PhotoNo doubt as you check out with your holiday purchases this month, the clerk will pitch you on buying some kind of extended service plan. It will provide coverage beyond the manufacturer's warranty, you will be told.

Often called “extended warranties,” these service agreements are mini insurance policies and their coverage can vary. It might be pretty good, but chances are there are a lot of gaps and loopholes.

The point is, unless you have done your homework on this particular store's extended warranty ahead of time, you really have no way of knowing whether it's good or not. So faced with making a snap judgment while standing in the checkout line, you might just want to take a pass.

And if you're paying with the right credit card, you might already be covered. Our friends at CreditCards.com have reminded us that 81% of credit cards provide their customers some level of extended warranty protection on purchases.

Check your credit card's policy

So the first step is checking your credit card company's policy. CreditCards.com has found that the typical card with extended warranty protection will extend the original manufacturer's warranty by two years at no cost, as long as the entire purchase is made with the card.

There are exceptions, so it's important to know what they are. Motorized vehicles -- as well as their parts -- computer software, and medical equipment are among the most common exclusions.

Chase's extended protection program adds an additional year to manufacturer's warranties of up to three years when the item is purchased with an eligible Chase card. Chase also provides a benefits administrator that can keep warranty information on file for easy access.

American Express also provides an additional year of protection. The coverage is embedded in card membership and requires no enrollment. If your claim is approved, American Express says you will get reimbursement equal to the value of your defective item up to $10,000.

If you feel you need extended coverage beyond the manufacturer's warranty and what protection your credit card provides, consider a third-party provider of buyer protection plans, which can cover your purchase well after you've bought it.


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