Get 'Em While You Can: 5 Perks Credit Card Companies Are Cutting

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These benefits could be here today, gone tomorrow.

These benefits could be here today, gone tomorrow.

Most of the talk surrounding credit cards is about the rewards and benefits they offer. And even though card issuers have come up with plenty of new perks, it's not all good news. Recently, they've also been cutting back on some of the most valuable and useful benefits.

Which perks should you make the most of while you can? Here are five that credit card companies have either been downgrading or getting rid of entirely.

1. Upfront sign-up bonuses

Sign-up bonuses are the fastest way to earn points or cash back, but that also means they're extra expensive for the card issuer.

In the past, card issuers didn't mind offering big sign-up bonuses, such as 100,000 points if you spend $4,000 or $5,000 in the first three months. Even though it cost them money, it was outweighed by the value of a new cardholder.

The problem was that some consumers would take advantage by opening a card, getting the sign-up bonus, and then just never use the card again. Those cardholders provide little value to credit card companies and can even cost them money.

Although sign-up bonuses are still popular, card issuers have been reducing how much they offer in upfront bonuses. Bonuses are half of what they once were on some cards. And with others, bonuses have larger spending minimums that you must meet within a year, instead of smaller minimums you can reach in a matter of months.

2. Purchase protections

Most of the biggest credit card companies have cut or reduced purchase protections from at least some of their cards in the past year. If you're unfamiliar with purchase protections, they can include:

  • Price protection
  • Coverage for theft, loss, or damage to recent purchases
  • Extended warranty coverage
  • Return coverage

These are all considered side benefits. They can come in handy on occasion, but you probably won't need them often, and they certainly aren't the main selling points of a card.

That's also part of why they've been getting axed. A very small portion of cardholders use these perks, so credit card companies can cut them and save money without facing too much backlash.

3. Travel protections

Travel protections are another side benefit that credit cards may not have for much longer. This category includes:

  • Rental car insurance
  • Trip cancellation/interruption insurance
  • Delayed luggage reimbursement

Although cardholders don't file claims through their travel protections often, these protections do provide peace of mind. For example, if you know your credit card has its own rental car insurance, you're less pressured to accept that $20-per-day add-on when you rent a car.

You can still get benefits like these on several popular travel cards, but they're no longer a given.

4. Airport lounge access

While airport lounge access should remain a standard feature for premium credit cards, this benefit has been going downhill.

Many credit cards with airport lounge access used to let cardholders bring in as many guests as they wanted and visit an unlimited number of lounges. Credit card companies have since limited the guests a cardholder is entitled to, and in some cases, they've also limited the number of lounge visits each cardholder gets per year.

This benefit is being hit from both sides. The lounges themselves are also putting stricter rules on who can enter and at what times of day. It used to be easy to access airport lounges, but many now restrict the hours that people can enter using their credit card perks. Passengers accessing the lounge through a business or first-class ticket, on the other hand, can do so at any time.

5. Annual fee waivers

Despite the fact that annual fee amounts have been increasing, rewards credit cards are more popular than ever with consumers. That's likely one reason why some card issuers have decided they don't need to offer annual fee waivers on their most popular cards.

An annual fee waiver is a nice way to get all a card's benefits for one year without needing to pay for them, but unfortunately, this is being offered on fewer and fewer cards. Credit card companies seem to have realized that consumers will still be interested even if they need to pay an annual fee from the beginning.

Perks can change at a moment's notice

So what does all this mean for you as a consumer?

Credit cards certainly haven't become useless. Even those that have lost some benefits can still provide excellent value.

You should, however, keep an eye on any changes to the benefits your cards offer. If the card issuer removes or changes any features that are important to you, then it may be time to shop around.

And if you're currently in the process of searching for a new credit card, act fast when you find one you like. Sometimes getting a card at the right time can make a big difference in how valuable it is for you.

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