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Best Buy Geek Squad Black Tie Protection aka Extended Warranty vs Squaretrade

As a previous Best Buy Geek Squad employee I use to say "eh, maybe" to extended warranties when asked by many of those who purchase electronics and such from Best Buy. (They use to force us to say "Geek Squad Black Tie Protection" but we all know what it really is). Note, the Geek Squad Black Tie Protection GSBTP was previously known as PSP or Product Service Plan. Even I personally purchased it on some items like notebooks. Although I can repair any defects that may occur, I could not pull parts from my hind end.

I now redact and advise all to consider the alternative. Don't get me wrong, I've never had a bad experience and they do cover what they say they will cover. Assuming the sales person gave you correct information, or didn't bend the truth to make their individual goal sheets look better.

My reason for the change of heart is an alternative company who covers more , for less. Sometimes they even have sale pricing on warranties. Best Buy's policy is to never adjust pricing of a Product Service Plan (from now on PSP), or now the Geek Squad Black Tie Protection (Often referred as GSBTP or BTP). There is also ADHD which is your accidental coverage. This new found company also guarantees 5 day turn around. Squaretrade is that company, and that's where I'll do my warranty purchases for any electronics from now on.

So let's do a comparison of what Squaretrade, and Geek Squad Black Tie Protection warranties cover and you can make your own judgment call to which warranty is best. In these examples, I'll cover a couple of common items you'll find yourself purchasing at a Best Buy or any other electronics retailer.

Apple Macbook Pro 2010 Aluminum Unibody
Probably the most commonly purchased item from Best Buy is Notebook computers. For the sake of easy comparison we'll do an Apple Macbook Pro with a 13.3" display. You can get your hands on one of these bad boys for $1,199.99 of your hard earned money. For an additonal $299.99 you can get a 2-Year Geek Squad Black Tie Advanced Protection Plan that will cover you in case of accidental damage.

That's a lot of your hard earned money, and as far as you know there is no other alternative. Not anymore, now you're educated enough to compare with Squaretrade. Squaretrade offers a 3-Year with accidental coverage for $299.99 So not only are you getting more for your money, with an additional year of coverage, but now you're also getting better benefits than what Best Buy can offer.

Geek Squad Black Tie Protection Logo on White Universal Power Symbol with Tie from Best Buy

Best Buy's states their Black Tie Protection with Accidental Coverage to cover the following. Note: Accidental coverage is not included automatically. Do not assume so, you must opt-in and purchase the completely different sku accordingly.

  • Defect in materials or workmanship (How is this a benefit when your manufacture already covers this?)
  • Normal wear and tear (It sounds like you could take your notebook in for a cracked palm rest, or scratched notebook lid. That's not the case, the policy is that it must affect the normal function of the notebook. For example, cracked hinges would be covered. Another example of vague wording.)
  • Dust, internal overheating, internal humidity/condensation (Covered as stated.)
  • A power surge/fluctuation (Covered as stated, but most home owner / even apartment insurance will cover this anyway.)
  • Preventative maintenance. (Scare tactic, computers don't need their oil changed, Geek Squad will simply air out any exposed vents and run updates as well as a courtesy virus scan. Nothing the average consumer can't do on their own and save themselves a trip. You'll thank yourself, as previous Geek Squad employee I know exactly how bad and long it can be standing in our line.)
  • Vi-Spy protection. (This one drove me nuts, ok on a Mac OSX based computer you'll likely never use it. To be fair it can occur on a PC, but you should know that your manufacture already empowers you to easily wipe your computer and rid of such malware. Next time you're in a Best Buy, have some fun, ask any Agent if they can briefly tell you how to restore your own computer because you have a virus. Then wait for the flood of excuses and avoidance of answering the question. To be fair not all agents are like this, I personally had no problem teaching [briefly] and empowering them to do it on their own.)
  • One battery replacement (Covered as stated, it use to be unlimited, but that probably started to cost them a pretty penny.)
  •  Take a look for yourself at the whole agreement yourself here. There are some things that are covered that I felt were to small and hardly a benefit to cover but you can view the agreement yourself and make your own judgment call.
From my experience as Geek Squad Agent I'll point out that they will not cover full immersion into any liquid. You will likely never hear about this until after the fact. Also, if you're in a car accident and your notebook is damaged in the crash, don't bother telling them. At that time they'll refer you to your car insurance for coverage, and that's not a fun venture. I will also note there is no specific turn around time gaurntee for repairs that are sent to Geek Squad city. You can expect most repairs that are beyond basic memory, hard drive and OS related issues to be shipped out. I've seen it take anywhere from 10, 14 days up-to 2 months for repairs when items are shipped out. That does not include weather or not the repair was done correctly the first time. It is not uncommon for Agents to ship items back multiple times in hopes of resolving the issue.

