A Guide to Credit Card Benefits

Brendan Harkness

Brendan Harkness

Updated Sep 13, 2016

Credit cards typically come with a set of additional benefits, extra features to assist with making purchases, traveling, or just to make life easier in general. Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover all offer a suite of benefits to accompany their cards, but each card will have its own set of specific services.

The issuer of the card may also provide some benefits as well. For example, a Visa card issued by Capital One may have some or all of the benefits Visa offers. It could also have some other benefits provided by Capital One.

It’s important to read the literature that comes with your credit card so you fully understand the range of benefits you are entitled to, helping you get the most out of your card. Did you know, for instance, that Discover cardmembers can access the Shop Discover shopping portal, and get 5-20% off at a large number of retailers? Don’t miss out on everything your card has to offer.

Card networks design their cards with different tiers. Visa cards come in both Visa and Visa Signature, while MasterCard comes in Platinum MasterCard, World MasterCard, World Elite MasterCard, etc. Higher levels mean a greater number of more valuable benefits.

Below is an approximate listing of the benefits provided by Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover. Keep in mind that any particular card may not come with the full range of features, and it’s always good to check with your issuer if you have any questions.

Insider Tip: Check your card’s Guide to Benefits to learn the exact benefits that come with your card, or contact customer service.

Understanding “Hidden” Credit Card Benefits

Credit cards can also offer a host of other perks, about which many cardholders are clueless. While these so-called “hidden” benefits have the ability to save cardholders a lot of money, it’s important to note that the benefits will only apply to eligible purchases. Discovering available benefits and ensuring that you’re eligible to claim those benefits can be a little tricky, but certainly not impossible.

To learn about all of the benefits available through your credit card account the best place to start is by reading the fine print. A cardholder can request a list of benefits or a copy of his entire credit card agreement from his credit card issuer, both of which should detail any and all available cardholder perks.

Credit Card Shopping Benefits

Credit cards typically come with a set of benefits that are rarely advertised and spoken about, compared to features like cash back, miles, introductory offers, and interest rates. Behind these features, many cards also come with additional protections and services that, while useful, are largely ignored by most people.

Shopping benefits are meant to increase your confidence and sense of security while shopping, offering you the chance to get your money back if you find lower prices, if the item breaks, or if you need to bring it back. The details of any particular benefit will change depending on the card; contact your issuer for a detailed explanation of the specific benefits that come with your card.

Price Protection

Price protection services are designed to help you get the most out of your money. If you buy an item which is later advertised for a lesser price, you can be reimbursed for the difference in price. Different cards will have different limits on the amount of money that can be refunded for an individual purchase, as well as for an individual year. These services are usually available for 60 to 120 days after the initial purchase is made.

When it comes to price protection, Citi would seem to offer the most convenient and useful service. With other issuers, the cardholder must search for item being advertised, and then file a claim. This is not the case for Citi.

Instead, the Citi® Price Rewind feature will automatically search the Internet for lower prices on items you buy with the card. Price Rewind will track purchases for 60 days, and provides an online menu to see the items currently being tracked. If a lower price for an item is found, that item can be selected for a refund. Claims must be submitted within 180 days of the original purchase date.

Purchase Protection

Purchase protection services provide insurance in case your eligible purchase is damaged or stolen. Items are usually covered for around 90 days. This service will have a dollar limit per item, from a few hundred to as much as one thousand dollars or more, as well as an annual dollar limit.

Return Protection

With cards that offer return protection, eligible purchases can be returned for a refund even if the retailer refuses to take them back. This benefit usually has a time limit of around 60 days from the date of purchase, and a dollar limit per item and per year.

Extended Warranty

Many cards offer an extended warranty for eligible purchases. When this service is activated, a manufacturer’s warranty can be extended, which usually takes the form of a doubling of the original warranty’s length. This is typically limited to 1 additional year.

Event Ticket Protection – American Express

This is a shopping benefit offered regularly by American Express. Cardholders who purchase a ticket that can no longer be used for an eligible reason can be refunded up to $1,000 twice per year.

