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Many people say that you shouldn't bother with extended warranties at all, but if you do have to use them, to make sure to get the best deal and reliable service possible.

mb-201109brokenSquareTrade has moved to the front of the pack in terms of this ‘alternate' service.  SquareTrade will warranty almost any electronic item, usually if you purchase a warranty within 30 days.  They have gotten great reviews as a reputable service and their prices can't be beat.

I'm pretty nervous about a lot of electronics, so I've purchased four warranties from them.  My wife and I purchased new Blackberry phones last summer, and I got warranties for both of them.  In addition, I obtained a warranty on a flat screen TV.  Finally, I purchased a warranty on a basement dehumidifier that had good reviews, except a few too many that said it didn't last more than a year.  For $15 I was happy to cover the $129 I paid for the unit.

Warranties are like insurance.  They're one of those things that you feel good having but that you really never want to use.  Unfortunately, we didn't get through that when it came to my wife's cell phone.

We were, as luck would always have it, on vacation, when my wife noticed a problem with her phone.  It didn't seem to be holding a charge and was very hot to the touch.  Thinking little about it, she pulled the battery to give it a ‘reset', and tried again.  Battery pulls and Blackberry's are pretty common occurrences, with the battery pull solving many quirks.  Not this one.

We tried different chargers.  No change.  I even swapped the battery with mine to verify it wasn't a battery problem. It definitely was the phone.

I went to SquareTrade and began the process to file a claim.  I selected the device that we were entering the claim against, and started the process.  Everything was pretty straightforward (Tip: By chance, I had gone online a couple of months prior and noted that the status of each warranty was ‘Needs Receipt', something I hadn't thought of but makes sense.  They'll sell you the warranty with the coverage amount that you enter, but if you ever have a claim, they will need proof of the transaction.  At the time I saw this, I sent in all my receipts for the items, which probably saved some time.  So, if you use SquareTrade, go through and send in your receipts now).

After submitting, I got an e-mail later that day from a representative indicating that he thought it might be a problem with the wall charger. Since I hadn't entered that we had tried this, I e-mailed him that detail.  The next day, they e-mailed saying that they approved the claim but needed to see if the item could be repaired.

This is where things got a wee bit messy.

With the warranty we had, they asked us to send the item in.  They said that they would e-mail a pre-paid shipping label for us to use.  OK.

First issue: It took over 24 hours to get this label.  Now, granted, their terms of service does say that it can take 1-2 days to get this label, so they didn't violate their terms, but you really never think of how long that actually is until you're in that mix.  Reading between the lines of a conversation I have, I think their repair service is sub-contracted, and the sub-contracted repair facility actually sends out the label at their discretion.

Second issue: SquareTrade indicated that they would arrange for the phone to be sent to a ‘centrally located' repair facility.  Once I printed out the label, I was bummed because it was going to Los Angeles, which doesn't seem very ‘central' to me.  In addition, the label was for two day shipping.  I guess I'd been hoping for overnight shipping to a more centrally located spot (Chicago, maybe?).  Again, they were technically doing everything they said, but we were already to the point where it was going to be at least four business days from having the claim approved before they might even look at it.

Once the phone was received and looked at, things moved quickly.  I'm not sure if it's because I sort of complained to them about how long things took, but they determined that the phone was beyond repair and approved the payout.  A nice thing is that they will PayPal the money to you, so you get the money quickly.  We were off shopping that weekend for a new phone, so that was nice.

Did SquareTrade do everything and meet every ‘date threshold' that they said they would?  Yes.  So, I'll take a bit of blame for the fact that, as it turns out, some of those timing thresholds were just a bit too long for comfort when dealing with an item that you use everyday and don't have a backup for.

It didn't help that my sister-in-law, who has a phone that was insured under Sprint's plan, happened to break her phone screen, yet she had a brand new replacement phone in less than three days.

For the bigger ticket items, I think they would invoke their option of having you take it to an authorized local store, and on the items I mentioned (the TV and dehumidifier), they're also items that you could live without for a few days.  But, when you have a cell phone with no land line backup, those extra few days can seem like a long time.

I also think that you can effectively use SquareTrade for cell phone claims, but I've learned (the hard way) that you should have a backup cell phone.  If you have an old cell phone that still works, you could have your carrier activate it, then re-activate your repaired phone or activate your replacement phone.  You might get hit with activation fees, but I've always been able to convince Sprint to waive these.

So would I use SquareTrade again?  Absolutely. For items that you can live without for a while that you'd like added assurance against failure, they are a slam dunk.  For cell phones or other ‘cannot live without' items, I would but probably with a backup plan.  What we're going to do is use Sprint's (albeit more expensive) warranty coverage for my wife's new phone, but cancel it next June when she and I both become eligible for the maximum discounts on new phones (we were able to get one for her that did not reset the agreement *yay*).  Whenever we choose to get new phones, we'll keep one or both of our current phones as ‘backups' and buy SquareTrade warranties for whatever we get.  Then, if we ever need to file a claim, we'll at least have the backups to use in the interim.

Does this make sense?

What is your SquareTrade experience?