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How does renters insurance cover cell phones?
Your cell phone, like most of your other belongings, is protected under the personal property coverage in your renters insurance policy. If someone steals your cell phone or if it’s damaged by a covered peril, you can file a renters insurance claim to receive compensation from your insurer.
Your renters insurance covers your cell phone no matter where it is — even if it’s in a storage unit or if you take it with you while traveling.
However, there are limits on how much your insurance company will reimburse you for your smartphone, which we’ll describe below.
Limitations on cell phone coverage
All policies feature a limit on how much your provider will pay for lost property of all types, which you pick when you first purchase renters insurance. Generally, renters insurance provides at least $15,000 in personal property coverage, which presumably is enough to cover just about any cell phone you could buy.
However, most renters insurance policies also have lower caps, known as sub-limits, on how much they’ll cover certain types of expensive items, such as jewelry. Some policies place sub-limits of $1,500 to $2,500 on electronics (a category that smartphones belong to).
If your policy has an electronics sub-limit and you have a particularly expensive phone, then you might want to consider adding a floater or rider to your renters insurance to make sure that your phone is protected up to its full value.
When does renters insurance not cover your cell phone?
There are four situations in which your renters insurance won’t cover your cell phone:
- If you damage it yourself
- If it’s damaged or lost through your own negligence, like if you left it unattended in a public place or failed to take measures to properly maintain your home equipment (e.g. your phone charger)
- If your renters insurance deductible (the amount you have to pay before your insurer compensates you) is higher than the phone’s value
- If it’s damaged by a peril that’s not covered by renters insurance, such as an earthquake or flood
Renters insurance covers theft, fire damage, and some types of water damage, so it’s worth looking into what renters insurance covers and reviewing the terms of your policy to find out whether you can get compensation for your lost phone.
It’s important to note that renters insurance won’t cover any accidental damage to your cell phone. Screen cracks and water damage are the most common types of accidental cell phone damage. If you have a history of dropping your phone on hard surfaces or spilling drinks on it, then you should consider specialized cell phone insurance that will cover these accidents.
Cell phone insurance vs. renters insurance: what’s the difference?
Cell phone insurance and renters insurance give you different levels of coverage. Cell phone insurance generally offers better protection for your phone because it covers damage that renters insurance excludes, such as those types of accidental damage that we mentioned above.
Obviously, cell phone insurance only protects your phone, whereas renters insurance protects virtually all of your property — everything except for motor vehicles and pets, which are covered by separate types of insurance.
What does phone insurance cover?
Phone insurance covers accidental damage and malfunctions, neither of which are covered by renters insurance.
What is accidental damage?
Accidental damage describes sudden, unexpected events. This can mean spills, breakage, or other mishaps. If you drop your phone and the screen shatters, that’s accidental damage.
Accidental damage has to be unintentional, so deliberate damage is excluded. It also has to be a one-off event, so it’s different from wear and tear, which happens over a long period of time.
No type of insurance covers everyday wear and tear. If your phone stops working because you’ve had it for a while and it’s getting old, you’ll have to get a new one.
What are malfunctions?
Malfunctions are technical problems that stop your phone from working. For example, if the touchscreen or charging port stops functioning properly, then cell phone insurance will cover the cost of repairing or replacing the faulty parts of your phone.
Should I buy insurance for my cell phone?
Renters insurance only covers your phone to a limited degree, so if you have an expensive smartphone or you’re particularly accident-prone, then phone insurance might be worth the extra $9 to $17 per month that it’ll cost you.
Although screen cracks and water damage can sometimes result from perils that are covered by renters insurance, it’s more likely that they’ll be the result of accidental damage — like dropping your phone on the ground or in the toilet, or sending it through the washing machine by mistake. If you want coverage for these accidents, then you should get cell phone insurance.
Phone insurance companies offer a range of policies depending on the type of mobile phone you own. You can buy phone insurance from your phone retailer or from carriers like T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon.
Bear in mind that some phone retailers or phone carriers might not include accidental loss or theft in their basic cell phone insurance plans, so always check with them to make sure that you’re getting the coverage you need.
Filing a renters insurance claim for a cell phone
To file a renters insurance claim, all you need to do is follow these three steps:
- Record and document the theft or damage to your phone (by taking pictures, if possible)
- File a police report if your phone was stolen or it was deliberately vandalized
- Contact your insurance provider and submit documentation that supports your claim
There might be a limit on how many days can go by before you file your claim, so try to contact your provider as soon as possible after you’ve followed the first two steps. Many providers require claims to be submitted within 48–72 hours of the incident.
Filing a cell phone insurance claim
You can file a phone insurance claim through your phone retailer’s or carrier’s online portal or by calling their customer service number. The process will be similar to filing a renters insurance claim.
With cell phone insurance plans, you’ll probably be limited to just two or three claims per year. By contrast, there’s no limit on how many renters insurance claims you can file, although it’s still not a good idea to file too many if you can help it — doing so can cause your insurer to raise your monthly premiums or decline to renew your policy.
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