09/25/2012 01:25 pm ET Updated Nov 25, 2012

7 Ways to Protect Your Electronic Purchase

For Women & Co. by Helena Stone,

So you finally laid out the big bucks on an expensive new gadget, but how do you keep that new smartphone/tablet/electronic device safe? It turns out that there are several effective ways to insure your investment, or at least to help get you reimbursed if something goes wrong. Here are seven ways to protect your shiny new toy:

1. Product Protection Plans
Many big retailers, such as Best Buy, offer Product Protection plans on everything from computers and mobile phones to home theater products. These protection plans offer a guaranteed repair or replacement should anything go wrong with your purchase. That said, most electronics products come with a minimum one-year warranty that offers a similar repair or replacement protection plan.

2. Check Your Warranty
Consult your warranty before buying a product protection plan. Most computers and mobile phones come with a standard one-year warranty. However, for computers, I think it's a good idea to purchase an extended service plan, since you're likely to use it for longer than just a year. To that effect, most computer manufacturers offer an extended warranty and service plan for up to three years at an additional cost. However, be wary as manufacturers have different policies as to when you can extend your service plan; in other words, some only allow you to purchase an extended service plan within 30 days of your initial purchase. Others, like Apple and its AppleCare protection plan, let you purchase additional time as long as the product is still under its original warranty.

3. Mobile Phone Insurance
Many wireless carriers, such as AT&T, offer mobile phone insurance for an additional monthly fee. This fee can include accidental as well as theft protection. Alternatively, you can always opt to go with a third-party provider like ProtectYourBubble for mobile phone insurance.

4. Third Party Protection Plan
Not every manufacturer is like Apple, which offers an extended protection plan for all of its products. That is where a third-party program like SquareTrade comes in. SquareTrade offers an extended warranty program for everything from e-Readers to TVs and smartphones. It also offers accident protection for electronics, so accidental drops and spills are covered. Keep in mind that accident protection is not covered by most manufacturers' warranties, so SquareTrade is a good option to consider if you tend to be clumsy.

5. Take Advantage of Your Credit Card's Security Features
Skip paying with cash and take advantage of the security features offered by your credit or debit card. For example, most items bought with a Citi credit card are protected in the event of a theft or an accident up to 90 days from the date of purchase. If you buy an item from a U.S. manufacturer and its warranty is less than a year, the Extended Warranty from many Citi cards extends it to one year.

6. Protect It -- No, Really -- With a Case
It's so common to see people walking around with their new cell phones or tablets without a case. A case is one of the easiest ways to prevent bang-ups, and since protective sleeves and covers are a dime a dozen nowadays, there's no excuse not to shell out an extra $30 or so to protect your toy, especially if it has a delicate display.

7. Lost-and-Found Tags
There's no worse feeling than discovering that your laptop, smartphone, or other big purchase has gone missing, so be prepared (and hopeful) with a lost-and-found tag. These electronic tags can help return your gadget if found by a good Samaritan. Some popular tag companies include GadgetTrack, zReturn, and StuffBak.

All in all, while many of these options for protecting your electronics will require laying out some extra cash, more often than not, it's worth it. What's a few extra bucks for peace of mind?

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