Help Me Decide How To Pay For A Camera On Amazon

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I’m faced with a shopping conundrum. We’re in the market for a new DSLR after yours truly dropped our current one off a table at a BBQ joint. It’s a Canon Rebel that’s a few years old, so it’s not the end of the world or anything. It’s throwing an error with the shutter, so presumably that needs to be replaced. Incidentally, this is the same camera that my wife dropped from the top of an elephant about a year ago — we were able to get it fixed on the streets of Siem Reap for $60, which we thought was a great deal — so it’s already on it’s second life.

The cost to fix it is getting close to what it’s worth. We might do that eventually, but for now we’ve made the decision to replace it and pretty much know what we want. And where to buy it.

The question is, how should we pay for it? And that’s a bit a complicated. Let me explain.

DSLR
How many lives does a DSLR have?

The Camera

We’re going to get a crop sensor DSLR in the $750 range. It’s basically just a newer version of what we have now. Sure, I’d love a full-frame, but

  • I’m really not that good of a photographer so it would probably be somewhat of a waste
  • Getting a somewhat cheaper camera makes us feel less bad when it eventually gets dropped

And it will get dropped.

Amazon’s price is as good as anywhere, and they’ll Prime it to us in a couple of days. My conundrum is how to pay for it. Not like whether I have the money or not, but as in what form of payment to use. And that’s something that only those of us in the miles and points world can understand.

Pay With Amazon Gift Cards

My family shops at Amazon a lot.

We normally buy Amazon gift cards at an office supply store using our Chase Ink Card so that we can get 5x Ultimate Rewards points on all of our Amazon purchases. Now that OfficeMax and Office Depot are offering 2% back in Rewards Everything (targeted), that deal just got sweeter. I value Ultimate Rewards points at close to 2 cents each, so it’s like getting a 12% discount at Amazon. On a $750 camera, I’d get 3750 Ultimate Rewards points ($75 value) and a $15 of store credit at OfficeMax.

If I pay for it with gift cards, however, I don’t get any extended warranty protection. I’ll get the manufacturers 1-year warranty and that’s it. Let’s call paying with gift cards Option 1.

Amazon GC
A couple of these should cover it

Pay With American Express Platinum Card

On the other hand, I could buy it with my Platinum Card® from American Express and get one extra year of warranty protection. I’ve personally only used the American Express extended warranty once, coincidentally when our previous DSLR camera died due a failed circuit board — not our fault for once — and they basically cut us a check for the repair. I was impressed. If I buy it this way, I’d also earn 750 Membership Rewards points, which I value at about 1.5 cents each. So that’s about $11 of value.

I know other cards also offer extended warranties, but I have personally had a good experience with American Express. So let’s call this Option 2.

amex extended warranty
Extended warranty protection from American Express

Pay With Gift Cards And Buy Extended Warranty

It turns out that there’s actually a third option, or perhaps more accurately, an Option 1B. I could pay for the camera with Amazon gift cards, but then purchase an extended warranty from Amazon. The 3-year Camera Accident Protection Plan costs $60 for a $700-$800 camera. Or there is a 4-year version for $90. It’s listed as a SmartGuard warranty sold by Warrantech, which seems to be an insurance company in Texas.

The policy is described as:

  • Includes Parts and Labor coverage plus accidental damages caused by drops and spills
  • Repair or Replacement Promise on Every Product and Never a Deductible
  • 5 Day Repair Guarantee on Depot Service
  • Contract Delivered by E-mail, Register and File Claims Online or by Phone
  • Excludes Aerial Drones and Radio Controlled Devices

Coverage for “drops and spills” seems exactly like what my family needs!

warrany coverage by year
How the coverage works each year

The problem is, it’s really hard to tell how reputable the company is, and whether they stand behind their policy. A quick skim of the comments shows that they cut some folks a check after they dropped their camera. And other people say the company completely ignored them when they tried to file a claim. So it’s a mixed bag.

Overall, they have a 55% five-star rating. But 17% gave them 1-star.

Warrantech ratings
You either love ’em or hate ’em

Summarizing the Options

I usually find that it’s best to make a table quantitatively comparing the options. The “net cost” is the purchase price less my personal valuation of any miles and points that I’d earn.

Option 1A
pay with gift cards
Option 1B
pay with gift cards, buy warranty
Option 2
pay with Amex Platinum
Cost$750$840$750
Payment methodAmazon gift cards purchased from office supply storeAmazon gift cards purchased from office supply storeAmerican Express Platinum card
Points earned$84 of Ultimate Rewards + $15 OfficeMax credit$84 of Ultimate Rewards + $15 OfficeMax credit$11 of Membership Rewards
Warranty protection1 year manufacturer4 year extended warranty1 year manufacturer + 1 year from Amex
Net cost$651$741$739

This shows that going from a 1-year to a 2-year warranty adds about $80 to the cost. But then going to a 4-year warranty adds only $12 more, which seems silly not to do. The problem is that it’s hard to judge the value of the Warrantech warranty — a 4-year policy isn’t worth much if you can’t actually file a claim against it! And remember, we’re comparing it to the 1-year extended warranty from American Express which I regard as just about rock solid.

