[Update: Some offers mentioned below have expired. For current terms and conditions, please see card agreements. Disclosure: Cards from our partners are mentioned below.]
Credit cards offer many benefits beyond the mere convenience of one-swipe transactions. However, if you don’t know about them, it’s unlikely these credit card benefits will do you any good. Not only are credit cards a safer way to make purchases than using a debit card or cash, but they can save you a bundle of money in ways you may not be aware of. Check your credit cards, as well as credit cards you may acquire, for these features:
1. Price Protection
If you find an item you’ve purchased at a lower price, the price protection feature allows you to apply for a refund. Time and dollar limits vary between cards, but the Chase Freedom card refunds up to $500 per eligible purchase, and up to $3,500 per calendar year. This benefit is valid for 90 days after you make your purchase. Citi and Visa also offer price protection on select cards.
2. Extended Manufacturer’s Warranty
If you’re inclined to buy an extended warranty from a store or manufacturer, find out what your credit card covers first, and you may never need to purchase an extended warranty again. Most credit cards double the standard one-year manufacturer’s warranty on anything you purchase. Unfortunately, the terms and conditions of the extended warranty differ greatly by issuer. For example, some products have limited coverage or are entirely excluded. To take advantage of the warranty, you typically have to submit a claim with the receipt and the item’s serial number within a certain period of time after your item malfunctions.
3. Dispute Rights
Virtually all credit cards allow you to dispute a payment in the event you have an unresolvable issue with the product or service. As long as your claim is valid and you’ve attempted resolution with the vendor, the credit card company will usually side with you. This will also not affect your good credit score as some people mistakenly think.
Once you submit your written claim and documentation, the bank contacts the vendor on your behalf. The process can be time-consuming, but is often valuable, especially in the event of a large purchase. For instance, I once lost my paper ticket on an international flight and had to purchase an additional fare in order to reach my destination. When I returned home, I disputed the transaction through a credit card chargeback and got the entire fare refunded, which was more than $500.
4. Travel Benefits
Credit cards offer a slew of travel benefits, including discounts on car rentals, free car rental insurance, reimbursement for baggage delays, hotel room upgrades, concierge services, and free travel insurance. Some cards may offer only one or two of these, while others will offer many more. Know which perks your cards offer so you can take advantage of them on your next vacation.
5. Product Protection
If an item you purchased with a credit card is stolen or accidentally damaged, you may be eligible to have the expense reimbursed. Coverage is only good for a limited time after purchase, and the coverage amount is also limited. For example, American Express cards cover as much as $1,000 per occurrence up to 90 days from the purchase date, with a limit of $50,000 per year. Just be sure to hang onto your receipt, and report the damage or loss immediately.
The key to taking advantage of these benefits is to make the purchases you’d like perks for with a credit card that offers them. But don’t assume that each of your cards carries these perks. Check for specific benefits by visiting the issuer’s website, or call the issuer’s help line to speak with a representative.
Furthermore, be sure you understand exactly what types of purchases are eligible for benefits. For example, are any items excluded, and for how long is the benefit available? Are there coverage limits, and what do you have to do to receive the benefit? By determining the limitations and exclusions, as well as the benefits, you can organize which of your credit cards are most advantageous for specific purchases. Then, store the information in your cell phone or wallet for easy access when shopping.
What other credit card benefits have you taken advantage of?
Image: Andres Rueda, via Flickr