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Financial Education

The Best Credit Card Perks You’re Probably Not Using

Seasoned traveler calmly looking at his credit card in one hand while dialing a number with his cell phone in the other hand.
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If you are like most credit card users, you’re probably well aware of the points, miles, or cash back offers attached to them. (It’s hard not to be, with all of the advertising out there.) What you may not know about are other hidden perks that provide protection, assistance, convenience, and experiences that apply regardless of how much you spend each month. And they are “hidden” simply because, like most cardholders, you probably didn’t read the full booklet of benefits and services that came with your card. Some of these perks can add value to your everyday purchases; others may help you in unexpected situations (i.e., when you need them most). Below are some of the best credit card perks you’re probably not using:

Shopping protection

Even if you shop all the time, you may not be aware of the shopping benefits attached to credit cards, like price protection and warrantees.

Manufacturers and retailers may offer limited warranties on purchases (…which often seem to expire just before your purchase breaks). Most credit cards will double that warranty up to one year, giving you much-needed peace of mind. Price protection—in which customers can get a refund on a purchase if the price of the item goes down—is also something many retailers offer, but on a very limited time basis, typically one to two weeks. Credit cards may offer up to 60-day price protection for the same item.

There may be additional benefits retailers won’t even consider, such as purchase assurance, which will cover lost or stolen items within 90 days of the purchase; or even a 60-day satisfaction guarantee, should you simply be dissatisfied with your purchase and the store won’t accept a return.

Fraud & identity protection

Fraud and identity theft are an ever-growing concern, and if you’ve ever had to deal with either issue, you know how distressing they can be. Many cards offer identity theft services for an extra cost; others may provide limited services for no charge, like: scouring the web for signs that your identity has been compromised and alerting you immediately; expert staff to help guide you through a resolution; and representatives to help replace the contents of a lost or stolen wallet quickly (including replacing the credit card).

Another growing problem is credit card fraud, though chip technology has mitigated some of the reported instances (Mastercard reported a 54% reduction in fraud costs from April 2015 to April 2016 thanks to chip technology). Still, it’s a growing concern: Experian reported that exposed credit card information increased by 88% last year. Credit cards that offer zero liability protection provide some assurance by limiting your liability for unauthorized purchases. (Purchases are protected under the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA), so your liability for unauthorized transactions made before you report a lost or stolen card is limited to $50.) Advanced fraud detection systems alert you to potential issues and may put a temporary freeze on the account until you contact your financial institution. In some cases, your financial institution may question legitimate purchases (especially when traveling), which may be a slight inconvenience, but it can be cleared up with a simple phone call or text, and it’s much easier than having to deal with unauthorized purchases on your account.

Travel protection

Between packing, verifying proper travel documents, and making sure flights are on time and getting to the airport, travel can be stressful. The last thing you want are any additional problems or expenses. Sometimes these things happen, and your credit card most likely comes with helpful services to help mitigate these situations:

Bags can get lost, damaged, or put on the wrong flight, ending up on the other side of the country (or world). There is no way to completely eliminate the inconveniences of lost or delayed luggage, but your credit card may entitle you to benefits to cover the cost of replacing luggage and lost items, and even reimbursement for essential items you may need to purchase if your luggage is delayed.

Beyond that, your card may provide access to roadside assistance services, protection for rental car damage or theft, reimbursement for items stolen from your hotel room, and accidental death or dismemberment insurance for you and your family, along with legal and medical referrals if they become necessary, even for simple things like prescription refills.

Lastly, while airlines and travel agencies offer trip protection insurance, most people don’t bother with it, assuming the chances are so slim that they don’t want to waste the money. As part of your travel protection services, you may have trip cancellation insurance that covers any non-refundable cancellations. It can also cover change fees and accommodation costs associated with travel delays most airlines won’t cover.

Personal travel assistance

The services above are all meant to protect you and help you manage your finances effectively, while helping to ease difficult situations. But there may also be be travel perks.

Travel advisors can help plan your trip, including providing information on local transportation, required documents, currency exchanges, and immunization requirements. You may even be eligible for preferred amenities at many properties around the world, like room upgrades, early check-in and late check-out, complimentary breakfast, transportation between the airport and hotel, and more.

Airport concierge services may also be available (potentially for an added fee). If you’re an inexperienced traveler or have a large family, you may benefit from a personal agent to escort you through your airport experience, from curbside drop-off all the way to the gate.

Exclusive experiences

You may also have access to deals and experiences locally and abroad, like fine-dining discounts, access to sporting events and concerts, or exclusive shopping experiences. Some cards even offer free two-day shipping on purchases from a network of retailers.

Now that you have an idea of some of the less-advertised credit card perks, be sure to find out exactly which ones apply to your card. If you don’t have your cardmember agreement handy, you may find your benefits through your online account; or, call the customer service number on the back of the card to find out how to get the information. When it comes time to use any of your benefits, call your credit card company for instructions on how to proceed.

Remember: You applied for your credit card for a reason. These additional perks are part of your package and, while you may not need too many of them, take the time to learn about them in case you do. Knowing about these hidden perks can help you make the most of your credit card and turn it into a financial tool, above and beyond simply providing access to a line of credit. 

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CUNA 2023 Diamond Award Winner

Financial Education

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