Figuring out your credit card’s interest rate and what some of the card’s best perks are should be easy. Both should be listed in promotional material, with the interest rate also listed in a separate contract and on billing statements.
Other information, such as the numerous perks offered, may not be as easy to find. And some benefits aren’t really beneficial, coming with hidden costs that make the credit card features more hassle than they’re worth.
Here’s a quick guide to some of the best, and worst, credit card perks that you may not know you have through your credit card. If you’re unsure if you have them, either call your credit card provider or try to find the credit card agreement that long ago came with the card. If you didn’t toss it in the garbage, you may have filed it deep wherever you keep important documents. The document may also be on your credit card issuer’s website.
5 Credit Card Perks You Should Take Advantage of
1. Purchase protection
This isn’t the same as price protection, which many credit card companies are getting rid of after a slew of apps made it easier for consumers to collect the difference if a lower price is found for something they bought on a credit card.
With purchase protection, if something you’ve bought is stolen or damaged, the credit card company may reimburse you for the cost if you bought it within the last three to four months.
It can require some paperwork, however. You’ll likely need a receipt and your credit card statement showing the purchase. A stolen item will require a police report, and you may have to file a claim with your insurance company before collecting from the credit card issuer.
2. Extended warranty
Like some other perks on this list, an extended warranty that’s included when buying something with a credit card can be free instead of paying for it from the original seller.
A one-year warranty is often added to the manufacturer’s warranty when buying appliances or other electronics with a credit card, making buying one from the store an unnecessary expense.
Just keep your receipt and if something goes wrong with the item, file a claim with your credit card company. It will decide whether to replace, repair or reimburse you for it. Normal wear and tear may not be covered, and not all items will be protected.
3. Car rental insurance
Car rental companies will almost always ask you at the counter if you want to buy their supplemental insurance. It can be expensive and can cost more than the rental price.
Renting a car with a major credit card, which almost all car rental companies require, will often automatically give you rental car insurance. There may be plenty of restrictions on the coverage, so check with your credit card company for details.
4. Lost luggage protection
Another travel benefit is up to $3,000 in coverage, for example, for checked or carry-on luggage that is lost or stolen if you’ve bought your plane ticket with your credit card. The coverage is secondary to any primary insurance you may have, such as travel insurance, or to any reimbursement the airline offers.
Be prepared to file some paperwork. Filing a claim can include a copy of the credit card statement with your airline seat purchase, boarding pass, checked luggage tags and receipts for expensive items such as cameras that were in your luggage.
5. Concert tickets
Presale concert tickets are available to some credit cardholders. They may not be cheaper than what everyone else gets when tickets go on sale, but you’ll get the first chance to buy popular shows before it’s sold out or all of the good seats are gone.
To stay on top of these offers, check your credit card’s website for updates and if you can subscribe to email alerts when new shows are about to go on sale.
5 Credit Card Features to Avoid
1. Blank checks
Every once in a while your credit card issuer may send you blank checks, also called convenience checks, that may be convenient but they can cost you money in the long run. Rip them up and throw them away.
They often offer zero-percent interest on balance transfers, and also offer cash advances. The balance transfers will be free for six months or so, but then high interest rates of 3-5 percent can kick in.
If you use one of the checks to pay some bills, the cash advance can have a high APR of 25-36 percent, along with a transaction fee.
2. Free balance transfers
As with blank checks, a zero-percent balance transfer can be worthwhile if you use it wisely. It can allow you to pay off a debt without interest. However, they may charge a fee for this service, along with interest on the original balance if not paid off before the free loan expires.
3. ATM cash advances
You can use a credit card to withdraw cash from an ATM, but don’t do it. It may cost more than using a credit card’s convenience checks, such as through a cash advance transaction fee and a high APR if you carry over the amount borrowed. Withdrawing only $20 can result in big fees, such as a minimum fee of $10 or 3-5 percent of the full transaction, whichever is greater.
4. Gift card rewards
Some credit cards let customers buy merchandise and gift cards with reward points. Check the value of these items, which may be a lot less than what you’d get for using rewards points for travel or cash back.
For example, 50,000 rewards points could get you $350 worth of gift cards, or $500 in airline tickets. Do the math and check which option gets you the most value for your points.
5. Reward transfers
Also do the math before transferring rewards points to another hotel or airline loyalty program. Some earned points don’t lose any value on a transfer, but others require more rewards when converting them into another program.
If you’re just short of getting an airline ticket or hotel stay, it may be worth it to transfer some rewards points from your credit card. Or it may be more worthwhile to buy the extra points.
If you’re thinking of using any of the above credit card perks, check with your credit card provider first to make sure they haven’t changed since you opened the card. You don’t want you thought was a benefit to turn into an expense.