Cell phone insurance just makes sense. Most of us carry little computers in our pockets and purses that can cost upwards of $1,000.
We don’t stop at phones either – you may also have a tablet, or a laptop, or all three. We fill our homes and our carry-on luggage with expensive computer hardware, any one of which could run the Apollo 11 mission ten times over.
It would only make sense that you would want to protect your cell phone and computer hardware, both in and outside of the home, from theft, accidental damage, and other weird stuff that inexplicably happens to your electronics. But what’s the best way to do that? Your carrier may try to sell you on their in-house cell phone insurance option. Apple sells AppleCare as a product add-on. Meanwhile, a pre-existing renters or homeowners insurance policy may already have you covered.
Electronics insurance options
No matter what kind of electronic device you’re trying to cover, you have options.
For starters, there are renters and homeowners insurance policies, which automatically cover your expensive electronics in the case of accidental damage and theft (both in and outside the home).
Specifically for cell phones, your carrier (Verizon, AT&T;, etc.), probably offers some type of cell phone insurance policy for accidental damage and theft. If you purchase a tablet through your carrier, you’ll be able to get an insurance policy for that device as well.
For all types of electronic devices, there are also third-party insurance options for accidental damage.
If you’re in the Apple ecosystem, you have the option of AppleCare, Apple’s extended warranty for all of their devices.
We’ll go into more detail on all of these options below.
Renters or homeowners insurance
This option is best for: Covering theft and major disasters like fire or flooding
Cost: $10-15 per month for renters insurance; homeowners insurance dependent on home value
If you’re a renter or a homeowner, you may already have this type of insurance (or you should). Both renters and homeowners insurance are designed to cover, among other things, the theft of personal property from your home or apartment as well as theft while you travel. Additionally, renters and homeowners insurance covers accidental damage to your personal property.
Renters and homeowners insurance are basically your only options for covering theft, and luckily, it’s a pretty good option. If you’re traveling and your hotel room is broken into, for example, these types of insurance policies would cover at least some of the replacement cost of your clothing, electronics, and other personal belongings. They will not cover your belongings if you lose them, however, by forgetting them in that hotel room or in the back of a cab.
Both types of insurance can also cover accidental damage to your devices, though the type of damage covered may depend on your policy. Some basic policies may only cover damage caused by major disasters, such as fire. Your policy may also have a relatively high deductible – between $500 and $1000 – compared to the cost of the item you’re trying to replace.
Some insurance companies may have a cell phone-specific rider that you can attach to your policy which would give you a full reimbursement for a stolen or damaged cell phone. If you already have a renters or homeowners insurance policy, request more information about this option before exploring additional insurance policies.
Note that your insurance policy will not cover any electronics used for business. A laptop issued to you by your employer, for instance, would not be covered. This should be of particular note for freelancers, who often use personal devices to run their businesses. You should look into business property insurance, a type of business liability insurance.
Renters insurance can cost as little as $10 to $15 per month, while homeowners insurance can vary widely depending on the value of your home. You should have this type of insurance policy anyway, even if you decide to get a different insurance product listed in this article.
Carrier insurance (Asurion)
This option is best for: People who don’t want to deal with a separate bill; very forgetful people
Cost: Between $6 and $12 per month
Whenever you buy a new phone (or LTE tablet), your carrier will probably try to sell you an insurance policy. These insurance policies look cheap, but they can come with some pretty serious risks. Namely: they might not actually cover what you think they cover.
The big carriers in the U.S. – Verizon and AT&T; – get their insurance from the same source: Asurion. Sprint also uses Asurion, and they used to provide insurance for T-Mobile customers as well. Despite coming from the same source, carrier insurance policies can vary widely. In general, however, carrier insurance covers accidental damage, theft, loss, and malfunction.
This, by the way, makes carrier insurance your only option if you lose your cell phone. If you are a forgetful person who has lost their phone before, this may make carrier insurance particularly attractive to you. However, with options like Find My iPhone and other phone-tracking software and hardware, truly lost cell phones are becoming a thing of the past.
Asurion’s insurance policies have come under fire for having some strange fine print, like not covering a phone because it wasn’t on AT&T;’s network when it was stolen. Others have complained that their replacement phone was of lesser value than their original purchase. Just last weekend, I overheard a woman arguing with Asurion over the phone in a coffee shop over some weird fine print in her contract.
Despite seeming like an attractive option – a relatively cheap plan at around $6 to $12 that’s automatically added to your cell phone bill – carrier-provided insurance is one of the riskier options on this list.
Electronics insurance (Squaretrade)
This option is best for: People who want to cover accidental damage
Cost: $89 for a one-year cell phone insurance policy
There are a ton of third-party insurance policies out there designed to cover electronics such as cell phones, tablets, and computers. I’m only going to focus on one of the biggest – Squaretrade – but here’s my general advice on the other policies: read the fine print.
Squaretrade is a pretty good, affordable option. I could get a 1 year policy for my iPhone 7 Plus for $89, or about $7.42 per month. I could cover my new Macbook Pro for 2 years for $319.99, or $239.99 if I’m willing to pay a $75 deductible per claim. I could cover my iPad for 2 years for $169 with no deductible. What you should learn from this paragraph is that I own too many Apple products, and I haven’t even looked at insurance for my Apple Watch yet.
Squaretrade only covers accidental damage, and you may need to purchase a policy within 30 days of purchasing your device. While there are negative reviews of Squaretrade out there, they have a "great" rating on Trustpilot, which probably puts it above your cell phone carrier.
This option is best for: People who own Apple products
Cost: $99 for iPhone, $149 – $349 for computers
Apple, with their so-called Genius Bars and their online and phone support, has built an extensive customer support system for their customers. Buying AppleCare is essentially like buying a pass to this support system, in that it essentially does two things:
AppleCare extends your standard 90-day phone support to two or three years
AppleCare extends your standard 1-year hardware warranty to two or three years
AppleCare for your iPhone covers two incidents of accidental damage, with fixed fees depending on the type of damage: $29 for screen damage and $99 for other types of damage.
AppleCare for computers also has fixed fees for accidental damage, but the fee depends on the type of computer and the type of damage.
The main benefit of buying AppleCare is that you get to go through Apple’s support system, which is generally more knowledgeable about Apple products than other shops. While going to a Genius Bar isn’t always a frustration-free experience, my experience with Genius Bar employees is that will always try to find the cheapest, easiest, and quickest way to fix your product.
You should also note that if you purchase an iPhone through Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program, Applecare is included in your monthly payment.
What option worked for you?
What option did you end up going with? Are you going with AppleCare, renters insurance, or are you hoping your cell phone case protects you from accidental damage? Tell us your story in the comments below.