American Express Purchase Protection Explained

Did you know your credit card can cover things that break or get stolen?

Am I covered?
How do I file a claim?
Why is American Express the industry-leader?
How does this work exactly?

I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s lost or broken stuff. Maybe you’ve cracked your notoriously fragile iPhone screen. Or perhaps your new (and expensive) DSLR-camera got nicked while on vacation. In my world, the possibilities for these mishaps are truly endless.

Losing stuff is frustrating, especially after you’ve just bought it.

But don’t fret just yet, because American Express cards cover items that break or get stolen (and even things you just lose!) – for up to 90 days after purchase. It’s offered through this great program called Purchase Protection.

amexpurchaseprotection Am I covered? 

Good news: AMEX includes Purchase Protection as a benefit on all of its cards shown here. You’ll notice that nearly all AMEX cards offer this benefit, so chances are you’re already covered. The annual maximum is also pretty generous at $50,000 per year for most cards.

If you’re losing more than $50,000 worth of new stuff every year, you probably have bigger problems to worry about.

The not-as-good news:

  • The coverage amount per claim is capped at $1,000 per incident. The Platinum Card, however, ups this amount to $10,000 per incident, though still subject to the $50,000 annual maximum.
  • Not all items are covered. Most of the exclusions are reasonable and include such items as food, animals, aircraft (!), and priceless-for-insurance-purposes items. You can find a detailed list in the footnote below.
  • Not all loss situations are covered. Most of these exclusions are typical insurance industry standard exceptions. For example, you are not covered if you lose an item in a “war or any act of war,” “a riot,” or “natural disaster.”
  • You need to file a claim within 30 days of the loss, and items are covered only up to 90 days from the date of purchase.

These provisions apply to most cards, but are (surprise) subject to change. As a best practice, you should read up on the terms and policies specific to your account by finding your card on this page and clicking “View Policy.”

Despite all these seemingly heavy-handed exclusions and legal terms, these benefits really are generous and will probably cover most of the situations you find yourself in.

It also never hurts to ask, and you can always call up the number on the back of your card to see if this benefit applies to your specific situation. Just ask to speak to someone about a “Purchase Protection claim.”

amex claims center

How do I file a claim? 

You can file a claim by phone (call the number on the back of your card) or online using your American Express account. This second option is especially convenient.

In addition to providing the information that they ask for (description of item, circumstances of loss, etc.), you should keep handy:

  • A receipt detailing the merchant, item, and price paid including taxes.
  • A police report if something was stolen. Unless you’re in an urgent emergency situation, you do not have to call 911 to get a police report. Most cities have a 311-esque “non-urgent” police number, and you might find yours by searching “non-urgent police [your city/town/village name]” on Google. If this incident happens abroad, do everything you can to get that police report before you return home.
  • The damaged item for which you are filing a claim (in case they ask you to ship it in).
  • Any insurance claim that you may have already made with a third party (e.g., renter’s insurance), since Purchase Protection is in excess of that.

You’ll notice that American Express does not ask for these items up-front. In my personal experience, I’ve found that American Express will occasionally process your claim without asking for additional documentation or the damaged item. This is especially true for low value items (usually <$100 though this likely depends on your spending history) that probably aren’t worth the paperwork.

But every situation is different, so you should at least get ready to send the information listed above.

On a completely unrelated note, and this probably goes without saying, but fraud is bad, and AMEX will know. AMEX always knows.

12696032183_3eba7e1bba_k Why is American Express the industry-leader? 

Many credit cards on the market today offer retail purchase protection, not just American Express cards. In fact, many major credit providers in the United States offer at least some type of insurance for recently purchased items. This benefit might also be included in the type of card you have (e.g., Visa Signature or World Mastercard).

So why do I think AMEX is the best?

Two reasons:

1. It’s easy to file a claim. 

As of now, American Express is the only major credit card provider that lets you file a claim entirely online. That means no waiting on hold for hours, mailing bundles of documents, or scanning receipts to some third-party insurance company. As a result, they’re often the quickest to review claims.

I’ve also found American Express to be the most trusting when approving claims.

