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7 Valuable Credit Card Benefits You Might Not Be Using

Fortune Recommends August 24, 2023


7 Valuable Credit Card Benefits You Might Not Be Using

When used responsibly and strategically, credit cards can provide a lot of value. They can help you manage irregular expenses and cash flow, as well as provide rewards for your spending. Plus, they’re safer than swiping a debit card. But there’s a good chance your card offers additional perks that you’re not taking full advantage of. 


7 credit card perks you shouldn’t ignore

Credit card benefits often go beyond cash back or miles. So if you’re a frequent credit user, double-check your card agreement to see what other perks you could be using. Here are seven common benefits that often get overlooked.


1. Cell phone protection

By now, you’ve probably felt that pit in your stomach after dropping your smartphone and watching the screen shatter. Or worse, realizing your phone was swiped by a thief when you weren’t looking. And as you know, fixing or replacing a phone can be quite expensive.

So if something happens to your phone, it’s worth checking your credit card agreement to see if it includes cell phone protection. If so, claims are usually handled through a third-party benefits administrator. Once you get your phone fixed or replaced, you submit a claim for reimbursement, up to the maximum coverage amount. 

For example, eligible American Express card members can get reimbursed for their repair or replacement costs following damage or theft, up to a maximum of $800 per claim, with a limit of two approved claims per 12-month period, when their cell phone line is listed on a wireless bill and the prior month’s wireless bill was paid by an eligible card account (terms apply).

There may also be a deductible, depending on the card issuer and plan. Keep in mind that in order to take advantage of this benefit, you need to pay your cell phone bill with that card.

Cards that offer this perk include The Platinum Card® from American Express and Chase Freedom Flex℠.


2. TSA PreCheck/Global Entry credits

Dealing with crowded airports can add an unneeded layer of stress to your travel plans. There are programs such as TSA Precheck or Global Entry that can get you through security lines much faster, but they don’t exactly come cheap. However, your credit card may provide reimbursement for fees related to these travel programs.

“For the jet-setters, waiting to go through TSA lines is the last thing you want to do before your dream vacation,” says Jason Gaughan, head of consumer credit card products at Bank of America. “If you are considering applying for TSA Precheck or Global Entry, check out your credit card benefits to see if they offer any statement credits you can use towards these types of travel-related expenses.” 

Cards that offer this perk include the Bank of America Premium Rewards Card and IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card.

3. Rental car coverage

When renting a car, the rental company usually offers to sell additional protection known as a “loss damage waiver” in case you’re in an accident or the vehicle is damaged or stolen. It absolves you of any financial responsibility, though this additional protection is usually expensive and unnecessary. 

If you’re worried about having enough coverage—just in case the worst happens—your credit card may provide it for free. 

Cards that offer rental car protection require that you use that card to pay for the rental in full, as well as decline the car rental company’s loss damage waiver. There are two types of coverage: primary and secondary. Primary coverage is more comprehensive but less common; it allows you to file a claim through the credit card company first, before relying on any personal auto policies. Secondary coverage, which is more common, requires you to first file a claim with your auto insurance company, and then go through the card company for any leftover expenses. The exact amount of coverage and details of the plan will depend on the particular card and issuer.  

Cards that offer this perk include the United Quest℠ Card (primary) and Capital One VentureOne Rewards Card (secondary).


4. Shopping discounts

Many credit cards may offer you discounts at your favorite retailer's as well, notes Sonali Divilek, head of digital products and channels at Chase. “We provide Chase Offers, which brings customers deals from the retailers they love—no coupons, codes, or vouchers to remember, and no registration is required.” Basically, you choose an offer (such as a percentage back at a particular retailer) and add it to your card via your online account, then use your card to make a purchase. 

Similar programs include Amex Offers from American Express and BankAmeriDeals from Bank of America.

Cards that offer this perk include the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and United Explorer℠ Card.


6. Free credit scores

Staying on top of your credit score is important. Good credit allows you to borrow money at affordable interest rates, but it can also help you get approved for an apartment, open new utility accounts, and even get hired for certain jobs. 

There are a few sources of free credit scores, and your credit card issuer may be one of them. Some allow you to view your scores via their online portal or will print it on your monthly statement. Keep in mind that you’ll want to verify whether your credit card company provides FICO credit scores or VantageScores. Both are important scoring models, but FICO is used more often by lenders and is harder to find for free. 

Cards that offer this perk include the Citi Custom Cash℠ Card and Barclays World Mastercard.


7. Trip protection

These days, travel is more expensive than ever. So it would be terrible if you spent time and money planning a dream vacation, only for it to be ruined by an illness or a snowstorm. That’s why you may pay to book your travel using a card that offers trip protection. 

The exact terms will depend on the card, but this type of protection typically offers reimbursement for fares, hotels, and more if your travel plans are delayed, cut short, or canceled due to certain covered situations, such as sickness or severe weather. Often, this coverage is extended to you and your travel companions, as long as you used your card to book the travel.

Cards that offer this perk include the American Express® Green Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve®.

The takeaway 

It’s important to remember that credit cards are only helpful if you manage them well. Racking up debt and carrying a balance month to month will quickly wipe out any financial benefits your card may offer. 

So to take full advantage of your credit card, be sure you only charge what you can afford to pay back each month. Then review your credit card agreements to see how you can better align your spending habits to the various perks offered by the cards in your wallet. After all, if you have to make certain purchases anyway—whether it’s renting a car or paying your cell phone bill—you might as well get something back.

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