Which credit card should you use to pay your cell phone bill?

If you told me 7 or 8 years ago that I would one day buy a cell phone that costs a thousand dollars, I’d have never believed it. Mobile phones have gotten very, very expensive. Banks have responded to that trend and these days a number of rewards credit cards offer some type of cell phone insurance when you pay your monthly bill with your credit card. Free coverage beats paying for it monthly from your service provider, but we all know that “free” still incurs opportunity cost. So which credit card should you use to pay your monthly cell phone bill?

Rewards card that cover cell phone insurance

While there are some cards that offer cell phone insurance that do not offer any type of rewards, that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me when there are rewards cards with no annual fee that offer similar or better coverage. Here I’ll compare cell phone coverage from cards that earn rewards and are found on our Best Offers page.

Here are the cards listed on our Best Offers page that offer some type of mobile phone insurance coverage:

Uber Visa Card

Annual Fee: $0

Card Type: Visa Platinum or Signature

Base
1%
Travel
3%
Dine
4%
Shop
2%

Earning rate: ⚬ 4% eateries ⚬ 3% travel ⚬ 2% online purchases (including online purchases made with third party payment methods like PayPal, Venmo, Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung Pay) ⚬ 1% everywhere else

Noteworthy perks: ⚬ Annual $50 subscription credit when you spend $5,000 in a year (good for things like Netflix, HBO NOW, Amazon Prime, etc) — note that this benefit kicks in during the second year if you spend $5K in year 1) ⚬ Up to $600 mobile phone insurance against theft or damage when you charge your total monthly bill to the card ($25 deductible) ⚬ No foreign transaction fees

Wells Fargo Rewards Visa® card

Annual Fee: $0

Card Type: Visa

Base

Earning rate: 5X gas, grocery, drugstore for 6 months

Wells Fargo Visa Signature Card

Annual Fee: $0

Card Type: Visa Signature

Base

Earning rate: 5X gas, grocery, drugstore for 6 months

Big spend bonus: With $50K spend, points become worth 1.75 cents each towards airfare

Noteworthy perks: ⚬Points worth 1.5 cents each towards airfare ⚬ Points worth 1 cent each for most other redemption

See also: A card I wrongly ignored

Wells Fargo Business Platinum Visa® card

Annual Fee: $0

Card Type: Visa

Base
1.5%

Earning rate: 1.5% cash back everywhere if you choose the cash back program (note that you must opt in to the cash back program at account opening to get the signup bonus and 1.5% everywhere. If you choose points, this card earns 1x everywhere and a bonus 1,000 points in any statement period that you spend $1,000 or more.

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card

Annual Fee: $0

Card Type: Amex Credit Card

Base
Travel
Dine
Gas
Other

Earning rate: 3X flights, hotels, homestays, car rentals, dining, gas, rideshares, transit, and streaming services

Chase Ink Business Preferred Card

Annual Fee: $95

Card Type: Visa Signature Business

Base
Travel
Phone
Biz

Earning rate: 3X travel, shipping, internet, cable, phone, and advertising with social media sites (up to $150K spend per year)

Noteworthy perks: ⚬ Points worth 25% more when redeemed for travel ⚬ Cell phone protection against theft or damage

See also: Chase Ultimate Rewards Complete Guide

Citi ThankYou Prestige Card

Annual Fee: $495

Card Type: Mastercard World Elite

Base
Travel
Dine

Earning rate: 5X airfare, dining, and travel agencies ⚬ 3X hotels and cruise line ⚬ 1X everywhere else

Noteworthy perks: $250 travel rebate per calendar year ⚬ Free lounge access: Citi Properietary Lounges; and Priority Pass Select with free guests ⚬ $100 Global Entry application fee credit ⚬ 4th night free hotel benefit

See also: Citi ThankYou Rewards Complete Guide

Note: Citi Prestige coverage begins May 1, 2019. See this post for more details.

