Photo (cc) by 401(K) 2013
It’s no secret that credit card issuers advertise promotional offers to get consumers on board. But some also have hidden benefits that can be a big help to you and save you money while doing so.
It’s a must that you look beyond the advertised perks — like an introductory interest rate and bonus rewards — to get a real idea of just how valuable a particular piece of magic plastic may be. Maybe that annual fee isn’t so bad after all.
Here are a few hidden benefits to consider:
1. Price protection
Ever purchased an item you desperately wanted without shopping around first and spotted it at another store a week later for $50 less? If a card has this feature, the credit card issuer will refund you the difference between the two items within a specified period of time if you are unable to return it to the store.
2. Extended warranty
Many stores make a nice chunk of change by selling extended warranties on any and every item that they can. The other day I was asked to buy an extended warranty for $5 on an item that cost only $25. Of course I said no, but did you know that some credit card issuers offer a warranty that will double that of the manufacturer by up to one year?
3. Replacement for stolen or damaged items
The card issuer may replace an item you recently purchased if it’s damaged or stolen within a specified time frame. In some instances, cellphones are covered under this benefit.
4. Extended refund period
Did you purchase an item that you no longer want, but the store refuses to take it back because the return period has lapsed? You may be able to seek a refund from your credit card issuer within 30 to 60 days.
5. Concierge service
It’s almost like having a personal assistant at your disposal, minus the fees. You can call a toll-free number and get instant access to a company representative who can assist you with everyday tasks that may be a bit time-consuming, such as deliveries, travel arrangements and reservations.
So, if you have to head out on a flight in the next 12 hours, but you have yet to book your travel, have flowers delivered to your significant other or make reservations for this evening’s business meeting, this service may be perfect for you.
6. Zero liability for fraud
There’s an ongoing debate regarding credit vs. debit cards. One issue to consider is: Which is safer? I have to agree that the fraud protection on credit cards is far more appealing. I have never run across a credit card that didn’t offer zero fraud liability for unauthorized purchases and a slew of investigation services to go right along with it.
I’m not saying that your local bank doesn’t offer the same, but I’d much rather the thieves take my credit card hostage than my debit card for one obvious reason: Once the cash is gone, it’s gone until the bank makes a decision. And let’s not forget about all the other fees you may incur from bounced checks and delayed transactions.
7. Travel perks
Some credit cards can make your trip more enjoyable, or rescue you from an unpleasant situation when you need it most. Select cards come with free access to travel discounts, upgrades and airport lounges. You may even be able to skip the costly coverage rental car companies try to lure you into buying.
If things take a bad turn and the luggage with your wedding dress in it gets lost or delayed, your credit card may cover you. Check out its travel insurance protections.
8. Entertainment perks
Want awesome seats to your favorite singer’s concert? It may be possible to obtain tickets for preferred seating through your credit card issuer. Both MasterCard and Citi frequently offer exclusive access to special events, sometimes at a discounted rate.
9. Emergency card replacement and cash disbursement
If your card is lost, stolen or damaged, you may be able to receive a replacement card or emergency cash within 24 hours. So, if you’re stranded far away from home and lose your credit card, your card company may be your knight in shining armor.
This benefit saved me a ton of money and headaches just a few short months ago. I waited for three months for a custom product that was supposed to be delivered in 30 days or less. When I received it, I was horrified at what I received, and it wasn’t even safe to operate. Long story short, I contacted my credit card company and requested a chargeback. When it reached out to hear the merchant’s side of the story, the merchant didn’t respond. I ended up not being charged for it.
Word to the wise: If you’re thinking about taking this route, refer to the Fair Credit Billing Act for more details on how it works.
Before attempting to exercise any of these options, it’s important to understand that not all credit cards are created equal, so features may vary by card type and issuer.