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Credit cards can provide you with the utmost convenience, but they can also wreck your finances if you do not have the right discipline to use them. Like for example, you may have the habit of buying things you can’t afford and not paying your bills in full or on time.
However, for those with sound financial stewardship, credit cards do not only provide comfort, but they also come with a lot of great perks. Some cards benefit cardholders with miles they can redeem for flights, cashback on their daily purchases, or rewards points they can exchange for merchandise. If you have a good credit score, you can even get extra advantages such as priority boarding when you fly and extra baggage allowance, sign-up bonuses, and foreign transactions without fees.
We have compiled the 15 most valuable unique credit card benefits you can get as long as you’re holding the right card.
1. Extended Warranty Protection
Consumer Reports generally does not encourage consumers to pay for an expensive extended warranty when they purchase a product. But, it if comes free with the purchase, why not get it? For example, the American Express Blue Cash Everyday card extends that benefit when you use it to buy some home appliances.
Just make sure that you use the same credit card when you’re paying for any repairs and secure all your receipts. Submit the necessary documents to your credit card issuer and after they’ve processed your claim, they will credit your statement with the appropriate amount. Take note that credit cards that provide extended warranties do not cover all your purchases. Some items that do not fall within this offer are medical equipment and software. Check the details on the coverage before you make a big purchase.
2. Credit Card Price Protection
You paid some big bucks for that smart TV you’ve always wanted, only to find out that the exact same item is selling at a substantial discount in another store two days later. You may feel like a schmuck because you paid way too much, but don’t beat yourself up – there could be a recourse. First, check the store from where you bought your TV if they offer price matching. If they don’t, then look to your credit card.
If you have credit card price protection , you can file a claim and submit proof that the same item is now on sale for much less.
When the card issuer says that your claim is okay, you can get a refund. What’s even better is that you can request for price protection as many as 90 days after your purchase, which is a lot longer than most stores’ price-matching offers. With the right card, your card company will even search the lowest prices for you in the next few months.
Of course, there are exclusions and the list of items differ for each provider. However, issuers offer the same list for all their different credit cards. The common ones are:
- Automobiles, boats, or any motorized vehicle (motorbike, truck, tractor, etc)
- Mobile phones purchased on contract or as part of a service
- Previously-owned or refurbished items
- Any inventory item for resale for profit or for commercial use
- Items that you buy outside the U.S.
- Jewelry, collectibles, rare, custom, or tailored items
- Any kind of fees and taxes, rebates, or incentives from the manufacturer
- Live animals
3. Emergency Travel Assistance
One of the worst problems you can have is running into some trouble while you’re traveling abroad. Good thing you have your reliable credit card which can suddenly transform as your personal American embassy and offer services such as phone-based translation, or hospital locator.
If you have a high-end card, you don’t need an emergency for them to provide extra service to you like giving lost luggage assistance.
Say you’ve landed in Oakland but your baggage is somewhere in Shanghai, your credit card might give you an allowance to buy enough clothes until your luggage catches up with you. Every card’s travel assistance is different when it comes to missing baggage. Some cards will help locate your luggage and get it back to you, while others will offer funds to keep you afloat. Some other cards will replace your luggage if you’re a victim of theft while traveling.
4. Trip Cancellation Coverage
A travel cancellation insurance will reimburse the cost of nonrefundable flights in case an emergency or illness messes up your travel plans. Some cards also provide protection against flight delays.
It depends on your card, of course. Some cards will allow you to get back up to $2,500 if illness forces you to cancel your trip and up to $125 for delayed flights. American Express, on the other hand, gives you up to $250 to cover your meals and accommodation if a snowstorm strands you, subject to a payment of $9.95 fee per person, per trip.
Just note that there are only a few acceptable reasons to cancel your trip: the death of an immediate family member, a serious illness, or an injury. They won’t cover you if a pre-existing condition flares up or if you’re flying into a war zone. Normally, they will require you to provide a doctor’s certificate to prove your case.
5. Rental Car Insurance
When you’re renting a car, the car rental staff will ask if you’d like to purchase a Collision Damage Waiver or rental car insurance, on top of the cost of the rental. The additional $20 to $40 to your daily travel expenses can fracture your budget even if it’s just for a couple of days.
Many credit cards have built-in rental insurance that saves you money for car rentals and protects you in case of a car accident, theft, or towing charges.
This is because the card issuers will shoulder these charges.
Most card providers, Visa, and Mastercard at the forefront, will insure your car for the first 15 days of a car rental, and up to 30 days for premium providers such as American Express and Discover. Some cards also cover loss-of-use fees that rental agencies charge to customers who cause a vehicle to become out of commission because of repairs. You’ll have to first check if your current auto insurance policy offers rental car coverage.
However, if you’d like to take advantage of this credit card feature, make sure to use the card to pay for the car rental transaction in order to activate your coverage.
6. Free Credit Score
Another helpful benefit of credit cards in improving your credit profile is getting a free FICO score straight from the card you’re using to give your credit a boost. For example, Discover offers a no-charge credit score card (even if you’re not a cardholder), that they update monthly on your card statement.
This is very handy because you don’t have to wait for the credit bureau’s reports and it keeps you on top of any movement to your credit activity from month to month.
7. Fraud Protection
If someone steals your credit card and uses it to make purchases, generally, the card company can’t make you pay for them. According to a Chapman University survey, identity theft ranks 3rd among Americans’ biggest financial fears.
Identity-theft insurance aims to protect you if someone steals your personal information and uses them for illegal purposes.
But experts do not agree with each other on whether it is worth paying for, even if it does include credit monitoring and help in repairing credit after a theft.
