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UPDATE Nov. 25, 2019: This article has been updated to reflect changes from Wells Fargo in coverage limits for this benefit. There is no longer a limit on the number of phones under one plan that are eligible for coverage when you pay your bill with a qualifying Wells Fargo credit card.
Wells Fargo’s credit card offerings aren’t necessarily known for being distinctive.
Still, one benefit those cards have in common — and one that’s not a given on personal credit cards — is cell phone insurance. If you use your eligible card to pay your monthly bill, you have up to $600 in coverage against damage or theft. This could be a valuable differentiator, especially if you’re leasing a phone and paying extra each month for insurance through your cellular carrier.
How valuable? Well, for me, $124, to be exact. That’s how much I was reimbursed for repairs to my iPhone 6S after I dropped it and smashed the screen late last year. The repair cost $149 before sales tax; the phone coverage, which I have via my Wells Fargo Rewards® Card, has a $25 deductible.
How to initiate a claim
Several Wells Fargo credit cards offer cell phone protection, but check your card's terms and conditions. If your card qualifies, you can call the number on the back to get the process started. You'll eventually be transferred to a third party — Card Benefit Services — through which you'll file your claim. (The benefit itself is underwritten by Indemnity Insurance Co. of North America.)
Nerd tip: It’s easy to start a claim by phone, but learn from my mistake and initiate yours online. It will save you the steps of having to print out an emailed form, fill it in, and then scan and submit it electronically or via snail mail. Unfortunately, there's no way to avoid all the paperwork.
Documents you'll need
Sit tight; it's a fair amount:
Benefit claim form: As noted above, you’ll have to fill out this form (online or by hand) and upload it to the claims website above, email it to a provided address, or send it via U.S. mail. The form will ask for your personal info — name, address, last four digits of the eligible Wells Fargo credit card, etc. — as well as the basics of your device, including model, brand, serial number and “impacted” phone line number. You’ll have to provide a brief “description of incident,” including the date, location and whether the phone was damaged or stolen.
A copy of your wireless service provider’s billing statement: This is to prove you paid your monthly service bill with a qualifying Wells Fargo credit card. A couple of notes: First, the statement must be the one that was due in the month before the date of damage or theft. Second, if the statement shows the last four digits of your eligible Wells Fargo card, you’ll be asked to include the section that clearly shows that the entire charge was indeed paid with that card. If the statement doesn’t show that? On to the next document.
A copy of your monthly billing statement from the eligible Wells Fargo card: Again, this must be from the month before the date of damage or theft, and it has to show the last four digits of your account number.
A 'Device Summary Page' from your wireless provider: This proves that the cell phone in question is indeed linked to your cell phone account. You can likely find this page by signing into your provider’s online account system.
A copy of the police report: This is necessary only if you're filing a theft claim.
If your phone has to be repaired, you’ll be asked to submit a copy of an itemized estimate from “an authorized cell phone repair facility or your cell phone may need to be sent in for evaluation.”
Nerd tip: If you’re filing a claim for an iPhone, take the safe route and get an estimate from your local Apple Store’s Genius Bar. If it’s an Android or other kind of device, you may want to ask the claims department if it has vendor recommendations.
You’ll need similar documentation if you have to replace the phone outright: an itemized receipt of purchase from an authorized retailer.
What to keep in mind
Cell phone protection is valuable, but there are some factors to consider about this program:
You’re on a timetable: For a claim to be eligible, you must notify the insurer within 60 days of the date your phone was damaged or stolen. And depending on your state of residence, you generally must file a completed claim with all necessary documentation within 90 days of the date of loss.
Nerd tip: Even if you don’t yet have all of your required documents on hand, submit your claim form as soon as possible. You can submit the rest afterward.
Not all mishaps qualify: If you’ve merely misplaced your phone, you’re out of luck. This benefit won’t cover “lost” devices. Same if your device has experienced “electronic failure” or software issues, or if it was included with a prepaid plan.
Coverage has its limits: You're limited to no more than two claims in a 12-month window, and you’ll face a $25 deductible per claim. You’ll receive no more than $600 back per incident, and no more than $1,200 in a 12-month window. (On the plus side, there used to be a limit to the number of phones on one plan that were eligible for coverage, but that's no longer the case.)
If you’re replacing your phone: Hang on to your damaged device until your claim has been fully reviewed. If your claim is approved, you’ll be reimbursed (minus the $25 deductible) up to the value of the original device or the retail price of a replacement “of like kind and quality, excluding taxes, delivery and transportation charges, and any fees associated with the Cellular Wireless Telephone service provider.”
Expect a wait: You can contact Card Benefit Services as often as you like during the process, but you’ll likely have to wait at least five to seven business days from the time you file the last of your paperwork before you get official word on the status of your claim. In the meantime, the benefits center might contact you seeking more information or documentation. In my case, I filed my claim on Dec. 11, a paper check was made out to me on Dec. 27, and I deposited it on Jan. 4, a delay partially attributable to the holiday mail schedule.
Is it worth it?
Cell phone protection via your credit card used to be a much harder perk to find. But in July 2019, Mastercard added it as a benefit for World and World Elite cardholders, making the benefit more widespread. Note, however, that coverage in those cases comes via the payment network (Mastercard), rather than from an issuing bank such as Wells Fargo. This means that terms like deductibles and claim limits may be different from card to card.
For example, depending on how new and fancy your cell phone is, it could be worth well more than, say, Wells Fargo's $600 coverage limit. You may still end up owing money to have it repaired or replaced.
But if you already have an eligible Wells Fargo credit card, taking advantage of the benefit (instead of shelling out for additional insurance) is a no-brainer, even despite the paperwork involved in filing a claim.
If you don't currently have such a benefit, here's a list of our top cards that offer cell phone insurance. Keep in mind, though, that while such a perk can be valuable, your decision shouldn't hinge on that benefit alone. Instead, make sure the card fits your ongoing spending habits. Side perks such as cell phone insurance are nice, but they're simply the gravy on top of rewards, bonuses, 0% intro APR offers and other incentives.