SquareTrade Logo

Now to go over what Squaretrade states their 3-Year $299.99 with Accidental Coverage will cover along with many other benefits.

  • 5 Day Service Guarantee. (Claims can be filed online or over the phone, 24 hours a day. No need to wait for a store to open. They provide a pre-paid shipping label and a specialized box for shipping notebooks.)
    • Option 1: Reimbursement.   For most items below $500, or if it's going to take too long or is too expensive to fix, Squaretrade will pay you the replacement price of your item. 
    • Option 2: Repair. Repaired and shipped back to you at no cost.
    • Option 3: No cheap refurbs: Squaretrade will not replace your item with a refurbished model. With a reimbursement from SquareTrade, you can go out and get a newer model for the same price you paid originally.
  • Email Updates. (This was just introduced at Best Buy but it's functionality was very iffy before I left, it may have improved.)
  • Mechanical and electrical failures that occur during normal use of your item. Your item is covered for up to the full purchase price of your item (tax and shipping are excluded). (Similar to Best Buy, except Best Buy will only reimburse you the current value of your item. Squaretrade will cover you up-to the purchase price of your item.) 

Apple iPhone 4 Black Front and Side View
Next example that I personally have taken advantage of is Squaretrade's iPhone 4 warranty. I purchased two iPhone 4's for myself and my girlfriend. iPhone 4 at the new contract price will run you $199 for 16GB and $299 for the 32GB model. I think we are all already on the same page on this but I'll cover it anyway just to be fair. AppleCare Protection is $69 for a total of two years. It's a well known fact that all that AppleCare will do for you is extend the manufactures warranty, which isn't much more than manufactures defects. Not worth it to anyone if you ask me.

Moving onto what Best Buy's Geek Squad Black Tie Protection for the iPhone 4 would cover. We find it to be just as unimpressive as AppleCare's solution. Coming in at $15 (rounded) a month which equals $360 a year. You also will NEVER get your original phone back, but a refurbished unit, which is what I witnessed when I was previously employed at Best Buy. They do try and resurface the unit to give a "like new" feel, but it looks terrible.

Squaretrade faces off the the Geek Squad Black Tie Protection by offering a $124 plan that covers your iPhone 4 for 2 years! Still falling under all the great benefits they offer like no refurbished units. There is in fact a deductible for phones replaced due to physical damage of $50. Fortunately, even with a deductible, it would still take 5 replacements before reaching the price of the Geek Squad Black Tie Protection or PSP offered by Best Buy.

"One more thing..." at the writing of this article that particular warranty offered by Squaretrade for iPhone 4 has been on sale for about the last month for $99. The savings continue!

I'm pretty sure I've painted a clear picture of the winner now.

Don't get me wrong, if you already have a Best Buy warranty you'll be covered as promised, but it will not compare to what Squaretrade can cover. For you unfortunately, it's too late, but keep it in mind on your next purchase.

Have you ever purchased something from Ebay and been in fear that it may break. If you purchase electronics from Ebay, Squaretrade as an added bonus also has the ability to cover such items purchased.

Just trying to help my friends, family and loved ones!

Feel free to rebuttal or ask any questions, I'll be more than happy to help!


  1. like the blog, but there is a company out there that is up and coming called phone guard global, the web address is ive purchased 3 warranty's from them and they cover everything like the competitor's but they have Zero deductible and there a few dollars cheaper... check it out i'm happy and they also cover more than phones.

