5 Cheap Alternatives to Cell Phone Insurance

Photo (cc) by robertnelson

Your cell phone is most likely to be lost or destroyed this month.

That’s according to electronics insurer Asurion, that says July is when the company receives the most insurance claims on misplaced, stolen, broken, and water-damaged phones.

The company’s data also shows that “80 percent of issues happen within the first 12 months of phone activation” and warns that the replacement cost of a smartphone can be more than double the subsidized price you get by signing a contract – “upwards of $500 to $700.”

You don’t have to tell me twice – I nearly had a heart attack all three times I dropped my iPhone. (I’ve been lucky, with only minor scuffing on its rounded corners.) Even if I could replace it at the subsidized price, I’d lose the unlimited data plan I’m grandfathered into, which in the long run would cost me even more.

I know people with worse luck: Multiple friends have shattered the screen or dropped their phones into toilets. (Don’t ask.) I also know a guy who left his phone on the driver’s seat to run back in his house for less than five minutes – and came back to a seat full of nothing but broken window glass.

A lot can happen to a phone, as Asurion comically illustrates at GottaHaveMyMobile.com. Their recommended solution, of course, is insurance. Is it worth it? I took a look at what cell phone insurance would cost a Verizon customer like me – and concluded no.

It’s a moot question in my case, because you can only enroll in the first 30 days of ownership or an upgrade. I guess that’s how they get around serving phones with “pre-existing conditions.”

The policy would cost $7 a month and allow two replacements a year. I might only be able to get one of those replacements, though. Asurion’s website lists the retail cost of an iPhone 4S at $850, and there’s a $1,500 yearly cap on claims for “advanced devices.” So if I had really bad luck, I might have to downgrade the second time. On top of that, there’s a $99 deductible for each claim.

So, being realistic, $183 would guarantee me one replacement per year. Worth it? Maybe for some – if it’s not already covered under a manufacturer’s warranty, a warranty extended for free through your credit card, or an additional plan you bought such as AppleCare. But certainly not for me, not when there are cheap or free alternatives…

1. Avoiding water damage

Any time I think it might rain, I keep a Ziploc in my pocket. When I feel the first droplet, the phone goes inside, and I can still use the touchscreen just fine. This is great for casual use, but I doubt it would survive a dunking. But there are still plenty of cheap options for people into water sports. A well-reviewed water-sealed case costs just $15 – about the price of two months’ cell insurance. For $25, the DryCase brand claims to be waterproof to a depth of 100 feet.

2. Preventing cracks and scratches

A case for your phone is an obvious way to protect it – but many people buy them for style instead of functionality, or they just don’t think they need one. I didn’t think I needed one, either, until I dropped my phone twice.

Then I bought a padded leather pouch that I clipped through my belt loop, and that worked great – until it slipped off while I was seated and didn’t notice. (Fortunately, I had my phone in hand at the time and didn’t lose it.) Then I dropped the phone a third time. Accidents will happen.

For scratch protection, MediaDevil sells screens for many devices from $5 to $15, depending on whether you want a clear, anti-glare, privacy, or mirror-effect model. Combined with a $10 rubber Griffin case, an iPhone would have pretty solid protection for under $20.

If you’re using a different model or want to combine style and substance, try Otterbox. They have lots of options in the $20-to-$30 range, and some waterproof cases too.

3. Drying out

If you drop your cell phone in water without proper protection, there are a lot of things you should not do in a moment of panic: Don’t turn it on. Don’t use a hair dryer, microwave, oven, or even direct sunlight.

Instead, leave it off (or immediately turn it off once it’s out of water), dry the outside as best you can with a towel, and stick it in a Tupperware container full of uncooked rice at least overnight. The sealed rice will absorb the moisture, and if you were both quick and lucky, your phone might be OK. I know someone this worked for after her infant son threw her phone in the toilet.

4. Getting repairs

If you have an issue with your phone, the first thing to try is a quick search. A couple of months ago, I experienced an unusual problem with my iPhone: The speakers would only work when I received a call. I couldn’t play music through them or adjust the volume, although headphones worked fine. Puzzled, I poked around online and learned it was somehow related to the docking being dirty. I cleaned out the dust and gunk with the end of a paperclip and, sure enough, problem solved.

