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Don't Overpay for Perks

There's just some stuff that should be free. A decent-sized cup of water at the movies is one. Here are four other should-be-freebies you've probably been offered by your lender. Trust us, keep your money in your wallet.

Credit insurance: This "perk" preys on fear and is as necessary as a bee suit in Alaska. For an exorbitant premium, the insurer agrees to make minimum payments on your debt should you become unable to. You'll pay $13 a month to get a credit protection plan for a $2,000 balance. The laws of probability -- and the Federal Trade Comission -- are on your side anyway. And they're free.

Preferred member status: They send you a sticker to put on your card, and automatically, you're eligible for discounts at dozens of restaurants. Funny how the yearly fee doesn't show up until after you unwittingly use this perk. Before using the sticker -- or agreeing to an upgrade -- ask to see the price tag and make sure the perks are ones that you'll actually use. "Cash back" sound like something you could use? Nowadays, you can get this perk without paying an annual fee. (Heck, we offer our own Foolish cash-back card. Compare it to other offers and see if it passes muster.)

Upgrades to Gold, Silver, Platinum, or Angora status: Though cards with higher precious-metal factors have some advantages, there's probably no reason to pay for an upgrade if you have a decent credit record. In time, if you are a good borrower, you'll qualify for more extended moolah anyways.

Extra "conveniences": "Convenience checks" carry conveniently high fees and interest rates. Plus, most of them do not include a grace period, so you start incurring interest the moment you cash the check. Also, beware of any promotional offer sent to you by your lender. Read the fine print, because in the lending industry, there's rarely a free lunch.

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