20 November 2012

Comparison Shopping: Extended Warranty Programs

I used the American Express extended warranty program for the first time when our milk frother (how yuppie are we?) stopped working a couple months after its warranty expired. I called the service number, provided the name of the product, described the problem, gave the date of purchase, cost, length of original warranty, the total amount on the receipt, and within 48 hours the purchase price had been refunded to our account.

Couldn't have been simpler.  Previously I'd been a credit card agnostic, but this experience made me an AMEX convert.  My husband and I resolved to use our AMEX card for most of our purchases--especially for stuff that might break--and we bragged about AMEX's great customer service to anybody who would listen (we had a similarly good experience with AMEX's auto CDW coverage a few months later).

Recently my iPhone's battery case (a Mophie Juicepack Air) stopped working properly.  I checked to see when it had been purchased and found the warranty expired in September.  So I called American Express and gave them the required information: product name, problem, purchase date, warranty length, purchase price, total amount on receipt....  DARN!  While I was on the phone with the representative I saw that the purchase had been made with our Visa card, not our AMEX.  So I apologized to the rep and hung up.

Then called Visa.  Which offers a similar program.  But not the same.  Because after providing Visa's representative with similar information to that which I'd provided AMEX, she emailed me a FORM (from the sender "Enhancement Services"--do they WANT you to delete their email as spam?). In addition to signing the form, I have to provide the original receipt, the Visa statement containing that charge, and a receipt for the replacement product.

The form and accompanying documentation can be faxed or mailed.

So I have a couple of issues with this.  First, I was able to execute a claim solely on the phone with AMEX; why does Visa require a form?  Second, why does Visa need me to give them a receipt and a statement--this "proof of purchase" requirement would take a person in their office a moment (querying with our account number and the purchase date that I provided). Instead I have to hunt around and print things; presumably this would be even more trouble for less organized people. Visa recommends that you avoid this trouble by registering everything you buy with its Warranty Manager service, but that seems unnecessarily onerous.  Again, since you bought the product with your Visa card, Visa HAS this information already.  And then, why on earth don't they let you submit the documentation electronically?

Conclusion: even when credit cards seem to provide the same service, they really don't. Which you probably already knew, but I didn't (I suspected it).  The documentation will be mailed to Visa today; I'll update this post when it's been resolved one way or another.

Update (12 August 2015): Well, I guess I forgot to update. We did get compensated by Visa, about a month later, by check.  All in all, a much clunkier process.

To Insure or not to Insure (in Mexico)?

We were recently in Cabo San Lucas for Victor's stepbrother's wedding. We rented a car because rates were so cheap, but after we arrived we were obliged to pay for liability insurance that doubled the cost of our rental.  We are returning to Mexico for our winter vacation, so I set out to discover whether we really should have paid for that liability insurance or if we were already covered.

Short answer: we were smart to pay.  Long answer: the collision damage waiver (CDW) coverage offered by many credit cards is not the same as liability insurance.  But even if you knew that (we did), it turns out that liability insurance you already have (bundled with your car insurance or--as in our case--homeowner's insurance) may not be of much help in Mexico.  I called our insurance agent and she confirmed that, Yes, we were covered, but she still advised us to buy the rental company's liability coverage. "They make their own rules over there," she said.  She explained that they tend to go after you in court rather than deal with a U.S. insurance company.

Or something like that.  If you Google the issue, there's quite a bit of chatter, but it comes down to this: buy the Mexican liability insurance.