Conclusion

I think I lean toward rolling the dice on the 4-year warranty. Coverage for “drops and spills” sounds really good to me. And a majority of people give it 5-stars. I’d be getting twice the warranty for only $12 more.

What would you do? Anyone have a favorable experience with Warrantech?

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Comments

  1. First – Use http://www.canonpricewatch.com/street-prices/. You can still pay with your credit card that offers extended warranty and get a large discount.

    Second – this is a travel blog, and it’s unfortunate to have to scroll through these articles. There are numerous forums to ask questions like this without spamming readers.

  2. 1A. Live on the wild side. I would buy a smaller camera like a Sony A6000 that might offer similar performance, but easier to handle and less likely to be dropped.

  3. Don’t forget to check cannonusa. They sometimes have great deals on new and refurbs. Usually you can find a shopping portal for this also.

  4. I love this 🙂

    There are always tradeoffs to earning points, but I would probably have gotten as far as buying the gift cards to purchase the camera, and wouldn’t have considered the warranty aspects. Until I dropped said camera 😉 .

  5. @travis, first of all good choice in getting a canon.

    My advice would be to buy Amazon gift certificate using the Mileage Plus X app to get 2 United miles / $ and also pay for it using an Amex card that gives you 3x with airlines. Purchases made on this app codes as United airlines purchase with Amex cards.

  6. Flying soon? I just went via AMS to Europe and was considering getting a mirrorless before I went. Looked at Bestbuy, Amazon, google shopping. Figured Euro is weaker at the moment, so checked AMS duty free website and found comparable model much cheaper than anywhere USA. Offered a 1 year extended so two options if it breaks Y2.

  7. @oleg

    “Second – this is a travel blog, and it’s unfortunate to have to scroll through these articles.”

    Yeah, scrolling and deciding what you want to read and don’t want to read take huge amounts of time and energy. You must be exhausted, poor thing.

    Perhaps your time would be better spent at the gym, or in therapy, and not commenting on things you don’t like on some blog. Consider it at any rate.

  8. Why can’t this blog just be Lucky and Tiffany? Travis and Mike just ruin everything. They can get their own less-than-spectacular blog on Boarding Area like all the other blogs there. OMAAT’s niche is luxury international travel, but Tiffany and Ford are the only guest contributor who actually write about that, and Tiffany the only one who does it to nearly the same calibre as Lucky.

  9. Haters going to Hate LOL its just a travel blog its not CTSA (Cosmic Top Secret Atomal) those of you that worked with nukes will know what that means. Cmon the guy is asking for help

  10. I don’t know if it’ll stack properly but if they sell ebay gcs maybe this will work: buy ebay gc with ink, wait for 3-5x ebay buxx, use a shopping portal at 2% and buy the same camera on ebay.

    Alternatively, you might want to outright buy the camera next time you’re in japan. Last time I was there I bought a couple lenses at mapcamera and saved about $800 due to the dollar strength and duty free aspect of the shop. But I’m with Rob on this one, you might want to consider a smaller high qual mirrorless camera instead like the a6000 or rx100 series. If you’re shooting mostly auto, jpegs and not doing much post you probably don’t need a high quality camera. But to be fair those 2 cameras would also be just as adequate for shooting manual, raw and with lots of post for your average enthusiast.

  11. Why is anyone complaining about the article. The intent on the article is CLEAR in the title, don’t click if you think it wastes your time to “scroll through” it. Seriously people, get your own blog if you want to control the content.

    Just a thought in your grid, in terms of accuracy, you would actually get more “points earned” with the extended amazon warranty right? It has to be paid somehow, even if you can’t pay with amazon gift cards, I am sure they will accept CC payment.

    Option 2 seems like a non-starter, you can get a potentially better warranty benefit for $2 more and much better “points earned” outlay with Option 1B. Unless you really think that the warranty company sucks, then Option 1B is a non-starter.

  12. Wow, it’s amazing what people complain about… I actually look forward to contributions from Tiffany, Travis, and Mike, not to mention any other guests. As much as I love Ben’s posts, it’s nice to have variety.

    In any case, if it were me, I’d probably chance it with Option 1B. This is under the assumption that nothing will actually happen within the first two years (which, IME, is 99% true for me – obviously that’s not the case for you). If something happens on day 1 of year 3, the Amex protection wouldn’t help anyway.

