Stuck on the highway? Cracked your iPhone screen? When you’re in a bind, the last place people think to turn for help is their credit card. But it turns out credit cards offer plenty of benefits that can help you solve your problem. From purchase protection to roadside assistance, here are a few of the clever ways to put your plastic to work. Not carrying a card yet but want to apply? It’s a good idea to see where your credit stands first, as this will give you a sense of whether you’ll qualify. (You can view two of your free credit scores on Credit.com.)
1. Balance-Transfer Fees
There was a time when credit card issuers gave out 0% APR balance transfers like it was going out of style. Most credit cards offering interest-free promotional financing tack on a 3% or 5% fee to whatever amount is being transferred. Fortunately, some cards like Chase Slate offer 15 months of 0% APR financing on new purchases and balance transfers alike, with no fee for transfers — that is, as long as they’re made within 60 days of opening the card. QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards from Capital One also features 0% APR on balance transfers for nine months, with no balance-transfer fees.
2. Broken Cell Phone
Broke your cell phone? You can rest easy if you’re a Wells Fargo customer. Cardholders who use the plastic to pay their phone bills get up to $600 in protection (subject to a $25 deductible). The coverage does not apply to lost phones, but your phone is protected against damage or theft.
3. Car Accidents
Representatives trying to sell additional insurance at the rental car office are a given in this day and age. But chances are your credit card already offers this type of coverage, known as a collision damage waiver. Find out the terms and what is excluded since not every luxury car (or country) may qualify.
4. Criminal Offenses
If you’re in a foreign country and encounter an emergency due to a civil or criminal offense, your credit card may be able to help. American Express’s Platinum Travel Assistance, for instance, puts you in touch with a lawyer in the country in which you are traveling and will advance you up to $10,000 per trip to cover any legal or bail fees. Just be forewarned the fees will show up as a charge on your Platinum Card, so you should use this perk very sparingly.
5. Dinner Plans
Need help turning up some critical information or to arrange a guided tour through the Andes Mountains? Whether you’re in a fix or just need someone who speaks French to reserve a table, credit card concierge services can help. All cards that fall under the Visa Signature and World Mastercard umbrellas offer this perk, as well as most of the cards issued by American Express.
6. Flat Tires
Running on empty? Don’t fret, many credit cards come with roadside assistance policies that work like an automative club. Typically, they’ll help you change a flat, tow your car for a limited distance or jump-start a battery. While some, like Discover, have done away with this feature, others like the American Express Premier Rewards Gold and Platinum cards still offer Premium Roadside Assistance.
7. Expired Warranties
If an item’s on the fritz and the warranty’s run out, your credit card may be able to get you a replacement at no extra cost. That’s because Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express all offer free extended warranties for products purchased with their plastic. Some even add an extra year of warranty coverage to the item.
8. Price Changes
When the price of a purchased item dips, you can often qualify for a refund so long as you find the price in a print advertisement (certain sales and online listings are excluded). Citi’s Price Rewind program automatically refunds registered products when a price drop is found within 60 days while other programs, like Discover and MasterCard, require cardholders to submit proof of written advertisements. (Full Disclosure: Citibank advertises on Credit.com, but that results in no preferential editorial treatment.)
9. Stolen Items
Lost your bags? We’ve been there. Luckily, many credit cards offer purchase protection for items lost due to theft or an accident. As an example, the Discover it card covers purchases up to $500 if they’re damaged or stolen within 90 days of purchase.
10. Travel Accidents
Whether you’re seeing the world by plane, bus, train or ship, most credit cards should have you covered. American Express Platinum Card members are automatically covered at no additional charge for up to $500,000 in Travel Accident Insurance while CapitalOne cardholders get automatic insurance for loss of life or limb, at no extra cost, when they use the card to purchase their fare.
11. Trip Cancellations
If your trip gets canceled or interrupted for reasons like sickness, injury or severe weather, your credit card should have your back. Select Citi cards can help you recover non-refundable expenses while Chase Sapphire Preferred reimburses customers up to $10,000 per trip for pre-paid, non-refundable travel expenses.
At publishing time, the American Express Premier Rewards Gold and Platinum cards, as well as Chase Slate, Discover it and QuicksilverOne Cash from Capital One are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com will be compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards. However, this relationship does 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.