Chase Freedom® credit cards offer more than just a sign-up bonus. One of the cards' biggest features is price protection, which reimburses cardholders for price drops up to 90 days after original purchase. This benefit is particularly valuable on big-ticket items like electronics or toys, which are often advertised at vastly different prices from retailer to retailer.

How price protection can save you money

Price protection reimburses cardholders when an item they purchase is advertised at a lower price within 90 days of purchase. For example, if you purchase a TV for $500 and see it advertised for $300 later, you can make a price protection claim to receive a $200 reimbursement.

Similarly, if you pay $600 for an iPhone with Chase Freedom Unlimited® and the price drops because a new iPhone is released shortly thereafter, you can make a claim for the difference in price.

You need some very basic information to make a price protection claim:

  • Receipt for the item you bought
  • Card statement showing the purchase
  • Advertisement showing the lower price -- including a printed advertisement at any retail store or a nonauction internet advertisement (printing out an Amazon page works)
A man and woman carrying shopping bags in a lit-up shopping plaza

Image source: Getty Images.

How much can you save?

Price protection offered by credit cards is always subject to a cap, which limits claims on a per-item and per-account basis. In this case, Chase Freedom® and Chase Freedom Unlimited® have two different caps on claims:

  • $500 per item ($2,500 per card account per year) when prices are part of an ordinary sale
  • $50 per item ($150 per card account per year) for "cash only, close-out, liquidation and going-out-of-business sales"

Importantly, price protection only covers up to the amount you charged to the card. Thus, if you put part of the purchase price on a gift card and cover the rest with the credit card, you can only be reimbursed for the amount charged to the credit card. For this reason, it's a good idea to put the full purchase on a credit card if you anticipate making a price protection claim in the future.

Some sales prices are excluded

Price protection doesn't cover certain sales events, where large discounts are one-off events rather than ordinary discounts. The benefits guide for Chase Freedom® and Chase Freedom Unlimited® specifically outlines which sales prices don't qualify:

  • Advertisements for flea markets, fire sales, limited quantity promotions, seasonal sales, or auctions.
  • Advertisements of sales of seasonal or discontinued items including, but not limited to, holiday decorations, clothes, or costumes.

Most of these exclusions are reasonable, if not entirely expected (it would be unreasonable to assume that you can get price protection on a Christmas tree because of a sale event on Dec. 26). 

The big thing here is the "limited-quantity promotions" exclusion. This means that if a retailer only advertises a lower price for the first few shoppers, or only carries a few items in stock, that price won't qualify for a price protection claim.

Discover is widely loved among bargain hunters because its price protection feature specifically covers limited-quantity promotions, a category that generally includes the deeply discount prices that you see on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. If you think an item will be advertised in a limited-quantity sales event like Black Friday or Cyber Monday, Discover's line up of cards offers better protection.

Not all purchases qualify

As a general rule of thumb, price protection is a benefit designed to cover items that have an easily determined price or value. Thus, it doesn't protect you from changes in prices on things like animals, jewelry, or cell phone contracts, which can have slight differences in terms or quality that result in vastly different prices.

That said, price protection generally covers most ordinary consumer goods purchases, particularly items that are commonly bought as gifts for the holidays.

The exhaustive list of excluded items is as follows:

  • Animals and living plants
  • Boats, automobiles, and any other motorized vehicles and their motors, equipment, and accessories
  • Cell phone service agreements and cell phone contracts
  • Items advertised or shown as price quotes and bids or final sale amounts from a nonauction internet site
  • Items returned to any store and layaway items
  • Items previously owned, sold "as is," and refurbished items
  • Items purchased for resale, professional, or commercial use
  • Items purchased outside of the United States
  • Jewelry, antiques, collectible items, rare or one-of-a-kind items, special-order items, custom items, and tailored items
  • Manufacturer or merchant rebates
  • Perishables, services, consumables, and limited-life items including, but not limited to, rechargeable batteries
  • Price differences involving manufacturer and/or merchant rebates, shipping and handling fees, and sales tax, if any, are not covered by the price protection benefit
  • Traveler's checks, cash, tickets, credit or debit cards, and any other negotiable instruments

This list was sourced directly from the Chase Freedom® and Chase Freedom Unlimited® benefits guide. 

Realistically, this list seems rather long, but every item not included here is generally excluded from the price protection policies of virtually every other card issuer. And for good reason -- it's pretty darn hard to figure out whether a golden retriever puppy you bought for $1,200 is the same as a golden retriever advertised for $800, for example.

The bottom line on price protection

Price protection is an awesome credit card perk that few people know about and even fewer use. In my own experience, making a claim is easy, particularly for products purchased online, since I could simply pull a receipt from my online accounts to make the claim. I'm not so sure it's worth the effort to hunt through crumpled receipts to save $2 on socks, though.

Ultimately, if you're organized enough to save receipts for large purchases, and dedicated enough to look for bargains after you have already made the purchase, you can extract a lot of value from this often-overlooked credit card perk.

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Jordan Wathen has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.