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Card warranty can come in handy

Electrical ApplianceManufacturing and EngineeringCredit and DebtAmerican Express CompanyThe Detroit NewsMaytag Corp.

The Angel of Appliance and Electronics Death has been on the prowl throughout the Funny Money household, claiming the microwave, a cellphone, a coffeemaker, a digital camera and the television.

Which makes me glad that, so far at least, I don't have to plug myself into the wall.

The causes of death in our house range from natural obsolescence to my own stupidity in packing electronics on a Boy Scout canoe trip. (Although, my official story to Mrs. Funny Money is that I'm searching for the real killer.)

Is a warranty warranted?

The ages of all of these things range from more than a decade to just a few years, which has me wondering whether or not to add extended warranties as we purchase their replacements.

A few years ago, our dishwasher conked out after less than two years (but after the one-year manufacturer's warranty expired, naturally), making an extended warranty seem smart. Our repairman estimated that the new unit had a life of about 500 washes, making it a good bet to break during the term of the five-year extended warranty.

But a warranty for the replacement TV seems unnecessary. The old one lasted 12 years, and Consumer Reports notes that the failure rate of televisions is 9 percent in the first three years. Plus the new one comes with a two-year guarantee.

Just charge it!

One option is to use the extended coverage that comes from putting the new TV on a credit card. A survey finds that most cards will double the manufacturer's warranty and cover up to $10,000.

If I charge the new TV on American Express, I'll get a third year of coverage, but I'd better be sure to save all the paperwork, including the original receipt, the card statement and the manufacturer's warranty, notes Daniel Ray, editor-in-chief of

"Just having your credit card bill won't do the trick," Ray says. "It has to be an itemized store receipt showing you actually bought that spark-shooting toaster."

Card warranties come with plenty of conditions, like not covering accidental damage or illegal use (in case I planned to use the new TV to hold up a convenience store). The "Description of Coverage" from American Express, for example, fills 23 pages.

"Call your card issuer and ask what they cover and what you'll have to go through to make a claim," says Bill Hardekopf, CEO of "Get that clarified before you make the purchase."

So, we'll stick with credit card coverage for the new TV. As for the dishwasher, it's still going strong. With less than a year left on the extended warranty, it looks like that coverage won't pay off. Which has me wondering: Will a Maytag fit into a canoe?

(Brian J. O'Connor is an award-winning columnist for The Detroit News. Contact him at

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