Common exclusions

Each issuer has its own terms, so you should check the terms for the cards in your wallet. However, most of these protection benefits are backed by the same benefits administrator and as such have more in common than not. In general, cell phone coverage benefits exclude:

  • Cellular Wireless Telephone accessories other than standard battery and/or standard antenna provided by the manufacturer.
  • Cellular wireless telephone purchased for resale, professional, or commercial use (though obviously the Ink Business Preferred covers professional/commercial use since it is a business card)
  •  Cellular wireless telephones that are lost or “mysteriously disappear.” “Mysterious disappearance” means the vanishing of an item in an unexplained manner where there is absence of evidence of a wrongful act by a person or persons.
  • Cellular wireless telephone under the care and control of a common carrier (including, but not limited to, U.S. Postal Service, airplanes, or delivery service).
  • Cellular wireless telephone stolen from baggage unless hand-carried and under Your personal supervision, or under the supervision of Your traveling companion who is previously known to You.
  • Cellular wireless telephone which has been rented, leased, borrowed or cellular wireless telephones that are part of a pre-paid wireless service plan or “pay as you go” type service plans.
  • Cosmetic damage to the cellular wireless telephone or damage that does not impact the cellular wireless telephone’s capabilities and functionalities of the phone.
  • Damage or theft resulting from abuse, intentional acts, fraud, hostilities of any kind (including, but not limited to, war, invasion, rebellion, or insurrection), confiscation by the authorities, risks of contraband, illegal activities, normal wear and tear, flood, earthquake, radioactive contamination, or damage from inherent product defects.
  • Taxes, delivery and transportation charges, and any fees associated with the cellular service provider.

Doctor of Credit has a great resource page comparing terms more comprehensively.

What you need to file a claim

Generally speaking, coverage begins on the first day of the month after you pay your wireless service bill with your credit card and continues as long as you pay your monthly bill. To file a claim, you’ll usually need:

  1. A completed and signed claim form.
  2. A copy of your card statement for the preceding billing period showing that you have paid your monthly wireless phone bill with the card.
  3. A copy of your cell phone service billing statement that corresponds with the above credit card statement.
  4. A copy of your cell phone service provider’s wireless device page or other sufficient proof that the phone is currently linked to your wireless account.
  5.  If the claim is due to theft or criminal action, a copy of the police report or incident report (which generally needs to have been filed within a day or two of occurrence)
  6. Possibly an itemized repair bill and/or purchase receipt for a replacement phone (note that you may be required to purchase the replacement phone from the service provider)

You can usually get a claim rolling online or by calling the number on the back of your card. The benefit of filing online is that in many instances you’ll be able to upload the documentation rather than needing to print and mail it, saving time and resources.

Quick comparison

For the purposes of comparing which credit card to use to pay your bill, let’s compare the insurance caps, deductibles, and rewards earned.

Card Annual fee Coverage caps Deductible Rewards earned
Barclaycard Uber Visa $0 $600 per claim / 2 claims per 12 months $25 1%
Citi Prestige $495 $1000 per claim / $1500 per year $50 1x
Chase Ink Business Preferred $95 $600 per claim / 3 claims per year $100 3x
Wells Fargo (all personal cards) $0* $600 per claim / 3 claims per year $25 Varies (1x / 1.5%)

*The Wells Fargo cards included in this post each have $0 annual fees.

As you can see, coverage limits are quite similar from one issuer to the next, though the Citi Prestige offers significantly higher protection for an individual phone (provided you won’t need more than 2 claims per year). On the surface, that looks appealing for those who buy expensive high-end phones. However, keep in mind that you’ll generally receive the replacement value of the phone rather than the original purchase price, which will decrease with time. Also consider that purchase protection, a benefit on some cards that covers purchases for a period of 90-120 days (this varies), may cover your phone against damage for the first couple of months depending on which card you used to buy the phone. Based on that, I’m not inclined to value the higher individual claim limit on the Prestige card much more than others since most phones are unlikely to have a replacement value between $600-$1,000 after your purchase protection period ends.