Complimentary ShopRunner Membership – American Express

This benefit is offered to higher-end American Express cardholders. The ShopRunner service will provide free 2-day shipping and free return shipping on a wide variety of eligible items.

Cash at Checkout – Discover

All Discover cards come with this benefit, which functions much like the cash-back option for debit cards. When making a purchase at participating retailers, cash-back can be obtained immediately from the cashier. Any cash taken this way will count as a purchase. Participating retailers include Dollar General, Pay Less, Safeway, Army & Air Force Exchange, and Spartan Stores.

Rental Car Insurance

Automatic accident coverage can be a great perk, saving cardholders the extra fee (around $30 a day) for the additional insurance offered by a rental car company. Of course it is important to read the fine print first since there are always restrictions and exclusions with insurance coverage.

For example, many card issuers do not offer rental car insurance coverage for certain vehicle types like campers, trucks, or SUVs. You’ll also probably need to decline the rental company’s own insurance for the credit card insurance to kick in.

Mobile Phone Insurance

Some credit card issuers offer mobile phone replacement insurance to their customers. When the perk is offered it typically covers the replacement cost of a new mobile phone in the event of damage or theft. In order to be eligible for the coverage most credit card issuers require that a cardholder pay his monthly mobile phone bill with his credit card.

Keep in mind that there is usually a cap on the coverage (generally around $250) and most cardholders will still have to pay an out-of-pocket deductible fee of around $50. Additionally, a mobile phone is not generally eligible for coverage in the event of a loss.

How to Make a Claim to Get Credit Card Benefits

Need to contact an issuer? Check out our list of credit card issuer customer service phone numbers »

The best strategy for successfully taking advantage of the aforementioned credit card perks, along with any other cardholder benefits, is for consumers to become very familiar with the list of benefits and exclusions available through his credit card company.

When making a claim a cardholder should begin by giving his card company’s customer service line a call. The customer service representative will likely then direct the cardholder to a third-party insurance provider to process the claim.

Depending on the type of claim, a cardholder will generally have to begin by filling out a claim request and providing proof of eligibility (i.e. a broken mobile phone, a police report filed for a stolen phone, proof of purchase, receipts, etc.).

Additionally, keep in mind that you’ll have to be patient when filing a claim for coverage or reimbursement. The process of successfully filing a claim and being reimbursed can often take several months.

Visa Benefits

Visa cards typically come in two different tiers – standard Visa and the premier Visa Signature. Visa Signature cards include all of the standard benefits as well as a number of additional services.

Standard Visa Benefits

  • Apple Pay Contactless Payments

    Visa cards can be loaded into the Apple Pay software and used to make contactless payments with an iPhone 6.

  • Cardholder Inquiry Service

    A toll-free service line for general inquiries: 1-800-847-2911 (current as of September 29th).

  • Travel and Emergency Assistance Services

    Provides assistance and referrals with tasks like arranging for emergency transportation or sending messages, replacing tickets, or finding lost luggage.

  • Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver

    Provides coverage for rented vehicles against collision and theft, as long as the car rental company’s own insurance is declined.

  • Roadside Dispatch

    A referral service for emergency roadside services, such as towing, jump-starts, locksmiths, or fuel delivery. Service calls cost $59.95.

  • Extended Warranty Manager Service

    Products with a manufacturer’s warranty of 3 years or less can be registered for to be doubled, up to 1 additional year.

  • Zero Liability for Fraudulent Charges

    Any suspicious or unfamiliar charges on the account can be reported and will be resolved appropriately.

  • Year-End Summary Statement

    A detailed report of yearly spending, organized by category.

  • Emergency Card Replacement and Emergency Cash Disbursement

    Call Visa Global Customer Care Services toll-free to have your card replaced or receive an emergency cash advance.

Visa Signature Benefits

  • Visa Signature Concierge

    Provides personal assistance with business, restaurant, and travel reservations and recommendations, as well as trip-planning services.

