[Update: Some offers mentioned below have expired. You can view the current offers from our partners if available here — Visa Signature, MasterCard World, Starwood Preferred Guest, American Express Gold Card, Platinum Card. Disclosure: Cards from our partners are mentioned below.]
If you’re like most people, about now you are wishing winter would end — and dreaming of a summer vacation. And maybe you are beginning to budget for it.
Some people may be comparing rewards cards to see where they can get the most miles or money back — but what if you don’t want to do that? What if you’d rather just keep the cards you have, and not add a new credit line? You probably still can save some money (or make your money go farther) if you familiarize yourself with the benefits you just didn’t know you have. First, take a look at the cards in your wallet.
Got a Visa Signature Card?
If your Visa is a Signature card, it will say so somewhere on the card. Here are some of the benefits the Signature cards offer travelers.
If you use the card to rent a car, you will get supplemental insurance coverage at no additional cost. If you use the card to purchase plane tickets, you get an automatic $250,000 in travel accident insurance. Looking for restaurant reservations in a city you’re unfamiliar with? It has a 24/7 concierge service.
If your vacation is more kid-centered, you can take advantage of the $5 off a Pizza Hut pizza ordered online or 20% off Legoland tickets. There are also other benefits not related to travel that you may not know about — buying with one of these cards extends a manufacturer’s warranty, for example. Other offers vary, but often include hotel updates or free extra nights. It’s well worth checking.
What About MasterCard?
Similar offers are available from a MasterCard World or World Elite card. You likely have 24-hour concierge service, similar car rental and flight insurance, plus discounts on some attractions and help finding tickets.
Both cards offer some help if things didn’t go the way you planned — from lost luggage, hotel room burglary to roadside emergencies.The biggest and best benefits go to holders of World Elite MasterCards. So if you have more than one MasterCard in your wallet, that’s the one to look for.
Or American Express…
American Express has reinvented itself many times since 1850, when it started off as a delivery service. It entered the travel business in the 1920s, specializing in luxury steamboat travel. Later its travelers checks proved popular. About 100 years after it was founded, American Express issued its first credit card. But the travel part of American Express has remained strong.
If you have an American Express card in your wallet, you may also be able to enjoy some travel benefits. The cards it specifically advertises for travel are its Platinum Card, American Express Gold Card, Platinum Delta Skymiles Card and Starwood Preferred Guest by American Express. Benefits vary, but include such perks as a private airport lounge, points toward air travel or hotel stays, concierge service and more. But even if you do not have those travel-specific cards, you likely have rental car protection and roadside assistance benefits — or you may receive cash rebates for money you spend on travel or dining out.
It’s important to remember that just because a credit card is branded for travelers, doesn’t necessarily mean it will get you the best cash-back deal for travel. Before you make that plane reservation, check to see if you have a card that offers more perks for that purchase.
But also be aware that most offers contain restrictions, and be sure you read the fine print. Also, recheck just before you use the card — and see if you have to register your card or do anything special to ensure you get the discount or coverage you expect. If you will be required to file paperwork, make sure you know how to do that as well. It takes a little time to check credit card benefits, but doing so could potentially save you time, money and frustration down the road.
As you take advantage of your credit card benefits, it’s important that you stay within a budget. Ideally, you would charge what you can pay in full in the next billing period, or at least carry a balance of no more than 30% of your available credit line (10% is even better), as using more than that may have a negative effect on your credit scores. You can keep an eye on how your spending affects your credit scores by monitoring them over time, which you can do for free using a tool like the Credit Report Card.
At publishing time, Visa Signature, MasterCard World, Starwood Preferred Guest, American Express Gold Card and Platinum Card are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for these cards. However, these relationships do not result in any preferential editorial treatment.
Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.