Published in: Credit Cards | July 5, 2019

8 Credit Card Benefits You May Be Overlooking

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Credit cards offer lots of benefits. Are you taking full advantage of the cards in your wallet?

Smiling couple holding a credit card and paperwork.Image source: Getty Images

If you have a credit card in your wallet, you probably have at least some idea of how the rewards program works. And you may have earned a bonus for spending as a new account holder.

But rewards and a new cardmember bonus aren’t the only perks most credit cards offer. While features and perks vary from one card to another, many cards offer additional benefits that can be very valuable -- if you know about them and take advantage of them.

Unfortunately, some cardholders simply are unaware of all the features their cards offer, causing them to miss out on valuable perks. To help make sure you aren’t foregoing some of the perks your card offers, here’s a list of eight credit card benefits that are commonly overlooked.

1. Cell phone protection

Cell phones have become ridiculously expensive and theft or damage to your phone can mean you’re out hundreds of dollars. But if your credit card offers cell phone protection, you won’t have to worry about how to pay if something goes wrong with your phone.

Cell phone protection policies vary by card. Some credit cards provide coverage for cell phones under general purchase protection plans and coverage is available only for a limited time after you buy your phone. Others will cover your phone indefinitely as long as you pay your phone bill with your credit card.

Cell phone purchase protection policies typically have deductibles, caps on how much you can recover, and limits on the number of times you can make a damage or theft claim within a year. But they can still reimburse you hundreds of dollars when something goes wrong with your phone. So next time you have an issue with your mobile device, be sure to check with your card to see if you’re covered.

2. Purchase protection

Purchase protection is a little bit broader than just cell phone insurance. It covers most products you buy for a set period of time after purchase -- usually around 90 to 120 days. Depending on your card, you could be covered if the new item is damaged, stolen, or even if you lose it. Your card might reimburse you for replacement or for repair of the item.

While most consumer items you buy are protected with purchase protection, creditors commonly have some exclusions -- such as not covering motorized vehicles, perishable items, plants, or live animals. There are also per-claim and aggregate limits, and you may be required to make claims through other insurance first that could cover the loss, such as your homeowners insurance.

Still, if you incur damage, lose an item, or something you bought on your card was stolen, it’s worth checking to see if purchase protection will cover you. If your card reimburses you several hundred or several thousand dollars -- or pays to repair your item to new condition -- you’ll be very glad you had this benefit.

3. Extended warranties

There’s nothing worse than buying electronics, appliances, or other expensive items and having them break shortly after the manufacturer warranty expires. The good news is, there are some credit cards that extend the manufacturer warranty for an additional year or two for any items you purchase on your card.

Many credit card companies won’t provide extended warranties for certain items, such as computers. And extended warranties usually apply only to items that came with an original manufacturer warranty. Per-claim and aggregate limits also apply, and you’ll need to provide documentation such as original purchase receipts and copies of the manufacturer warranty.

While you may have to jump through a few hoops to get your claim paid, it’s far better than having to pay for repairs on an almost-new item. Plus, if you have extended warranty protection through your credit card issuer, you won’t have to pay for extended warranties through the store or manufacturer and can decline this coverage when it’s offered.  

4. Price protection

Have you ever bought an item only to have the price fall a short time after? This can leave you feeling as though you wasted a lot of money. If your credit card has price protection, you could potentially get reimbursed for the difference between what you spent and the new lowered price.

Price protection policies provide reimbursement if the price falls within a set period of time on an item you charged on your card. Usually you can get reimbursed if the price fell within around 60 to 120 days.

Of course, like with many of the other protections on this list, there are limits on the number of times you can make a price protection claim as well as limits on the amount you can be reimbursed when prices decline.

5. Car rental insurance

If you’ve ever rented a vehicle, you’ve been offered insurance coverage to protect you from financial loss in case the vehicle is damaged or stolen. This insurance can add to the cost of renting a car. It’s also usually not necessary if your credit card provides auto rental insurance coverage.

Many credit cards provide insurance for damage or theft of your rental car if you charge the car on your card. This insurance could be secondary insurance that covers you only if your auto insurer doesn’t. You should read the fine print to find out exactly what is covered, but in many cases the coverage is comprehensive enough that you can decline the insurance the rental company is offering you.

6. Trip interruption or cancelation coverage

When trips are interrupted or canceled because of health issues, weather, natural disasters, or other catastrophic events, you may be out a lot of money -- especially if your tickets were nonrefundable.

Fortunately, many cards provide you with coverage in case something goes wrong and you can’t go on your trip or your vacation has to be cut short. This feature is especially common on travel cards, and it can reimburse you for things like canceled plane tickets or ticket change fees, tours you prepaid for but can’t take, or hotel deposits you lost.

The specifics of when you’re covered and what types of expenses will be reimbursed vary by card. If something goes wrong with your vacation, always check with your card issuer to see if they’ll help you to recover some of the costs incurred because of the interruption or cancelation of your trip.

7. Lost baggage coverage

When your bags are lost or delayed on your way to a destination, you may have to buy new clothing or toiletry items to get you through. If your bags are permanently lost, you have to replace everything you’d brought with you on your trip.

Airlines should provide some coverage, but there are limits. Credit cards can supplement this coverage or pay for things airlines won’t. Depending on your card’s terms and conditions, you might be reimbursed for toiletries and clothing you have to buy as a result of a baggage delay, or paid for the value of items that were lost when your suitcase was misplaced -- up to maximum limits that vary by card.

8. Return protection

Some stores don’t have very good return policies or make it really difficult to get refunds on items you’re dissatisfied with. If you have return protection on your credit card, you won’t need to worry about that.

Return protection provides reimbursement for a set period of time -- such as 90 days from the time you bought an item on your card -- if the merchant won’t take back the item. In most cases, you’re reimbursed for the item only, but not for shipping and handling you may have paid.

Typically the item you’re trying to return must be in the same condition as when you bought it. There are some exclusions on the types of products covered, as well as limits on the value of your returned items with most cards. And you are often required to provide the receipt. Still, if you’ve changed your mind about a purchase and the merchant won’t take it back, reach out to your card to find out if you can recover your money through return protection.

What benefits does your card offer that you aren’t taking advantage of?

Since cardholder benefits can vary from one card to another, it’s important you research the specific benefits your card offers to figure out which perks are available to you. To find out about special protections and services your card offers, contact your credit card company via phone and ask or read your card’s terms and conditions. Be sure to pay attention to all the details so you can find out not just which benefits your card offers but also how to claim them so you can make sure to hang on to any paperwork that may be required.

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