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Credit Card Price Protection – What It Is and How It Protects Your Purchase

There’s nothing quite as disappointing as learning you’ve spent too much on a big-ticket purchase.

Perhaps you fell for that irresistible Black Friday TV sale, only to discover six weeks later that January is the best time to buy electronics. Maybe you bought a used car at a local dealership before thoroughly researching the private-party sale market. Or maybe your sun-soaked daydreams preempted your patient wait for a Caribbean travel flash sale.

What if you never had to experience that kind of letdown again? Some fortunate credit card users don’t.

Credit card price protection compensates cardholders caught on the wrong side of a price drop, reimbursing up to several hundred dollars per claim. If you routinely charge major purchases to a card that doesn’t have a price protection plan, you might want to consider switching — or, at least, learn more about what you’re missing.

What Is Credit Card Price Protection?

When you find a lower-marked price on an item you’ve already purchased with a participating credit card, your card’s price protection policy may refund the difference.

All price protection policies come with important limitations and restrictions:

  • Eligible Cards. Price protection’s availability often varies within issuers’ card families. In some cases, only premium travel rewards credit cards qualify for price protection. In others, the distribution appears random but is always limited to specific cards.
  • Eligible Purchases. Price protection is not universal. Some products and services don’t qualify for price protection. Always check the fine print in your card’s guide to benefits before assuming a particular card purchase will be covered.
  • Registration Requirements. Some plans require buyers to register items for price protection coverage. If you fail to register your item ahead of time, the issuer or underwriter might reject your claim, even if it would normally qualify for a refund.
  • Sale Restrictions and Exclusions. Certain types of sales may be restricted or excluded from price protection altogether. For instance, auction purchases rarely, if ever, qualify for credit card price protection. Some issuers refuse to honor online ads, limiting price protection coverage to items priced lower in print ads only. And most price protection plans don’t provide reimbursement for taxes and shipping costs.
  • Claim-Eligible Period. Every price protection policy has a claim-eligible period that begins on the covered item’s original purchase date. Claims are only valid for lower prices discovered during the claim-eligible period. The window typically lasts from 30 to 120 days.
  • Maximum and Minimum Claim Size. Every price protection policy has a maximum claim size, usually no more than $500. The minimum claim is typically nominal, often as low as $1.

Credit Card Price Protection Is Less Common Than Before

Credit card price protection is growing scarcer. In August 2018, Chase discontinued price protection across its entire credit card family. In October 2018, Discover followed suit. About a year later, Citibank did the same for its popular Citi Price Rewind policy. 

Some major issuers, including Wells Fargo and Bank of America, don’t underwrite price protection plans at all. In the past, Wells Fargo and Bank of America offered Mastercard-sponsored price protection on select cards. But those, too, have gone away.

According to Business Insider, price protection’s disappearance is attributable in part to the rise of price-optimizing apps that made it much easier for customers to find better prices on previously purchased items. This greatly increased the volume of price protection claims, overwhelming credit card companies accustomed to claims arriving at a predictable trickle.

Examples of Price Protection Plans

Still, price protection lives on in some quarters. Millions of American consumers qualify for one of the following price protection plans, whether they know it or not.

1. U.S. Bank Best Value Guarantee

The U.S. Bank Best Value Guarantee is available to users of select American Express-branded U.S. Bank credit cards. Offered through AXA Assistance USA, its basic parameters include:

  • A claim-eligible period of 30 days from the date of first purchase
  • A maximum per-claim benefit of $250, a minimum of $10, and an annual maximum claim value of $1,000
  • Online ads are not eligible for claims

Covered items must be registered with U.S. Bank during the claim-eligible period. Cardholders must provide an electronic or paper receipt and a copy of the lower-priced ad with each claim. Cardholders are responsible for tracking prices.

U.S. Bank’s Best Value Guarantee has some important restrictions. These include:

  • No consumables
  • No animals or living plants
  • No rare or “one-of-a-kind” items, such as antiques and custom-made crafts
  • No refurbished items
  • No collectibles, such as coins or stamps
  • No motorized vehicles
  • No storewide clearance sales

2. Barclaycard Price Protection

Barclaycard’s price protection plan applies to Barclaycard Arrival® Plus World Elite Mastercard®, its flagship travel rewards card. Its basic parameters include:

  • A claim-eligible period of 120 days from the date of first purchase
  • A maximum per-claim benefit of $250 and an annual maximum claim value of $1,000
  • Online ads are not eligible for claims
  • Purchases must be charged in full to the covered card

Covered items must be registered with Mastercard, which provides Barclaycard’s coverage, during the claim-eligible period. Cardholders are responsible for tracking prices on covered items and must keep all original documentation, including the original printed advertisement, the original itemized sales receipt, and the original credit card receipt.

Notable restrictions and exclusions include:

  • No liquidation or storewide clearance sales
  • No Internet-only sales
  • No seasonal items or items that may be discontinued at regular intervals, such as holiday decorations
  • No items purchased for resale
  • No cash-like items, such as traveler’s checks or tickets
  • No items without manufacturers’ warranties
  • No motorized vehicles
  • No perishables or consumables
  • No animals or living plants

3. Mastercard® Price Protection

Mastercard® underwrites price protection policies on select cards issued by multiple well-known brands. For the specific terms and conditions of your Mastercard credit card’s price protection policy, review its guide to benefits.

Generally, Mastercard price protection policies have the following parameters:

  • A claim-eligible period of 60 days from the date of first purchase
  • A maximum per-claim benefit of $250
  • Up to $1,000 in claim value, or four distinct claims, in any 12-month period

Registration and tracking policies vary by issuer and card, but cardholders are generally responsible for registering purchased items and staying on top of price changes during the claim-eligible period. Mastercard accepts claims online and by mail.