When I cracked a coffee dripper purchased on my Discover card, Discover had me scan a signed form, send in the receipt, write a screenplay-worthy scenario detailing my clumsiness, and send a picture of the broken item. They also intimated that I might have to ship the item to them, which wouldn’t have been worth the hassle for a $20 coffee maker. Thankfully, Discover let me dispose of the dripper in the end, but the whole process took over a month of back-and-forth with Discover’s third-party claims company.

With American Express, I’ve only had to detail what happened online or over the phone, and they’ve processed all my claims within 72 hours of filing, sometimes within a few hours.

2. AMEX’s terms are the most generous. 

People want different things. So I suppose you could argue that the Chase Sapphire Preferred card offers the most generous purchase protection since it’ll cover items up to 120 days from the loss date, compared with AMEX’s 90 days.

But in my opinion, AMEX’s Purchase Protection is the best in the business. Here’s why:

Higher coverage maximums. AMEX covers up to $1,000 per incident, as opposed to the $500 which seems to be industry-standard nowadays. As I mentioned before, the Platinum Charge Card (and all its personal and business variations, though not the Delta Skymiles Platinum card), will cover up to $10,000 per incident. There is no limit on the number of valid claims you can file.

The Platinum Card also covers losses in addition to “theft” and “damage.” This works exactly how it sounds. If you just happen to lose something (i.e. involuntarily and accidentally part with or otherwise permanently misplace an item) the Platinum Card’s Purchase Protection benefit still applies. This is pretty amazing, especially for someone who tends to lose things.

How does this work exactly? 

For the better part of this year, I walked around with a Fitbit, a little “exercise” device that tracked how many steps I took. Since I traveled a lot for work, the vast majority of these steps probably accumulated in an airport somewhere. And given how clumsy and forgetful I am, it should come as no surprise that I inadvertently left my Fitbit at a TSA security check-point, not once, but twice. 

Yes, I lost two Fitbits in about 2 months. I’m an idiot, I know.

Last known location of my Fitbit(s)

I clearly did not intend to lose my Fitbit, and I did everything in my power to try to recover it. I rummaged through my bags, emailed and called the TSA, and so on, but to no avail. So I sheepishly wrote up a claims report online, twice, and apologized for my red-eye-riddled absent-mindedness.

In both cases, I was amazed to see my claims – in the amount of about $108 each – approved within 48 hours. No interrogation. No 10-page mea culpa. No month-long wait for a check in the mail. Just two “sorry you lost your item” emails, with the statement credits following shortly thereafter.

You’ll need to charge a purchase to a Platinum Card to have lost items covered, but just about every other American Express card (including the ones without an annual fee) covers damaged and stolen items.

That’s the beauty of Purchase Protection from American Express. Check and see if you’re covered today!


The following purchases are not covered: 1. travelers checks, tickets of any kind, negotiable instruments (including, but not limited to, gift certificates, gift cards and gift checks), cash or its equivalent; 2. animals or living plants; 3. rare stamps or coins; 4. consumable or perishable items with limited life spans (including, but not limited to, perfume, light bulbs, batteries); 5. antique or previously owned items; 6. motorized vehicles and watercraft, aircraft, and motorcycles or their motors, equipment, parts or accessories; 7. stolen or damaged property consisting of articles in a pair or set. Coverage will be limited to no more than the value of any particular part or parts, unless the articles are unusable individually and cannot be replaced individually, regardless of any special value they may have had as part of a set or collection; 8. items purchased for resale, professional, or commercial use; 9. permanent household and/or business fixtures, including, but not limited to, carpeting, flooring and/or tile; 10. Business fixtures, including, but not limited to, air conditioners, refrigerators, heaters; and  11. hospital, medical and dental equipment and devices.

-From the Purchase Protection terms for a Green Card, available here.

1. war or any act of war, whether declared or undeclared; 2. any activity directly related to and occurring while in the service of any armed military force of any nation state recognized by the
United Nations; 3. participation in a riot, civil disturbance, protest or insurrection; 4. violation of a criminal law, offense or infraction; 5. natural disasters, including, but not limited to, hurricanes, floods, tornados, earthquakes or any other event in the course of nature, that occurs at the same time or in separate instances; 6. fraud or abuse or illegal activity of any kind by the Cardmember; 7. confiscation by any governmental authority, public authority, or customs official; 8. negligent failure of a duty to care by any third party in whose possession the property purchased by a Cardmember has been temporarily placed; 9. not being reasonably safeguarded by You; 10. theft from baggage not carried by hand and under Your personal supervision or under the supervision of a traveling companion known by You; 11. damage through alteration (including, but not limited to, cutting, sawing and shaping); 12. normal wear and tear, inherent product defect or manufacturer’s defects or normal course of play; 13. damage or theft while under the care and control of a common carrier; 14. food spoilage;15. leaving property at an unoccupied construction site; or 16. purchases lost or misplaced.

