When it comes to choosing a credit card, miles and points get a lot attention, but many cards offer additional benefits that most cardholders don’t even know about.
“Most cards have a fairly robust list of card member benefits or perks that come along with the card, and most consumers are entirely unaware of them” says Ben Woolsey, director of marketing and consumer research for CreditCards.com. Because these benefits come from the card networks, like Visa and American Express, and not the banks that issue them, they’re not as widely marketed to consumers.
These benefits may not be as sexy as free trips or cash back, but they can come in handy and save you money. All the card networks provide some version of these rewards, but the offerings vary based on which particular card you use. Read on for five reasons you might actually want to read all that fine print that your credit card company sends you.
1. Extended warranties
Buying the extended warranty is not always a smart move for consumers, but many credit card networks offer one gratis to some of their users. The warranties piggyback on the warranties offered by product manufacturers for up to a year and for amounts up to $10,000, although the amount and length of coverage varies by card and by product. “The coverage levels, even for big ticket items, are rpretty phenomenal,” Woolsey says. Most cards won’t cover refurbished items, and software is not typically covered. To take advantage, you’ll need the original receipt, a copy of the manufacturer’s warranty and the credit card statement on which the purchase appears.
2. Price matching guarantees
If you make a purchase and then later see the item advertised at a lower price within 60 to 90 days, some credit card companies will refund the difference to your account, says NerdWallet’s credit guru Anisha Sekarki. Some cards will reimburse the full difference, while others pay up to a set dollar amount or a percentage of the difference. In order get the refund, you’ll need a copy of your receipt, a dated copy of the advertisement for the lower price, and the credit card statement.
3. Roadside assistance
Your credit card may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you have auto trouble, but if your car breaks down, runs out of gas, or you lock your keys in the car, most credit cards will send roadside assistance to help you out. This perk, while convenient, isn’t free. The issuers usually charge you a discounted rate for the service and bill it directly to your credit card. Discover, for example charges $60 per incidence, but covers 24-hour towing, assistance and locksmith services. Despite the cost, if you aren’t signed up for another roadside service program, this benefit’s great to know you have in your back pocket.
4. Car rental insurance
This may be the most well-known perk for cardholders, although the actual benefits are not widely understood. One key caveat: Most of the card-provided insurance becomes void if you opt in to the rental insurance provided by the car rental company. Such coverage can add up to decent savings, considering insurance via the car rental company can cost more than $20 per day. Just like the insurance sold by the rental companies, this is a supplemental insurance that kicks in after your auto insurance to cover things like deductibles and fees. Check with your card issuer first for this one, because some have restrictions on the type of cars that they cover or terrain on which you’re driving. Most cards, for example, don’t extend the coverage to SUVs and have benefit restrictions on some countries.
5. Overseas savings
Credit cards often offer a better exchange rate on overseas purchases than you can find elsewhere. “Just use your card for purchases, and you’ll get the best rate, and you don’t have to waste the time exchanging money at a physical bank. Plus, you’re not exchanging more money than you need to,” says Jon Kiernan, a senior analyst with CardHub.com. A study released last month by CardHub found that on average credit cards save consumers 7.1 percent relative to bank conversion services and 15.5 percent relative to the conversion kiosks at airports.
Before you book your trip, look for a card that includes no foreign-transaction fees (Visa and MasterCard are the most widely accepted cards overseas), which at up to 3 percent each, can add up to a hefty portion of your vacation budget. Even transactions made from the states but processed overseas, such as those with an international hotel, could draw the fees.