Smashed Phone? The Trick That Can Help You Get Your Money Back

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You know that feeling after you’ve just bought a new cell phone. You hold it like a precious new thing; play with it like your new favorite toy. You’ve just paid quite a bit for it, or maybe signed up to be leashed into a contract for years. Yet, as shiny and new as the phone feels, it’s still an object you’re not accustomed to holding. You clutch it carefully, fearing that one buttery finger could drop it to the pavement and crack your lovely new screen.

But Let’s Say You DO Drop It

Oh no! After you’re finished freaking out about those sickening, splintery cracks spreading across your new screen, know that if you’ve paid for it by credit card, you’re likely in luck for at least part of your phone’s price. Many cards protect you with policies that can pay you $500 to $1,000 for the damage, within months of your date of purchase. You can look for what’s listed in your credit card contract under “Purchase Protection” or “Damage Protection” to see if you’re covered.

“The level of protection varies from card to card but the basic terms are that, if an item is stolen or damaged within X days (the X varies), then the card will reimburse you for the loss up to a certain amount per claim,” says Jim Wang, a Credit.com contributor and “chief money nerd” at WalletHacks. “The only other rule is that you need to use that card to pay 100% the cost of the item.”

For Visa, American Express and Discover, the limit is usually $500 per claim, up to 90 days after purchase. MasterCard usually allows up to $1,000 and is about a month longer – 120 days after purchase, Wang said. And some cards, such as Discover, will extend a warranty an additional year for those that are three years or less. If your current credit card doesn’t offer an extended warranty on phone purchases, it might be worth looking for a card that offers the benefits you want. You can compare credit cards and their benefits using our handy credit card finder tool. 

“Not all banks and not all cards at each bank offer protection, so you might need to consider opening a new account to gain this benefit,” said Eric Lindeen, vice president of marketing for ID Analytics.

What Might Not Be Covered

It’s worth repeating — the perks are not universal — so you need to check the terms from the issuer of the card. That’s because issuers are able to customize coverage amounts, length of coverage, as well as incidents that would qualify for protection, says Megan Delaney of Visa’s marketing firm CBSI. In some cases, only certain thefts are covered. Other cards don’t cover mechanical or electrical failure. And cards typically don’t take responsibility for acts of God, like floods, either.

There are also certain exemptions on some purchases. “Like American Express doesn’t offer purchase protection on animals, plants, coins, stamps, antiques, etc. It’s a pretty reasonable list,” says Wang.

Other caveats — some cards, such as Discover, don’t cover phones that are stolen from vehicles, according to Discover spokesman Derek Cuculich. And you’ll have a hard time replacing your phone if it has a glitch but still rings. Most replacement protection will cover damaged or stolen, but not lost or failed devices, says Lindeen. “Most will not replace a device that can still make or receive calls,” he says. Stolen phones may require evidence, like a police report. And any other protection payouts, “from your carrier, home insurance, or AppleCare, must pay first,” says Lindeen.

What To Do

If you smash or damage your new phone, call your card’s benefits administrator immediately. “If you do not notify the Benefit Administrator within sixty days after the product failure, your claim may be denied,” says Betty Reiss, spokeswoman for Bank of America credit cards.

The benefit administrator will likely guide you through the process and send you a claim form. And, by the way, even theft, gifts and things you’ve bought but don’t really like could be covered. Just make sure you have all the necessary documents to prove your case.

When you buy your phone, it’s also a good idea to see if you need to register it with your credit card’s benefit administrator. The terms are generally sent to you after you receive the new card, Reiss says. You’ll also want to save the purchase receipt in case you’re asked for it.

What You’ll Likely Need to Submit Within 90 Days:

  • The claim form sent to you by the benefit administrator
  • Your card receipt
  • The itemized store receipt
  • A copy of the original manufacturer’s written U.S. warranty and any other applicable warranty
  • A description and serial number of the item, and any other documentation deemed necessary to substantiate your claim (this includes bills and, if necessary, a copy of the maintenance record and receipts)
  • The original repair order
  • A police report if your phone was stolen

But What If You Didn’t Buy the Phone Outright?

If you purchased your phone on an installment plan with your carrier, there is an added opportunity for protection. “Cards are increasingly offering cellphone replacement insurance as an added feature,” said Lindeen. “You’ll need to pay your monthly bill with the card, so review your agreements and chose the card you use for your phone bill carefully. Reimbursements vary from $200 to $600, and most have a deductible.”

Wells Fargo may offer the most generous plan with $600 protection on up to four phones with a $25 deductible, and two claims a year allowed. You’ll need to read the fine print to see if your card offers this service. The protection is for damage or theft (but not phones that are lost), said Natalie M. Brown, spokeswoman for Wells Fargo. And, in case you’re thinking of intentionally getting absent minded and losing your phone to score some funds for that new iPhone, it also doesn’t cover phones that “mysteriously disappear.” Also check to see what’s offered under your card’s extended warranty.

Remember, you’ll get the best deals on everything from cellular service to credit card interest rates if you have good credit, which you can achieve by paying your bills on time and not carrying high credit card balances. A good credit score can end up saving you a lot of money over your lifetime. You can see how your payment history is affecting your credit by checking your two free credit scores, updated monthly, at Credit.com.

At publishing time, American Express and Discover products are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for these cards. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

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Netflix Just Made It Easier to Save Cellphone Data When Streaming Its Movies

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Being able to Netflix and chill just got a bit easier thanks to a new tool unveiled by the company this week.