Let’s assume that your cell phone service costs $200 per month to keep the math simple. Adjust up or down to fit your situation. In one year, here are the rewards you could earn with each of the above cards:

Card Earn rate Rewards earned per year at $200 bill per month
Barclaycard Uber Visa 1% $24
Citi Prestige 1x 2400 ThankYou points
Chase Ink Business Preferred 3x 7200 Ultimate Rewards points
Wells Fargo personal cards 1x / 1.5% 2400 points / $36

If you’re looking to put your cell phone bill on a card with no annual fee, any of the Wells Fargo personal cards are probably your best choice. They’ll each earn at least the same $24 as the Uber Visa, but points can potentially be used for $36 in value towards flights (or you could alternatively earn $36 cash back at 1.5%).

Using a Wells Fargo card that comes at the opportunity cost of forgoing 7,200 Ultimate Rewards points per year on the Chase Ink Business Preferred card. Those points have a value of $90 if used to pay for travel through the Chase travel portal (or $108 if pooled with the Chase Sapphire Reserve) or potentially more value when transferring to partners (our Reasonable Redemption Value for Chase Ultimate Rewards is 1.82c, making 7200 points worth around $131 based on that metric). However, when you consider the $95 annual fee on the Ink Business Preferred (vs no annual fee on the Wells Fargo cards) and the higher $100 deductible (vs $25 on the Wells Fargo card), the value proposition doesn’t look quite as strong.

Our Reasonable Redemption Value for ThankYou points is the same 1.82c per point, which would put the value of 2400 points at about $43. That’s really not much more return than what you could earn on a no-annual-fee card, and when you consider the $25 difference in deductible between the Prestige card and the Wells Fargo cards, it only really makes sense to use the Prestige over a WF card if you are the type of person who always buys the latest phone and would anticipate using more than $600 in coverage in a single claim.

Which I’d pick

In my household, we already have the Prestige card and the Chase Ink Business Preferred card. We do not currently have any of the Wells Fargo cards. I honestly think one of the Wells Fargo cards is the best bang for the buck, but since I’m already paying the annual fee on the Prestige and Ink Business Preferred, which of those would I use to pay my cell phone bill?

Update: Keep in mind that Citi Prestige cell phone insurance coverage begins Mary 1, 2019. See this post for more details.

For a moment, let’s ignore the annual fees. Since I know I can get coverage on a card with a $0 annual fee, it doesn’t make much sense for me to compare the fees on the Prestige and Ink Business Preferred. If I’m not getting enough value out of those cards to justify the fee without cell phone coverage, I should drop those cards in favor of a Wells Fargo card if cell phone protection is a must-have.

In terms of coverage, the Ink Business Preferred will reimburse me up to $500 in net value per claim (up to $600 minus a $100 deductible). The Citi Prestige will reimburse me up to $950 in net value per claim (up to $1,000 minus a $50 deductible). Again, realistically, I’m unlikely to have a phone with a replacement value that high. I bought my Pixel 3 XL from Google Fi less than 120 days ago for $999. Today, Google Fi is charging $699 for that phone. I’m not sure if Google Fi sells some sort of refurbished replacement phone for less, but they may. In other words: even my thousand-dollar-phone wouldn’t benefit much from the Prestige’s higher coverage. Your mileage may vary, of course. If you’re an iPhone user, you may get more value out of this than I do.

In my case, I have to look at the likelihood of filing a claim with a net value higher than $500 and consider that against the ~$88 in rewards lost each year (based on our RRVs) by choosing to use the Prestige over the Ink Business Preferred. Taking my Pixel 3 as an example, assuming a replacement value today of $699, I should be eligible to receive up to $500 from Chase or $650 from Citi. If that difference in replacement value keeps up for a year, or if I break my phone soon, I’d definitely come out ahead with the Prestige coverage.

