What I Did After My Laptop Got Stolen (It Ends Well)

Why You Should Use Purchase Protection: A Personal Story

The worst day of my life (or so I thought at the time), also happened to be just days before my birthday — usually a celebratory occasion.

I was meeting my dad for lunch, at a Wendy’s halfway between Chicago, and the suburb where my parents live.

Unfortunately, the day started off on a rough note. I had borrowed my boyfriend’s car, and smashed the bumper backing up.

Never going to live that one down!

Needless to say, I was distracted. My dad brought me a birthday gift from my mom, and in grabbing that, I somehow forgot to grab my purse on the way out of what was once my favorite fast food establishment (well, besides Taco Bell).

30 minutes later, I got a bad feeling.

My bad feeling was confirmed when I pulled over and realized my purse was missing.

I frantically called Wendy’s, who confirmed my purse had been turned in (by some miracle), but whose staff started acting weird when I asked specifically about whether or not my laptop was inside.

My worst fears were confirmed when I made it back. Everything in my purse was there, but not my laptop.

That day was the closest I’d ever felt to hopeless and depressed.

I’m a freelancer, and my laptop was a tool that helped me work quickly, and ensured I could make a living. Being a Macbook Air, it didn’t come cheap. But I eventually got over feeling so bad, remembering that both my boyfriend’s bumper, and my laptop, are just things. It would hurt to pay for them, but I could handle it.

I quickly bought a new laptop and all but let go of its stolen counterpart. Then months later, out of the blue, I got a call from someone claiming to have found it. After a little bribe money (“reward money”), I coaxed the laptop back into my possession.

But that whole situation, quite honestly, is a story for another day.

In between my laptop getting stolen, buying a new one, then recovering the stolen one, I did a little research to determine my options. That’s when I learned of purchase protection.

What is Purchase Protection?

Purchase protection insures purchases made on your card, even if they were a gift to someone else.

More specifically, credit card purchase protection can either repair, replace, or reimburse you for eligible items, if said item was stolen or damaged.

Though there are some stipulations on the actual usage of purchase protection, they are not incredibly restricting.

Limitations with Purchase Protection

Credit card purchase protection is available with most credit cards, and offered standard. It’s even available with grocery cash back credit cards.

First, purchase protection has a limited time frame.

With the Chase Freedom credit card, purchases are covered under this policy if theft or damage occurred within 120 days of purchase. This number depends on the card, and the company behind it, but generally is not in excess of 1 year.

As far as compensation, this will also depend on the card/company.

For the Chase Freedom card, this amount is defined by $500 per claim (with a specific yearly cap on payouts). However, in the case of my stolen laptop, credit card purchase protection (Through Chase’s United MileagePlus Explorer Visa credit card) paid out the entire laptop value — about $1,500.

Finally, on the topic of the already mentioned limitations, these items are not covered through credit card purchase protection, both through Chase, and as a general rule for all companies:

  • Items that disappear without evidence of a wrongful act
  • Used/pre-owned items
  • Antiques and collectibles
  • Motorized vehicles, including boats, automobiles, and aircrafts
  • Computer software
  • Items purchased for resale, professional, or commercial use

Ultimately, each credit card company offering purchase protection will have different rules for how to process purchase protection claims.

As a whole, they’re fairly lax in what they accept — it’s definitely worth the effort to enact their use.

The Purchase Protection Process

Just a few simple steps are needed when submitting a claim.

Though different with each company, here’s more or less what this process looks like, from Chase:

  • Notify claims within 90 days of incident
  • Fill out claim form, submit within 120 days
  • File a police report of the incident (if theft was the issue) within 48 hours
  • Provide original purchase receipt from product (online copies are OK), with evidence that it was made on the card you’re using for purchase protection
  • Send a notarized document detailing the situation. If you don’t have a go-to notary, go to your local bank and ask for one. When creating and notarizing documents, make sure the document includes everything the company asks for. I forgot one small (seemingly insignificant) detail, and had to redo this part.

Expect a payment to be sent within 5 business days, with receipt and approval of all required documents. I can personally attest to how quickly payouts happen. I was blown away by how fast that $1,500 check hit my mailbox.

This article by Maddy Osman first appeared on growella.com and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.