walmart or a drugstore to earn the bonus points) with the Freedom Flex and then use that gift card to purchase an item, you won’t be protected.

Related: Spend $500 and earn $200 with the Chase Freedom Flex.

Separate from purchase protection, the Chase Freedom Flex also offers cell phone protection. So even after the 120-day time frame, if your phone is damaged or stolen, as long as you pay your monthly bill with the Freedom Flex card, you’re covered up to $800 per claim with a $50 deductible. With the card’s cell phone protection, you’re capped at two claims in a 12-month period, and up to $1,000 per year.

Even once your purchase protection has expired, you'll still get cell phone protection with the Chase Freedom Flex.
iStock
Even once your purchase protection has expired, you'll still get cell phone protection with the Chase Freedom Flex.

Aside from the rotating bonus categories, you’ll also earn 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards with the Chase Freedom Flex, 3% cash back on dining (including takeout and delivery) and 3% cash back at drugstores.

Now, if you’d prefer to use your rewards for travel instead of cash back, you can pair this card with a premium Ultimate Rewards card — such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred Card — and move the rewards earned from the Freedom Flex over to those accounts. From there, you can your rewards for travel at a higher rate or even transfer them to Chase’s airline and hotel partners.

Learn more and apply now for the Chase Freedom Flex.

Chase Freedom Unlimited: Best introductory offer on purchases

Splurging on a purchase doesn’t have to also mean paying excessive interest on your credit card, at least not if you have a card that offers a 0% introductory APR on purchases while also protecting them at the same time. (Of course, we never recommend spending more than what you can afford, so only use this feature to make purchases that you know you can pay off in a reasonable timeframe.)

The Chase Freedom Unlimited is the perfect hybrid between carrying a balance and protecting your purchases. It offers an introductory 0% APR on all purchases for the first 15 months you have the card (which then rises to a variable 14.99%-23.74% after the introductory period ends). That means if you apply for the card now, you’ll be covered for this year’s holiday shopping season and most of next year as well.

Related: Chase Freedom Flex vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited: Which is best for you?

With the Chase Freedom Unlimited, you’re also covered for up to $500 per item for 120 days from the date of purchase. While this is lower than some of the other cards on our list, $500 is still a relatively high-price point, so many of your purchases should still be protected.

And even if you’re using this card solely for its introductory APR and purchase protection benefits, you’ll still reap some great rewards on your everyday purchases. The Chase Freedom Unlimited offers 1.5% cash back on all purchases, and similar to the Chase Freedom Flex, you can also use your rewards for more valuable travel redemptions when paired with a premium Chase Ultimate Rewards credit card.

Learn more and apply now for the Chase Freedom Unlimited.

How to file a purchase protection claim

Every issuer has a different process you need to follow when filing a claim, but there’s one common denominator between them — they all serve as “secondary” coverage. This means if you have a loss, you may need to first file a claim with your primary insurance carrier — if you have one — which could include your renters insurance or homeowners insurance policy if applicable.

When you need to file a purchase protection claim with your credit card company, make sure to have your receipt on hand, as you’ll need it as proof of purchase. It’s always a good idea to take a picture of your receipt immediately after purchasing an item, especially an expensive one, in case the receipt ends up lost. You’ll also need to include a police report if the item was stolen.

For the major credit card networks, here are the basics on how to file a claim:

Which credit card is best for purchase protection?

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is our go-to credit card for purchase protection, but with a $550 annual fee, it’s not a cheap credit card, and its coverage is only really necessary for expensive purchases. For an item costing less than $500, you’ll find that any Chase credit card will cover your purchase for the same 120-day timeframe. And if maximizing cash back is a high priority, you’ll actually be better off using the Chase Freedom Flex or Chase Freedom Unlimited, both of which have no annual fee at all.

On the other hand, if you don’t believe you’ll need the full 120 days of coverage, and 90 days will work just fine instead, then the American Express Gold also covers expensive items while providing some other money-saving benefits. And for a no-annual-fee card, you can’t go wrong with the Blue Cash Everyday, as its cap on purchase protection claims is relatively high and will typically cover most purchases you make.

Looking for the best overall credit card? Find out which cards CNN Underscored chose as its best credit cards of 2021.

Get all the latest personal finance deals, news and advice at CNN Underscored Money.