  2. @xxxooostar That's all good and dandy but from the design of their page I can't say they take their business seriously. Squaretrade has an extensive background and track record. Supported by many major blogs as a true competitor to Geek Squad Black Tie Protection. I'm all for competition, but you have to take your business and presentation seriously. I cannot say or advise others to purchase from such a site. A simple Google search does not turn up any customer ratings or reviews. I strongly advise against it until they develop a better reputation and presence.

    Glad to hear you enjoyed my post, I encourage you to give Squaretrade a chance if you're looking for a better experience. Especially compared to the major competitors like Apple Care and Geek Squad Black Tie Protection.

  3. I will use this post to convince my g/f that Apple isn't worth it. Apple Care, I mean Apple Care isn't worth it... Too subtle you think?

    On a completely unrelated topic apparently you live near or in Ocala, FL which is ~30 min from where I live. I applied to work at the Ocala Best Buy's Geek Squad.

    Small world, I found the link to your blog from the LifeHacker article.

  4. So I read the Terms and Conditions for both (took awhile to find them on SquareTrades site) and I think it really comes down to what the owner's priorities are.

    If having your computer back ASAP is a top priority then SquareTrade would be a better option since they have their 5-day gurantee. If they are concerned about the battery or power cable then the geeksquad one may be beter as it is covered (though you could just buy them dirt cheap online!) while SquareTrade does not cover these items. Plus there are always consumers who like to have a person they can yell at face to face when there is a problem.

    Just some other differnces to note that I thought were important:
    No Lemon Policy - with SquareTrade they have to be fixing the SAME ISSUE a fourth time while GeekSquad's is simply activated on the fourth hardware replacement (doesn't have to be the SAME problem)

    Replacement Product - this can work out in your favor with SquareTrade IF YOU HAVE NEVER HAD IT REPAIRED... note that if a repair was done previously, the value of that reapair is deducted from the value of your warranty (see TOCs below). If you ever end up having a repair done and THEN and exchange, the geeksquad plan would be more likely to win out on value - though like buying a plan itself, this is a gamble.

    Power Surge - geeksquad wind this one simply because they don't require the unit to be plugged into a certifed surge protector.

    A note to consider on iPhones... I get your point about getting a refurb back instead of your phone, but after your phone is repaired and returned is it not considered to have been refurbished? There are a select few people who keep their phones in better condition than the refurbs i've seen, but they are the exception. My concern would be that they would refund me my purchase price - if they do they will only give me my purchase price back. Thats all fine and dandy, but if I had to buy a new one outright (not under contract this time) I would have to pay the full price of $699!!! You should be clear that they are not just GIVING you a new phone, but your original purchase price which can cause problems in the cell phone world. Also, if the repair takes more than 5-days with an iPhone it doesn't say they will replace it, just that they will refund the plan value to you (still cool though).

    I don't know if this reflects your own personal experience with the company or their service, I'm just going off of what their Terms and Conditions state.

    All in all, SquareTrade sounds like it has some good deals, just make sure you are pointing out the details as well - no extended plan is all sunshine and lollipops after all! ;-)

    1. This entire site blog has been very interesting as I just ordered a smartphone/tablet combo on Amazon and need a warranty. I've been thinking about Geek Squad as I didn't know about the others but now after reading 'justathought's post I wonder if I should double up on my buy and square. ANY suggestions?
      I'm dropping my contract wireless service therefore no insurance protection, and going with a pay per month unlimited everything plan, as it seems to be a better deal. Although I could be wrong on that please any feed back on switching from ATT to StraightTalk due to data usage issues - I will entertain ANY comments or suggestions. :D

  5. Thanks for the tip! - requisit excerpts from the SquareTrade Terms and Conditions below. Full texts can be found at


    Our 5-day service guarantee (for iPhones): We will replace OR fix and ship back your iPhone within 5 business days of receiving it at the depot. If it takes longer, let us know and we'll be happy to refund the cost of your warranty.