If you’re still undecided about identity-theft insurance, take note of this: your credit card already affords you some protection. Practically all card issuers have a system that monitors suspicious incidents that alert the cardholder if there is unusual activity on the card. If a thief takes your card and uses it for a shopping spree, he probably won’t get away with it for an extended time.
Federal laws generally protect your liability for unauthorized credit card use up to $50 only, but many companies won’t expect you to pay for any fraudulent charges on your card.
8. Delayed/Lost Luggage Protection
Here’s another reason why travel credit cards are so lovable: baggage protection. Users find this feature very handy especially during those moments when you need it most.
Some cards cover you for lost or damaged baggage, others for delayed baggage, and a handful of them offer both. If you have a choice, get one that covers all of the above.
When your bag does not end up on the conveyor belt at your destination’s airport, you can’t always trust the airline company to run to your aid. You’ll receive the standard promise that they will try to look for it as quickly as possible and have it sent to your hotel. But in all likelihood, they will send you away empty-handed. If you don’t have extra clothes in your hand-carried bag, or toiletries, or make up, or even a decent pajama for your overnight stay, you can bet that you’ll be spending more for them. This is where the card protection for bag delays becomes useful.
There are cards that will give you a daily stipend for things like clothes, shoes, personal products, etc. if your flight becomes delayed by 6-12 hours or more. They usually have a maximum number of days for this (normally about 5 days) or a maximum dollar amount.
In case you lose your bags, some cards will reimburse you for the loss up to a certain amount. This will help you buy a new bag, but also clothes, shoes, and personal items that you need during your stay. This reimbursement usually comes in after the airline reimburses you for the loss.
9. Roadside Assistance
Some perks kick in even if you don’t purchase anything.
If your car suddenly breaks down, your credit card may provide roadside assistance. But don’t cancel your current roadside assistance contract without reading the terms of your credit card benefits.
In most cases, after you call the credit card company, they would just call in a local tow truck for you. Then, you’ll pay for the cost of towing with your own credit card. Note that some premium cards come with free roadside assistance. You may frown at this benefit, but you will thank the card company if you should need it on an unfamiliar country road on a dark night.
10. Concierge Service
Imagine what it would be like to have your own personal assistant just waiting for your instructions. Well, you might already have one and not know it. Your credit card’s concierge services work as a dedicated personal assistant without any costs to you. Cards like Visa Signature and World MasterCard make concierge services available to their cardholders. They are there for almost everything, including getting reservations at a hard-to-book restaurant, to making travel arrangements, and even for unusual requests.
Your concierge service can save you time by helping you in booking theater or concert tickets (at times even before they go on public sale), sending flowers, locating special or unusual items for purchase, or even getting an emergency clothes delivery when you have a wardrobe malfunction.
11. Cell-Phone Replacement
What does a phone have to do with a credit card? Well, your credit card can help cover the cost of a new cell phone in case somebody steals your phone, or it sustains some damage. However, for that insurance feature to be in effect, you need to pay your monthly cell-phone bill with a qualifying credit card. Wells Fargo includes this benefit in many of their card products. In case of theft, you need to prove that someone stole your phone by presenting a police report or other relevant documents. But, simply losing your phone (like leaving it in a cab) doesn’t count so the card company won’t cover the loss.
12. Uber Credits
Traditionally, credit cards have aligned themselves with other companies, so they can offer more bonuses and points for restaurants and airline travels. Lately, some cards have also jumped on the popularity of ridesharing services like Uber to provide benefits to frequent riders who use the card to pay for their rides.
13. Free Museum Visits
If you’re an art lover and hold a Bank of America or Merrill Lynch debit card, you can get one free general admission ticket to over 150 major museums and art institutions all over the country.
It’s valid on the first full weekend of every month and you only need to present your card and a picture ID to gain free entrance.
Some of the places you can visit for free are the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City (although they suggest that you make a donation for admission).
14. Better Foreign Exchange Rates
When you’re overseas, we suggest that you pay for everything using your credit card. The exchange rate you get with any credit card is far better to what a bank or a currency exchange shop can give – and a lot superior to what you can get at the airport.
Of course, you should try to avoid foreign transaction fees as much as possible. Fortunately, there are many cards that waive this fee. Try to use one of them when you travel abroad.
Perks Come With a Price
Additional credit card perks cost the card companies money and they would naturally get it from the cardholders who must pay more for these cards.
The simple fact is, the more premium the card, usually the higher the fee that the issuer charges. So, think it through if you want to pay more. For example, the American Express Platinum has a $550 annual fee while the Citi Prestige has a $450 yearly charge. If you don’t use them that often, it may not be worth the perks.
The Expedia + Voyager card charges only $95 per year and is good for keeping your expenses down. The Citi and Bank of America cards, and the Discover It Miles card has no annual fees. So, when looking for a credit card, look for one whose benefits are relevant to you and redeem as often as possible to maximize the annual fee you may be paying for it.
Many reward cards with added bonuses usually charge a higher interest rate or require you to have a very good or excellent credit score before you can qualify. Check with the card provider for details before you apply.
If you get a perk-filled credit card, treat it responsibly the same way you would any other credit card. Use it intelligently, keep your debt to within 30% of your credit limit, and pay off your total balance in full every month. Staying debt-free but still enjoying rewards, bonuses, and perks is the mark of a truly successful credit card handling.
When you get a new card or before you use your current one, make sure that you’ve read and understood the fine print and ask your credit card agent what perks your card offers. As we’ve discussed above, many of them are unpopular because the credit card companies don’t seem to advertise or highlight them. Some of them won’t volunteer the information unless you ask.