Sure, credit cards can be problematic if you carry big balances and don’t pay them off. But when managed properly, credit cards can actually save you money through valuable benefits.
But many cardholders don’t use — or even know about — the valuable perks their cards offer. Understanding your benefits can help you make better choices about when to use them and how to save on all kinds of products and services.
Here are six secret benefits you might already have.
Some cards, including Citibank, Discover, and MasterCard, offer a “price rewind” service, which allows cardholders to take advantage of sale prices for items they recently purchased, Graw says. That means when something goes on sale after you already bought it, the credit card company will reimburse you the price difference.
“Such policies have important details to be aware of,” says Sean Graw, spokesperson at BradsDeals.com. “You’re able to price match only within a certain amount of time, and the lower-priced item must be the exact same as the one you bought.”
With Citi’s plan, cardholders just have to register the purchased item with the card company “and they will do the searching for you for a lower advertised price,” adds Matthew Coan, owner of financial website Casavvy.com.
Even if you’ve saved the cash to pay for an expensive, fragile item like a new cell phone, laptop, TV, or sunglasses, you may get more for your money if you purchase the item with a credit card (you can still pay it off immediately). That’s because many credit cards offer extended warranties for purchases or replacement services.
“Most credit cards will double the manufacturer's warranty on any item for up to one year,” says Graw. “For this reason, it makes sense to put expensive but breakable items on a credit card as opposed to paying cash.”
And when using a card with extended warranty benefits, “you won't need to worry about where you buy from or buying an extended warranty from the store,” says Barry Choi, personal finance expert at MoneyWeHave.com.
Many credit cards offer travel insurance and other travel benefits, like concierge services. For instance, last year Jim Angleton flew to the United Kingdom and the airline lost his luggage for three days. He couldn’t go that long without the prescription medications that were in his suitcase, so he called American Express’s travel concierge service. “They contacted my doctor and a nearby apothecary in the UK, who issued me new meds,” says Angleton, president of Aegis FinServ Corp., which issues credit and debit cards. “It saved my life.”
In addition to travel concierge services, cards may offer insurance for delayed trips, canceled trips, mechanical breakdowns, failure to fly, and trip interruption insurance, Angleton says. But keep in mind you can use those benefits only if you booked your trip using the card.
Some cards offer purchase protection, ensuring you’ll get all your money back if you need to return merchandise. “This covers the consumer if they purchase something and for some reason the manufacturer will not take it back,” Coan says. “In that case, the credit card company will take back the item and reimburse the cost.”
For example, say you purchased a pair of shoes as a gift for your mother. By the time she tried them on and decided they were a no-go, the time period for returns had expired. Rather than being left with an unusable pair of shoes, you can take advantage of your card’s purchase protection to get your money back — and buy your mom nicer shoes.
While more and more credit cards are offering cash-back rewards, “many people don’t realize that certain cards offer better multipliers on gas and groceries,” Choi says. For instance, many cards may offer 1 or 2 percent cash back on all purchases, but some may offer 5 percent cash back on gas. “Using a store-brand card might sound like a good deal, but if you have a credit card with a higher multiplier, use that card instead.”
American Express offers some special cash-back rewards that cardholders must opt into through their online account. According to Coan, “The key is to read all the benefits that come with your card when you get it, as some credit card companies will not actively make these options known.”
If you detect fraudulent activity on your debit card account, you will likely be protected, but you’ll “have to go to your bank, fill out paperwork, and wait days to be credited,” Graw says. In contrast, credit card fraud reimbursement policies involve much less hassle and more peace of mind.
“All major credit cards have policies in place that will reimburse you for fraudulent charges immediately,” Graw says.