    The total value of your warranty is in most cases equal to the purchase price of your item. For every valid claim filed against your item for which we provide repair services, the total value of your coverage is reduced by the cost of the repair services rendered. In the event a valid claim is filed with us and repair costs are estimated to exceed the current value of your warranty - the balance of your warranty value will be offered instead.
    The total amount that We will pay for repairs or replacement made in connection with all claims that You make pursuant to this Service Agreement shall not exceed the purchase price of the Product, less taxes. In the event that We make payments for repairs, which in the aggregate, are equal to the purchase price or replace the Product with a new, rebuilt or refurbished product of equal or similar features and functionality, We will have no further obligations under this Service Agreement.

    This Service Agreement protects against the operational failure of a covered Product resulting from a power surge while properly connected to an Underwriter Laboratories-approved surge protector. You may be asked to provide Your surge protector for examination.

    If Your Covered Product is an MSP product and has three service repairs completed for the same problem, which repairs are covered by this Service Agreement, and a fourth such repair for the same problem occurs, as determined by Us, within any twelve (12) month period, the Covered Product will be replaced with a comparable product. The cost of the replacement will not exceed the original Product’s purchase price and may be less due to technological advances. The original Product and purchase receipts must be returned to Us along with authorized service receipts from the three prior repair incidents to qualify. Preventive maintenance, checks, cleanings, Product diagnosis, customer education, accessory repairs/replacements, computer software related problems and repairs done outside of the continental USA are not considered repairs for the purposes of the No Lemon Policy. Upon replacement of a Product, We will have no further obligation to repair or replace the replacement Product and You will not be entitled to make any claims under this Agreement for its repair or replacement.

  6. Thanks for the tip! I had copy and pasted the applicable excerpts from the SquareTrade terms of service below all that, but it was too long and errored out when I tried to put them in as a 2nd post. Anway, they can all be found at this url for those interested.

    I may just cancel my iPhone coverage and go with these guys (I just got it recently)

  7. Does it cover Beats headphones being exchanged. The left ear in my Heartbeats has a short and I've already used the default Beats warranty. I'm going to send these into Best Buy for an exchange. Can I do that?

  8. I've used the Black Tie protection on my Jawbone (129.99) 3 times already - all free except for the new warranty on my 3rd jawbone. My first one broke because I dropped it and the button stopped working. It was within 1 month so they gave me a new one right at the store with no questions - warranty still intact. My 2nd one broke just before the 2 years limit ended. By then my Jawbone was worth only 59.99. I was given the credit of 129.99 and was able to choose whatever other bluetooth headset I wanted - regardless of brand. I chose another jawbone (newer ICON version) for 129.99. Since I redeemed it, my warranty ended (which it was going to anyway). I ended up buying another 2 year plan for it just incase.

    My experience with Bestbuy Black Tie is that I never had to wait more than 30 minutes to get my new product. Of course, this might differ if it was a laptop or something that they did not have in stock and were supposed to still carry. I have gone in to exchange a desktop computer before, they checked it real fast to see if the problem was real, then went to get me a new computer (30 minutes too). Again, it might depend on the issue and if they had the product.

    What I am simply implying is that I like being able to just go in and out at the store for smaller things like my headset and stuff (i don't know if my computer experience was the same for everyone - might depend on store, but mine was positive in that i was in and out in 30 minutes with a new computer). Also - my experiences so far anyway have been with new replacements (as in an employee or me myself goes and chooses a product off the shelves).

    Don't get me wrong - I am not saying that Best Buy's is better than Squaretrade. In fact (after reading this review), I am considering buying Squaretrade insurance if I was to buy the new iPhone 5 (July 2011) or a new laptop/desktop as it clearly has the advantage over Best Buy. For small things, I'll probably stick to Best Buy just because it is more convenient, but for bigger things like TV, computers, or my iPhone, I'll probably consider Squaretrade. Thanks for the review.