    I’m not going to bother reading the reviews, but perhaps skimming through the more recent ones might be prudent for you.

  13. I know you’re not looking for camera options, but I just have to second the suggestion to get the Sony a6000. I have a Nikon DSLR that’s significantly more expensive than that, but I never use it because it’s a hassle to travel with. The Sony fits in my purse, so I’m always using it.

  14. What about using a shopping portal and still paying with Amex. Wait till somewhere that sells it comes to 4-6x in AA or UR and buy.

  15. Ryan — You are correct. The price of the extended warranty would also generate more points in 1B. I guess that was a typo in the table. Good catch.

  16. Tiffany — Yeah, there’s a reason that I’m thinking about it this time around. Because the last time that we dropped a camera, we were left scrambling to find the receipt showing how we paid for it. It was just luck that it was with an Amex, and luck that it happened just a few days shy of 2 years.

    Normally I don’t get too excited about extended warranties, but give our past history here, it seems like it might be worth it here.

  17. Check with the company that provides your homeowner’s insurance. You may be able to get an inexpensive “valuable item” or “personal article” rider (i.e. $30/year) that will cover the full replacement cost of the camera if you drop it or if it is stolen. Some will also cover things like tablets and smartphones. Then you can buy with gift cards to your heart’s content.

  18. Erik —

    The HO rider is a good idea, and I did consider that. My understanding though is that making a claim, even on an item on a rider, is a claim against your HO policy, and too many of those in two short of time is not good. And evidence suggests……

  19. Not sure if you get charged tax in your state at Amazon but if you do, there’s another option. Buy from a store online that does not charge sales tax in your state. That way you get a “discount”, cc points, extra year of cc warranty, and possibly portal points.

  20. DaninMCI — Good tip on canonusa. They do indeed have some nice prices, that might have me creating an Option 3.

    Thank you. And everyone else who contributed helpful suggestions.

  21. I don’t think it makes sense to insure small items. The cost of the insurance includes the probability weighted expected payout plus the costs of processing claims plus profit for the insurer. In the long run, self insurance is the way to go.

    This does not apply to insuring against large losses. If the cost of a loss would cause you not to pay off your credit card in full that month – you need to get insurance.

  22. I’m sure you’ve considered this, but people should remember that, for credit-card provided extended warranties you must still have the same active credit card when you file the warranty. If you know, for sure, that you’re going to hold onto the $450 per year AMEX card then it’s safe, otherwise I’d like for a fee-free card that also offers an extended warranty (I believe Chase Freedom has the extended warranty protection).

  23. Cash is King – I vote 1A

    I will also offer to anyone looking for DSLR my slightly used Nikon D200 and a choice of lens as an alternative being much more durable and a better value than a new mostly, plastic bodied camera like the one you mentioned.

  24. 1) I agree this post is only tangentially related to the stated mission of the blog. This posts seems better geared toward FM.

    2) You’ve encountered the age-old conundrum; buy for points, buy for warranty, or buy for a bit of both. Ultimately, I always choose Amex warranty on big ticket items and it’s saved me more than once. The $75 in UR will be rendered immaterial next time you drop your camera.

    3) I, too, second the A6000 (6300 is coming out soon). Crazy versatile and powerful camera. Small, sleek, and effective.

  25. Ray — I’d love 7% on Amazon via Ebates. But it’s only specific categories, right? And electronics or camera isn’t one of them, unfortunately.

  26. LarryInNYC — Absolutely that is an issue, and worth thinking about. And it did influence my decision to put it on the Amex Platinum, which I do think we’ll be keeping. But yeah, a no-fee card would be idea, especially if you are convinced that it has just as good of protection.

    I want to say that the last time we had a claim with Amex, we didn’t have the same card anymore, but since we had one or more other Amex cards, they went ahead and honored it for us. I don’t know if that is policy, or we got lucky, or if it’s now changed — so the point is, don’t assume that will work.

  27. VG —

    I absolutely agree with you. Almost 100%. This is basically the only extended insurance I would consider buying because our personal history indicates a high likelihood of making a claim — we’ve had 3 camera problems in 5 years, two drops and PCB failure. So this is really the only time I consider it, and even then, I want to say “no way this happens a FOURTH time, right?”

    In the real insurance world, no one should ever want to insure my camera at this point LOL.

    But yes, I generally agree with you which is partially why I had to think through this so much. Because fundamentally, in almost every case, I don’t think it’s worth considering.

