The 5 Most Surprising Credit Card Perks

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Everybody knows about cash back or frequent flyer miles, but these perks largely fly under the radar.

Credit card companies offer their customers all sorts of rewards to use their cards. Common rewards include:

Although those rewards are rarely good enough to outweigh the negatives of carrying a credit card balance, they have a lot of value for those who are disciplined and can afford to pay off their balances every month.

But beyond the chance to earn cash back or save up enough frequent flyer miles to go on a trip, credit cards offer a number of additional perks that many cardholders don't know about. In particular, the following five benefits can be extremely valuable -- if you’re aware of them and are able to take full advantage.

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1. Auto insurance for rentals

Whenever you rent a vehicle, your rental car company always tries to sell you costly insurance to cover potential damage from collision, theft, or other loss. But many credit card companies offer insurance coverage when you use their cards to pay for a rental.

The key thing to understand about credit card auto insurance is whether it's primary or secondary. Some cards offer primary insurance that covers you regardless of whether you have a regular auto insurance policy or what that policy covers. However, other cards only offer secondary insurance, which kicks in only after you make a claim with your regular insurance company. Either way, though, having the extra protection can save you a lot of money at the rental car counter.

2. Damage and theft protection

One particularly shocking perk that many credit cards offer is the ability to get money back if an item you purchase is damaged or stolen shortly after you purchase it. A wide variety of card issuers offer protection for 60 to 120 days, and there are typically dollar limits on the maximum amount you can recover per item as well as over the entire period during which you have an account. Some cards are scaling back this feature, though, so it makes sense to see whether a card you're looking at still has the protection you want.

3. Access to special lounges at airports

Getting to visit an airport lounge can help you avoid the crowds and bustle at major airports, and more cards are offering access to airport lounges as an extra perk. Typically, cards that offer airport lounge access are higher-end offerings, many of which come with annual fees. However, if you travel frequently, saving what you'd ordinarily pay to visit a lounge can make up for the cost after just a few trips. Be sure to look at your card's lineup of airports to see if they match up with where you travel the most.

4. Price protection for purchases

Most shoppers have had the unfortunate experience of buying something only to find it a few days later at a much lower price. Credit cards responded to this by offering price protection, which pays you back the difference if a company drops its price on the items you purchased.

Unfortunately, several card companies have started to drop their price protection coverage, citing a general lack of use. Because the perk isn't automatic -- you generally have to do a lot of work to show that the seller cut its price in order to make a claim -- only a tiny fraction of cardholders ever make claims, prompting some companies to turn their attention elsewhere.

5. Extended warranties

Some cards allow you to get a longer period of protection on things you buy that come with warranties. Typical provisions double warranty periods of up to a year or add an additional 12 months to longer warranties of up to three years.

Don't miss out

The problem with these surprising credit card perks is that most cardholders don't even know about them. In most cases, if you don't take specific action to use them, your card company won't give them to you automatically. Only by knowing about and using these perks will you get the full value that your card offers.

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