However, if my phone’s value continues to decrease over the course of the year (which is very likely), I think I’d have a hard time accepting the decreased rewards on the Prestige card. And truth be told, I don’t usually buy thousand-dollar phones. I’m usually more likely to buy a phone that costs $400-$500, in which case the difference in coverage comes down to the difference in deductible ($50 on the Prestige vs $100 on the Ink Business Preferred). That difference is more than covered by the rewards earned when paying with my Ink Business Preferred over the long run.

All that said, if I pick up a Wells Fargo card at some point, I’d likely move the cell phone bill to that card and product change my Ink Business Preferred to an Ink Cash. I’d rather have the 5x categories on the Ink Cash card as I don’t use the Ink Business Preferred for many bonused purchases other than the cell phone bill. In fact, writing this post made me realize that I’m mostly hanging on to that card for cell phone protection even though I said earlier that it doesn’t make sense to do so. I guess it’s time to take my own advice.

Bottom line

For most people, I think one of the Wells Fargo cards makes the most sense for cell phone coverage. While you’ll be giving up a little bit over what you could earn with a 2% no-fee cash back card, the coverage is likely worth that small price for most people. In terms of annual-fee cards offering coverage, the Chase Ink Business Preferred looks like the winner to me. While I think Citi was smart to add coverage to the Prestige card, and the $1,000-per-claim makes for great marketing (after all, the crowd spending $495 per year on a credit card is likely the same crowd buying the most expensive phones), I think it’s a little over-hyped since replacement value won’t be much more than $600 for most of the phones on the market unless you break your phone straight out of the gate.

About Nick Reyes

Nick Reyes is a (fairly) regular guy with an animalistic passion for maximizing the value of miles and money to travel the world in comfort and style. There is little in life that he loves more than finding a fantastic deal and helping you shop smarter & harder to achieve your travel dreams.

More articles by Nick Reyes »

Regarding comments: Comments posted at the bottom of Frequent Miler pages and posts are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

44
Leave a Reply

avatar
13 Comment threads
31 Thread replies
26 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
25 Comment authors
RickCharlesYoniPDXPamJWI Recent comment authors

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  Subscribe  
Notify of
Biggie F
Guest
Biggie F

Self-insurance and 5x on Chase Ink Cash? Takes a little more mental or financial discipline, but an extra 2x UR (relative to Chase Ink Business Preferred) could exceed (Replacement – deductible) x (Probability of loss). YMMV –depends a lot on replacement cost and individual loss probability, plus number of phones covered (minus tolerance for claiming a household member’s loss as business-related, if claiming under CIP); and a bit on valuation of UR points. Not arguing here, just interested in your perspective on a calculation I make myself.

A B
Guest
A B

Agreed. Using Nick’s example of $200 per month, that’s an extra 400URs per month (which RRVs at $7.28).
If you buy the insurance from your phone company at $8 per month, you’re behind by a few cents each month BUT Asurion covers lost devices as well as phones with extensive cosmetic damage — even if the phones still work. Your credit card will not cover a claim if the phone was misplaced or still functions even with major screen cracks.

I think everyone would pay 72 cents per month for that additional coverage given that those are the most likely events to occur.

Pam
Guest
Pam

coverage on 1 phone with ATT is now $8.99 + tees/taxes, widening the gap considerably. “lost” & “mysterious disappearance” phones can also be covered by Chase depending on how stated on the claim…just sayin’

TravelingOn
Guest
TravelingOn

Yeah, I’m in the same boat. Two lines, never had a broken phone so I use the ink cash. Nice comparison by Nick, though!

YoniPDX
Guest
YoniPDX

In December, I had my Note 9 screen replaced- my first broken screen. – It was two weeks old
in early September when I dropped it with a case and cracked. I had bought it outright on a card (meeting MSR) phone was covered under the 120 days -no deductible but had to get a repair diagnostic and estimate and was hard because phone was so new (est was $390 and so was the the check for repair) cracks were not bad enough to require immediate repair finally – but finally got screen replaced in December at U-breakifix (bill was $215).