According to the streaming TV and movie provider, a new default setting will enable customers to stream about three hours of content per gigabyte of data, or about 600 Kilobits per second. Netflix claims this will boost video quality, but the real takeaway is that the change could help cellphone users avoid a high monthly phone bill due to too much data use.

“Our testing found that, on cellular networks, this setting balances good video quality with lower data usage to help avoid exceeding data caps and incurring overage fees,” Netflix said in a blog post. “If you have a mobile data plan with a higher data cap, you can adjust this setting to stream at higher bitrates.”

To set your cellular data usage, select App Settings from the Netflix iOS or Android app’s menu, pick Cellular Data Usage and switch off the automatic default. From there, you can select a higher or lower data usage setting that works with your mobile data plan; there’s even an unlimited option.

Saving on Your Cellphone Bill

Exceeding data caps is a sure way to rack up fees and hamper your budget. To get your usage in line, consider negotiating with your service provider to downgrade your plan or going elsewhere.

You may also be able to escape certain fees or pay lower rates for your cellphone service if you have a good credit score. (You can see where yours currently stands by viewing your two free credit scores, updated each month, on Credit.com.) If your credit is in rough shape, you may be able to improve your score by disputing errors on your credit report, paying down high credit card balances and limiting credit inquiries in the short-term.

You can find some more cellphone hacks that can save you money here.

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4 Cellphone Hacks That Can Save You Major Money

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Are you putting a chunk of your paycheck towards your cellphone service? Many people are. According to a 2014 study by Cowen and Company, the average bill for customers of three major providers (Verizon, AT&T and Sprint) was over $140, except for T-Mobile, which came in at $120.

Even so, who wants to pay almost $1,700 per year for their cellphone service? If you haven’t stopped to think about how much you’re spending on your phone, that total may shock you. You could go on a fairly nice vacation with that money, or make a huge dent in your debt.

The good news is there are ways around paying a large bill. Let’s take a look at four different cellphone hacks that can save you major money.

1. Switch Your Service Provider

The most drastic change in your bill will likely come from switching your cellphone service provider. There are many different alternatives out there besides the big four that have made huge strides in their offerings over the past few years.

Your biggest savings may be in the form of shifting to a “pay as you go” contract. Start by reviewing how many minutes and how much data you use each month to see if those “buffet” plans are even worth it. It may make sense to shift to a “pay as you go” contract if you are using significantly fewer minutes than you expected.

There has been quite a bit of innovation in the cellphone business and if you haven’t shopped around lately, you might not have even heard about them.

The first is the use of Wi-Fi instead of a cell network for service. Providers like Republic Wireless have phones that will default to using Wi-Fi if a signal exists, like in your own home, which won’t cost you any minutes or data. The technology will even shift from cell service to Wi-Fi when you enter an area where you have Wi-Fi service, with no disruption.

There are many other choices out there if you find yourself dissatisfied with how much you’re paying your current provider. Just as you shop around with your insurance providers, you can (and should) shop around for your cellphone provider.

Remember, you may have to pay an upfront deposit with some carriers if you don’t have a good credit score. You can see where you stand by viewing your free credit report summary, updated each month, on Credit.com.

2. Negotiate With Your Current Service Provider

Maybe you don’t want to deal with the hassle of switching your service provider. It can be a little time consuming to check out all the providers, plans and phones out there.

The easiest step you can take to lower your cellphone bill right now is to call up your service provider and ask if there’s anything they can do for you price-wise.

Are you serious about switching providers if you can’t get a lower rate? Arm yourself with alternatives and then tell them that, but be polite about it. Demanding a different, less expensive plan isn’t likely to get you anywhere… but asking politely may do the trick.

Sometimes, customer service agents are able to give you a bit of a break. They might be able to lower your monthly payment by $5 to $10. Other times, they may have their hands tied. It may be worth calling back to negotiate with someone else, but don’t spend too much of your time on this step.

3. Downgrade

If negotiating didn’t work, ask your service provider if there are any other plan options available to you. You can also do a bit of research on your own.

Do you know how much data you’re using each month? You could be paying for more “plan” than you need. Maybe you’re on Wi-Fi a lot, and barely use a gig of data each month. Make sure you’re on the lowest data plan offered.

Or maybe you use a lot of data, but you didn’t know until now. Analyze which apps are using the most data, and change how often they retrieve data. If you can get by with your email being fetched every 30 to 60 minutes instead of every minute, you’ll save on data usage. Switch over to using Wi-Fi whenever possible, too.

4. When Switching, Do the Math

To put this all together: Don’t just take the numbers at face value when considering a switch. You need to crunch them to make sure everything works out in your favor.

Are you taking the early termination fees (ETF) into account? Some providers may offer to pay this fee for new customers, but, even if a new plan doesn’t, you could still come out ahead if you’re able to pay much less per month.

For example, maybe you’re currently paying $90 per month and your ETF is $150, and you’re looking at a plan where you can bring your own phone over and pay $30 per month.

Over the year, you’re paying $1,080 for your current service, and you’ll pay $360 for your new service. The $150 ETF is worth paying in that case.

Saving money on your cellphone bill is extremely simple. You just need to know the other options available to you, and you have to be willing to shop around and negotiate. Focus on how much you could be saving if you cut your bill in half, and try one of these methods today.

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