Something like a broken screen is not so easily or cheaply repaired, but you can save the same ways you would with everything else. Get a referral to a trustworthy place from friends and family, do some comparison shopping to get a competitive quote, and ask about discounts.

If all else fails, you can turn to a national mail-in service, although with prices above $100, you might have been better off with insurance.

5. Finding a lost device

Yeah, there’s an app for that. Find My iPhone and Plan B for Android are both completely free ways to track your phone after losing it. But if you suspect somebody stole the device, please don’t try to chase down and confront the thief – call the cops instead.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
What Is Umbrella Insurance, and Do I Need It?
What Is Umbrella Insurance, and Do I Need It?

Umbrella insurance picks up where car and homeowners insurance leaves off. Do you need it? Here’s how to know.

8 Things You Should Rent Instead of Buying
8 Things You Should Rent Instead of Buying

You may think you’re looking at a must-have purchase. But do the numbers and think twice.

This Is the Best Age to Buy Long-Term Care Insurance
This Is the Best Age to Buy Long-Term Care Insurance

If you wait too long to apply for coverage, you could be denied. So, when’s the sweet spot to apply?

8 Reasons Your Parents Had an Easier Retirement Than You Will
8 Reasons Your Parents Had an Easier Retirement Than You Will

Here’s why the last decades of life are harder now than they used to be.

7 Hobbies That Help You Live Longer
7 Hobbies That Help You Live Longer

Research shows some hobbies can add years — or even decades — to your life.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
10 Things Frugal People Never Buy
10 Things Frugal People Never Buy

If you’re a true tightwad, the mere thought of spending money on these items gives you the willies.

10 Useless Purchases You Need to Stop Making
10 Useless Purchases You Need to Stop Making

You might as well flush your money down the loo if you spend it on these things.

7 Social Security Benefits You May Be Overlooking
7 Social Security Benefits You May Be Overlooking

There’s more to Social Security than retirement benefits.

7 Social Security Rules Everyone Should Know by Now
7 Social Security Rules Everyone Should Know by Now

Confusion over Social Security is a shame, considering how many of us will need this money badly.

If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

They don’t make coffee makers like this anymore.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

14 Things You Should Stop Buying in 2021
14 Things You Should Stop Buying in 2021

These convenient household products come with hidden costs that you might not have considered.

The 6 Best Investing Apps for Beginners
The 6 Best Investing Apps for Beginners

If you’re looking to ease into investing in the coronavirus economy with just a little money, check out these easy-to-use tools.

Is Writing a Check Still Safe?
Is Writing a Check Still Safe?

Every time you pay by check, you hand your bank account numbers to a stranger.

8 Things You Should Replace to Improve Your Life Today
8 Things You Should Replace to Improve Your Life Today

Being frugal isn’t smart if you put off replacing these items.

9 Mistakes People Make When Cleaning With Vinegar
9 Mistakes People Make When Cleaning With Vinegar

Cleaning with vinegar can save you a lot of money, but using it like this can cost you.

7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

13 Amazon Purchases We Are Loving Right Now
13 Amazon Purchases We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

7 Income Tax Breaks That Retirees Often Overlook
7 Income Tax Breaks That Retirees Often Overlook

Did you realize all these tax credits and deductions exist — or that they apply to retirees?

10 Cars You Are Most Likely to Keep for 15 Years
10 Cars You Are Most Likely to Keep for 15 Years

The cars that owners hold onto the longest have one thing in common, a new study shows.

6 Ways to Protect Your Retirement Accounts From Hackers
6 Ways to Protect Your Retirement Accounts From Hackers

Imagine having $245,000 stolen from your retirement account — and not being reimbursed.

10 Things Successful Retirees Do Differently
10 Things Successful Retirees Do Differently

These habits and characteristics can help put you on the track to success.

7 Costly Health Problems That Strike After Age 50
7 Costly Health Problems That Strike After Age 50

As we age, our bodies wear down. Here is how to cut costs associated with some common ailments.

7 Hidden Sections of Amazon Every Shopper Should Know
7 Hidden Sections of Amazon Every Shopper Should Know

These little-known departments of Amazon are gold mines for deal-seekers and impulse shoppers alike.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.