-From the Purchase Protection terms for a Green Card, available here. Note that the Platinum Card WILL cover “purchases lost or misplaced.”

10 thoughts on “American Express Purchase Protection Explained

  1. I purchased an iPhone with Apple’s new iPhone upgrade program, where you agree to pay the entire cost of the phone of 24 installments and have an option of upgrading after 12 months. Of course, a month after this my phone was stolen. Amex says they will deny the claim. I would at least like to get back my payment incurred before the loss. However, I believe that because I signed an agreement for the total value of the phone, financed the phone, and set up all payments to go on my Amex I should qualify for the purchase protection. Do you have any advice?

    1. Hi Lauren, sorry for the late reply. Quick question on the upgrade program, I know that a lot of cell companies are moving towards a “lease-a-phone” program where you pay a reduced monthly fee in exchange for being able to constantly upgrade the phone every 2 years. The kicker is that you don’t actually own the phone. Instead, you’re leasing it which is a crazy idea, but such is where thing are moving nowadays.

      If it’s a “lease” program, you have never actually purchased the phone, so you wouldn’t be eligible.

      If, on the other hand, you have in fact purchased the phone and have spread out the payments over two years, the situation is a bit less clear. I can find nothing in the policy terms that would exclude this case. You might argue that the phone was in fact purchased (and ownership transferred) when you signed the agreement, and that payment was agreed to be spread over a certain period of time. You could also further clarify that you are not requesting the full value of the phone, but rather the amount paid to date. I’d call and ask for specifics as to why exactly your claim was denied. You should have also received a letter in the mail as well.

      Hope that helps!

      1. You make a good point that I hadn’t considered, which may help my case with AMEX. I have not filed my claim yet but I will be doing it shortly.

        I signed lease purchase agreement and got a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge from Verizon when it first hit the market in March of this year. I put all, or virtually all, of the installments on my SPG AMEX. I purchase the Asurion insurance on my phone..the $9 per month version that covers loss/theft/damage

        Fast forward to this month…My S7 Edge had a defect covered by the manufacturer’s warranty. I took the phone to a Verizon store and they shipped me new S7 Edge free of charge which I received August 11th. While in the Verizon store I discovered the brand new Galaxy Note 7 and decided I really wanted one. The release date was set for Friday Aug 19th. In order to upgrade, I paid off the installment agreement in full using my SPG AMEX this month…final payment was $627….I planned to sell the S7 Edge myself after the Note arrived… the S7 Edge was a brand new phone after all that I had just received a week earlier and was in perfect condition.

        I received the Galaxy Note 7 via Fedex Thurs 8/18 and activated it. Immediately that transferred my Asurion insurance contract to the new device. On Saturday I had guests in my house and I did not know all of them. When they left, my Galaxy S7 Edge was gone. I am certain that it was stolen but I do not know exactly who took it. I have my suspicions but no proof. I will be filing the police report tomorrow as well as the claims with my homeowners insurance and AMEX…I have homeowners insurance with a $500 deductible. Extremely mad at the situation.

        My questions are:

        1. Will AMEX drop down and pay me for the $500 deductible? My homeowners insurance should cover the rest…although they have the same wording in their policy about being excess over other valid and collectible insurance so I’m sure the two will haggle with each other. But the total loss here is only about $850…that’s based on the actual cash value (according to my homeowners policy).. since the stolen phone was new, that should be pretty close to its retail value of $792, plus $46 for the 128GB memory card, plus tax, so lets’ say $900.

        2. Will AMEX try and get out of the claim because my original payments on the phone began in March? I think it will be a tough argument for them to make if they denied Lauren’s claim after 1 installment, and I just paid $627 to purchase the device even if they limited their liability to the $627 to cover my deductible that would be fine with me.

