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A Guide To Credit Card Benefits15 min read
Many of the best credit cards attract applicants with benefits, which can range from airline fee statement credits to car rental insurance and beyond. Some benefits are coordinated by the card network (Visa, Mastercard, etc.), while others are determined by the issuer.
The Benefits of Using a Credit Card
Credit cards have, somewhat unfairly, developed a reputation as an easy way to pay for something when you may not have the money to do it upfront.
In reality, they’re so much more than that when you use them right. A cash back card, for example, may allow you to save a few cents per dollar on purchases you’d be making anyway. And if you consistently pay off your balance in full by the statement closing date, you’ll never have to pay a penny of interest.
Other advantages of using a credit card include, but aren’t limited to:
- Unlike debit cards, credit cards let you build a credit history
- Credit cards provide better security features in the case of fraud or a stolen card
- Points and miles earned can often be redeemed for valuable flights, hotel stays, and other rewards
- Some cards include unique, valuable benefits, from airline statement credits to meal delivery memberships and beyond
So, credit cards have a clear leg up over other payment options, like debit cards.
Here’s a realistic example.
Imagine that you’re about to purchase a brand-new TV online. You could pay for it via debit, or you could whip out a rewards credit card to earn some points or cash back, and then pay that balance right after to keep interest at bay.
A 2%–3% reward rate (for example) may not sound like much, but if you’re dropping, say, $650 on the TV, 2% gets you $13 off the full price. Not bad.
Unfortunately, things quickly take a turn for the worse. You get your TV, set it up, and everything works perfectly…until you knock it over and shatter the display. You’re frustrated, because you didn’t purchase a protection plan, and user damage isn’t covered by the TV’s warranty.
There’s another option, however. You remember that you bought the TV with your credit card, and you check its Guide to Benefits — sure enough, it’s right there: Purchase Protection. You submit a claim through your credit card, and you’re reimbursed. Problem solved.
This might sound too good to be true, but purchase protection is just one example of the numerous benefits you may not even know your credit card provides.
Oftentimes, credit cards include benefits that are not only useful, but can provide hundreds of dollars (or more) in additional value.
Here, we’ll dig deeper into what types of benefits your credit card might deliver, and how those perks tend to work.
What Are Credit Card “Benefits”?
Credit cards typically come with benefits, which are extra features that may:
- provide protections on purchases, like extended warranties on electronics
- offer insurance or special access while traveling, like collision insurance on rental cars or airport lounge access
- make your life easier, like concierge services to help you buy tickets or book reservations at restaurants
These benefits are often not advertised as much as features like cash back rewards, miles, introductory offers, and interest rates, but they can be very valuable even if they are largely ignored by many cardholders. In fact, many cards, particularly premium travel rewards credit cards, deliver benefits worth hundreds of dollars or more a year.
Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover all offer a suite of benefits to accompany their cards, but they can vary depending on the card. Some card networks offer different benefits with different tiers. For example, some Visa cards come in both Visa and Visa Signature version, while Mastercard offers Platinum Mastercard, World Mastercard, World Elite Mastercard, etc. Higher levels provide more valuable benefits.
The issuer of the card may also provide some benefits. 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 Guide to Benefits that comes with your credit card so you fully understand the range of benefits that come with your card so you can get the most out of it.
Below you’ll find 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; benefits often vary based on which type of card you’re using. It’s always good to call the number on the back of your card if you have any questions about your card’s benefits.
Examples of Credit Card Benefits
Here are some of the major types of benefits to look for on credit cards you already have or while you’re shopping for a new card.
Credit Card Shopping Benefits
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 return it. The details of any particular benefit will change depending on the card.
Price protection services are designed to help you save 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 or a total amount that can be refunded in an year. These services are usually available for 60 to 120 days after the initial purchase is made.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s possible to rent a car with a debit card, but there are plenty of reasons why you should choose a credit card instead (and complimentary insurance coverage is one of them).
Mobile Phone Insurance
Some credit card issuers offer cell 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 if it’s lost.
How to Make a Claim to Get Credit Card Benefits
When making a claim, you should begin by giving the card company’s customer service line a call. The customer service representative will likely then direct you to a third-party insurance provider to process the claim.
