Gather some information before you buy warranties for tech devices

November 24, 2013 

Extended coverage could pay off if your phone, laptop or tablet meets with an accident.

1. The dog ate my smartphone. In a recent survey of 1,000 parents, half said their kids had damaged a laptop, tablet or smartphone. Pets do their share of mischief, too. So if you’re buying a mobile device this holiday season, purchasing an extended warranty or service contract that covers what the industry calls accidental damage from handling (ADH) could be a smart move. It will cover repair or replacement of your device due to mishaps that manufacturers’ warranties typically exclude.

2. Do your homework. Even if you intend to buy your tech gift at the mall, comparison-shop warranties on the Web, including the sites of retailers where you think you might buy the item and companies that sell warranties directly to consumers. Among the latter are SquareTrade. com, ElectronicWarranty. com and Safeware.com, all of which are rated A or A+ by the Better Business Bureau. Find out the terms and conditions of extended coverage: deductibles, limitations (such as the number of damage incidents covered) and exemptions.

3. Take your time. You’re likely to get a hard sell at checkout because extended warranties generate profit for retailers — as much as 50 percent of what you pay for them. You can generally buy an extended warranty within 30 or 90 days of the purchase date. So if you’re not sure you want the coverage, just say no at the time of purchase.

4. It pays to shop. Apple’s own AppleCare+ for iPad costs $99; it covers two incidents of accidental damage, each with a $49 service fee (deductible). SquareTrade’s two-year coverage with no deductible also costs $99 but covers unlimited incidents, up to the amount you paid for your device.

5. Convenience counts. Most extended-service warranties require you to take your device to a local authorized service provider or ship it to a more distant service depot. SquareTrade allows you to choose your service provider. You also can send your device to SquareTrade’s own service depot — the repair and shipping will be free. If you take your device to an Apple store or repair shop, you’ll pay out of pocket and submit a receipt for reimbursement.

6. And to play it safe ... File your sales invoice and any paperwork regarding product claims. Register the extended warranty so there will be no hassle when you need repairs. And get a case for your phone or tablet. For example, for an iPad you can buy the OtterBox Defender Series case with screen protector and stand for $60 on Amazon.com.

Patricia Mertz Esswein is an associate editor at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine. Send your questions and comments to moneypower@kiplinger.com. And for more on this and similar money topics, visit www.Kiplinger.com.

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