        Any thoughts would be appreciated! Thanks

        1. Hey Kevin – sounds like a complicated situation! I can’t give specific advice, but if I were you I’d try filing a claim with AMEX first. This might also be a good example of only providing just enough information, when you actually have to. 🙂

          The way I see it, the purchase date was Aug 19, as you mentioned, since your phone was technically leased up until then. As long as you have a receipt to that effect, that could work for the online claim.

          Next, I don’t see any reason to mention your homeowner’s insurance (unless they ask for additional documentation). The terms specifically say:

          If other insurance is available to You which
          provides the same or similar coverage as that
          provided by this Plan
          , this Plan becomes excess
          and We will pay only that portion of the Covered
          Incident benefit which is not reimbursed by other
          up to Our limits, as provided under the
          Description of Benefits section.

          I’d argue that your homeowner’s insurance is NOT the “same or similar” as purchase protection since it requires you to front the $500 deposit. Even if it were, the language suggests AMEX would pay up to $500 anyways. It’s up to AMEX to request the details of your insurance plan to figure this out (and they have every right to according to their T&Cs), but there isn’t really a place to mention it on the online claim form. So I’d deal with that hurdle once (if) it ever comes up. Note that you’d only be reimbursed for whatever you paid for the phone ($627), and not the full value of the phone + SD card under this scenario.

          Ultimately you should do whatever makes the most sense for you, but that’s how I’d tackle this situation if I ever found myself in a similar bind.

          Hope that helps!

        2. On second thought, you might be able to have AMEX cover the $500 deductible (since that’s what the language seems to suggest), and have your insurance cover the rest. But that’ll inevitably make the situation much more complicated. Not sure if you want to open that can of worms.

  2. Hired an individual to paint the interior of my home. I signed a document stating I would pay $6915.00, the full amount for stripping the wallpaper, sanding and preparing the wall for priming and painting. I was required to make full payment before work was started so I used my American Express for the payment. The work was defective because the wall paper glue was not thoroughly removed, the wall was not sanded smooth, nor primed properly before painting and on top of that the wrong paint was used. Noticing this during inspection I asked the individual to make the necessary repairs and correct the problem, he refused stating his work was complete and I had already paid him so he’s not going make any repairs. At this time I requested American Express to put a stop payment on the transaction and a $6915.00 dispute was opened. I supplied American Express with pictures of the defective work (bubbling and pealing paint, etc.) and documentation from another contractor for the cost to repair the defective workmanship. American Express initially agreed and reversed charges but when merchant provided agreement which was signed before work was even started and claimed I was trying to renegotiate the payment and terms, American Express put the charge back on my account. First of all I was not trying to renegotiate terms. The job as promised was not complete and he refused to repair the defective and unsatisfactory workmanship and abide by the terms he had agreed upon (remove wallpaper, wallpaper glue, sand smooth, prime and paint). I’m trying understand why American Express protection policy is not protecting me from defective work and why they are not holding the merchant responsible to provide the work promised?

    1. Hi Robert, it sounds like this was a chargeback for defective product (or in this case, services) and not a purchase protection claim. Unfortunately, most credit card providers adopt a “buyer beware” approach to chargebacks. As long as the charge is not fraud, American Express is unlikely to reimburse you for the poor contractor services. My guess is that’s why they reversed the claim when they saw the signature – you technically approved the work, even though the work was not up to spec.

      If the specific reason that Amex gave you was that you were trying to “re-negotiate terms,” it might be worth clarifying this issue directly with them. Otherwise, small claims court might be a good avenue to look into at this point. It sounds like your case has strong evidence of damages (having to pay another contractor to clean-up the mess) and breach of contract (photos showing crappy paint job). I wish you the best of luck!

  3. I did bought I phone 6s plus from apple store 7 days back and lost it in NYC subway train. I bought my iPhone in apple store with american express premiere rewards gold card. Are there any chance of getting statement credit with american express purchase protection.
    Please do let me know. Thanks.

  4. Does purchase protection cover you if the item is stolen in a country other then the one in which it was purchased assuming all other requirements hold?


    1. Yes, I believe so. You should double-check, but I believe there were only a few country restrictions (i.e. North Korea, Iran) the last time I checked.

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