  9. What is Square Trade's policy about data recovery? I have Best Buy Black Tie coverage for a Toshiba laptop I have had less than a year. Two months ago the battery died and the laptop wouldn't work even when it was plugged in to an outlet. One of the keyboard keys fell off around the same time. I brought the unit to Best Buy for repair, which I thought was under the manufacturer's original warranty. I was told I could back up the data before it left the store for $99.00 but was advised by the Geek Squad employee that it didn't appear to be a hard drive problem. He said it should be ready in about a week.

    That was 7 weeks ago. I first got a message that it had been recieved by the Geek Squad repair facility. (Why didn't it go to Toshiba?) Then, a message that they had ordered the parts. Then, a message that I had to call the store.

    Apparently they couldn't get the parts (the keyboard) so they had been authorized to swap mine for a new computer. All well and good, but what about my data? Well, they said they would put in an "escalation" to save my computer from the scrap heap(!) which, because they left messages on the wrong phone number, I was only able to remedy at the last minute. For $59.99 they would do the diagnostics to determine "IF" they could recover anything (since when was there anything wrong with my hard drive?) after which they would call me to let me know how much it would cost to recover it. For level 1 recovery $230, level 2 $600+, and level 3 $1,600!

    I asked if I could get the hard drive back and get the data recovered elsewhere? You can do that, I was told, but would have to get the laptop repaired on my own and wouldn't receive a new computer because everything had to be sent back to Toshiba and once it left their hands they couldn't do anything. So, essentially, they were holding my data hostage. The only way to get my data back was to pay their exhorbitant fees.

    Ah yes, but I had declined the option to back up my drive before the laptop was sent to the repair center. I understood that I accepted the risk that something could go wrong and that Best Buy would not be liable for damage to my data. I did not accept the risk that Best Buy would choose not to repair a laptop that was less than 1 year old (and still in production) and swap it for a new one, with no right to recover the data on it. (There was never anything wrong with the hard drive.)

    I should have been told that my choices were to pay the the $99 fee to back up my data initially (which I think is outrageous) or face the prospect of paying $230 to $1,600 to recover my data (if saved from the junk heap in time) in the event the drive turned out to be bad, accidently damaged OR they decided to give me a new machine (none of which I thought was a possibility).

    Could or should I have just contacted Toshiba directly since it was still under the original manufacturer's warranty so that I could bypass Best Buy's poor handling of the whole thing? Would Toshiba have given me my data without charging me such ridiculous sums? How would Square Trade have handled this situation?

    So, in the end, I paid $180 for my so-called Black Tie protection, $60 to diagnose whether any data could be recovered from my non-defective hard drive, and another $140 to actually recover the data. (I got a price break since my data was under 16Gs and fit on a flash drive, otherwise they would have given me the data on a 500G external drive and charged an extra $50 for it.) Oh, and it has been almost 2 months and I still have no computer and no data.

    Do I have an recourse?

  10. If you had been dealing directly with Toshiba, they would likely tell you the same thing, they are not responsible for the data on the drive.. and as such, you need to ensure your data is backed up before sending it to them.... Been there, done that, however, I made sure I didn't care about the data on the drive when I sent it...
    either way, raw deal for you. They hung you out to dry..

  11. I only buy much easier dealing with Apple than 3rd party.

  12. @John, that's your choice I'm only trying to help others make an informed choice.

    My only advice is, don't assume "third party" is any harder or more complex just because it is unknown to your personal experience.

  13. How does Apple's new AppleCare+ protection compare. I just bought a new MacBook Pro 13.3" and an iPhone 4S. I originally thought that I would be able to purchase the Apple plans at BBY, but was told they only offer the Gerk Squad plans on Apple products. I was talked into the Black Tie Protection for the MacBook (minus the tech support plan), it was $149 for one year and supposedly covers accidental damage (I thought this made sense for a "traveling" computer. However, the $229 (2yr) for the iPhone seemed like a lot for a $299 under contract phone. So I started looking around online to see if I should consider the AppleCare+ plan instead. Now Square Trade gives me smother option to consider. I'm almost wondering if doubling up coverage on the. MacBook would not be a bad idea. I'm definitely considering the iPhone coverage.


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