  • Visa Signature Luxury Collections

    Exclusive invitations to fascinating events and experiences, from services like the Luxury Hotel and Museum collections.

  • Travel Accident Insurance

    Provides automatic accident insurance for the cardholder and his or her family

  • Purchase Security

    Eligible purchases are covered for up to 90 days against theft, fire, vandalism, certain weather conditions, and accidentally discharged water, up to $500 per item.

  • Lost Luggage Reimbursement

    Checked and carry-on luggage is covered against loss or theft, when traveling by common carrier.

MasterCard Benefits

There is the standard MasterCard, followed by the Gold level, followed by the Platinum level. Next are the World MasterCard and then the luxury-class World Elite MasterCard.

The highest, most exclusive tier is the MasterCard Black™. The higher levels include the benefits of the lower levels.

To learn the specific benefits that come with your MasterCard, you can call 1-800-MC-ASSIST (1-800-622-7747) or contact the issuer of your card.

Standard MasterCard Benefits

  • Apple Pay Contactless Payments

    MasterCards can be loaded into the Apple Pay software and used to make contactless payments with an iPhone 6.

  • MasterCard Global Service™

    Available when traveling in a foreign country, includes Lost/Stolen Card Reporting and Replacement, Emergency Cash Advances, and information on ATM locations.

  • MasterTravel™ Travel Accident Insurance

    Provides coverage for the cardholder, spouse, and dependent children under 18 against accidental death and dismemberment while traveling as a passenger by common carrier on land, air, or sea.

  • Identity Theft Resolution Services

    Provides assistance in the event of identity theft, including contacting credit bureaus and issuing an ID Theft Affidavit.

  • Zero Liability for Fraudulent Charges

    The cardholder will not be held liable for any fraudulent charges that are posted to the account.

  • Access to the Fuel Rewards Network

    Cardholders can join the Fuel Rewards Network by linking their MasterCard to the network.  Using the card at certain locations or for certain types of purchases will earn rewards in the form of discounts on gas purchases from participating gas stations.

  • Price Protection

    If a newly-bought item is found being advertised for a lower price within 60 days of purchase, a reimbursement may be awarded for the difference in price.

  • Extended Warranty

    Will double the U.S. manufacturer’s original warranty on eligible items, as well as a service contract or optional extended warranty, where each is no longer than 12 months.

Gold MasterCard Benefits

  • MasterRental™ Insurance

    Provides coverage for rented vehicles against physical damage and theft, as well as some reasonable associated cost. This will only apply if the car rental company’s own insurance is declined.

  • MasterAssist™

    Provides emergency services for the cardholder, spouse, and dependent children of 25 years old and younger when traveling at least 100 miles from the cardholder’s city of residence. Services include transmitting urgent messages, finding and redirecting lost luggage, and emergency medical and legal referrals.

Platinum MasterCard Benefits

  • Concierge Services

    Provides non-emergency assistance, including services like making reservations with transportation and sight-seeing services, getting tickets to sports and cultural events, and Finding hard-to-find gifts and arranging deliveries.

  • MasterAssist™ Plus

    Provides coverage up to $25,000 for eligible medical expenses when traveling by common carrier outside of the country. Eligible expenses include Emergency Family Travel Costs, Emergency Medical Evacuation, Hotel Convalescence Costs, and Repatriation of Remains.

  • Satisfaction Guarantee

    If a retailer will not accept the return of an item within 60 days of purchase, a refund may be available up to $250 per item.

  • Purchase Assurance

    Provides coverage for eligible items against damage or theft, up to 90 days after the date of purchase.

World MasterCard Benefits

  • Priceless Cities

    Provides access to exclusive opportunities in big cities around the world, such as one-on-one classes with world-class chefs, guides to the best beaches for snorkeling, and invitations to exotic shows.

  • World Travel Experiences And Offers

    Provides travel advice and guides by by region, as well as access to special discounts.