Depending on the type of claim, you 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.
Personal Visa credit cards typically come in three different tiers — traditional Visa (or Visa Platinum), Visa Signature, and the premier Visa Infinite. Visa Signature cards include all traditional Visa benefits plus additional perks, and Visa Infinite includes Visa Signature’s offerings with Infinite-exclusive additions.
Higher Visa tiers may also provide increased coverage amounts for benefits introduced at lower tiers.
Visa Traditional/Visa Platinum
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.
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 Hotel Collection
Perks include a best available rate guarantee, automatic room upgrades when available, and more, at more than 900 hotels around the world.
Travel Accident Insurance
Provides automatic accident insurance for the cardholder and his or her family
Lost Luggage Reimbursement
Checked and carry-on luggage is covered against loss or theft, when traveling by common carrier.
Visa Infinite Benefits
Visa Infinite Luxury Hotel Collection
Enjoy various benefits, including complimentary breakfast, upgrades, and unique amenities, at eligible hotels.
Visa Infinite Concierge Services
Get round-the-clock assistance with dinner reservations, attraction recommendations, entertainment tickets, travel planning, and more.
Global Entry Statement Credit
Use your Visa Infinite card to pay the $100 Global Entry application fee, and get a $100 statement credit that covers it.
Visa Infinite Car Rental Privileges
Booking with a Visa Infinite card gets you VIP treatment with Avis, Hertz, National, and Silvercar.
Priority Pass Lounge Access
Relax at more than 1,200 Priority Pass airport lounges around the world.
Book an eligible itinerary for two to five travelers, and get a $100 discount.
Airline Incidentals Statement Credit
Receive rebates for checked luggage charges, in-flight purchases, and other air travel fees.
Fine Wine and Food
Access unique experiences featuring renowned chefs and winemakers.
Save on golf spending with Troon Rewards.
Visa Infinite Chauffeured Car Service
Use GroundLink chauffeured black car service at a discounted rate.
There is the standard personal 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 Apple Pay and used to make contactless payments with an iPhone 6 or newer.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Provides coverage for eligible items against damage or theft, up to 90 days after the date of purchase.
World Mastercard Benefits
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 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.
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.
Get $10 in Lyft credits per month when you take five rides and pay with your card.
Get 5% cash rewards on eligible Boxed.com purchases.
Enroll in Fandango VIP for free to earn 250 Fandango VIP+ points per ticket, enough for a $5 reward.
Enroll in ShopRunner to get free two-day shipping and returns at participating online retailers.
Get a 10% discount on onefinestay bookings, plus free WiFi and a complimentary iPhone (with free local calls and data) to use during your stay.
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.
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.
All Discover cards come with the following set of benefits.
Standard Discover Benefits
FICO Credit Scorecard
Check your FICO Credit Score for free whenever you’d like, based on your TransUnion credit report.
Spend Analyzer Tool
A set of tools and services to understand and manage finances.
Discover Mobile App
A mobile app to manage accounts, search transactions, and explore and redeem credit card rewards.
Multiple Card Designs to Choose From
A new card design can be chosen at any time, for free.
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.
Proactive card monitoring for fraudulent and suspicious activity.
Free Overnight Card Delivery
If your card is lost or stolen, you can get a new one shipped to any U.S. street address.
Temporarily freeze your account to prevent new purchases or other activities.
Social Security Number Alerts
Monitors thousands of risky websites for fraudsters using your SSN.
New Account Alerts
Notifications of new credit cards, mortgages, or other loans on your Experian credit report.
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.
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.
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.
Eligible items can have their warranties extended for up to 1 year, on warranties of 5 years or less.
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.
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 credit card, provides coverage up to $100,000.
Premium American Express Benefits
Provides assistance with non-emergency tasks, such as hotel and business reservations, gift research, and special event planning. See a Reddit AMA with a former American Express concierge here.
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.
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 rewards points per dollar spent on limousine purchases.
Car Rental Privileges
Provides special amenities upgrades, as well as bypasses time spent waiting in line.
Provides discounts and upgrades with eligible cruise lines.
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