I still pay with CIC for 5X as the 3X on CIP after $95 AF and $100 deductible and max $600 coverage the CIC for me is still a better deal. But will mostly cancel the CIP next renewal.

Steve
Guest
Steve

Another great article. I did the same analysis a few weeks ago. I have the Propel, the prestige, and the ink preferred. Going with WF and converting the preferred to a cash based on the deductible and having made 2 claims last year.

MSer
Guest
MSer

Who the H is paying $200/mo for friggin cell phone service?

caveman
Guest
caveman

Me. It is a family plan with 5 lines with T-mobile

Rick
Guest
Rick

I have 5 iPhones on my family plan for a total of $190 per month.

geoff
Guest
geoff

We spend over $350/month even with a 20% corporate discount. 4 lines with enterprise plan for wifey. Part of the payment is for daughter’s most recent phone but spending over $200 seems pretty common.

Pam
Guest
Pam

Yes, families almost always run in the $200-$300s. Even over if you take carriers up on BOGOs where they require monthly hardware installments ($0 finance charges so ok why not). For 2-4 new iPhones that’s $75-$125/mth just on that, dep on phone type over 20 or 24 months.

Add in a wearable, or 2, at $30/mth/ea & $200 is easily met & exceeded. Makes cc decisions that much more important if you are able to recoup almost an entire monthly bill in point earnings! I put my bill on the CIP for the phone insurance, but it does pain me to give up the extra 2x URs by not using my CIC.

Mark
Guest
Mark

About $500 per month on my bill. Thanks Chase Ink!

Blue
Guest
Blue

Biggest issue with the CIP coverage is that the $100 deductible means screen repairs are not really covered.

HoKo
Guest
HoKo

I’ve never done a screen repair – can you really get a shattered/cracked screen fixed for ~$100? I would’ve guessed it was a lot more than that.

Pam
Guest
Pam

spending less than 1/2 the deductible on a good screen protector (with guarantees) at purchase is the best insurance I’ve found

JWI
Guest
JWI

A screen protector protects the screen from cracking? I thought they only protect the screen from being scratched.

Pam
Guest
Pam

Scratches can turn into cracks. But InvisibleShield will pay you for a cracked screen if you use their protector. I have used them for 5 yrs. I have dropped my phones hard on concrete but no external damage regardless.

caveman
Guest
caveman

I will use Ink cash with 12,000 ultimate rewards point with my current bill around $200/month. Better than phone insurance.

Pam
Guest
Pam

I think you have to also look at ease of actually getting a claim paid out. I have dealt with Card Business Services (who Chase uses) with my CIP, & we went round & round for 2 months before they finally paid. The bill for my new phone had already been paid!

I have also carried ATT’s insurance, & I walked into a store & out in 30 minutes, twice, with a new phone with relatively (to CBS) few questions asked. ATT’s insurance increased to where I dropped it & went with Chase (& a CIP AF), but I definitely preferred dealing directly with a carrier come claim time. They already have many of the items you describe above for filing a claim with CIP. Really depends on how you value your time over money.

Dan
Guest
Dan

I recommended the REI card in the last article of this type here, and I’ll recommend it again! It’s a store-credit card, but if your phone is $600 or under, it has similar coverage to the Uber/WF cards. And if you’re outdoorsy – very possible you may experience more cell phone breakage …

JC1
Guest
JC1

I agree with others that the Chase Ink Cash with self insurance is the best option for those who want to self insure and rarely damage their phone. However, for others I disagree that the Wells Fargo personal cards are the best option. Personally, I think the Uber Visa card is the best option. While the card only earns 1% on cellphone expenses, if you spend $5000 on the card in a card membership year, then you get a $50 statement credit on Apple Music, Pandora, Spotify, Amazon Music, Google Music, Audible, Sirius XM, Netflix, Hulu, HBO NOW, DirecTV NOW, and the membership fee for Amazon Prime, and Shoprunner. Since this $50 statement credit is equal to 1% of spend if you spend exactly $5000 in a card membership year then the card really earns 2% (1% + 1% from online subscription statement credit) for all purchases, 3% for online purchases including Uber, online shopping, video and music streaming services (2% + 1% from online subscription statement credit), 4% (3% + 1% from online subscription statement credit) for airfare, hotels, and vacation home rentals, and 5% (4% +1% from online subscription statement credit) for restaurants, takeout, and bars, including Uber Eats.

