Remember getting that new credit card in the mail and immediately throwing away the credit card benefits package? Many people overlook this fine print, but I’m here to tell you that knowing your credit card benefits can save you a good amount of money and headaches. These benefits range from free checked bags to extended warranties and in this post we’ll introduce some of the ones you should know about.
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Travel Credit Card Benefits
Ever arrive to your destination but your bags didn’t follow? How about paying $100 in baggage fees for your family of 4 to take that Disney World trip? Remember that time that you used your debit card in London and were charged something called a “foreign transaction fee”? All of these things can suck the fun out of a trip pretty quickly. If you have the right credit card, you don’t have to worry about these things. For ease of explanation and to keep this very high-level, I am going to break up travel credit card benefits into 2 categories: travel benefits and insurance benefits. (Check out a list of the best travel credit cards.)
“Travel benefits” are credit card benefits like free checked bags, lounge access, priority boarding, hotel status, waived foreign transaction fees, and concierge access. These are “nice to haves” and can substantially save you and your family money during your trip. They can also help keep you sane. I’ve used airline and lounge benefits many times to get free breakfast and drinks. Just think about a family of 4 eating lunch in the airport. That will easily cost $50 or so, but can be completely free in a lounge.
“Insurance benefits” include travel insurance, baggage delay, lost luggage, basic rental car insurance, trip delay, and trip cancellation. One word of advice on these benefits: make sure you read all the fine print and/or ask your credit card company what these cover. In some cases it will probably be beneficial to pay for additional coverage for large, unexpected events, but most should cover your “everyday” types of events. We had the experience of having to use our baggage compensation on a trip to Italy. Our bags were lost from Rome to Milan and we needed to buy toiletries and basics. Since we paid for the flights with our Chase Sapphire Preferred, we were reimbursed for these expenses. *Like any insurance claim, don’t expect this to be an easy process, but it’s nice to have.*
Consumer Credit Card Benefits
Price Protection and Extended Warranty
If you’re in the market for any new electronics, among other things, take a look at what price protection and extended warranty benefits your card has. You’ll find that some cards cover a price drop in your purchase, as well as extend your manufacture warranty. This could save you a good amount of money considering many of those extended warranties run $30+.
Category Spending Bonuses
Many credit cards have category spending bonuses, so if dine out or going to the movies, look for a card that gives you multiple points in these categories. On top of category spending bonuses, American Express is known for their vendor-specific bonuses. Once activated on your card and you make a purchase with that card, you automatically save money. For example, one of their current offers is $5 back when you spend $25 or more at Carter’s. That’s not a huge savings, but it’s savings, and it is specifically important to me with a 3 month old. You can also save money on shipping with some of these cards. Another American Express benefit on some of their cards is Shoprunner. Shoprunner usually costs $79/year and gives you free 2 days shipping and store discounts. If you have certain Amex cards, you get it for free. I don’t view this as a replacement for Amazon Prime, which I am partial to, but it’s nice to have this option. If you’re interested, you can find cards like that here.
On a more somber note, one credit card benefit that I have used several times is fraud protection. You are protected from fraudulent purchases on many credit cards. This means that any fraudulent charges will be removed from your billing statement and you will not be responsible to pay these. If you are using a debit card or cash, that is lost money.
Entertainment Credit Card Benefits
How cool of a husband would you be to surprise your wife with tickets to that play she always wanted to go see? How about treating your kids to a concert that is known to sell out? Certain credit card benefits give you early access to purchase tickets to popular sporting events, concerts, and plays. Citi, as one example, gives cardholders early access to purchase many concert tickets.
Going above the “typical” event, cardholders of some brands can pay for access to things like The Grammy’s red carpet, suites at Major League Baseball games, and celebrity chef cooking classes. You can even get reservations to that restaurant that you’ve always wanted to try.
Having the right credit card goes far beyond using it for daily purchases. It’s important to pay close attention to your credit card benefits and fine print to understand how you can use them. Always remember that responsible credit card usage is the first key to using a credit card and maximizing these benefits.