  28. Travis, I’m sure you already know this, but if you do pay for the camera with your Amex Platinum make sure that you plan to keep the card open for the next 2 years. Just because the Amex Platinum has a fantastic extended warranty policy, doesn’t do you much good if you cancel the card to avoid paying the annual fee and then your new camera malfunctions or gets dropped. If the card is not open and in good standing, the extended warranty coverage is void.

    http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/25888755-post47.html

  29. None of the above.

    Shop the Rebates section on Adorama, where you can find bundles that include both an instant rebate *and* a mail-in rebate. And include a lot of free extras. Pay with your Amex and get the extended warranty plus the points on the pre-mail-in rebate price. For example: http://www.adorama.com/ICAT5K1Z.html

    Cameras are one of those products I never buy from Amazon because the specialized dealers tend to always have better deals.

  30. Option 3 – signup with the zombie link for the Citi AT&T Access More card. Earn 3x points at Amazon and get an extended warranty.

    That being said, all warranties are not created equal. There is Amex, and then there is everyone else. YMMV, but I was able to use the warranty with a purchase on my Amex Platinum, even though I’d cancelled it a few years prior. Sent them the receipt, they credited the card, I called up a few days later and they sent me a check for the credit.

  31. The Canon Rebel is fairly low-end, in my opinion. I think you’d be better off either:

    (1) Going hardcore and getting a better digital SLR camera like the Canon 70D or even going all-in and buying a full-frame. You can get really good deals on Canon refurbished cameras directly from Canon. I’ve bought one before and you couldn’t tell it wasn’t brand new.

    (2) Get one of the more compact market-leading mirrorless cameras. You get the quality of a low-end digital SLR with the ease of a smaller, more compact camera. The Olympus Pen cameras get fairly good reviews.

  32. Buy the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 IV 20.1 MP Digital Still Camera on Amazon for $948 using your AMEX card.

    No extra lenses to carry on your travels.

    Best all around compact camera for travel on the planet.

    But . . . probably too small for Trump.

  33. You will not know until you have used your new camera for some time if it is the allusive perfect choice

    No seller has easier returns then Costco (warehouse locations only take AE)

    Costco.com takes AE , MC & Visa. Can use any card to buy Costco gift cards to use in warehouse store locations

    Items bought costco.com can be returned any warehouse

    I often have costco.com ship high price /small size items care of a buddy in Oregan (no sales tax)

    I email him a prepaid shipping label as PDF to forward

  34. Buy some Bitcoin, then use bitcoin on Purse.io to get 20% off buying directly from Amazon. You’re welcome:)

  35. Given your history, you should purchase disposable cameras. I never buy quality products for my kids until they demonstrate the ability to care for their possessions.

  36. @Johnny33: +1

    Stopped reading at the 5th shameless pimping link.

    How many did you manage to squeeze in on your so-called, overly contrived “conundrum”?

    It’s all about conversions folks…

  37. Amex by far, as all 3rd party warranties are subject to rejection, bankruptcies, refusals and extra charges. Amex is a sure thing. All you have to do is find best price and best service. Also it is always best to carry 2 cameras when traveling, one easy carry, indestructible, easy carry, good lenses and fast to shoot (carry in a pocket). The other would be your SLR for those need shots that require a top lenses and hardware. I always wrap my camera strap around my arm when shooting or it is in a bag,NEVER left on a table or anywhere it can be damaged. But then when I go traveling I am in the wilds of Burma or Indonesia. But even if you are not doing that replacing a camera on the road will cost you big time compared to getting the Amazon deal or some other.

  38. I went through this dilemma when buying my last iPhone. Amex is the right decision. Sad to let the extra miles go, but better to be safely protected without paying for it. Buy from Adorama or B&H.

  39. Go with gift cards and buy a warranty if you think you will need it.

    I just bought the Olympus SH 1 – and love it so far.

  40. Couldn’t read after “dropped from the top of an elephant.” Just so you know, riding an elephant is contributing to animal cruelty. Those elephants are beaten and tortured. Please educate yourself.

  41. Just don’t drop it!! Use the camera strap like it’s meant to. I’ve owned DSLR’s for a while now and never dropped one. Also never needed warranty work either! I’m a Canon-holic, btw.

  42. @Travis,

    I won’t go into the details of how to purchase it – I usually don’t care ’cause the points earned from shopping and expenses contribute towards less than 5% of my annual mileage accrual. I just use whichever credit card is on top in my wallet.

    However, as an avid photographer, I would highly suggest that you at least upgraded to something like a Canon 6D – that’s an entry level DSLR worth purchasing and it’s remarkably sturdy. I usually carry 4-5 bodies during my photo-shoots and travel for work. The Canon 6D is one which I always keep (it’s the cheapest body that I carry), which I have dropped several times, but it continues to work fine. The upshot is a remarkably better camera with a sturdier body. The cost will be twice the one of the camera you are currently considering, but it will last a lot longer.

    Oh, and get a camera strap.

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