How You Can Easily Replace a Damaged Phone

Broken phone screen

When you sign up for those two-year mobile service contracts in exchange for a lower price on the latest high-tech phone, you're generally counting on that phone to last as long as your deal. But what if it gets dropped, is stepped on or just won't turn on?

Is Your Phone Less Than a Year Old?

If you're within the manufacturer's warranty period, you're probably OK. In the U.S., Apple (AAPL) will repair or replace its products if they fail within the first year. In my experience (two dead iPhones and one laptop with a damaged hard drive), a short visit to the Apple Store generally results in either a same-day repair or a brand-new replacement.

However, Apple's warranty won't cover cosmetic damage (such as a cracked screen), normal wear and tear, or damage clearly caused by "misuse" (say, dropping the phone in water). Other popular phones, such as Samsung's (SSNLF) Galaxy line, have a similar warranty policy.

Older Than a Year?

If you're outside the warranty period or the damage is not covered by the manufacturer, but you still have months left on your contract, what to do? You could shell out for a brand-new phone... or check your credit card statement.

That's right: If you originally purchased the phone with a credit card, you may very well be covered for an additional year on top of the manufacturer's warranty. American Express (AXP) and Visa (V) Signature cards even cover wear and tear and refurbished items, which are excluded by some cards' policies. Many of these credit card warranties even add a year on to some extended warranties.

Sounds Too Good to Be True...

Of course, as with any type of warranty claim, you'll have to provide documentation -- an original receipt, proof of the card you used to purchase the item, a copy of the manufacturer's warranty and a repair estimate are common requirements. If your claim is approved, the company can choose to cover the repair cost or reimburse your original purchase cost.

What If the Damage Still Isn't Covered?

If the damage was clearly your fault and happens within 90 days of purchase, some cards will reimburse you for the sales price under "purchase protection" benefits. All American Express and MasterCard (MA) credit cards have this benefit, along with Visa Signature cards, like the popular Chase Sapphire Preferred card, which has 120-day protection up to $500. Exclusions apply, of course, so be sure to read the fine print.

Bought your phone on (AMZN)? It's worth an email to its customer service department. There's no official policy on this, but I have had Amazon take back broken electronics well past the return window for a full refund. I got that tip when making a warranty claim with another company. The company's customer service rep, who was bemoaning her employer's terrible warranty service, gave me that advice and it worked like a charm.

If all else fails, broken or damaged phones and other electronics still fetch some cash on eBay (EBAY) -- hobbyists use them for parts. Just be very clear about the extent of the damage (including the phrase "for parts" in your title is smart) and provide clear photos to avoid disappointed buyers.

So What Should I Do Before I Buy My Next Gadget?

According to's recent study of credit card extended warranties, American Express cards offer the best policies overall, so consider using one for any pricey purchase (TVs, iPads, cameras and other expensive electronics are especially good candidates). If you don't already have an Amex card in your wallet, check out the cards you do have to see if any offer a similar benefit. Over time, it can prove very valuable and provide you the peace of mind to skip the stores' overpriced extended warranty offers.

And be sure to keep those receipts.

Motley Fool contributor Robyn Gearey owns shares of and Apple. The Motley Fool recommends, American Express, Apple, eBay, MasterCard and Visa. The Motley Fool owns shares of, Apple, eBay, MasterCard and Visa. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Check outour free report on the Apple Watchto learn where the real money is to be made for early investors.