A few months back, I wrote about “The credit card superpowers you probably forgot about.” I pored over all the benefits tucked away in the information booklet you get when you sign up for a credit card, including travel protection, life insurance, and an extended warranty on most purchases.

So when my cell phone started dying with more than half the battery life remaining, I figured it was time to put this warranty business to the test.

Here comes trouble

I have a fairly inexpensive phone, a Moto G4 Plus purchased for about $250 from Republic Wireless in November 2016 when I was looking to save money over my Verizon plan. (My monthly bill went from $68 to $24, and I’ve had no problems with the service.)

About a month ago it started to give me problems. It would crash, often when I was trying to take a picture, but there were too many variations for me to pinpoint one particular app or action.

I looked on the Motorola forums to see if anyone else was reporting the same problem. They were.

Motorola suggested several ways to try to fix the phone, including a factory reset, cache partition wipe, recalibrating the battery, etc. I dutifully went through each and every one, but the problem was still there.

Another user suggested the battery was faulty and said once he replaced his battery there were no more problems.

I pulled up the warranty information and found I was five months past the 12 month warranty. Then I remembered my credit card superpower.

Documentation and due diligence

I buy just about everything on credit. I’ve written before about how I’m wired wrong and seem to spend less when I have to look at the purchase on a credit card statement in the future than if I just pay cash and call it good.

I bought the phone before we started travel hacking and opening new credit cards, so I knew this purchase was on my Capital One account I’ve had forever. I looked up Capital One’s extended warranty language and found a number to call.

Within 5 minutes I was on the phone with possibly the nicest customer service person I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with. Olivia explained that the process was simple. I would need four things:

  • An itemized receipt from the sale
  • A copy of the Capital One statement showing the payment was made on that card
  • A copy of the original manufacturer’s warranty
  • An estimate from any cell phone repair shop OR a receipt for repair

The first three were already in hand. I printed off statements from both Republic Wireless and Capital One websites, and the Motorola warranty was on a website, as well.

I asked Olivia about the repair shop quote. Motorola’s warranty language plainly states that they have preferred service shops that are required for warranty work. Would I have to work through those shops to have this warranty honored?

“You’re under our warranty now,” she said, with a tone that said, “We aren’t here to make this difficult, we’re here to make it right.”

If I sent in all those documents with an estimate, either by mail or by uploading to a website, I would hear back within five business days whether the repairs were approved. Alternatively, I could get the phone fixed and send in the repair receipt and ask for reimbursement. Olivia didn’t think this particular claim would run into any problems, but she left the choice up to me.

Going to the repair shop

A couple of days later, I went to a local cell phone repair shop to get the estimate.

The place didn’t have my particular battery in stock, and he told me if he ordered it that it would be $80, plus $50 to install. That’s $130 for a phone I bought new for $250 almost 18 months ago.

Granted, it’s not coming out of my pocket, but that’s a lot of money to put into a phone that I’ll probably have to replace in a year anyway. (I’ll be interested to see if the unlocked phones suddenly get crazy slow and buggy at the two-year mark like every phone I’ve had on a two-year contract has. I think this issue is a flaw, not intentional.)

But, the guy said, I could buy the battery on eBay for less than $20 and install it myself after watching a YouTube video and save the hassle of going through the warranty service.

This appealed to both my handy and frugal natures.

A YouTube video and $13.50 eBay order later and I was waiting for a DIY moment.

I can do it, thank you very much

The battery arrived within a week.

I pulled up the YouTube video again while I sat down to perform cell phone heart surgery. The battery came with a bag full of tools I might need to complete the job, which was a bonus.

I had to unscrew 19 tiny torx screws, carefully remove some tape, swap out the battery and reverse the whole process. It took less than an hour.

So far, so good. The battery works. The phone is acting normally. I took several pictures with the 50% charge the new battery came with and had no issues, whereas that was crashing the phone the day before.

If I start to experience the same problem again in the week ahead, I’ll go back to the phone repair shop and get an estimate for what the real fix might be. Then I’ll submit that to the warranty service for evaluation.

But for now I’ll just wait and see. If I ever need to use that extended warranty service in the future, I’ll definitely ask for Olivia.