Mastercard’s price protection policies’ restrictions and limitations include:

  • No perishable or consumable items
  • No living plants or animals, including pets or game animals
  • No layaway items
  • No motorized vehicles
  • No jewelry or valuable accessories
  • No closeout or liquidation items
  • No collectibles, antiques, or custom items
  • No professional services
  • No lower-priced items aided by rebates, bonuses, special financing, or other limited-time pricing aids
  • No items purchased for resale

How Price Protection Works: How to File a Price Protection Claim

Procedures for price protection claim filing vary by credit card issuer. If you plan to invoke your card’s price protection policy at any point, take the time to read its guide to benefits now, before you miss out on an easy opportunity to reduce the out-of-pocket cost of a big-ticket purchase.

In roughly sequential order, you’ll need to complete these steps to file a successful price protection claim.

1. Confirm Item Eligibility

Before making a purchase you wish to cover, confirm that the item you intend to buy is eligible. As we’ve seen, every price protection plan has broad exclusions. Your card’s guide to benefits should contain a detailed list of excluded categories.

2. Retain the Original Advertisement

Keep the original advertisement in a safe place through the entire process until your claim has been accepted. Remember that some price protection plans allow print ads only. If your plan allows digital ads, retain a cached copy in your browser or a screenshot on your hard drive in case it disappears later.

3. Keep All Original Receipts & Other Proofs of Purchase

Retain all documentation associated with the purchase. Such documentation includes the itemized purchase receipt, the credit card receipt with transaction details, and the credit card billing statement showing the charge.

4. Register the Item If Required

If your price protection plan requires items to be registered to qualify for coverage, do so right away. Should the price drop before you register the item, your plan’s underwriter may deny an otherwise appropriate claim.

5. Track Prices

Scan ads for lower prices on confirmed identical items that meet eligibility criteria. Even if your plan automatically tracks pricing, devise a system for doing so on your own during the claim-eligible period; plans’ price-tracking capabilities aren’t infallible. At a minimum, set price alerts at major shopping websites.

6. File Your Claim Within the Allotted Time Frame

When you discover a qualifying lower price on a covered item during the claim-eligible period, file your claim as soon as possible. 

You may not have very long to get the ball rolling — Barclaycard requires prospective claimants to call its price protection claim hotline within 10 days of discovering a lower-priced print advertisement, for instance. Other plans allow more time; U.S. Bank has a 90-day claim window that overlaps the 30-day claim-eligible period.

In any case, you’ll need to carefully follow instructions for completing your claim form and providing the requisite price and transaction documentation. All plans allow claim filing by mail, most allow filing online, and some still accommodate faxed filings.

Tips to Increase Your Price Protection Benefits

Use these strategies to maximize your price protection benefits and reduce your net spending on big-ticket purchases.

1. Don’t Forget to Register Eligible Purchases

First of all, don’t snooze on registering eligible purchases. If your plan requires this step, there’s little downside to taking it for any purchase for which you might plan to invoke your price protection benefit. You can generally register purchases online in a matter of minutes.

2. Use a Browser Plug-in Like Capital One Shopping When Shopping Online

Because you’re not always guaranteed to be eligible for a credit card price protection plan, always use a price optimization app or browser plug-in like Capital One Shopping when shopping online. 

Capital One Shopping automatically searches thousands of merchants for a better price when you shop Amazon and sorts through countless coupon codes to find the best fit for your purchase. And since it’s totally free, there’s no reason not to use it when you shop online.

Capital One Shopping compensates us when you get the Capital One Shopping extension using the links we provided.

3. Set Manual Price Alerts Online

Back up your price optimization apps with manually set price alerts on your favorite retail websites. Focus your efforts on retailers with brick-and-mortar stores or, failing that, print circulars announcing pricing for big-ticket items. You can use search engine alerts for terms associated with your covered purchase as well, although this strategy may require sorting through lots of chaff to find relevant results.

4. Don’t Waste Claims on Smaller Price Differences

Unless your time is less valuable than the few dollars you stand to save, don’t bother filing claims for trivial price differences. This is especially important to remember if your price protection plan limits the number of discrete claims you can file each year, rather than limiting total aggregate claim value. Set your own minimum claim threshold — say, $30 or $50 — and stick to it.

5. Check for Retailer Price Match Guarantees First

Check for retailer price match guarantees before invoking your card’s price protection benefit. Retailer price match guarantees are generally easier and quicker to file than credit card price match guarantees. Bear in mind, too, that some price protection plans specifically exclude items subject to retailer price match guarantees.

6. Look for “Can’t Lose” Opportunities

Scan your price protection plan’s fine print to confirm this, but there’s probably no restriction on spending more on an item you know is available for less somewhere else, then invoking price protection to capture the difference.

The value in doing this is simple: assuming your credit card earns rewards on every dollar spent, spending more upfront maximizes your cash back potential without increasing your total net cost. On a credit card earning 2% cash back, for instance, a $250 price difference adds up to $5 in extra cash back — a nice little arbitrage.

Final Word

Price protection is just one of many fringe perks that come with responsible credit card use. Other credit card benefits, such as travel insurance and return protection, may be even more valuable on a per-claim basis. 

If you have yet to look through your credit card’s guide to benefits, it’s worth doing so the next time you have a few free minutes. You might be surprised by what you find.

Brian Martucci writes about credit cards, banking, insurance, travel, and more. When he's not investigating time- and money-saving strategies for Money Crashers readers, you can find him exploring his favorite trails or sampling a new cuisine. Reach him on Twitter @Brian_Martucci.