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Do credit cards cover checked electronic devices?

Dawn Papandrea

U.S.- and U.K.-bound airline passengers who can no longer carry on devices larger than a cellphone won’t find that their credit cards offer much protection for laptops and other pricey electronics checked in their luggage.

While the new rule to thwart terror plots affects only about 50 flights a day from eight majority-Muslim nations, it has focused attention on credit card protections covering lost and damaged luggage.

What if the new rule is expanded to other flights in the weeks or months ahead? And if you’re traveling anywhere, it’s just good to know what coverage you have with your cards for any costly items packed in your checked bags.

We’ve always been told to carry on our most valuable items, but this new rule forces passengers to temporarily part with devices costing hundreds (maybe thousands) of dollars. What you may not know is that the credit card you used to purchase your airline tickets may not cover your gear if it’s lost or damaged.

For example, some credit issuers do not cover electronics as part of lost checked luggage, while others will only cover losses up to a certain amount.

To give you a sense of how luggage coverage differs among card issuers, consider: Though the American Express Platinum card has a coverage maximum of $2,000 for checked baggage, there is a $250 coverage limit on electronics; the Chase Sapphire cards are a bit more generous, with $500 per-person per-trip limits on devices; and Capital One Venture will not cover cameras or computers used for business.

Even purchasing travel insurance might not be the answer, as claims for electronics are subject to per-item limits.

So, what can you do? If you’re going to be flying from Turkey, Morocco, Jordan, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait on direct flights to the U.S. or U.K. – or carrying anything valuable in your luggage anywhere you’re traveling – here’s how to safeguard your techy gadgets and any prized possessions:

Call the airline to ask what they will cover.
Most airlines will not protect checked electronics, but given the new rules, airlines are rethinking how to appease customers. For instance, Emirates Airlines, based in Dubai, offers a packaging service for electronics at the gates of U.S.-bound flights so travelers can keep their devices until boarding.

Get the fine print from your credit card.
Call your card issuer and ask if checked electronics are covered, and if there are any limitations on that coverage. For instance, what if it’s your son’s cellphone that is lost in transit – will that be covered? Or if you booked the travel on your business card, will you have to prove that the trip was for business?

Call your home insurance agent.
You may be able to purchase a separate rider before you travel to cover full replacement coverage of your items, and it won’t matter if they are checked or how they are lost or damaged. Your regular home insurance policy might also cover you (although to a lesser extent), but there will likely be a deductible, so a claim might not make sense.

Be ready to prove your case.
It’s always smart to keep purchase receipts for expensive electronics and take photos of the serial numbers on your devices. Try to round up those records before you leave. Then, as you pack, create a list and snap photos of the electronic devices and any high-value items going in your luggage. This will help if you need to make a claim. If your items are lost or stolen, your first step will be to create a paper trail by filing a report with the airline as soon as possible. From there, you can call your credit card issuer or insurance agent.

Protect your devices.
To minimize the risk of damage, be sure that your tech cargo is packed snugly and cushioned since luggage gets jostled during a flight and can be dropped on the tarmac. You might also consider picking up less expensive gadgets if you do a lot of travel (maybe go with an inexpensive Chrome Book laptop and leave your Macbook Pro at home). Finally, remove sensitive materials, back up your files, and add password protection to all your gadgets in case of theft.

Understanding your coverage when you’re on the go – whether it’s from your credit card company or travel/home insurance policies – is always a smart idea. But now that travel restrictions seem to be changing every day, doing some research before you book your next flight might help you determine which of your electronics are worth taking on your next trip.

 

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