While I realize I didn’t include the time value of money in the equation which obviously dilutes the $50 statement credit for online subscriptions compared to a true 2% credit card, depending on your spend patterns, you could always complete the $5000 in spend towards the end of a card membership year thus decreasing the impact of the time value of money. Also, depending on your other cards, spending $5000 on this card may not make sense compared to other cards in an individuals portfolio if those other cards have a higher earnings potential. But the 5% on restaurants and 3% for online purchases are both pretty good earn rates for their category.

A B
Guest
A B

If I’m not mistaken, all of those online subscriptions except Amazon earn 5X on the Ink Cash. If you use the Amazon credit card (or time your amazon renewal when Discover is at 5%), then Amazon is at 5% as well.

The Uber card is far from useless, but that $50 credit shouldn’t be what you’re shooting for.

DaveC
Guest
DaveC

I’m facing this question right now. Just bought the $$$ iPhone XS Max for my wife, she has a VERIZON account from before we married, has her maiden name we never bothered to update. I have the Ink cash (which I’m currently using to pay), the Ink Preferred, and the Prestige. If I use the Prestige, will Citi cover with my card paying her bill? Similarly, the Ink Preferred says phones must be for the business, and her name/account isn’t associated with my business (other than address). Is it so bad to pay with Ink Cash, get the 5x and pay for a third party (or AppleCare) insurance?

Pam
Guest
Pam

My hubs isn’t part of my biz, either, but his phone is under our household cell acct I pay with my CIP, so Chase paid (personal household acct, again not biz).

They never even asked about that come claim time, only a bunch of crazy other irrelevant questions & need for copies of online chat sessions with ATT, so don’t worry about that!

Pam
Guest
Pam

CBS not concerned with names in general, more that the phone ID of the phone claim was paid on your monthly bill.

5150d
Guest
5150d

You also need to consider that paying your cell phone bill by credit card actually costs you $5 per month per phone in lost credits for auto pay discount at Verizon. Auto Pay discount of $5 per month per phone is only given if you pay by checking account.

Pam
Guest
Pam

$200 (bill) x 3 points = 600 URs x 1.5 (if have CSR) = $9 using CIP, $15 using CIC.

A B
Guest
A B

That’s a plan-dependent savings. I’ll opt for my cheaper plan and pay with Ink Cash over the more expensive plan just to save $5 with ACH.

Charles
Guest
Charles

Enroll your debit card or checking account in autopay to save the $5 off your monthly bill, but then make a manual payment with a credit card that earns rewards before the autopay date. That’s what I’ve been doing.

Rick
Guest
Rick

Charles, how long have you been doing this for? The Verizon FAQ says it “may” remove your $5 credit per line if you do this. I’m wondering how many times you’ve tried and if you’ve ever seen the $5 added back in.

I posted this comment before with a link to that FAQ, but it looks like it got removed, so trying without the link this time.

Corey
Guest
Corey

I didn’t think the WF Business Platinum had cell phone protection. Does it?

Ky
Guest
Ky

Wouldn’t it be better to just pay for the phone outright with an Amex Plat or other premium card? Their extended warranty is similar if not better than apple care correct?

DaveC
Guest
DaveC

I don’t think that covers a dropped phone.

Billy Bob
Guest
Billy Bob

US Bank Cash+ may offer 5% on cell phone service — card has no annual fee too.

trackback

[…] Which credit card should you use to pay your cell phone bill? […]