If you play your cards right (literally), what’s in your wallet could be far more valuable than you might realize. Sure, credit cards are convenient, but the real prize could be buried in the fine print that comes with the card.
“You should always look deep into the terms and conditions to read about all of the benefits that are available,” says Roman Shteyn of RewardExpert.com, a site that covers popular credit cards and their perks. “There are so many benefits included in some of them that they can’t be advertised in one spot.”
Advertisements are quick to point out bonus points or miles, bag fee waivers, and priority boarding that might come with a credit card. But delve a bit deeper to discover the array of perks you might not realize that you have.
On the road
The Citi Prestige card offers a solid roadside assistance program that is so good that some travelers substitute it for services like AAA. Many cards like Chase Sapphire Reserve and American Express Platinum come with rental car insurance, which means if you pay for a rental car with these cards, you can turn down the extra insurance offered at the counter. But be sure to note that travel insurance policies can vary.
One of the newer benefits for American Express Platinum cardholders is that they receive monthly Uber credits to use. While this is a much-loved perk by many who don’t have their own cars, it requires setting up your Uber account to charge to this specific card, and monthly credits apply back to your account after each purchase.
At the airport
Card companies are pretty clear about the airline benefits that come with their products, but some cards, like American Express Platinum, offer lounge access through Priority Pass. While Chase Sapphire Preferred and Reserve cards will automatically mail the Priority Pass membership card, you have to contact Amex to request that free perk (valued at more than $300).
There’s also The Lounge Club membership that comes with many cards, such as the Chase Fairmont Visa Signature card among others, and don’t forget Centurion lounge access to new clubs in Philadelphia, Miami, and Hong Kong for those with an American Express Platinum card and higher.
If you would rather sit by the gate, American Express provides many card members access to the preferred plan from Boingo, which supplies access to more than 1 million wireless hot spots around the world. Check to see if your card is eligible.
When your flight is delayed for reasons that the airline can control (mechanical delay or missing crew) and you paid for your trip with an eligible card, trip protection is your friend. Cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred will cover your hotel and meal expenses if your flight has been delayed long enough. This can even work if you miss your connection and are stuck overnight.
Even before you get to the airport, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard and the United Mileage Plus Explorer cards are both among those that come with protection if you are unable to take your trip due to proven illness.
In the air
If you have the American Express Business Platinum card, you are eligible to receive 10 free Gogo inflight Internet passes each month. But you have to activate them to take advantage first.
Automatic elite status is an impressive perk of many cards—for example, Delta Platinum Medallion status with the American Express Black card (not an easy card to get). The same card comes with Hilton Honors Diamond and Starwood Preferred Guest gold status (now equivalent to Marriott Rewards Gold status).
Another unique feature of many cards is the purchase protection and price protection benefits. Typically, this means that if something you buy with the card is damaged or stolen within a few months of purchase, the card will replace it if it falls under the listed benefits. This is a huge value that many people overlook, and if you find the same item for a cheaper price later, price protection can sometimes refund you the difference.
Many credit cards will also extend the normal warranty of items you purchase (important for electronics and other pricey items) for longer than what comes with the original warranty.
Amex Offers is a fantastic program through American Express, but many people may not be aware of it because you have to log into your account and activate the offers to take advantage. Past offers have included discounts, bonus points, or rebates for making purchases with the card. Chase is considering a similar program for many cardholders so be sure to check back often.
If you are doing some shopping because an airline lost your bag, check your card terms and conditions. Many American Express cards will cover replacement clothes and toiletry items (beyond what the airline might cover) if your bag was lost or stolen during a trip.
Best of all, bonus point categories are among the most lucrative of credit card perks, and these should dictate the purchase habits you have at various locations. Dining out? Use a card like Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve, which doles out three points per dollar spent. Spending money on airlines and hotels? Use the American Express Membership Rewards portal (instead of booking via a third-party website), and earn five times the points per dollar spent. That is incredibly lucrative, yet people still book their travel elsewhere and miss out.
Portal bonuses are another great way to score points by using credit cards either using apps like the MileagePlus X app from United to score bonus points or booking through airline shopping sites online to earn bonus points or miles at the same stores you might already frequent anyway.