  • Airport Lounge Access

    Provides membership access through Priority Pass™ to over 600 lounges in over 100 countries. Cardholders will still need to pay a fee for each visit to a lounge.

  • MasterCard Airport Concierge™

    Upon request, will provide a Meet & Greet escort to make passing through an airport easier. Possible services include being moved more quickly through security checkpoints, assistance with carrying baggage, and arranging for transportation. This service comes with a fee, and MasterCard holders receive a 15% discount.  Available in over 450 airports around the world.

  • Price Protection

    If a newly-bought item is found being advertised for a lower price within 120 days of purchase, a reimbursement may be awarded for the difference in price.

  • Trip Cancellation Insurance

    Provides reimbursement for nonrefundable charges if a trip with a common carrier is interrupted or cancelled.

  • Baggage Delay Insurance

    Provides reimbursement for the purchase of essential items if baggage is delayed when traveling by common carrier.

  • Lost or Damaged Luggage Insurance

    Provides reimbursement for the cost of replacing or repairing checked or carry-on luggage, when traveling by common carrier.

  • Hotel/Motel Burglary Insurance

    Provides reimbursement for personal property stolen from a hotel or motel room, when the room is purchased entirely with a MasterCard.

World Elite MasterCard Benefits

  • World Elite Luxury Travel Benefits

    A suite of luxury travel services, including guides to hotels and resorts, airlines, cruises, tours, chauffeured cars, private jets, and other special offers.

  • Personal Travel Advisor

    Professional travel advisors are standing by 24/7, ready to provide advice on a variety of high-quality international vacation destinations.

  • MasterCard Global Service Premium

    Provides a higher level of service than the standard MasterCard Global Service.

MasterCard Black Benefits

  • MasterAssist™ Black

    Includes all of the services of the lesser MasterAssist programs, as well as coverage for cardholders up to $25,000 and dependents up to $15,000. Also includes Baggage Loss Insurance up to $1,200, Trip Cancellation up to $1,000, and Trip Delay Insurance up to $200.

  • Personal Assistant

    More than just a concierge service, the personal assistant will also be able to complete tasks like pet care, dry cleaning, business and travel reservations, etc.

  • Priority Pass™ Airport Lounge Access

    Includes access to over 450 lounges in over 75 countries.

Discover Benefits

All Discover cards come with the following set of benefits.

Standard Discover Benefits

  • 5-20% Cash Back at the ShopDiscover Shopping Portal

    ShopDiscover offers between 5-20% cash back at over 200 popular retailers.  Cardholders must access the offer through the ShopDiscover online portal.

  • Access to the Spend Analyzer tool

    Provides a set of tools and services to understand and manage finances.

  • The Discover Mobile App

    Provides a mobile app to manage accounts, search transactions, and explore and redeem rewards.

  • Multiple Card Designs to Choose From

    A new card design can be chosen at any time, for free.

  • Donate to Charities with Discover Giving

    Includes a database of over 1.5 million charities, and provides rewards for charitable donations.

  • Purchase Protection

    Eligible purchases are covered against damage and theft, up to $500 and for up to 90 days after the date of purchase.

  • Price Protection

    If a purchased item is found being advertised for a lower price within 90 days, reimbursement may be provided.

  • Return Guarantee

    If a retailer won’t take an item back, Discover will refund the cost up to $500.

  • Cash at Checkout

    Cardholders can specify a cash amount to receive when checking-out at participating retailers, which will be counted as a purchase. Participating retailers include Army & Air Force Exchange, Bristol Farms, Dollar General, Pay Less, Safeway, and Spartan Stores.

  • $0 Fraud Liability

    Cardholders are not held responsible for fraudulent charges.  If suspicious activity is detected, alerts will be sent through text, phone, or email.

  • 24/7 Travel Assistance

    Provides help when traveling, including certain travel agent services, emergency assistance, medical and legal referrals, and lost baggage tracking.

