When you get a new credit card, the first thing you can look forward to is building your credit score if you’re a responsible user.
The card may have the added bonus of a rewards program. It might be the very reason you’re shopping around for a card in the first place.
Thirty-two percent of consumers in a 2015 ValuePenguin survey revealed that rewards were the number one thing they care about most when applying for a credit card -- more than any other card feature. Cash back, travel points or introductory zero-interest offers are big incentives to pick one credit card over another.
But credit cards sometimes come with other hidden perks and benefits that most consumers may be unaware of. Card issuers like to keep them exclusive and aren’t ready to advertise these gems too heavily, so you’ll need to look deeper into a card’s fine print to see what it has to offer.
Here’s a roundup of some rare, mostly unknown credit card benefits, and where to find them.
Perhaps one of the most helpful perks to improving your credit profile is getting a free FICO score straight from the credit card you’re using to boost your credit. Discover offers a no-charge Credit Scorecard (even if you’re not a card holder), updated on your card statement monthly. It takes the time out of obtaining your credit score the long way from the credit bureaus and keeps you on top of changes to your credit activity from month to month.
If your phone is stolen, or in those cringeworthy moments when it drops and your screen shatters into a million pieces, you generally have a few choices. You can take advantage of your cell phone provider’s warranty, get a separate cell phone insurance plan, or shell out the cash for a brand new mobile device.
But your credit card may also offer insurance at no cost to cover a new phone.
Most of Wells Fargo’s credit cards, for instance, give up to $600 in protection for damaged or stolen cell phones. (In the case of stolen devices, you’ll need to provide a police report, since it’ll detail exactly what happened to your phone.) Card holders who qualify will need to use their credit card to pay for their monthly cellular bill, and a $25 deductible covers four mobile devices. Keep in mind that Wells Fargo doesn’t offer insurance for lost cell phones.
Rewards credit cards have always offered bonuses and points for airline travel, and several have jumped on the popularity of ridesharing services like Uber, reimbursing credits to frequent riders.
When you use any Chase credit card, get 50 percent off your first two Uber rides (up to $15 per ride) when using promo code CHASE50 through the Uber app by July 31. American Express Platinum Card holders may also earn up to $200 back on Uber rides annually: $15 credits monthly with an extra $20 each December.
If you’re an artistically inclined Bank of America credit card holder, you can get one free general admission to over 150 major museums and art institutions across the country just by presenting your card, along with a picture ID, on the first full weekend of every month.
Some of the participating institutions for this perk include the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City (which carries a suggestion donation for admission).
When you go rent a car, agencies are obligated to ask if you’d like to purchase a Collision Damage Waiver, i.e. rental car insurance, on top of the price of the rental itself. Adding $20 to $40 extra to your travel expenses daily, it can send you over budget even if you’ve got your rental for just a couple of days.
Various card companies offer built-in rental insurance, which saves you paying extra at the rental counter, and protects you in the event of a car accident, theft, or towing charges, with the expenses picked up by your card provider.Most card providers, such as Visa or MasterCard, will insure your car for the first 15 days of a vehicle rental, up to 30 days for premium providers like American Express and Discover Some also cover loss-of-use fees, levied onto customers by rental agencies when one of their vehicles is out of commission and can’t be rented. You’ll want to check if your current auto insurance policy offers rental car coverage first, but if you’d like to take advantage of this credit card perk, make sure to also use the card to pay for the rental transaction in order to trigger your coverage.
Like baggage fees, getting wifi on your next airline trip doesn’t come free, and ranges anywhere from $5 to $20 per flight, depending on the airline and length of your flight. It’s not too big a financial stretch for one trip here or there, but if you’re a frequent flier, your standard credit card airline rewards won’t cover this type of optional cost.
You may be able to get reimbursement for your wifi fees with your credit card. The Discover it Miles card will refund card holders up to $30 per year when you use the card to purchase Internet access on any flight. Citi’s Expedia + Voyager credit card has a similar built-in perk, a $100 annual air travel credit that can be applied to various in-flight services, including onboard wifi.
More credit card providers have begun offering coverage to protect consumers from losses on everyday purchases. If you made a transaction and the seller won’t accept a return, for example, Discover ensures guaranteed return protection to reimburse you up to $500 of the purchase price within 90 days.
Discover and Citi credit cards also come with price protection, a type of insurance benefit that will reimburse you the difference in cost of an item if you purchased it and found that it dropped in price a short time later. It can be beneficial if you’ve charged a big purchase to your credit card and see it go on sale after you’ve paid the full sticker price; most card providers will reimburse customers up to $500.
Then there’s a special feature inherent to Citi credit cards called Price Rewind, which takes price protection a step further. Instead of leaving it up to you to find a lower price on an item you’ve bought, this program for Citi card holders does a 60-day search for a lower price and pays you the difference if it finds one.
Many credit cards -- if you check your card’s contract -- may also offer purchase security, refunding you for items you’ve purchased that have been lost or damaged, or if a fraudulent purchase was made on your card.
Special credit card perks will cost card issuers extra, so expect to pay more for some cards. Generally, the more premium the card, the higher the fee. High-end travel credit cards like the American Express Platinum, with a $550 annual fee, or the Citi Prestige, with its $450 yearly charge, may not be worth the perks if you don’t use them that often.
The Expedia + Voyager card’s $95 annual fee is a more modest charge to keep expenses down, and the Citi and Bank of America cards, and the Discover it Miles card we listed above have no annual fees. So, when shopping for a card, look for one with benefits you can use and redeem often to make fees worth the price you may be paying.
Many rewards cards with added bonuses may also come with higher interest rates or require you to have a very good or excellent credit score to qualify. Consult the card provider for information before you apply.
If you do get a perk-filled credit card in your hands, treat it as you would any other credit card. Use it wisely, keep spending to no more than 30 percent of your credit limit, and pay off your total balance in full by the billing deadline. Remaining debt free but full of valuable rewards, bonuses and perks is the best mix you could ask for in a credit card.
Disclosure: The terms and conditions for credit cards, including interest rates and fees, are subject to change. Be sure to check an issuer's website for the most up-to-date fine print.
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