Does your credit card give you free airline tickets every year? Does it fix your broken stuff? Does it make sure you're protected in a car accident? While these features may not sound like anything you're getting from your credit card, chances are your card company offers some impressive perks for those who ask for them. Want to find out how to take advantage? Read on to learn more about special deals that you could be getting from your credit card company.
What Can You Get From a Credit Card?
If you're not getting free stuff from your credit card, you should be. While most consumers know the dangers of credit cards, fewer are aware of the benefits. Most cards these days offer at least some benefits to cardholders. As with most things, the more you pay the more you get - in other words, you can expect a lot more from cards with hefty annual fees. (For further reading, check out Take Control of Your Credit Cards.)
But that doesn't mean your low-fee or no-fee cards aren't jam-packed with features. Most cards offer purchase protection of some sort, such as return protection, price protection and extended warranties. These can be great perks that can really add value to your purchases. For example, if your card offers return protection, you automatically get the right to return your purchases even if the store you bought them from doesn't accept returns or your return period has ended. This can be a nice feature, especially if you buy things like electronics or music, which usually have more restrictive return rules.
Price protection is another often-standard feature on many cards. You may have seen commercials from retailers touting the fact that if their price drops on an item within 30 days of your purchase, you'll get a refund for the extra amount you paid. If your card offers price protection, you can make sure you get the best price no matter where you make your purchases.
One of the best features on any credit card is its extended warranty feature. Forget the extended warranty they try to sell you in the store - your credit card will often double the standard warranty on anything you buy with it (typically up to an additional year). For high-ticket items like computers and TVs, the savings from this feature can be substantial if indeed you need a replacement or repairs. (For related reading, see Extended Warranties: Should You Take The Bait?)
Other Types of Insurance
Most people don't think credit cards can protect them in a car accident, but if you're using your card to rent a car, chances are you're entitled to all the secondary insurance coverage you'll need if you bang up your rental.
Event insurance is also a nice thing to have when unexpected circumstances make you cancel a trip or miss an expensive concert. But you don't have to pay for it - many credit cards offer it for free when you use the card to buy your tickets.
And even if you do end up making your trip, don't worry about losing your luggage - that's typically covered by your credit card company too. In fact, traveling is one area where credit card company perks can be a serious help. Roadside assistance and emergency travel assistance are common perks of many credit cards. If you lose your passport or run out of gas, just call the number on the back of your Visa or MasterCard. (To learn more, check out The Basics of Travel Insurance.)
Does an Annual Fee Make Sense?
An annual credit card fee can make sense if what you get from your credit card is of higher value than the fees you pay. When weighing whether the benefits you get from a primo card outweigh the fees, what it really comes down to is spending; unless you plan to run at least a moderate amount of money through your card, you probably won't break even.
Even higher fees could set you up with a more exclusive card. In this case, in addition to the prestige of laying down an exclusive card, you can also get some pretty impressive perks, including companion airline tickets, concierge services, points programs, and VIP access to events and destinations. These higher-end cards tend to have fees that run into the hundreds of dollars, but depending on how you use your card, the perks you receive could make up for the card's hefty price tag. For example, if you sign up for the American Express Platinum Card, which sports a $450 annual fee, companion airline tickets are a nice part of the package. With this card, you can get four free companion tickets on domestic flights each year. If you're a frequent traveler, this could be a very valuable perk. Premium cards also frequently offer access to airline lounges and free hotel and flight upgrades. (To read on, check out Drawbacks of Travel Reward Programs.)
One of the biggest perks you'll find with both premium and standard credit cards is the rewards points program. If you spend a lot of money with your card, it's not difficult to get lots of free items, such as electronics or travel packages from your credit card company. If you own a business or are allowed to sign up for a points program on your corporate credit card, points can be a fantastic way to get something for nothing.
Cashing In On Your Perks
If the wide range of credit card perks are new to you, there's good reason - few people actually use them. It's easy to forget about the mountain of benefits offered by your card, but it's also easy to take advantage of them.
To begin, take a look at the benefits pamphlets that came with your card. If you've lost them, just call the number on the back of your card or look online for details about the features and perks your card provides. (For further reading, check out Watch out for Changes in Credit Card Agreements.)
Don't fail to research what perks your credit card company provides. If you're lucky, they might be a lot more substantial than you expected. At the same time, the benefits you'll get from your card aren't all-encompassing, so it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with the card's limitations before trying to take advantage of one of its programs.
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