  • Flight Accident Insurance

    Provides coverage for the cardholder, spouse, and eligible dependents, up to $500,000.

  • Baggage Delay Insurance

    Provides reimbursement for the purchase of essential items if checked baggage is delayed for at least 3 hours.

  • Auto Rental Insurance

    Provides insurance for eligible rented vehicles, as long as the car rental company’s own insurance is declined.

  • Roadside Dispatch

    Provides a variety of roadside services for a fee of $69.95, including fuel delivery, tire changes, jump-starts, and towing.  Available by calling 1-800-DISCOVER.

American Express Benefits

The exact benefits that come with an American Express card will vary; check with your issuer to learn the specific benefits that come with your card.

Basic American Express Benefits

  • Event Ticket Protection Plan

    If a purchased ticket can no longer be used for an eligible reason, reimbursement is available up to $1,000, twice per year.

  • Purchase Protection

    Purchases are covered against damage and theft, up to $1,000 per item and $50,000 per year, for up to 90 days after the date of purchase.

  • Return Protection

    If a merchant won’t take an item back, Return Protection will provide up to $300 per item and $1,000 per year, for up to 90 days after the date of purchase.

  • Extended Warranty

    Eligible items can have their warranties extended for up to 1 year, on warranties of 5 years or less.

  • Zero Liability

    Cardholders aren’t held responsible for fraudulent charges.

  • Dispute Resolution Services

    American Express will work to resolve cases of unrecognized and potentially fraudulent purchases, including negotiating with merchants if necessary.

  • Global Assist® Hotline

    Provides travel information for trips, and offers services like emergency card replacement and cash advance, lost luggage assistance, and medical and legal referrals.

  • Roadside Assistance

    When more than 50 miles from home, provides services such as towing up to 10 miles, jump starts, flat tire change, and lockout service. Cardholder must pay for any third-party charges incurred.

  • Travel Accident Insurance

    Cardholders are covered for accidental death and dismemberment when traveling by common carrier.

  • Baggage Insurance Plan

    Provides coverage if checked or carry-on baggage is lost, stolen, or damaged.

  • Car Rental Loss and Damage Insurance

    Provides insurance against damage and theft of rented vehicles, as long as the car rental company’s own insurance is declined.

  • Employee Card Misuse Protection

    If an employee misuses their business card, provides coverage up to $100,000.

Premium American Express Benefits

  • Concierge Service

    Provides assistance with non-emergency tasks, such as hotel and business reservations, gift research, and special event planning.

  • Amex Offers

    Provides valuable discounts and offers on shopping, dining, and entertainment.

  • Platinum Dining Program

    Includes more than 1,000 premier restaurants around the world.  Consultants will go over menus and wine lists, and can make special arrangements like preparing for a group or setting tables with flowers.

  • Preferred Seating Program

    Provides presale tickets and access to the best seats for sports, concerts, live venues, and other entertainment.

  • Entertainment Access®

    Provides exclusive access to presales of tickets to sports, concerts, and cultural events.

  • Complimentary ShopRunner Membership

    Provides free 2-day shipping and free return shipping on eligible items.

  • Airport Lounge Access

    Provides access to The Centurion Lounges and Delta Sky Clubs.  Cardholder must pay a fee to access any individual lounge.

  • Airline Service Charge Credit

    Provides some reimbursement for in-flight refreshments, checked baggage, oversize baggage fees, and other services.

  • Complimentary Benefits and Discounts at Fine Hotels and Resorts

  • Platinum Travel Services

    Provides 24/7 assistance with the development of custom itineraries and other travel guide services.

  • Premium Private Jet Program

    Includes charter and pre-paid membership options, as well as special benefits and discounts.

  • The Limousine Program

    Provides chauffeured transportation; cardholders will earn 2 extra points per dollar spent on limousine purchases.

  • Car Rental Privileges

    Provides special amenities upgrades, as well as bypasses time spent waiting in line.

  • Cruise Privileges

    Provides discounts and upgrades with eligible cruise lines.

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